In the comments of my most recent Friday Prompt post, our favorite Vampire Maman, Juliette, inquired about items that don’t sell worth a shit. What do we do with them… other than mock the fact that both some manufacturer and our bosses really thought anyone would buy garbage like that? Well, the answer varies, and most of the time I never know since I’m just the night watchman over my domain… but in my 17 years of retail, believe me, I’ve seen plenty of these unsellable liabilities come through my counters. There’s no official retail term for merchandise that’s almost impossible to sell to consumers, but one phrase I’ve heard before that I’ve become attached to is “dog item”… just as you’d call a person or thing that’s repulsive to look at a dog.
So today, I’ll share a few of my favorite dog items that I was able to personally stock and never restock. Like…
The Dawn Power Dish Brush:
Introduced by Procter and Gamble in late 2003, the Dawn Power Dish Brush had the good fortune of being one of the three new household cleaning products Mecca put front and center in its main aisles to kick off 2004. Unlike Mr. Clean Magic Erasers and Clorox bleach pens, you can’t buy this piece of shit anymore. Thanks to a lot of promotion and a flood of coupons, customers actually went batshit crazy over this battery powered twirling turd for a while…
But while the brushes themselves were flying off the counter at first, the refill heads were collecting more dust than Jimmy Hoffa’s body. Never judge a product that relies on refills for continued use solely by the popularity of the starter kit… and sure enough, those sales also quickly dried up, leaving us with boxes and boxes full of bristly refill heads, and implements of pleasure for the kinky. The Nest has a better idea for those of you with hard to clean plates…
Just before the holiday season of 2004, Febreze (another Procter and Gamble brand) thought it would be a great idea to combine air freshener technology with a CD player. The result was a shitty excuse for a miniature boombox that only played special “scent CD’s” which emitted smells instead of sounds. Each CD contained five different smells that were supposed to go together in order to allow the sniffer to envision they were doing something else besides choking on noxious manmade chemicals. They sold CD’s such as “Exploring a Mountain Trail,” “Walking Barefoot on the Shore,” and “A Scenic Drive Through New Jersey.” Oh, and if you always wanted to know what washed up country/pop singer smells like, Shania Twain had her own special Scentstories disc.
And you could own this amazing B.O. CD for the low price of $30… plus another $5 a pop for each new one-time use “CD.” Damn, what a bargain! While Scentstories wasn’t a total bust, sales were about on a par with Shania’s last album. Interestingly enough, we accidentally discovered a way to get customers to gobble them up. By 2006, these wastes of technology were now selling for only $20, and we got a display feature of them in near the holiday that year. Lovely…. but wait! It’s the Billy Bass effect!
Nobody would be caught dead buying a Scentstories player for themselves… but as a thoughtless Christmas gift for the ones you don’t love? Cha-ching! We sold through that garbage like hotcakes that Christmas. But by 2008, Mecca didn’t want an item that had become a hi-tech Chia Pet hanging around on its smell-good counter year round… So Scentstories were discontinued, and P&G eventually bit the bullet on smell-o-disc technology as well a few years later. If you want to experience Scentstories for yourself, you’ll have to look on eBay…
Ultrathon Insect Repellent:
Finally, there’s 3M’s military approved entry in the mosquito repellent business, Ultrathon. In the Fall of 2002, it was reported that West Nile Virus was going to kill us all… just like bird flu murdered us in 2003, swine flu decimated us in 2009, and ebola finished us all off last year. I’m really surprised there’s anyone even left alive reading this blog! Anyway, because a couple people out of our U.S. population of nearly 300,000,000 died from mosquito-borne West Nile in 2002, with a little help from that ever informative media, everyone fucking panicked at the thought of even going outside in the summer.
greedy responsible corporate citizen wanting to cash in on help alleviate the public’s fears, Mecca beefed up its insect repellent lineup for Spring of 2003, and among the additions was that little yellow aerosol can, Ultrathon. Now, the fact that it didn’t sell because it cost a dollar more than Off, which as far as our working class customers are concerned is the top of the line, isn’t enough to make it my biggest dog item of all time. Hell, we have plenty of non-selling crap that I’ve long since forgotten come through my hallowed aisles.
No, what got Ultrathon into the upper pantheon of dogginess was the fact that because of the West Nile scare, Mecca bet the damn farm on the fact that it would be a huge hit with petrified customers. Endless feature displays of it kept rolling in throughout the Summer of ’03… nevermind the original stock on our counter from the Spring had yet to even dwindle down. Undaunted, Mecca shipped in even more Ultrathon the next year… only to finally discontinue the shit after two years of absolute epic fail. That left us with repacked boxes upon repacked boxes of hundreds of loose cans of the yellow garbage that we desperately tried to clearance out… even offering it as low as $1.50 a can. But after three years of being unpacked and repacked untold times, it was rusty, dusty, dented, and just flat out unsellable. We couldn’t give the shit away.
About a year after the dreaded cans mysteriously disappeared from our store, I happened to be shopping in a local Big Lots… a chain which buys up discontinued/defective/overstock items for pennies on the dollar to sell cheap… and lo and behold, near the back of the store I saw a shelf full of little yellow cans of Ultrathon! Did they get it from the manufacturer who likely also took a hit due to the failure of this high end mosquito spray to sell at Mecca? Or did we perhaps pawn our problem off on another store at a huge loss?
Yet amazingly, Ultrathon is still sold today at mainly sporting goods and hardware stores across the country. Go figure…
Those are just three of the uniquely shitty items I’ve come across in my line of work that still make me laugh and shake my head to this day. Do you recall any dog products that seemed like a silly idea and didn’t stick around long?