They come, sometimes as many as a half-dozen a day. Tucked in the endless stream of spam offering Russian women, low-cost mortgages, porn and mini remote-controlled toy cars arrive the pitches for "all natural" penis-enlargement pills. Feeling inadequate? Too embarrassed to take a shower at the gym? Just send 60 or so dollars and watch it sprout like a dandelion. Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back.
Which leads us to one key question: Exactly how dumb are men? (For those of you who had another question in mind, the answer to that one is, "No, dummy, of course they don't work. Now put away your credit card.")
Full Frontal put its question to Dr. Stephen Barrett, master of the Web site www.quackwatch.org, a national resource on medical quackery: How can people smart enough to possess an e-mail account fall for something so patently absurd?
"A lot of people think that if it's advertised, that the postal service has approved it or the government wouldn't allow it if it weren't legal or if it didn't work and so on," Barrett says. "Some people just don't have enough suspiciousness."
Right. And those would be dumb people, correct?
Not necessarily, according to Barrett.
"Maybe they are very sophisticated, but that doesn't mean they can't be fooled," he says. Snake-oil salesmen of all types, from coral calcium peddlers offering cures for virtually everything to those selling "spot reducing" pills are adept at preying on vanity, or worse, the hopes and fears of seriously ill people, to make quick sales. (At least one quack has offered an "immortality device" for sale. That means at least one person probably bought it, and that person may even be legally entitled to vote. Who says democracy is a good idea?)
Money-back guarantees, bogus clinical trials and customer testimonials sweeten the pitch. Many computer owners have higher disposable income, Barrett says, so a few dollars on a worthless pill may not be worth complaining about.
Too much money, too little sense and a small johnson. That's a dangerous combination for anyone, unless you happen to own a strip club. Then it's ka-ching! city.
The Internet allows spammers to broadcast offers to countless thousands cheaply, Barrett points out, and "if you reach enough of an audience, there's going to be a return. It is kind of scary."
How scary? Consider this: In May, the Arizona Attorney General's Office won a settlement agreement with three Scottsdale residents peddling products that promised bigger penises and breasts (for women, we presume). Using both direct mail and national advertisements, the three admitted they scammed more than $70 million from consumers over two years, The Arizona Republic reported, and nine out of 10 sales were for penis pills. The defendants, whose company was called C.P. Direct, agreed to forfeit homes and cash to reimburse victims. The state hopes to have $35 million available for distribution.
Victims should be able to go to www.cp-receivership.com to file claims in the next few weeks. Yep, all you might have to do is admit that you think you have a small penis and were goofy enough to buy these pills, and try to reclaim your money.
Full Frontal seriously doubts there'll be a long line ahead of you. --Patrick Williams
Shout out of the week to: Nick Van Exel
Check it, let's go
Young Hov y'all know when the flow is loco
Young B and the R-O-C, uh oh, (oh)
Ol' G, big homie, the one and only
Stick bony, but the pocket is fat like Tony, Soprano (oh no)
The ROC handle like Van Exel
I shake phonies, man, you can't get next to
The genuine article I go I do not sing though
I sling though, if anything I bling yo
--From "Crazy in Love," Jay-Z's duet with Beyoncé Knowles
Once again our in-box has filled up with an unusual assortment of mail: pleas for our help in finding an escort who doesn't advertise with us anymore, anonymous post cards with crude drawings of mammals and our personal favorites, Invent-Tech (www.invent-tech.com) press releases. Almost daily, the news of someone's brainchild lands on our desk, and just about as often, we spew our Diet Coke in a fit of laughter at the new invention and its description.
Nose Swab: We assume that inventor Ruben Hill was sick and tired of his loved ones complaining about their inability to successfully blow their noses. The invention is said to prevent those embarrassing snot sightings that occur when one leaves the house in a hurry without paying attention to the nose. The swab fits in the nostril and "effectively removes accumulated nose waste, also known as boogers." The clincher here is that the Nose Swab is available in a variety of colors. We're taking bets on how long Kleenex and Q-Tips have before going under thanks to the Nose Swab.
Save A Limb: It's frightening that anyone, including inventor Randall Reid, would feel the need to invent this. Save A Limb answers to "high demand for perfection in the OR." Apparently, the device eliminates human error by providing a way to "determine which limb a surgeon must make an incision to." Wow. Call us naïve, but we really thought doctors would have no problem reading a medical chart and determining right from left.
Everlast Plastic Casket: Inventor Dan Stock claims that with this casket, "individuals can securely contain their physical remains for many years to come." What with soil turbulence becoming such an enormous problem in the burial services industry, we can't wait to purchase our own. Not only does it offer unrivaled "security," but it also "helps prevent the spread of viruses from decaying bodies." And thank goodness, because we are over that pesky decay bug that's been going around.
Reading Device: Place the book under the interestingly named device and it reads to you. Maybe it's because writing is our livelihood, but with some exceptions, shouldn't the whole point of reading be to promote literacy? The product is allegedly meant for the "non-literate," but somehow we feel it will surely fall into the wrong hands and profit largely from the lazy fraction of the population.
Sensi-Mirror: We honestly can't figure out what the hell this is supposed to do. Invent-Tech claims Seyedeh Shourideh's invention has "endless variable possibilities." Such possibilities include serving as "creative decoration" and providing a "positive psychological and relaxing effect on the purchaser." Ten bucks says her thought process leading up to the Sensi-Mirror involved either mind-altering drugs or a stay in a large, clean building in Terrell.
Tobacco Can Pouch: "Chewing tobacco stays handy without ruining pants." Ahhhh, at last. "The pouch is convenient to use and will always stay with you." Kinda like a bad habit, huh?
Surecut: "Saw your heart out safely with less waste." We have absolutely nothing to follow that one. --Merritt Martin
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Observer's biggest stories.