Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Saturday, April 29th, 2017.


Born Every Minute

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Social Issues

Taking a brief break from snarking about Donald Trump. There are a couple of unrelated stories that seem to me to be related, under the topic of People With More Money Than Sense.

Recently there was a lot of hooting about Juicero, a “juicer” (a gadget that renders fruit into juice, presumably more efficiently than a “blender”) that originally retailed at $700 (but was later reduced to a mere $400) and only works with the company’s own specifically designed single-serving bags of fruit that cost $5 to $8 each.

Now, if you’re thinking, “Who the hell would pay that much for bleeping fruit juice,” you are not alone. However, lots of people didn’t ask that question and invested in the company.

Doug Evans, the company’s founder, would compare himself with Steve Jobs in his pursuit of juicing perfection. He declared that his juice press wields four tons of force—“enough to lift two Teslas,” he said. Google’s venture capital arm and other backers poured about $120 million into the startup. Juicero sells the machine for $400, plus the cost of individual juice packs delivered weekly. Tech blogs have dubbed it a “Keurig for juice.”

And here comes the “oops.”

But after the product hit the market, some investors were surprised to discover a much cheaper alternative: You can squeeze the Juicero bags with your bare hands. Two backers said the final device was bulkier than what was originally pitched and that they were puzzled to find that customers could achieve similar results without it. Bloomberg performed its own press test, pitting a Juicero machine against a reporter’s grip. The experiment found that squeezing the bag yields nearly the same amount of juice just as quickly—and in some cases, faster—than using the device.

Now the company is offering the refund the purchase price of the juicer if you mail it back in the next 30 days.

The company sells produce packs for $5 to $8 but limits sales to owners of Juicero hardware. The products were only available in three states until Tuesday, when the company expanded to 17. Packs can’t be shipped long distances because the contents are perishable.

This is not sounding to me like a workable business model, but what do I know? The article goes on to say that high-end hotels and restaurants have been buying the things. I guess they’re the sort of places that can get away with charging $10 or more for a glass of juice. I don’t go to those places.

The other story is about a “tech bro” who tried to put together a luxury music festival package in the Bahamas and failed spectacularly.

For tickets that started at $1,200 and went as high as $250,000, the young and rich signed up for passage to the doomed Fyre Festival, hyped for months by its co-founder, rapper turned aspiring mojito mogul Ja Rule.

Attendees were promised three days of luxury and performances by Blink-182, Desiigner, and Rae Sremmurd. Promotion for the festival launched in December, with a glamorous Instagram video of supermodels yachting and sipping champagne on a stunning coastal island.

What they got instead were cancelled acts, disaster relief tents and cheese sandwiches.

Basically, these people were sold a prix-fixe, ‘gram-ready vacation for thousands of dollars and showed up to a hastily assembled disaster zone with scant security, food or housing. On Friday, the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism went so far as to issue a statement distancing itself from the event it characterized as “total disorganization and chaos,” saying Fyre’s organizers “did not have the capacity to execute an event of this scale.”

The event doesn’t appear to have been a deliberate scam. It appears the organizers were just in way over their heads. They had some money and what sounded like a cool idea, but they didn’t have the experience or organizational skills to pull it off. Money is being refunded. But they’re planning another festival next year.

Like I said, more money than sense. See also “Jerks and the Start-Ups They Ruin.”

It does seem to me that there’s a larger issue here; something about how some people seem to have money to burn while others are struggling to get by, and hard work and merit have little association with who gets what.

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