Born Every Minute

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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  1. Bonnie  •  Apr 29, 2017 @8:24 pm

    The Fyre Festival people sound like the Trump administration.

  2. zoomar2  •  Apr 29, 2017 @9:21 pm

    I simply don’t understand why most people wouldn’t leap at the chance to invest only $400 to vertically integrate all their juicing needs in one turnkey operation.

  3. priscianus jr  •  Apr 29, 2017 @10:27 pm

    Yeah, it kind of reminds me of Trump & co.’s way of running the country.

    The model’s been around a while. Wall Street investors take over company, know nothing about the business, destroy it. Rinse and repeat. The only difference is, those guys would leverage and milk the assets. The guys you’re talking about don’t even know how to do that.

  4. aj  •  Apr 29, 2017 @11:59 pm

    but hey it is ok to pay women less than men for the same work especially if they were paid less at their last job..
    Business truly sucks
    but don’t forget the big lie that there is a level playing field out there

  5. zoomar2  •  Apr 30, 2017 @12:59 am

    After watching the juicer video, the thought occurred that the design is just a modified I.V. machine.

  6. Swami  •  Apr 30, 2017 @2:49 am

    Money has no value until you spend it.

  7. goatherd  •  Apr 30, 2017 @8:06 am

    Four Unrelated Paragraphs in Search of …

    I’m still getting great service out of an Atlas Princess* juicer that I bought almost forty years ago at a flea market, and it’s “mid-century modern!” I wonder how long it will be before the Keurigs for juice start hitting the thrift shops.

    Sometimes it seems that there are a lot of techies and MBAs out there with too much time on their hands and no idea how to contribute anything of value. Their marks are sophisticated, but credulous types, with significant disposable income and a hunger for baubles. For them, there is little difference between $700 and $400, in fact, that’s the whole point. The latest little marvel puts that on display, and if it gets dusted off and donated to charity the next year, so much the better.

    I don’t want to start a bitter controversy, but, whenever I step into a hotel room and see a Keurig on the dresser, my heart sinks. For me, it’s pour-over or siphon, – coffee at its simple, lyrical best. But, as they say, to each, his own.

    I am becoming progressively more descriptivist as I ride into the sunset. But, some meaningless or redundant forms of words strike me as symptomatic of an attempt to stay current, or to tread the rising water of technology and its marketing. “pre-planning” and “pre-programed” are two, but this article uses “pre-prepared.” As they say, “somethin’ ain’t right.”

  8. paintedjaguar  •  Apr 30, 2017 @1:09 pm

    I don’t drink coffee, but I grew up in a coffee drinking nation – one where every citizen owned at least one percolator, and that’s how people made their coffee. No doubt a bunch of people are eager to tell me why that’s heresy, but before we all became food snobs in the 80’s no one thought twice about it. If there’s one word to describe that decade, it would be “upscale”.

    Nowadays everything has to be either artisanal or high tech to appeal. The notion of applying a computer printer ink business model to everything in sight is just the latest MBA idiocy. Naturally it’s something only a person with too much money would ever think of. By the way, this is a juicer –

    Now get the heck off my lawn.

  9. Bill  •  Apr 30, 2017 @1:12 pm

    I bought my Power Juicer fresh out of the box for twenty bucks at a garage sale. I considered trying to recombine it with a wifi fitbit and glider exerciser into a some new kind of exercise device only a millennial techie could love, but the Chinese investors said there’d be too many legal issues. Damn commies.

  10. maha  •  Apr 30, 2017 @1:22 pm

    Juiceros won’t be worth anything at a flea market, since they can work only with the company’s fruit packs. Otherwise they are just paperweights.

  11. Bill  •  Apr 30, 2017 @2:52 pm

    I still have my 30 YO basic coffee maker and 20 YO basic fridge. But I can see the look in their eyes – hipster youngster relatives thinking me a lesser human when they see those things.

    Silly jokes aside, I’d say that MBAs are ruining America with all the planned obsolescence, required technology upgrades, and any other devious ways they come up with to maximize profits, especially with the new idiot-savant millenial, who tolerates it all. Sure my 25YO basic top loading washer needed a new pump. But I recently saw an 6YO Samsung computerized front loader that talks to you, be declared ‘totaled’ after normal use. Samsung has similar issues with their Smart TVs. A once credible company with trusted products bites the dust. I tell everybody I know to look elsewhere for their trendy product needs.

  12. Swami  •  Apr 30, 2017 @3:19 pm

    Maybe Arkansas will convert them into some sort Rube Goldberg contraption to expedite their assembly line executions. I imagine that pumping pomegranate juice into anybody’s veins at 4000 PSI would be just as effective, if not more, than any drug on the market.

  13. zoomar2  •  Apr 30, 2017 @3:41 pm

    All kidding aside, the sucker aspect of this story increasingly involves no choice at all with many other products in this increasingly rent seeking economy. Mechanical aspects of a product become secondary to the software that we must pay for constantly and can never own or tamper with by law. iPhones, iPads, computers, we’re unsurprised when told it’s illegal to open and repair DYI. Even John Deer is in on the act, making it illegal for farmers to repair their own tractors.

  14. goatherd  •  May 1, 2017 @8:23 am

    I have a lot of cool vintage appliances, but, when I bought them, they weren’t cool, they were just used. I bought a lot of them when I was in my twenties and struggling, but they are so well made, they will outlast me.

    When we got married, my wife and I got a lot of appliances as gifts. The electric/electronic ones were mostly dead in a year or two. I remember opening a toaster that had a computer chip in it. That seemed ridiculous, and it still does, especially since it barely lasted a year. Maybe the heat from the element affected the chip. In contrast, for twenty years or so, I used a toaster that my grandmother gave me. Eventually, I retired it in favor of a new fangled “pop-up” model. But, I still have it and it still works.

    I think Bill is right about planned obsolescence, and it has stepped into overdrive since we were young. It bothers me because it is bad for the environment, and so often the latest version of a labor saving device, doesn’t really save any labor, it just makes some noise, flashes some lights and costs more money. Kitchen appliances are the prime examples, but, all my mechanical and carpentry tools are old, because they work well, last forever, and they cost less used.

    As far as coffee goes, I think people just like a change once in a while. I have a percolator (patent 1912) and it makes great coffee. I like to switch methods every few years. When I change methods the coffee tastes new again. I’ve stuck with the siphon for a long time because it looks like parts of a chemistry set, and I was a big “Mr. Wizard” fan.

    Yeah, I’m a codger, too.

  15. paintedjaguar  •  May 1, 2017 @3:23 pm

    In contrast, tea drinkers like me tend to be traditionalists I think. And Anglophiles. I’m sure it’s all connected somehow.