Marketing news and other sick stuff
Patients undergoing cardiac surgery can now look forward to hearing new age music and calming voices while under the knife. Doctors at prominent hospitals are increasingly recommending the use of guided imagery tapes, which are played through earphones while patients are under anesthesia. A calm female voice beckons patients to "feel new strength flowing through you, through arteries that are wider and more open . . . than before."
To assure patients that their doctors are reliable, the voice coos that medical devices "will be removed by wise and sure hands at just the right time, when your body is ready, no sooner, no later." While there is no real evidence yet that the tapes have any effect, they are marketed as a way of improving patients' recovery. Audio samples of these tapes can be found on the Ohio-based Health Journeys website, including affirmations for other conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, depression, and menopause. (Wall Street Journal, 2/10/04)
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The photo developing departments at several national chain stores routinely censor customer orders. A Walgreen's in Ohio, for example, removed a photo of a shirtless man wearing a nipple ring from customer Calvin Johnson's roll--and threw away the negatives.
An assistant manager told Johnson that film developers are under no obligation to print photos they deem offensive, "If someone doesn't approve of the subject matter," he said, "each employee has the right [to discard photos] as they see it."
CVS, Eckerds, Wal-Mart, and Rite-Aid have similar policies. Meijer, a Michigan-based chain, has an even more sweeping policy: if employees come across any photographs containing nudity of any kind--kids in a bathtub, for instance--they are required to call the police. (Clevescene.com, 4/14/04)
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The following disclaimer appears on the the Playmobil.com website as of 5/3/04:
We would like to know your opinion on our products and our website. However, we want to point out that we do not regard any messages received from you as confidential. Furthermore, we have the right to use your information in any way we see fit and without any obligations whatsoever toward you. The information we receive becomes the property of PLAYMOBIL on receipt and we have the right to use all ideas, concepts, know-how or technical information including the development, production and distribution of products without any obligation for financial compensation toward you. (Thanks to Peter Steinlechner)
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Photography studios that specialize in school photos are now offering airbrushing and retouching services to interested students. Armed with digital cameras, personal computers, and Photoshop software, school photographers can remove blemishes, straighten crooked teeth and hide braces, remove tattoos or double chins, and even open closed eyes--all for an additional cost that may range from $8 to $60. High school and middle school students, parents, and even exhausted faculty are eagerly signing up for the new service. (Wall Street Journal, 12/16/03)
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Despite the billions allocated to the Iraq war, the US military isn't buying body armor for all soldiers, forcing many of them to wear Vietnam-era vests. Parents across the country have taken matters into their own hands, contacting armor companies to buy bullet-proof vests for their children stationed in Iraq. The cost, $650, is more than many parents of soldiers make in a week. (Los Angeles Times, 9/29/03)
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Fast food restaurants are not only battling nutrition experts and mad cow reports, but a silent foe: virulent prank callers. Since the late 1990s, crank callers have dogged chains such as Burger King, Wendy's, Applebee's, and Hooters. In each case, an unknown caller who claims to be with the police persuades a restaurant manager to strip search female employees or, in one case, a female customer. In every case so far, the managers have complied.
Officials believe that the hoaxes are the work of a single person calling from a Florida public telephone. Fast food corporate management are understandably nervous due to the number of lawsuits developing from the violations, and the National Restaurant Association has sent memos to different chains warning of this bizarre prank. (Wall Street Journal, 3/30/04)
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According to a recent poll, Swedish people trust Ikea, purveyor of unboring furniture, more than their own government, politicians, media, or trade unions. The survey was commissioned by MedieAkademin, an independent media forum. (Yahoo News, 11/19/03)
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The following quotes from Wired News and Wired Magazine stories were compiled by Test, a UK-based blog.
"Incessant calling and voicemails might become a thing of the past" (9/23/03).
"Long delays in counting absentee ballots would be a thing of the past" (7/13/03). "Housework is already a thing of the past" (6/19/03).
"Paying royalties for George Gershwin tunes could become a thing of the past" (10/7/02). "Chronic insomia could be a thing of the past" (November 03).
"Entertainment as a passive group experience is a thing of the past" (June 2000).
"Pirated software will soon be a thing of the past" (10/17/01).
"The concept that a writer will get paid for writing may soon be a thing of the past" (7/17/00). "Web searches and their ten pages of useless results [may become] a thing of the past"(5/25/00). "Modern warfare . . . will soon be a thing of the past" (9/2/99).
"Twenty years from now paper will be a thing of the past" (8/30/99)
"Bubble-in writer's cramp is soon to be a thing of the past" (4/9/99).
"Matt Drudge described a brave new Internet world where editors [will] be a thing of the past" (6/2/98).
"[According to Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale], the home user buying a personal computer will be a thing of the past" (9/22/97).
"Burnt toast is now a thing of the past" (7/1/97).
"Responsible journalism seems to be a thing of the past" (5/9/01).
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McDonald's has served design/type house Plazm Media, Portland, Ore., with a cease-and-desist notice to stop distributing its Capitalis Pirata font. It seems the M , which resembles the famed Golden Arches, is "likely to confuse the public into believing that Plazm is in some way associated with McDonald's," and that such use "dilutes McDonald's Corporation's trademark rights." The typeface in question was created by Dutch designer Roland Henss, "in an effort to explore the meaning of corporate iconography in our world," according to Plazm. "By placing corporate icons into the form of an alphabet, Henss challenges the notion of ownership of letterforms. Since a copyright cannot be placed on the alphabet itself, this typeface raises issues about the boundaries of ownership and the proprietary nature of letterforms in the public domain." Capitalis Pirata is available free and is not for sale. Nevertheless, "in an effort to stay in business," the Plazm statement says, "we have forcibly removed the upper case M from the alphabet." (PrintCritic, 4/15/04; www.plazm.com/fonts/downloads)
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Newly built student dorms are springing up in colleges everywhere featuring luxurious leather sofas, panoramic views, wireless Internet, private bathrooms, plasma TV's, and Jacuzzis (or 'therapeutic hot tubs,' as school officials refer to them). Competitive second and third tier schools like Michigan State University and Florida International University find these new dorms to be a selling point for many students. Despite the huge price tag (an average of $6--10,000 a year, compared to $2--5,000 for older dorms), the dorms have become increasingly popular for students who can afford them. (Time, 12/22/2003)
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A partial list of chain-store brawls, riots, and stampedes that have resulted in injuries:
Child World, Bergen County, NJ (December 1983): Throngs make their way to purchase Cabbage Patch dolls. Expectant mother Kathleen Dupree is knocked down and trampled during the mad rush.
Wal-Mart, Frederickton, New Brunswick (December 1996): Canadians swept up in Tickle Me Elmo fever rush the doors at their local Wal-Mark, shoving an employee to the floor. Said employed is later treated at the hospital for extensive bruising.
K-Mart, St. Paul, MN (December 1996): A woman in her 70s, waiting to buy a Tickle Me Elmo doll, is thrown to the floor and trampled.
Wal-Mart, Allentown, PA (November 1998): Hundreds of shoppers storm the Wal-Mart entrance, competing for 94 Furbys. In the frenzy, one man raises his fist and "cold-cocks" Dee Unangst, who suffers a mild concussion.
Wal-Mart, Bentonville, AK (December 2000): An early morning Furby frenzy leaves two women battered and bruised; they file law-suit against the store claiming that the promotion of the Furby sale was "ill-conceived."
Toys 'R' Us, Bossier City, LA (November 2003): More than 400 people line up to purchase karaoke machines, American Idol drum sets, and other sale items. When a woman cuts the line, two other women push her down and grab her by the neck.
Wal-Mart, Riverside, CA (December 2002): A crowd tramples a woman, breaking her foot, in a mad dash to take advantage of a Christmas sale. Two other customers were injured in the frenzy.
Wal-Mart, North Versailles, PA (November 2003): Police respond to two 911 calls from a nearby Wal-Mart claiming there's a "near riot." One customer tosses a DVD player in the air and inadvertently slams a woman in the head.
Wal-Mart, Orange City, FL (December 2003): At 6 a.m., Patricia Vanlester is first in line for a $29.87 DVD player at 6 a.m. at a local Wal-Mart. At 6:03 a.m., police receive a 911 call from the store. When they get there, the shopper is unconscious, sprawled on the floor with a DVD player resting under her left arm.
(Wall Street Journal, 12/19/03; Morning Call, 7/21/00 and 11/28/98; Press Enterprise, 11/30/02; [Bergen] Record,12/2/03, Miami Herald, 12/15/96; Tulare Advance-Register, 11/29/03)