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If it’s weird, I’ll buy it
Yeoh Guan Jin 
Some of the many weird items on sale on eBay
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A new product that is expected to hit the market this month deserves some serious attention, both between the sheets and at the dinner table. You won’t be too far wrong to say that no other product has as diverse a function as this item – it promises protection against undesired outcomes and delights the palate at the same time.

It is the condom – a humble piece of rubber for all intents and purposes. However, this comes with a flavour, and nothing less than the Malaysian favourite – the nasi lemak.

Why a prophylactic should also be agreeable to the tastebuds is best left to the imagination.

According to an Agence France-Press report in a recent issue of The Nation, an English-language daily newspaper in Thailand, the new and perhaps tasty condom is a product of Karex Bhd, the world’s biggest producer of such contraceptives.

Of course flavoured condoms are not unheard of. Karex, based in Klang, already offers this romp-in-bed accessory in other flavours, among them another Malaysian favourite, the durian, as well as grapes.

Durex, another big condom producer, rolled out the eggplant flavoured version last year.

And then there are those from China that glow in the dark. That will certainly light up one’s love life, but that’s not the point.

Contraceptives aside, many businesses do offer unusual versions of otherwise ordinary household items, some of which may not necessarily be all that practical.

 

Here comes the beer saver

But then again, such an item on display is bound to arouse any person’s curiosity, and that would already be a first step towards making him part with his money.

Take the case of the beer saver. It is a bottle cap that you use to … yes … cap your unfinished bottle of beer to be consumed later. It is unclear how well this item sells given that most beer drinkers would make it a point to finish their drink before moving on to attend to some urgent matter.

Perhaps a more unusual item would be the most aptly named OCD chef cutting board. It comes with markings to let you measure the size of an item while cutting or dicing. That’s so you can be sure to end up with diced carrots of exactly the same size. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

As the name denotes, this would be a dream-come-true for someone who suffers from an obsessive compulsive disorder.

There is no comprehensive data on the market for products such as flavoured condoms or OCD chopping boards so it cannot be determined very accurately whether or not these items sell very well.

But just going by its production capacity, Karex’s products seem to sell very well. According to an Oct 13 report by a business daily, the company produces five billion condoms every year. That, says the report, is enough to meet the nocturnal activity needs of more than 60% of the world’s population. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that this is enough for the needs of the sexually-active population.

The report does not say how much of those five billion sheaths could also pass as a gourmet treat.

Without a doubt, the market is only going to grow. More comprehensive information on safe sex is reaching a wider swath of the population and that will certainly lead to a higher demand for contraceptives.

While flavoured condoms also serve a very practical purpose, some unusual or even seemingly useless items are known to have found buyers as well, and mostly on the internet.

One US government agency – the General Services Administration – has an online business selling everything from a decrepit airplane to old screwdrivers.

On the GSA Auctions website, there was a Fairchild C119C fixed wing aircraft for sale to the highest bidder. According to the website, the aircraft was already in a state of disrepair, with “major components missing”, was “not in operating condition” and was “unstable to tow”.

The starting price was US$1,000. Someone was actually interested in it – he placed a bid for US$1,100.

Also for sale on the website is a box of screwdrivers – a total of 2,280 of them.

 

Thriving market

People are attracted to the most unusual things and that, perhaps, is why the market for such items is thriving.

Just take a look at what is on offer on eBay – the world’s largest online auction and shopping site – and you will see the most offbeat items for sale. eBay even has a category for such items, and it is aptly named “Weird”.

Among the items in this classification: Nazi coins, fake parking tickets (Why would anyone want this?), a fridge magnet that says “I’m not gay” (Just in case your friends have any doubt), a fake ATM receipt (Seriously!) and flatulence in a jar (Ugh!) that goes for RM43.55.

The ultimate one must be the toilet roll bearing the face of US President Donald Trump. That goes for RM34.79 a roll. Of course trying to peddle a similar item in this country could land one in jail.

Businesses like Karex and eBay have made millions just pandering to the most unusual desires of an otherwise sane and intelligent populace. Some of these items do serve a practical purpose, like the Trump toilet paper but many others just end up as collector’s items or eventually in the junkyard.

Based on the financial results of companies such as eBay, the demand for the offbeat product is not about to soften anytime soon.

And to meet an expected rise in demand, there will surely be new flavours to come.

Yeoh Guan Jin is a veteran journalist. Comments: editor@focusmalaysia.my



This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 257.