Sunday, September 20, 2020

11 famous products originally intended for a different purpose

Many of the world's most famous brands and products started out as something entirely different than what they are known for today. Some of the best discoveries have happened by accident, such as Silly Putty…and, of course, the 11 products listed here that range from soft drinks originally laced with powerful mind-altering drugs to medicines with unexpected, but profitable, side-effects. 

COCA-COLA

Dr. John Pemberton invented the original formula of the syrupy soft drink in 1886. He had been badly injured in the battle of Columbus and, as a result, had became hopelessly addicted to prescription morphine. Being a trained pharmacist, Pemberton decided to come up with his own addiction cure. This resulted in Pemberton's French Wine Coca, a drink that contained alcohol and cocoa leaf extract—the same ingredient that makes cocaine. When Coca-Cola first appeared on the market it was labeled as a nerve tonic that "relieves exhaustion." Cocaine was removed from the product in 1903.

LISTERINE

Surprisingly, the mouth wash you've been using for years was originally marketed as a floor cleaner, a cure for gonorrhea, and was also used as a surgical antiseptic. It did not become commercially successful until re-branded as a cure for bad breath.

BUBBLE WRAP

Marc Chavannes and Alfred Fielding had been attempting to come up with a new style of textured wallpaper and as a result of their efforts, according to Forbes magazine, in 1957 they created bubble wrap. They sealed together two shower curtains, which made the first layer of the bubbles. They tried selling the product first as wallpaper and later as greenhouse insulation without any success. It was not until IBM launched the 1401 computer in 1959 that bubble wrap was first used for the purpose of keeping products safe in transit.

SLINKY

According to Time magazine, the slinky is one of the most influential toys ever. However, the fascinating metal springs were originally invented for a much more practical purpose: stabilizing devices on ships on choppy seas. It was not until the instrument-stabilizer was accidentally knocked off a shelf and appeared to walk across a desk that its inventor, Richard James, realized that it could be a toy. James once said: "Strictly speaking, I didn't invent the Slinky. He practically walked into my life."

VIAGRA

Scientists who developed Sildenafil Citrate, better known today as Viagra, were hoping it could lower blood pressure and treat the heart problem Angina. During clinical trials they discovered some surprising side effects—the male participants experienced erections. Curing erectile dysfunction became an incredibly lucrative future for the drug. In 2007, its original purpose was vindicated. Scientists showed that as well as boosting blood flow to the penis, the drug could also increase the amount of blood sent to the heart and lungs.

7UP

7UP started out with a long and boring name: Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda. As the name implies, the lemon-lime flavored drink contained lithium, a drug used in the treatment of people suffering from bipolar disorder. According to The New York Times, 7UP contained lithium until 1950. It has even been suggested that the "7" in the name refers to lithium's atomic mass and "UP" had to do with an improved mood after using the product.

ROGAINE

Rogaine is the commercial name for minoxidil—a drug which can help reduce high blood pressure. It's second use was discovered by patients taking the blood-pressure medication Loniten (which also contains minoxidil). They noticed increased hair growth on their scalp. Realizing the commercial value of this side-effect, Rogaine was made available as a hair loss solution in 1988.

FRISBEE

William Russell Frisbie bought a bakery in Connecticut in the late 19th century, which he called the Frisbie Pie Company. After Frisbie's death, his company continued to flourish and in 1956 reached a peak production of 80,000 pies per day. Pies and cookies made by the company were purchased in a plate-shaped tin bearing the name "Frisbee Pies." Yale students discovered a second use for the tins, and began to hurl them around the university campus. As the flying disk approached its target, the thrower would shout "Frisbie" as a warning. The slightly different spelling "frisbee" is now used for the toy.

CHAINSAW

The earliest mention of the chainsaw comes from the Canadian Medical Association Journal, which says the original purpose of the chainsaw was to cut bone in operations. The journal says: "Orthopedics became a specialty with the help of a new instrument, the osteotome, invented around 1830 by the German Bernard Heine. An illustration from a contemporary inventory of surgical tools shows that this clever master of prosthetics had in fact invented the chainsaw."

WD-40

WD-40 is most commonly used to protect metal implements from moisture and to loosen tight screws. Around 80% of US households own a can of the stuff. It was originally used for lubricating nuclear missiles during the Cold War era. It was created by a small San Diego company, Rocket Chemical, and its retail name of WD-40 is an abbreviation for "water displacement, 40th attempt" at coming up with a viable product for the initial use.

PLAY-DOH

Cleo and Noah McVicker developed the putty in 1933 to help clean up soot-covered walls [the Travel Channel's Mysteries At The Museum did a segment on this]. Made from a simple combination of flour, water, and salt, it was meant to be rolled across walls to remove dirt. However, the introduction of vinyl wallpaper (easy to clean with just soap and water) meant the concoction became unnecessary. But then, the company discovered that the formula could be used as a pliable modeling clay. Renamed Play-Doh, it was put on sale for this purpose in 1956.

This is just a sample of the many products invented for one specific purpose and ultimately used for something completely different.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Items Stolen From Hotels—part 2 of 2

Last week I talked about some of the more common items people steal from their hotel and motel rooms. This week it's the most bizarre and unbelievable items people have stolen from hotels.

People have probably been pilfering from hotel/motel rooms for as long as hotels and motels have existed. Whether it's a small souvenir or something bigger, such as a plush robe, theft by guests has cost the hotel industry big bucks over the years.

While most people steal the common items we talked about last week, some don't stop at only stealing the small things. Instead, they go for the gold. This list will probably have you shaking your head in disbelief.

1. Pillows

It is very odd to swipe pillows, but hotel guests do. Who would want to own a pillow that likely thousands of others have slept—and drooled—on? Hotel pillows typically cost enough that hotels do care when guests take them home. Some hotels have even started implanting trackable microchips in hotel linens.

If a guest steals a pillow or two, the hotel will usually send him a letter to the effect of, "Hope you're enjoying the pillows," along with an invoice. If the guest returns to stay in that hotel again, some hotel managers let him know what website he can go to and buy hotel linens.

2. Grand piano

A head shaker. Acting as construction workers, the thieves simply wheeled it out the door. It turned out that three people had strolled into the lobby dressed in overalls and had wheeled the grand piano out of the hotel and down the street, never to be seen again.

3. Television

Apparently it was a while before anyone noticed them missing. When one hotel checked the security footage, they saw a guest walk through a busy reception area struggling under the weight of a television set, yet no one batted an eye.

4. Stuffed boar head

In the billiard room at the Hotel du Vin in Birmingham, UK, one guest tried to steal a stuffed boar's head. He was caught, much to his chagrin and embarrassment. A few weeks later, some of his friends came back and bought the object from the hotel as a wedding present for him. The hotel donated the money to charity.

5. Everything

A couple staying at an American Holiday Inn asked for a room near the parking lot. Next, they emptied the entire contents of the hotel room into a conveniently located U-Haul. They stole the bed, the furniture—everything that wasn't (and likely some things that were) nailed down.

Guests did the same thing at a Forte Group hotel in Bath, UK. They parked their vehicle underneath the room's window and passed the things though. The carpet, bedding, tea pot, and toilet seat were missing when they left. Yes, even the toilet seat!

6. Hotels offered guests amnesty

According to The New York Times, New York's Waldorf Astoria hotel announced on Facebook in 2012 that it was launching an amnesty campaign directed toward those who had stolen or "accidentally packed" items from the hotel. They promised forgiveness to those who returned the stuff.

A psychotherapist who lives in San Diego returned a silver coffee pot to the hotel with a note explaining that her mother and father had a one night honeymoon at the hotel in 1938. They didn't have much money and that one night at the Waldorf was a very big deal for them. She went on to say that her father stole the silver coffee pot and every year on their anniversary, he took it out and served coffee in it.

7. Sex toys

Yes, you read that right—sex toys stolen from a hotel room. The Residence in Bath, UK, used to rent sex toys to guests, no available information on hygiene or sanitizing. Guests often stole the toys, and they were almost always caught. A hotel staff member said he would call them up to explain that they had been caught. A rather long silence would inevitably follow.

8. Curtains

If you've ever stayed at one of the economy type motel chains, you know glamour isn't what they offer. Televisions and hairdryers are often nailed to the wall to prevent theft. But it seems that guests found other things to steal. The no-frills hotel chains reported that thousands of guests stole carpeting, mirrors, light fittings, and yes, even the shower curtains.

9. Room number

Who in the world would want to steal the room number from the door of their hotel room? Someone staying at the Franklin Hotel in Knightsbridge, UK, apparently. The guest unscrewed the number from the door and made off with it. The hotel general manager said no one notice it missing until they found the next guest wandering up and down the hallway looking for his room.

10. Busts

Mayfair is an affluent area in the West End of London, and the four-star Chesterfield Hotel is a popular spot to stay in the area. Someone stole two busts from outside the hotel's entrance. It's almost unbelievable that the person who stole them got away with it. Even stranger, the busts were returned the following morning in the back of a cab. [sounds like a college fraternity prank]

11. Flowers

Luxury hotels typically spend a fortune on fresh flowers to make the lobby impressive. And people love the flowers. They love them so much that they steal them. Again, it's hard to imagine someone just walking out of a hotel with one of those huge floral displays. It looks like the hotel employees need to be a bit more watchful.

12. Pet dog

What kind of person would steal someone else's pet? At one hotel, it was reported that guests stole the hotel owner's dog. There isn't any information on whether the owner recovered his pet. Hopefully, it was a case of the dog getting out one day and eventually finding his way back home.

13. Famous artwork

At Hong Kong's W Hotel, a guest stole a piece of Andy Warhol artwork worth $300,000 which was never recovered. In addition, guests at Hong Kong's Shangri-La stole chandeliers, and someone took an entire minibar from the old Parkroyal in Kuala Lumpur. At the old Crowne Plaza in Bangkok, guests frequently stole showerheads.

15. Fireplace

A guest at the Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., stole an entire marble fireplace. There are no details regarding how he got it out of the hotel, but he really upped the ante when it comes to being an audacious thief.

16. Concorde model

A housekeeper at a Best Western hotel reported a seriously strange theft. The guest swiped a 12-foot model of the Concorde, the British-French turbojet-powered supersonic passenger airliner that operated until 2003. How on earth did no one notice that on its way out? 

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Items Stolen From Hotels—part 1 of 2

Lots of jokes abound about the things people feel compelled to steal from hotel and motel rooms when they check out.  There's even the unconfirmed tales of people changing their name to correspond with their newly acquired monogrammed bed and bath linens.

There are items in your hotel room that the hotel is happy to have you take—free souvenirs, mementos of your trip, a keepsake from a special occasion.

And then there are the items that at the least can result in a hefty additional charge on your credit card and possibly even something as serious as criminal charges.

Pens and Pencils:  Stationery, pens, pencils, and the postcards in the room are yours to take.  Every time you use them, it's free advertising for the hotel.

Towels and Linens:  Towels are the top item to disappear from hotel rooms.  Hotels and motels have literally millions of towels disappear each year.  But to also take the bed linens?  Just how big does your suitcase need to be to have that much extra room in it?

Lotions and bathroom items:  All those little bottles of shampoo, hair conditioner, body lotion, and soaps are there for you to use and take with you whether they've been opened or not.  They're the perfect travel size and take up very little room, not to mention that they're sized to meet the airline 3 oz. rule. However, of late some hotels/motels are changing from these little individual bottles to dispensers attached to the wall. You still have the availability of having the product to use but not the bottles (whether opened or new/unused) to take with you.

Laundry Bags:  We've all helped ourselves to the plastic laundry bags in hotel rooms to use for dirty clothes and a still damp swim suit.  No problem there.  However, if the hotel uses cloth or canvas bags, you can expect to see a charge on your bill.

Docks and Clocks:  It's safe to assume that a room's clock radio and iPod dock are not there for you to take home with you.  Boston's Onyx Hotel takes a simple approach.  "You can take anything you want from the room, but we'll charge your credit card for replacement."

Robes and Umbrellas:  It can occasionally be confusing, but most hotels will bill you if the robe goes missing.  Some hotels will provide package rates that include such items as monogrammed robes, slippers, branded totes, books, and even bottles of premium liquor.  But beware, those complimentary items can come at a steep price as some of the package rates can be as much as twice the regular room rate.

Gideon Bibles:  Bibles have been a long time amenity in hotel rooms.  Even though they are slowly being edged out, Gideon International still places more than ten million copies in hotel rooms annually to replace those that are taken.  They claim they're happy to have people break the eighth commandment.

There have been lots of strange items taken from hotels over the years.  The following are some true tales.

A woman from San Jose, California, took the "C" from the coat check sign in San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel and was pursued through the hotel by men in blazers shouting, "Madam, the 'C'…give us the 'C!'"

A Geneva lawyer admits being caught by a receptionist of a Hamburg hotel while trying to make off with "an entire display of apples in a rather large fruit bowl from the hotel lobby."

A huge piece of blown glass by Dale Chihuly was once stolen from a table in the lobby of The Alexis hotel in Seattle. (I would love to have one of Dale Chihuly's glass sculptures, but I'm not willing to go to prison for it. The price on his art pieces makes it far removed from petty theft.)

Bill Babis of 70 Park Avenue said the most outrageous things stolen from the chic hotel were the thermostats.

So the next time you're tempted to slip a little keepsake from the hotel into your suitcase you might want to ask yourself if it's really a freebie or if you'll end up paying more for it than if you had bought it at a store.

Check back next week for part 2, a look at the most bizarre and unbelievable items stolen from hotels.