A Company With Balls

Recently Michelle Obama visited Mars Inc. and bitched about the size of their candy bars. She insisted that they reduce their standard size bars, which contain 280 calories, to 250 calories, a number she pulled out of her first-lady butt. She also asked them to stop making king size candy bars.

What they should have done: Say, “Thank you Mrs. Obama. Now please enjoy this goody bag full of delicious candy and our security men will walk you to the exit.”

What they did: Bowed down and kissed her feet. They are going to reduce the size of their candy bars and eliminate king size bars.

When government makes “suggestions” most business comply very quickly. Their compliance is often used as an excuse to turn those suggestions into laws. (“XYZ Inc. did it, and they’re still in business, so we should make it a law.”) When Big Brother makes “suggestions” or concocts rules, regulations or laws very few businesses will resist them, even if it means closing their doors. Those rare business that do resist deserve our respect, support, and money.

Like all government agencies The Consumer Products Safety Commission has laudable sounding job description. They are in charge of making sure unsafe products are pulled from the market. When you see notices that “Bottle Rockets for Babies” has been recalled, that’s the CPSC in action. And to be fair, most of their product recalls are justifiable.

But like all government agencies they like to overstep their authority, make stupid decisions, and destroy businesses based on those stupid decisions.

Buckyballs are small rare earth magnets designed to be an adult desktop toy. Their packaging clearly indicates they are designed for adults and is covered with warnings that boil down to “keep these out of the reach of children” and “don’t eat these, idiots.” The company worked with the CPSC to design the warnings, even going so far as to recall 175,000 sets that labeled for ages 13 and up and replacing the warnings to…14 and up. Maxfield & Oberton, the manufacturer, has steadfastly refused to sell them to retailers who only cater to children, like Toys R Us. The balls sell for about thirty bucks a set, not something a kid is likely to purchase on their own.

Despite their ethical behavior and their cooperation with the CPSC, the CSPC has decided to put them out of business.

Eating magnets is a very bad idea. They stick together and can pinch off areas of the stomach or colon, causing perforation and other nasty effects that require surgery to resolve. So….don’t eat magnets. And don’t leave them around where little kids can eat them either.

But stupid parents will be stupid, and some have left these adult toys in the reach of children, who then ate them and suffered the ill effects. This has happened to twenty-two kids – out of two and a half million sets of Buckyballs sold. Many of them were teenagers. Eleven of them required surgery.

The CSPC started by going after sellers, asking them to “voluntarily” remove them from their stores. Most have complied – a search on “Buckyballs” on Amazon, for instance, only returns a book about how to play with them. But you can still get them from Maxfield & Oberton, who refuses to shut down their business to placate the idiot bureaucrats at CSPC. They are selling them directly at their website and report a 50-fold increase in orders. This ridiculous ban has not only given them gobs of publicity via the Streisand Effect, it’s also prompted people to buy them now out of fear they may not be available in the near future.

One set is fun, two sets is even more fun. They’re available in a variety of colors, and recently the company has introduced BuckyCubes, which creates a whole new bevy of possibilities.

You should buy some, not just because they are such a cool toy, not just because the CSPC may succeed in shutting down this business, but to support the company and their principles. The only thing that will slow down Big Brother is companies (and people) who stand up and say, “No, you’re rules/laws/regulations are stupid, and we will not comply.”

More Info:

Here’s one of many videos of the balls in action:

Related Quick Hitts article: Bad Cop, No Donut.

The Onion’s perspective.


4 Comment(s)

  1. I would certainly buy some if I had the money.

    GJ203 | Aug 7, 2012 | Reply

  2. There’s a 13-year-old kid near where I live who, in order to support his family on the verge of homelessness (his father lost his job and has MS, his mother is epileptic), bought a hot dog cart and made plans to start a business. Instead of praising the enterprising young man for doing his part for his family, the city government shut him down before he could sell a single hot dog. He’s worked it out with the city, but as a result of the delay he and his mother now live in a homeless shelter. He still plans on running the business though.

    Regulations do need to be there. People can’t be expected to know how to test their food for E. Coli. or Dysentery or whatever every time they go out to eat. But there’s a huge difference between a greasy spoon with a filthy, disease-ridden kitchen and a kid operating what basically amounts to a glorified lemonade stand.


    Brian | Aug 10, 2012 | Reply

  3. I’ve been following his story, and it’s heartbreaking. The kid saved $1200 on his own from mowing lawns and doing chores for other people. That alone is impressive. He then bought the cart and got all the permits he needed.

    And the city shut him down anyway, because the local restaurants couldn’t bear to face the competition of a 13 year old with a hot dog cart.

    These bureaucrats need to be tarred and feathered. And I don’t mean figuratively.

    Dave Hitt | Aug 10, 2012 | Reply

  4. Some cultural context: The west coast of Michigan is heavily Republican, so you’d think this would be the last place something like this would happen. But in Grand Rapids (which is pretty liberal in the city proper, the opposite in the suburbs), food trucks have been having the same problem. I think this proves that there is a false divide between Republicans and Democrats. Both parties LOVE big business and HATE small business. The smaller the operation you are, the bigger the bipartisan screw job.

    But yeah, my jaw was dropped in disbelief watching that city official. As if anyone would choose a hot dog cart if they were in the mood for a meal at a restaurant. Here’s an idea, how about those restaurants use their accommodations and wider selection as a selling point? There’s very little overlap between the food cart market and the restaurant market.

    Brian | Aug 15, 2012 | Reply

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