The Worst Ideas. Updates every Monday!

Your weekly source for terrible ideas.

Category: Small Business

Never get a contagious disease from a coworker again with this one tip. Use the healing power of crystals and bears to naturally fight off disease. OSHA hates it!

Background:

Sometimes, your coworkers will come to work with obvious contagious diseases, coughing everywhere and spreading disease and pestilence throughout the land.

Proposal:

The best situation in this situation is for you or your boss to say “hey you, sick individual, go home!”

This should save time and money by preventing others from getting sick, but is sometimes not an option.

Instead, the following technical solution is proposed for office-related jobs: for diseases in which the afflicted individual needs to blow their nose (Fig. 1, left), they are likely to at some point access a tissue box placed somewhere in the workplace.

Instead of just letting that individual take a tissue and return to disease-spreading, the idea is to ensnare the sick individual with a (non-injurious / non-lethal) trap at that location (Fig. 1, right).

2-plain.png

Fig. 1: Left: A standard tissue box. Useful for a person with a runny nose. Right: a possible type of tissue box trap: essentially a bear trap (but with rubber grips instead of bone-crushing steel jaws).

2-snap-side-by-side.png

Fig. 2: Illustration of the closing process. This non-injurious “bear trap” modification will hold the sick individual until they can be humanely released back into the wild.

1-diagram

Fig. 4: A) tissue box. B) non-injurious padded rubber grips to hold onto the tissue-grabbing individual’s arm. C) support for the grabbing arms. D) to prevent the sick individual from just going back to their desk and working with a bear trap on one arm (and continuing to spread disease), the bear trap should be secured in place somehow.

PROS: Saves workplace productivity and reduces the spread of disease.

CONS: Won’t be effective in non-office jobs or for diseases where the plague-ridden individual doesn’t blow their nose.

Five things your haircut says about you, without you even realizing! The first thing it says is: “get your hair cut by a robotic hair cut helmet.”

Background:

Haircuts can be time-consuming and expensive. Somehow, even though modern robotics have resulted in quad-copters, robotic surgery, and an alarm clock with a hand that slaps you in the face, the dream of automated haircuts remains elusive.

Proposal:

Behold, our salvation from laborious non-automated haircuts: the mechanical “haircut helmet.”

haircut-helmet

Fig 1: Functional AND fashionable, the haircut helmet’s stylish exterior hides dozens of small rotary blades on the inside.

The exterior of the helmet hosts a lever that allows the length to be adjusted. (Perhaps, for version 2, there could also be a second lever to select a style.)

haircut-blades

Fig 2: Internally, the haircut is accomplished by a number of shaving-razor-style rotary blades on adjustable tracks. The blades can move around and adjust their distance from the helmet-wearer’s scalp to ensure the perfect haircut every time!

haircut-progress

Fig. 3: Tame the unruly hair at left with the haircut helmet (center). Right: the result. With minor touch-ups, this fashionable individual will be ready for their business meeting / film shoot / wedding.

PROS: Would save millions of dollars and millions of man-hours per year.

CONS: May put all hairdressers out of business, leading to massive unemployment and civil unrest. Also, it might cut your ears off.

ad_fishstopper

SPONSORED LINK: FISHSTOPPER: Eco friendly plastic soda six-pack ring recycling option for the ultimate in sustainable fishery. Are you worried about overfishing, the calamitous collapse of fish stocks over the past 150 years, ocean acidification, or any other so-called “scientific” scaremongering? Now you can make up for the inexorable environmental devastation by recycling some soda six-pack rings! Don’t get scammed by goat-related charities; only FISHSTOPPER is the real deal. Remember: “Teach a man to fish.” —FISHSTOPPER.

 

Shield your mind from the horrors found in a shared breakroom fridge with a futuristic conveyor-belt-based refrigerator! What has been seen cannot be unseen.

Background:

Have you ever had to deal with a shared refrigerator? If so, you may be familiar with the issue of old food items piling up in nooks and crannies of the fridge and never being removed.

Periodically cleaning the fridge will fix this, but it’s a hassle to figure out which food is old and which is new, especially when opaque containers are involved.

fridge-to-trash-just-trash-can

Fig. 1: Philosophers theorize that rotting food should ideally go into the trash, rather than the shared fridge.

The issue:

So how can we AUTOMATICALLY clean out a fridge without any effort?

The old-fashioned solution is to have people label food with a date (e.g. “Oct 14 leftovers”). But unless every single item is clearly labeled, we have only slightly reduced the fridge-cleaning problem.

fridge-overview

Fig. 2: A fridge with three shelves (from top to bottom: orange, purple, blue).

Proposal:

We can use a conveyor-belt-like system to automatically clear old items out of the fridge.

The way it works is quite simple: each shelf is attached to a track, which can move the shelves up and down. Every day (or other interval of time), the shelves move up one shelf-height, and all the food on the top shelf is thrown into the trash. That top shelf now becomes the bottom shelf, and the cycle continues.

fridge-to-trash-4x

Fig. 3: A) The default state of the fridge; casual examination reveals nothing unusual about this setup. However, the orange (top) shelf is about to be automatically cleared of rotten food and expired leftovers.

B) First, the top of the fridge pivots open (#1), then all the shelves travel along a track (not shown) that elevates them by one shelf-height. The orange shelf is now outside of the fridge entirely.

C) In step #3, the orange “to be cleared of trash” shelf is pivoted up and shaken violently, causing the old food items (#4) to fall into the trash can.

D) In step #5, the top of the fridge closes, and the now-clear-of-trash shelf (#6, in orange) is placed on the top of the fridge. Someone will have to manually put this shelf back into the fridge (where it will become the new bottom shelf). The purple shelf is the next to-be-trashed shelf.

Summary:

If each shelf moves up one shelf-sized slot per week, and there are three shelves, then it means that the food on the very bottom shelf would be safe for 3 weeks before being automatically trashed.

Therefore, as long as a motivated fridge-using individual can be bothered to check in on their food at least a couple of times a month, it will be preserved.

But any food item that isn’t shepherded to a lower shelf at least once during the course of the food-deletion period will be mercilessly thrown away.

PROS: Prevents strife from blaming your coworkers for throwing out your “no you guys, it’s totally still fine!” two-week-old leftovers.

CONS: May be slightly on the Rube-Goldberg-esque side of mechanical over-complication.

AN IDEA TO MAKE THIS PROPOSAL MORE PRACTICAL system could be reformulated as a no-moving-parts system with color-coded shelves (e.g. “the red light has turned on in shelf 2b, that means all the food in there is “condemned”) or even something as simple as a piece of paper labeled “everything on THIS shelf will be thrown out on Friday afternoon.

fridge-to-trash-outline

Supplementary Fig. A: Original concept for the conveyor-belt-auto-trash fridge.

 

You’ll never believe this weird trick for getting a table from a laptop user at a coffeeshop! Why wouldn’t you believe it? Well, it’s because of your excessively skeptical nature.

Background:

If you go into a coffeeshop in a major city, there is a good chance that you will find it entirely colonized by patrons with laptops who use the shop as a “home office.”

Even if you wait for half an hour, you might never get a table. Woe!

Previously, this issue could be mitigated by either:

  • Not providing WiFi, which is now obsolete due to phone tethering and/or built-in cell radios in laptops.

or

  • Restricting access to wall outlets (which worked very well in the era of 3-hour laptop batteries). But improved battery technology has rendered this approach ineffective as well.

laoptop-normal

Fig 1: This laptop has unavoidably occupied an entire coffeeshop table.

Proposal:

It is difficult to politely kick out a customer.

So we turn to a technical solution to discourage long-term laptop use: harsh overhead lighting.

Specifically, we propose strategically arranged spotlights (Fig. 2) that will be generally acceptable but will cause unbearable screen glare when reflecting off a laptop screen.

laoptop-view

Fig 2: The array of ceiling lights (blue) is calculated to cause maximum laptop glare at all screen angles.

laoptop-shinylaptop-glare

Fig 3: At left, we can see the reflecting lights in the (turned off) laptop screen. At right, note how the glare makes the computer unusable (compare to the laptop screen in Fig. 1).

Conclusion:

If you own a coffeeshop and hate your customers, you should give this plan a shot!

PROS: Increases patron turnover and discourages long-term occupancy of tables.

CONS: It is possible that the substantial fraction of a coffeeshop’s patrons only go there to use their laptops, so cutting off this revenue may deal a fatal blow to the shop’s profitability.

 

When you purchase something, don’t get your change back as annoying coins—have it dispensed as delicious candies instead!

The issue:

Sometimes you pay for something in cash and get 19 cents in change. Who wants to deal with those coins? No one.

change-in-bill

Fig 1: Coins and a dollar bill. This is what people in olden times used to pay for things.

Proposal:

Instead of having to deal with annoying change in your pocket, or leaving it as a bizarrely unwanted tip at the DMV, how about getting your change back in delicious candies? These could be generic candies (chocolates, cashews) or perhaps a company could sponsor them and provide them at a discount to the government (“each M&M is worth 2 cents, each Red Vine is worth a quarter”).

change-options

Fig 2: When given the opportunity to pick between $1.62 in change OR eighty-one delicious candy-coated chocolates, the choice is clear!

PROS: No more annoying jangle of low-value coins in your pocket or purse. Saves the nation’s mint from having to create low-value coins that no one wants (so it’s more eco-friendly as well).

CONS: If peanuts are used for change, every cash transaction would become a Dangerous Game of Death for anyone with peanut allergies.

This “smart carafe” will streamline office coffee acquisition and, if it is smart enough to use Microsoft Excel, possibly replace YOU as well! Smash it before it is too late.

Background:

In many office environments, communal coffee is brewed periodically. But it is difficult to tell how old the contents of the carafe are (or if it’s even coffee from the day before).

carafe-original

Fig 1: The classic coffee carafe. No bells or whistles. How barbaric!

Proposal:

The carafe should be able to easily tell you the following information:

  • How long since it was filled
  • How full it is
  • What temperature its contents are

The simplest proof-of-concept “smart carafe” would just have a small switch on the lid that would start a stopwatch on the side of the carafe. This would tell you when the lid was last opened, which would normally be a reasonably estimate for when the coffee was last made.

More complicated systems could use a floating sensor to determine the percentage filled (which would work even for liquids of other densities, in case you need a carafe full of liquid mercury for some reason) and a temperature sensor. Of course, a frosted glass window on the side of the carafe would also be sufficient for determining percent-fullness without any electronic gizmos.

 

carafe-timer

Fig 2: The upgraded carafe. It’s been an hour and 24 minutes since this carafe was filled with a liquid of unknown type.

Conclusion:

Your office should switch to the smart carafe for all future breakroom-liquid-containing needs.

PROS: The smart carafe upgrades the coffee-drinking experience from “satisfactory” to “transcendent.”

CONS: The carafe might be too smart. Did you ever see the Kubrick film 2001? Like that.

 

 

Election facts: three weird secrets for crafting the ultimate direct-democracy ballot proposal

Background:

Many jurisdictions allow a limited degree of direct democracy, where citizens can submit any measure to be voted on (for example: “the city will buy everyone a free horse to eat at Thanksgiving”). If a measure gets a sufficient number of signatures, it must be placed on the ballot.

Proposal:

It’s generally a lot of work to propose a valid ballot measure. But using the helpful tips below, you too can craft a successful ballot measure!

Make sure to:

  • Appeal to voters’ wallets. If your measure requires a new tax to support it, it is probably a non-starter.
    • Example 1: Prohibit increases in rent (note that this measure will be unpopular with landlords)
    • Example 2: Prohibit increases in property tax
    • Instead of funding your measure with taxes, you can propose a bond issuance (essentially just a loan) instead. Since this will not directly increase any taxes in an obvious way, voters are less likely to be opposed to it [1].
  • Appeal to people’s inherent dislike of change. Examples:
    • Prohibit new construction
    • Prohibit businesses in a residential area, and vice-versa
    • Restrict new businesses from coming into an area and competing with existing businesses
    • Prevent any external / façade modification of buildings
  • Choose an appealing name.
    • Example 1: a measure that de-funds all schools and sends children to work in the salt mines: “Hands-on Job Experience Primary School Education”
    • Example 2: a measure that turns all public parks into fenced-in garbage dumps: “Put Our Land to Work: Cheaper Trash Dropoffs and Parks that Pay for Themselves.”

Despite the examples directly above, it will be easier to pass a proposition that maintains the status quo. Your ideal proposition should both maintain the status quo and have an catchy name.

Here are two contrasting measures that make use of the above techniques:

MeasureR vs. MeasureH

Fig 1. Two conflicting sample measures that are frequently found on real-world ballots. While these specific ones may be too cartoonish to pass as currently written, they would have a chance with some creative re-wording! Use these as a template for your own ballot measure.

PROS: These ballot propositions will allow all voters to weigh in on important matters.

CONS: If citizens get too much democracy, this may result in “democracy overload,” which will instantly cause the government to revert to medieval feudalism [2].

[1]: Citation: just made up now, but might be true since it allows the proposition to avoid containing the word “tax.”

[2]: Citation: personal communication.