MONEY Odd Spending

FTC Says Claims for Caffeine Underwear Are Groundless

The Federal Trade Commission settles with two marketers of caffeine-infused "shapewear" over claims their products promote weight loss.

MONEY Odd Spending

12 Things Made for Kids That Are Now Being Marketed to Adults

Who says kids should get to have all the fun? Not the forces behind a wide range of seemingly juvenile foods, products, and places that are increasingly being sold to adults—plenty of whom are happy to play along.

It’s hard to remember a time when video games and comic books were enjoyed almost exclusively by people under the age of 18. But that was the case a mere couple of decades ago, before both began featuring violence, profanity, sex, and other material not appropriate for young children. Along the same lines, in recent times many other things long associated with kids are now being marketed to adult consumers. Here are a dozen examples:

Gummy Vitamins. A string of studies indicating that vitamins appear to be largely a waste of money has resulted in flat sales for the once sizzling vitamin market. It looks like consumers are getting the messages spread by researchers in the field, who point out that while vitamin supplements are correlated with better health, there is little proof of causality because the people taking vitamins tend to healthier and take better care of themselves in the first place. But if consumers are dubious about the benefits of boring old-fashioned vitamins, they appear less skeptical about vitamins “disguised as candy,” a.k.a. gummy vitamins. Once popular only with children, colorful, chewable, sweet-tasting vitamins are now ubiquitous in stores’ adult vitamin sections, and makers of such adult vitamins say that the category has been enjoying “explosive growth” of late.

Walt Disney World. In some ways, Disney World has always been marketed to adults—who often say they enjoy “feeling like a kid” while touring the theme parks sans children. Some even wish Disney would host child-free days when adults could hit the rides without having to deal with the young whippersnappers clogging up the parks. While that’s highly unlikely to ever take place, Disney has taken several steps over the years to appeal to adult-only clientele, including the introduction of booze for sale at the Magic Kingdom, as well as special events like $35 “After Hours” party with alcohol and tasting menus, and, most recently, a $79 “Food & Wine Late Night” at EPCOT.

Pop Tarts. While interest in breakfast cereal has collapsed in recent years, sales of another kid favorite at the breakfast table, Pop Tarts, have risen each and every year for more than three decades straight. The Wall Street Journal noted that while Pop Tarts are most popular with teens and younger children, “adults reach for them as a retro snack.” It’s not just nostalgia that’s drawing adults to Pop Tarts, but that, “Shoppers increasingly want quick breakfasts they can eat with one hand on the go.” Over the years, Pop Tarts and its imitators have periodically tried out products more directly marketed to adults and foodies, such as “Toaster Pastries” in flavors like Cherry Pomegranate from Nature’s Path.

Happy Meals. McDonald’s briefly tried to market a “Go Active Happy Meal” for adults a decade ago, with a salad and an exercise booklet instead of chicken nuggets and a plastic toy. It obviously didn’t catch on—very few healthy fast food items are successful—but this fall, the Happy Meal for Adults concept is back, bizarrely, in the world of high fashion. Nordstrom is selling a series of pop culture-themed items from Moschino, including an iPhone case that looks like a McDonald’s French fry container ($85) and a Happy Meal lookalike shoulder bag that retails for over $1,000.

Backpacks. In what could be considered a sign that adults really don’t want to grow up, backpack sales are up dramatically among consumers ages 18 and up—including a 48% rise in backpack purchases by female adults over a recent time span. Valentino, Alexander McQueen, and Fendi are among the many fashion designers to feature posh leather and camouflage versions of the bag normally associated with high school and college kids, only theirs sometimes cost $2,000.

Lunchables. OK, so neither Kraft nor its Oscar Mayer brand actually markets Lunchables to adults. But the Adult Lunch Combos look eerily like Lunchables only without Oreos or Capri Sun, and everyone is referring to the new protein-packed prepared lunches as “Lunchables for Adults” even though the real name is the Portable Protein Pack.

Obstacle Courses. Kids have playgrounds in town parks and schools. What do adults have to help keep them in shape while also having fun? The gym doesn’t qualify because, for most people, working out is work, not fun. The exception is when the workout allows adults to swing, jump, get dirty, and challenge themselves on courses made specifically for them, like those on the popular TV show “American Ninja Warrior” and on Tough Mudder and other extreme obstacle course races. This fall, Las Vegas is even hosting an “Adult-Themed” course where the obstacles have names like the Dominatrix Dungeon and the Blue Balls Dash.

Sugary Cereals. A big reason that cereal sales have dropped is that fewer kids are eating them for breakfast. Yet as parents try to sub in healthier fare as a replacement for kid-favorite sugary cereals, the cereal giants appear to be having some success reaching a different audience—the parents themselves. Baby Boomers and Gen X, who grew up craving the sugar rush provided by a bowl of neon-colored goodies on Saturday mornings, are now being fed heaping doses of nostalgia, in the form of cartoon-character cereals brought back from the dead and other adult-focused marketing efforts. The fastest-growing consumers of Trix and Lucky Charms are, in fact, older adults.

Legos. “The Lego Movie” was certainly clever and entertaining enough to warrant an adult audience, especially among those who grew up building with the bricks. Lately, Lego has been making another appeal to adults. Several Legoland Discovery Centers—which normally attract families with children under the age of 10 or 12—have been offering special Adult Nights, where all visitors must be 18 or over.

Fruit Roll-Ups. Many adults would probably be embarrassed if they were caught eating Fruit Roll-Ups, delicious though they may be. How can you avoid being kidded about your preference for what is a quintessential kid snack? Easy. Call them something more adult-sounding, such as Fruit Strips or Fruit Leather.

Hot Pockets. Last year, Nestle attempted to broaden the Hot Pocket demographic—typically, teen boys and slacker college kids who don’t want to cook or even order pizza—by introducing gourmet versions featuring angus beef, hickory ham to appeal to adult foodies.

Halloween. October 31 used to be about children trick-or-treating door to door in their neighborhoods. Now it’s the centerpiece of a whole Halloween season where the kids are invited to enjoy only some—but by no means all—of the fun. A year ago, adults spent roughly $1.2 billion on costumes, compared to $1 billion spent on costumes for kids. Roughly 7 out of 10 college-aged adults plan on dressing up for Halloween, which explains the sales success of oddly “sexy” costumes of pizza slices or corn fields. Or sexy nuns. Adults also tend to spend more on their costumes than they do on Halloween outfits for kids. So that explains why companies are marketing the holiday to adults more and more. Still, it’s hard to come up with a good explanation for the existence of the Sexy Pizza Costume.

MONEY Sports

Marketing Jeter’s Farewell Season, by the Numbers

New York Yankees batter Derek Jeter follows through on his swing
Ray Stubblebine—Reuters

Derek Jeter, by far the most respected and marketable baseball star in the modern era, is retiring this season. To commemorate the end of the Captain's historic career, fans have been asked to open their wallets early and often.

No matter how widely Derek Jeter is beloved in the sports world, many have questioned the relentless marketing of this, his final season, including a few critics even in the New York City media. “It’s such bad taste,” former New York Jets quarterback and current sports radio personality Boomer Esiason said in early September, referring to the “cheese-ball move” of rolling out new products and endlessly merchandising Jeter’s farewell season. “It kind of goes against everything Derek Jeter has been.”

Nonetheless, the sales have rolled on throughout the season and have picked up pace as the end nears. Here are some numbers that show how #2 has undeniably been #1 in terms of marketing and merchandising during his final season in pinstripes:

2 Number of epic tribute commercials released by long-time Jeter sponsors (Nike, Gatorade) this season commemorating his goodbye.

29 Number of different styles of Jeter baseball hats listed for sale at the Major League Baseball site.

$8.95, $260 Lowest get-in prices listed of late at StubHub for Orioles-Yankees tickets on, respectively, Wednesday, September 24, and Thursday, September 25. The latter is the last regular season home game, and therefore Jeter’s final game at Yankee Stadium. According to the ticket resale aggregation site TiqIQ.com, the average price paid on the secondary market for the game on the 25th has been in the neighborhood of $650 to $750.

$50, $210 Lowest get-in prices listed of late at StubHub for the Yankees-Red Sox tickets on, respectively, Saturday, September 27, and Sunday, September 28. The latter is the final game of the regular season, and therefore Jeter’s final game, and it’s being played at Fenway Park. The average price on the secondary market for a seat to the final game has been around $550, according to TiqIQ.

50-50 How the vote broke down among fans weighing in at a Yankees blog as to whether it was a good or bad idea for the Yankees to wear a Jeter commemorative patch on their jerseys—an extremely rare way to honor a still-active player.

$149 Starting price for tickets to a Jeter Q&A session on Monday, September 22, at the Millennium Hotel in Manhattan. Steiner Sports, the event host, has advertising a package with a Mezzanine Level seat and a Derek Jeter Commemorative Final Season Bat for $299. VIP packages, which include lunch, a signed baseball, and premium seating, go as high as $2,999.

296 Number of Jeter products available for sale at the sports apparel site fanatics.com. The site reports that Jeter sales lately are up 2,700% compared with the same period a year ago, and that Jeter merchandise has been purchased this season in all 50 states and 30+ countries. Among the top sellers lately is a commemorative Jeter fitted Yankees hat retailing for $36.95.

$410 Asking price for one of Jeter’s game socks (used, of course, and highly collectible).

$500 Minimum bid for one of four special pairs of Derek Jeter Jordan cleats being auctioned off to benefit Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation. At last check, bids were well over $2,000, with roughly four weeks to go before the auctions close.

$695 to $795 Range of prices for a Captains Series Celebrating Derek Jeter watch from Movado, which went on sale in recent weeks.

$12,500 Price paid by a collector for a home run ball hit by Jeter in August at a Toronto Blue Jays home game. The Blue Jays put the ball up for sale immediately after the game. “A collector from Tennessee offered $8,000, I said $15,000, we met in between,” a Blue Jays staffer explained. It’s the highest price ever commanded for a piece of baseball memorabilia sold by the team.

$50,000 Highest price Jeter item listed recently at Steiner Sports. It’s a game-used road grey jersey and pants worn by the Captain this past August, in a matchup against the Baltimore Orioles. On the cheap end of the spectrum are unsigned 6″ x 10″ photos of Jeter from 2009 and wrist bands commemorating his 3,000th hit that can be had for under $4.

$19 Million+ Amount in grants awarded by Derek Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation since the nonprofit was launched in 1996.

$24 Million Estimated earnings by Derek Jeter for 2014, according to Forbes, including roughly $15 million in salary and $9 million in endorsements.

MONEY Advertising

Newspapers Are Charging Extra … to Give You More Ads

stack of newspapers
iStock

Some newspapers plan on charging subscribers extra for certain "premium issues," such as one on Thanksgiving. What makes them "premium"? Loads and loads of Black Friday ads.

Jim Romenesko reported this week that both the Chicago Tribune and the Detroit Free Press have notified subscribers that they will be charged extra to receive issues of the paper published on Thanksgiving Day, and perhaps other days as well. The Tribune informed subscribers that special “premium issues” such as the one on Turkey Day will incur an additional charge of $2 apiece, while the Free Press plans on charging print subscribers the Sunday cover price ($1 more) for the Thanksgiving paper.

Why? Apparently, it’s because the paper will be overloaded with Black Friday circulars. “The Thanksgiving print edition includes Black Friday sale information, coupons and details about incredible door busters!” a Free Press letter told subscribers.

The Thanksgiving papers are heavier than normal editions, so they’re therefore costlier to produce and deliver. Still, ads have traditionally been sold in order to keep newsstand and subscriber prices down. Bizarrely, here we have an instance in which the presence of more ads is being used as a justification to charge customers extra. As the Consumerist pointed out, in the case of the Tribune, “they’re calling this paper a ‘premium issue’ even though the majority of the extra content is advertisements. That companies pay the newspaper for.”

Granted, “extreme couponers” and Black Friday shopping fanatics love such ads. Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru has explained that the pull-out ad sections of Sunday papers are essentially a “destination” that a sizable segment of consumers enjoy wading into and exploring. The fact that Sunday circulars are more of a draw for some “readers” than, say, the editorials or even the sports section has to depress the already depressed journalistic masses to no end.

As for the loyal subscribers who actually read the paper and put up with ads in order to keep print prices down, they’re surely peeved by the moves being attempted by the Chicago Tribune and Detroit Free Press. At least both papers told Romenesko that if subscribers are upset with the extra charges, they can be credited the amounts by calling up customer service.

MONEY Odd Spending

Got $9,000 Lying Around? Join the New Facebook for the Rich

The days of slumming it on Facebook are over for anyone willing to shell out a big down payment and then a few thousand bucks a year.

MONEY

New iPhones Sell for $2,000 on eBay, Asking Prices Hit $6,000

Customers waiting in line for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus
Customers wait in line outside Apple Inc.'s Ginza store ahead of the launch of the company's new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in Tokyo, Japan, on Friday, Sept. 12, 2014. Apple's redesigned iPhones with bigger screens goes on sale in Japan on Sept. 19. Yuriko Nakao—Bloomberg via Getty Images

People are paying double the retail price of the new iPhones because they can't bear the thought of having to wait a few weeks to own one.

At around 11 a.m. EST Monday morning, 19 bids had been submitted to an eBay auction of an iPhone 6 Plus Space Gray 128 GB. It was unlocked (so the owner wouldn’t necessarily be tied into a two-year contract), and it was confirmed to be shipped on the first day the new iPhones are available for purchase, Friday, September 19.

With about 30 minutes left in the auction, the price for the phone hit $1,900, which wound up being the winning bid. That’s astronomical compared to what most people think of as the list price for such a unit, $499. But the $499 price tag is a subsidized rate you get in exchange for being locked into a two-year contract with a wireless provider. The true retail price for an unlocked version of this unit is $949, which makes the premium bidders were willing to pay seem slightly more reasonable. Still, $1,900 is double the list price!

And what does the buyer get for paying such a premium? Essentially, all the buyer gets is his hands on the phone a few weeks earlier than he would otherwise. Apple pre-orders for the new iPhones broke records, with some four million orders placed during the first 24 hours they were accepted.

Because of the early surge in demand, consumers who haven’t already placed their orders are now typically being forced to wait at least until October to possess the new iPhone 6. And the wait for the new gadget’s big brother, the larger-screen iPhone 6 Plus—which measures 5.5 inches, compared with 4.7 inches for the regular iPhone 6 and 4 inches for the 5S—is even longer. Apple is warning that shipping on new orders will be delayed three or four weeks, and CNBC reported that certain orders (specifically, the iPhone 6 Plus from AT&T) won’t be available for shipping for five or six weeks.

For some people, that’s just too long to wait. So they’re turning to eBay and Craigslist, where there are plenty of eager sellers willing to part with their freshly ordered gadgets if doing so means quick and sizable profits. The Wire noted that last Friday, when iPhone preorders were first being accepted (and were apparently difficult to place due to strong demand), eBay listings for the devices hovered up around $2,000. One 64GB iPhone 6 Plus appears to have sold on eBay last Thursday for $3,950.

As of Monday at midday, a search for “iPhone 6″ at eBay returned more than 130,000 results. The variety of listings, including locked and unlocked models featuring different permutations of colors, memory, and wireless providers, generally ranged in price from $700 to $1,500. One bold seller had a flat asking price of $6,000 for a gold unlocked 64 GB iPhone 6—the regular one, not the larger 6 Plus.

To some consumers, paying a handsome premium for a hot new device is no crazier than waiting in line overnight, perhaps for weeks, to get one. In both cases, there’s a price being paid, either in one’s time or one’s actual money.

Speaking of waiting in line, that apparently is still a feasible strategy for those who “need” a new iPhone this week and don’t want to pay through the nose for one via eBay. “Additional supply of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will be available to walk-in customers on Friday, September 19 at 8:00 a.m. local time at Apple retail stores,” explained an Apple statement about pre-orders issued on Monday. “Both models will also be available on Friday from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, additional carriers and select Apple Authorized Resellers.”

How many “walk-ins” will be able able to buy new iPhones on Friday? That remains unclear. Certainly, at the busiest, highest-profile Apple Stores like the one on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, you probably don’t have a prayer unless you’re already camped outside the store. For quieter locations selling the iPhones starting on Friday, it appears possible that you’ll be able to walk in and buy one, though it’s advisable to get on line early and expect big crowds. Also, the pickings may be slim, so you might not get the exact model or color you want.

Alternately, you could do the sane, mature, and responsible thing and deny yourself immediate gratification. Just order exactly what you want and wait a few weeks for it to arrive, without paying a premium to sketchy online sellers, and without losing any sleep waiting outside for a store to open. Or, God forbid, stick with the phone you have.

MONEY consumer psychology

How Waiting in Line to Buy an iPhone 6 Is Like Burning Man

140908_EM_BurningManiPhone
Dawn at Robot Heart, "Burning Man," Nevada, 2014. Marc Whalen

The people who line up for hours, sometimes days, to buy gadgets, sneakers, video games, and Black Friday "doorbusters" think there's nothing nonsensical about their behavior.

Rumors have been swirling about Apple’s iPhone 6 for weeks, and the big public unveiling of the hyped new gadget is set to take place on September 9. The phone itself—which may or may not actually be called the iPhone 6—won’t be available for purchase until September 19.

Nonetheless, it’s been widely reported that people started camping outside the Apple Store on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue on August 31, 10 days before the new iPhone would be introduced, and nearly three weeks before customers could actually buy one. As Quartz reported, the four individuals waiting in line (a married couple and a pair of cousins who camp out every time there’s a new Apple product) are being paid for their time. But the fact that the line—which will surely grow as the purchase date nears—is being used as a marketing ploy by other companies demonstrates just how much of a cultural phenomenon such events have become.

While the rollout of a new Apple gadget is a high-profile, much-mocked example of consumers totally unnecessarily waiting in line, it’s hardly the only example. A week ago, more than 200 people waited to be among the first customers inside a newly opened Los Angeles-area Dunkin’ Donuts. Consumers have also been known to wait for hours and even sleep overnight just for the right to buy food at new Chick-fil-A and In-N-Out Burger restaurants. They also wait just to shop at Trader Joe’s when there’s a new one in the neighborhood, and to buy stuff like video game consoles and Nike sneakers when they’re new to the marketplace. The lines outside sneaker stores have on occasion been magnets for violence and riots, even shootings thanks to loads of antsy, irritable customers eager to get their hands on the new kicks.

Then there’s Black Friday, which in recent years has drawn shoppers to go to such lengths as camping outside Best Buy for two weeks in early winter.

Sure, there are some rewards for such endurance. The first guy in line at the California Dunkin’ Donuts (who camped out 30 hours before the doors open) got a free year’s worth of coffee, for instance, while the next 99 customers got a swag bag full of DD merchandise. Those waiting in line on Black Friday get access to doorbuster deals that, presumably, folks sleeping in on the day after Thanksgiving miss out on. The fanboys camped outside stores for iPhones and Air Jordans and Play Stations get pride in ownership of the latest models before the masses, as well as the bragging rights that come with that. In cases where merchandise is being sold only in a limited supply (as with Nike), waiting in a gigantic line might be the only option for a fanatic to take possession of the hottest gadget or accessory.

But let’s be honest: However cool these rewards seem, they’re never worth the tradeoff of sleeping outside on a curb for days. There’s just no logic to it. We live in a time, after all, of one-click buying, same-day delivery, online grocery shopping, and startups that deliver quarters for laundry. None of these services would have been created if it wasn’t clear that people hate having to wait for pretty much anything. People try to save time at every turn.

So why are so many people willing to waste their time waiting outside a store or restaurant? According to Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist, author, and frequent contributor to MONEY, the willingness of these consumers to wait in line “has nothing to do with the freebies, or buying, or stuff.” Instead, people are drawn to participate in what they perceive as a cultural event, with like-minded people.

“It’s about human connection,” says Yarrow. “It’s an excuse to be with other people, to be part of a festival or event. It’s basically a mini Burning Man. People with shared values hang out together and have something to talk about.”

(Side note: The only woman among the first four people camped outside the Apple Store is named Moon Ray, which sounds just like a pseudonym someone would take on during the course of the hedonistic Burning Man festival that takes place every year at summer’s end in the Nevada desert.)

In certain circles, the bragging rights factor is undeniable as well. There is the “allure of being first—it’s it’s a badge,” says Yarrow. “There is a demographic that feels wily and special when they are first or get an elusive item before others.”

But first and foremost, Yarrow—who “won’t stand in line for anything, ever”—says that the seemingly bizarre line-waiting phenomenon makes sense because it’s not really about the stuff people are waiting for. People are there for the experience of waiting itself. They want to be a part of the spectacle, and they want to be able to say that they were there. Sorta like Burning Man.

Interestingly enough, an ongoing subplot to this year’s festival was the idea that Burning Man has been ruined by the rich, wealthy tech titans in particular, who have been accused of destroying the creative, capitalism-free spirit of the event by arriving via private jet with cooks and masseuses in tow. Likewise, there are plenty of fans of Nike and Apple that hate the idea of some rich person buying a spot in line or paying someone to wait in line to buy the new Air Jordans or iPhone. Doing so spoils the spirit and camaraderie of the event—which, again, is what the wait is really all about.

MONEY Advertising

Kmart Unleashes Season’s First Christmas Ad

Xmas displays in Kmart store
Richard Levine—Alamy

They're trying to be cute by calling it the "Kmart Not a Christmas Commercial," but that's not fooling anybody.

Last year, Kmart received some grief for its decision to start airing Christmas commercials in early September. Mere days after Labor Day, in fact, when most families were still in the thick of back to school shopping and the winter holidays were note remotely on the radar.

After being subjected to the unseasonably early ads, consumers took to Kmart’s Facebook page to air their grievances. “What happened to Halloween and thanksgiving?” one commenter posted. “Stop with the Christmas commercials ALREADY!!” Another raged, “Why don’t you just start this on 1st each year! This is ridiculous and if I see on ad on tv I will never stop in your store!”

Fast-forward a year, and lo and behold, Kmart is again airing a Christmas commercial within a few days of Labor Day weekend. Yet it can’t be said that Kmart, which has managed to put together some remarkably clever and funny viral commercials of late (remember Ship My Pants and Big Gas Savings?), is entirely tone deaf to last year’s criticisms.

The new Christmas commercial, the ad’s spokeswoman clarifies, is “not a Christmas commercial.” She then goes on—coyly, with strategically raised eyebrows—to make the case that shoppers should start using Kmart’s layaway right now if, “say you have an event in late December that you need a lot of gifts for,” deadpanning, “Like maybe if your entire family is having a birthday on the same day.” The ad ends wishing everyone a “Merry Birthday.” Watch it yourself if you like:

Why is Kmart taking the risk of yet again turning customers off by unleashing a Christmas commercial more than 100 days before Christmas, thereby raining on everyone’s late summer? (It’s technically still summer for a couple more weeks, remember.) It seems like every shopping season seems to expand every year, so retailers are constantly trying to beat the competition to the punch in terms of snagging shopper dollars. If a shopper puts some toys and electronics on layaway at Kmart in September, after all, that shopper isn’t going to later be buying those same items at Target, Walmart, Amazon, or wherever.

What’s more, Kmart, which tends to attract low-income shoppers, has an especially longstanding layaway tradition. The big toy store chains and all-purpose retailers revamped layaway program a couple of years ago, slashing fees and adding perks to try to get customers on board. That trend came as something of a surprise considering that just a few years before that, many big-box stores had largely gotten rid of layaway as an option. During the years that the majority of retailers played down or did away with layaway entirely, however, Kmart kept its layaway tradition alive. And Kmart’s latest commercial and layaway promotions—no money down, no fees for many layaway contracts—shows that the retailer still considers layaway to be very important for the company, especially during the Christmas season.

Oh yeah, forgot: It’s not Christmas season yet!

The other reason Kmart executives decided to air the early commercial is that, presumably, they think it’s funny, and they hope that viewers do too. Not everyone is on board, however. Here’s a recent comment posted at Kmart’s Facebook page:

On September 5th I have seen the very first Christmas ad of the 2014 season. SHAME on you Kmart, summer isn’t even officially over and you have the nerve to run a Christmas ad!!!! I wouldn’t shop at your store if it was the last one on the face of the earth!

MONEY Odd Spending

Fine! Whatever! Top 10 Gifts for the Passive-Aggressives In Your Life

Reclining airplane seat into passenger's knees
Jason Hetherington—Getty Images

The Knee Defender—which prevents airline seats from reclining—is one of many products passive-aggressive consumers can use to protect their turf or ward off uncivil behavior. Hopefully without confrontation, of course.

Two recent passenger squabbles on airplanes have greatly boosted the profile of the Knee Defender, a $22 device that can be attached to the back of an airline seat to prevent it from reclining. The device prompted a brawl on a recent United Airlines flight from Newark to Denver, causing the plane to be diverted to Chicago, where both the man who attached the Knee Defender and the woman who didn’t like it (and threw a glass of water at the guy behind her) were escorted off the aircraft. Sales of the device soared after the news of the incident went viral, and plenty of observers weighed in with opinions, some defending the Knee Defender, others bashing it and anyone who would selfishly prevent a fellow passenger from “right to recline.”

Many others lamented the apparent need for such passive-aggressive behavior in the first place. Ira Goldman, the inventor of the Knee Defender, said the airlines are to blame for these ugly incidents because they’ve reduced legroom. By extension, the airlines are also to blame for the newfound popularity of his odd gadget. “When the airlines solve the problem, I’ll go out of business,” he said.

Flying is hardly the only sphere where humans have been known to exhibit uncivil behavior, and where others feel forced to resort to passive-aggressive (OK, sometimes more aggressive than passive) strategies as a counteroffensive. Here are some other products for the passive-aggressive people in your life.

The Parking Chair
People in Boston, Chicago, and other snowy cities regularly use chairs (or ironing boards, or buckets, or oversized kids’ toys) to call “dibs” on the street parking spaces that they dug out in front of their homes. The passive-aggressive tactic for defending one’s spot is popular but often illegal. In fact, a “No Savesies” movement was launched via social media by police in Philadelphia to spread the word that savesies, dibs, or whatever you want to call it is not allowed.

Spike Away Vest
Tired of fellow commuters bumping into her or otherwise invading her personal space, an industrial designer in Japan created the Spike Away vest, a plastic, porcupine-like accessory sure to keep strangers from rubbing up against you on the train.

Slogan T-Shirt
Rather than boldly confronting those exhibiting boorish, insensitive, or just plain dumb behavior, the passive-aggressive have been known to wear certain T-shirts as a way to get across a message—and perhaps their sense of humor as well. Here’s one offering the message “Thank you for not crop dusting” (a.k.a. farting).

Office “Courtesy” Signs
The office, a mishmash of different personalities from different backgrounds where everyone is expected to behave professionally and politely, is always a hot spot for subtle passive-aggressive behavior. And sometimes overt and totally juvenile passive-aggressive behavior too. Signs posted at cubicles (“Quiet Please… Important Work in Progress”) and in office kitchens are often rife with passive-aggressive intent.

Bumper Stickers
Pretty much every bumper sticker is passive-aggressive—a means to get some sort of message across without saying a word or doing much of anything besides driving around. Like this one, which aims to keep would-be tailgaters at bay: “Sorry for driving so close in front of your car.”

Toilet Decal
Confronting people in your house about their refusal to put the toilet seat down is so, well, confrontational. It’s also difficult to do in the middle of the night, when said people are probably barely awake. The passive-aggressive solution just might be a glow-in-the-dark toilet decal with the reminder to lower the seat after relieving oneself.

Curb Your Dog Signs
“Please Don’t Water Our Plants!” one Curb Your Dog sign pleads, showing a pooch peeing on what’s presumably a garden. “Make Sure Your Dog Doesn’t Drop Anything,” another sign warns, showing a dog doing something worse than merely peeing. Either option is nicer than putting a fake headstone on your lawn marking the spot of “The Last Dog That Pooped in My Yard.”

TV-B-Gone
OK, this one is probably more aggressive than passive. The TV-B-Gone gadget hit the marketplace in the mid-2000s, allowing anyone to turn off a TV blaring CNN or whatever at the airport or some other public venue. Tranquility at last!

The Ordinary Cellphone
Nearly everyone is in possession of a tool that makes it incredibly easy to passive-aggressively avoid talking to people or even making eye contact. According to a Pew Research Internet Project survey, 13% of all cell phone owners—and a whopping 30% of millennials—say that they have pretended to be using their phones for the express purpose of easily avoiding interactions with people they come across.

Related:
5 Reasons September Is the Best Month to Go Shopping

 

MONEY Odd Spending

WATCH: We Try Out NYC’s First Bitcoin ATM

The Bitcoin crypto-currency may be the wave of the future, but MONEY's Jacob Davidson finds that using it to buy lunch can be a hassle right now.

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