I think I may have to invent a new Cow category: Completely Useless Objects Created By Advertisers For No Real Purposes Other Than to Increase the Material Amount of STUPID in the World. Yes, a bit cumbersome, I agree, but how else to best classify the ridiculous object pictured above, which was given to Vermilion and her friend on a recent shopping expedition?

Let me detail its physical description for you: it’s a flat round disc, about six inches across and printed on that pliable magnetized plastic which has no practical reason for existence other than for sticking on fridges. The centre black-coloured circle rotates and has a little triangular window cut in it to allow you to ‘reveal’ portions of the text.

So, by rotating to the ‘Orange’ category we see that the Club Orange chocolate is ‘Made with delicious orange pieces covered in smooth bittersweet Club® dark chocolate’:

Rotating to the left of the orange coloured segment we reveal the helpful advice that you can ‘Unwind with this perfect combo: Delicious Club® Orange complemented with a cup of tea’:


You see how I wrote those identical words down and they gave you exactly the same information? Why do you need a little magnetic wheel with the suggestions hidden away out of sight until you turn it to the right position? Does someone, somewhere, actually think that I’m going to stick this to my fridge in case of frightening emergencies?

My God! I have a bar of Club® Peppermint and I’ve completely blanked on how I should enjoy it. Quick – THE WHEEL!!! (Phew, and can I say how glad I am that this ingeniuous rotation mechanism has cunningly hidden the information from the sight of a casual passer-by! Wouldn’t want the wheel-skillz-challenged knowing how to get the best out of their Club®! Am I right?)

All I can think of when I see ridiculous tsotchkes such as this is that, should I ever be inclined to actually buy Club® chocolate, part of whatever they charge me for a chocolate bar is serving to offset the cost of a useless piece of crap that nobody wants, and the wages of the advertising idiots who came up with it.

And just in case anyone from Club® chocolate should ever read this post, I’ve prepared a wheel of my own – with no unnecessary moving parts – to explain how this all works, and what your advertising agency won’t ever reveal to you:

If you like, I can print it on a magnet so you can stick it on your fridge.

Faithful Acowlytes. I want to speak to you today about loyalty. Oh, no no no – not your loyalty dear friends. I would never call that into question. No, specifically, I’m talking about the mechanism that seems to have become an integral part of pretty much every consumer commodity transaction on the planet: the Loyalty Scheme – or Loyalty Scam, as I prefer to call it, because the concept is essentially a swindle. If you are voluntarily ((In some cases you have very little choice. Credit cards almost universally include loyalty schemes in the form of ‘reward’ points – you literally can’t not be involved in one.)) taking part in a loyalty scheme of any kind, you’re being tricked.

I must confess, I didn’t really think much about this situation until fairly recently. As many people do, I just accepted the notion as a little extra perk that you got with your shopping experience and I dutifully had my various cards swiped, stamped or checked as I went about my shopping chores. And then, one day I had an interesting experience that threw some illumination on how retailers understand the concept of loyalty.

The incident in question involved a juice place in the local shopping centre. We’ll call it ‘Joos’. I would, on occasion, buy a juice from Joos as I was passing, and one day with my purchase I was given a little card. Apparently the object was to have it stamped each time I got a juice and then I would be rewarded after my tenth stamp with a free juice! How awesome is that! If you do the sums, that’s 10% off each juice I purchased. Well, I kept the card in my wallet (crammed at that time as it was with a dozen other Loyalty cards) and eventually, after a thirsty summer ((It’s not like I frequented this place often. It was an occasional stop on my shopping trips.)) I had accrued ten juices and I went to collect on my free one.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” said the hip young Joos counter kid, “We don’t use that system anymore. Now we have a swipe card. Would you like one?”

“No,” said I, “I would like the free juice to which I’m entitled on account of my loyalty.”

“I can’t give you one – that system is out of date. You have to use the swipe card.”

“I see,” I said. “And when does the swipe card go out of date?”

The sarcasm was lost on her.

It got me to thinking. If Joos really cared about its customers – ALL its customers – why does it not simply mark its prices down by 10%? Surely these lower prices (at the usual Joos quality, of course) would be a big incentive to keep customers coming back to Joos! This is the sum effect of having all your customers in the loyalty scheme after all. The fact is, the reward system is nothing more than sleight of hand to make you think you’re getting value where there is none at all. Joos doesn’t care about their customers enough to pass on a substantial saving across the board, but is instead selling them the illusion that they are being faithful to the brand by making them go through a silly charade with a swipe card. They are, in effect, bribing you to be a customer. Wouldn’t it be something if customers were loyal simply because Joos was offering a great product at reasonable prices?

All loyalty/reward systems operate in the manner I’ve described above, to a greater or lesser extent. You need to keep in mind that the reduction in price conferred by these systems must be accounted for in the profit structure of the company offering them, anyway. The prices of a product have effectively been increased to offset any deficit that the reward scheme might have – in other words, the company doing the offering is selling an illusion that you’re getting a deal, when in fact they could offer you that ‘deal’ as a fairer price if they wanted to. ((There is also a level of scumminess that comes with the scamminess, as I’m sure you’ve encountered, where the ‘reward’ is somewhat underwhelming when you actually collect it. For example, my local vet sells a cat food dental product that I buy in 3 kilogram bags. “Do you want to be part of our loyalty scheme?” asked the vet assistant, when I bought my first one. “You get one free bag for every six you buy!” It sounded good, so I signed up. Imagine my disappointment when I reached the sixth bag and was given the free one – not, as I expected, a complimentary replacement for my usual 3k bag, but a miserly 500 gram one instead. Yes, technically ‘a free bag’ but really a grudging and tight-fisted swindle. Honestly, I don’t know how vendors can treat customers with this kind of contempt.)) ((Oh, and let’s not even start on Frequent Flyer points…))

So here is what I want you to do, my intrepid Cowmpanions, when next you’re out shopping and someone offers you one of these ridiculous Loyalty cards. I want you to look that person straight in the eye and say:

My dear Sir/Madam, if you want my loyalty, all you need provide is efficient, polite service and reasonable quality goods at sensible prices. If you do that, you won’t ever have to bribe me to come back to your store.

Seeing red? Feeling blue? Got aches and pains that just won’t go away? Tried whisky and aspirin and bonox and nothing seems to work anymore? Why not shed some light on the problem: the iPhone Pocket Pain Doctor is here!

Yes, dear Acowlytes, no matter what your problem, it can be solved by an iPhone app. And if your problem is a kinda sorta non-specific-type general one, then the right kind of app will obviously feature as its main operating principle – all together now – woowoo!!!

(The YouTube video has been removed for some reason. You have to imagine a long spiel from an unappealingly pushy man who shows you how you can make the iPhone shine coloured light on your skin. It’s far from persuasive).

That’s right Cowmrades – just by shining red or blue light on yourself using your phone, Pocket Pain Doctor will relieve all kinds of pain, make you more alert and cure your acne! Or, on the other hand, it might not. The bottom of the Pocket Pain Doctor site features this disclaimer:

BluWave and RedWave are not intended to treat or cure any disease. None of the statements on this website have been evaluated by the FDA.

(The Pocket Pain Doctor site has now been pulled, sadly. But unsurprisingly).

See, that’s the REALLY GREAT THING about woowoo! You can have your cake and eat it too! Your product may or may not work but people still pay you money for it. Marvellous!

Oh. But what’s this? There’s some references to ‘Clinical Studies‘ on the site! Hooray! This is bound to be enlightening… let’s see what we have. First a link to PubMed. OK, that’s impressive. It’s a draft of a paper (supposedly) called Seasonal Disorder & Body Effects Of Blue Light. ((It’s actually called “Action spectrum for melatonin regulation in humans: evidence for a novel circadian photoreceptor.” Do these people think that potential Pocket Pain Doctor customers are stupid? Oh.)) Hey waiddaminute! That’s got nothing to do with ‘Seasonal Disorder’ or blue light! It’s about the effect of light on melatonin suppression. OK – here’s another one from Modern Medicine: Blue Light Kills Acne Bacteria. Wow… so it appears. That is, if it’s catalyzing a chemical called 5-aminolevulinic acid! I wonder if the iPhone squirts some of that out too?

How about red light then? Here’s a link to a NASA article: Red Light Therapy Relieves Pain Naturally. Oh looky! It’s actually about how infrared light helps cell regrowth in a certain type of cancer, minimising the pain as a result. What about Red Light Relieves Arthritis Pain & Muscle Injuries? Well, that’s a link ((On a site called Healing Light Seminars – now that really looks reputable.)) to a pdf that appears to be a list of double blind clinical trials – but not including the findings of those trials! And anyway, they are trials of an entirely unrelated kind – various methods of infrared laser treatment. Just in case anyone isn’t clear on this – your iPhone does not emit infrared laser light. I’m astonished that anyone can get away with this kind of complete fakery.

In a comment on the home page of the Pocket Pain Doctor site, the person who created the app complains that over on Engadget they gave his toy a bit of an unfair bashing. From his tone, one might even come to the conclusion that this guy believes in what he’s pushing. But that’s a little hard to accept when you see the duplicity involved in those links to ‘scientific evidence’ that he has provided. At best he misunderstands what he’s reading and actually thinks his sources offer some kind of substantiation of his idea. At worst, his ‘corroboration’ is deceitful.

In any case, it’s all about to become academic. Down in the Tetherd Cow Ahead labs, the boffins have been hard at work on this very concept, and I’m sure it will not surprise you at all to hear that they have perfected a new technology which we call ChromaCow™. Incorporating the technology behind the TCA Virtual Glass of Water™, ChromaCow™ offers you everything that you get with Pocket Pain Doctor, only IT’S ABSOLUTELY FREE! Best of all, TCA Labs is introducing a third, even better alternative to RedWave™ and BluWave™ – YelloWave™! With TCA YelloWave™ active on your computer, we UNRESERVEDLY GUARANTEE ((Guarantee may not be guaranteed.)) that the true nature of your innermost self will be revealed to you!!! Simply click on the icons below for the complete ChromaCow™ experience! (Make sure you do them all in order or your spectral chakras may become misaligned, resulting in mood swings, sour milk or even anal haunting).

Red CowBlue CowYellow Cow

So off you go Faithful Cowpokes – tell all your friends that they need no longer waste their money on woowoo in the iPhone app shop when they can get it here at Tetherd Cow Ahead FOR NOTHING!


(Thanks once more to Atlas for putting me on the trail. I suppose that now I really am going to have to give him a prize for the Pickled Herring Poetry Contest.)

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Yes Cowpokes, it’s finally here! As promised last post, Tetherd Cow Ahead is excited to bring you the ShooWooWoo™! With its patented Fractal Quantum Magnetic Levitatory Field, the ShooWooWoo™ fends off quacks and charlatans for up to a lifetime! Using revolutionary new scientific discoveries, the ShooWooWoo™ guarantees* that your website will never be pestered by mountebanks or snake-oil salesman again! Better still, the ShooWooWoo™ comes in a delightful shade of lavender and is absolutely FREE! To claim your FREE ShooWooWoo™ merely copy the code below and paste it into the appropriate part of the html for your sidebar or your page! No need to do anything else – images & links will appear as if by magic! But it’s NOT magic. Oh, no, no, no! It’s quantum physics and magnetic static with a little sprinkle of FeelyGood™!

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Display your ShooWooWoo™ with pride! It will send all purveyors of Woo to the Tetherd Cow Ahead Skeptical Thinking category, where they can ruminate respectfully on their crimes against intelligence!

This has been another Tetherd Cow Ahead public service.

SPECIAL OFFER! Now also available in vibrant jade:

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*Does not cover underwater use.