Britain’s most useless gadgets named and shamed

Discussion
May 12, 2008

By Bernice Hurst, Managing Partner, Fine Food Network

Reevoo.com, the London-based customer review site, polled 4,500 British shoppers and asked them to identify what they consider to be the “most useless household gadgets on the market.” An electric nail file, said to give “technician” results, topped a list of twenty. Laser guided scissors, which allegedly help users cut a perfect straight line, came second.

Participants voted electric or battery operated candles, supposedly safer and longer lasting than the wax variety, third most pointless item, closely followed by retro eighties classic, the Soda Stream. Foot spas, egg boilers, electric carving knives and face steamers were also mentioned.

The survey was designed to highlight Reevoo’s customer-review features that might prevent consumers from buying useless stuff. Categories covered on the website are phones and computing, entertainment, photography, home and DIY, and toys and baby. Working with some fifty retailers, including Comet, Dixons, Vodafone and Woolworths as well as a selection of both high street and pure play retailers, the company only publishes reviews submitted by customers. This, they claim, means that they are all genuine and unbiased. Consumer news is also available on their blog, www.decidewhattobuy.com.

“Some gadgets are really useful but this poll proves that many of them end up being a waste of money,” said Chris Winstanley, Reevoo’s marketing & communications manager. “Reading genuine reviews can tell you if a gadget or gizmo is likely to be the best thing you ever bought or something that gets stuck in a cupboard and forgotten about within a week.”

The company said the lifecycle of the average gadget is just over one year, largely because 62 percent of folk admit they frequently buy gadgets only to get them home and find they are completely useless.

Top 20 Most Pointless Gadgets (from Reevoo.com)

  1. Electric
    nail files
  2. Laser guided scissors
  3. Electric candles
  4. Soda stream
  5. Foot spas
  6. Fondue set
  7. Hair crimpers
  8. Egg boiler
  9. Electric fluff remover
  10. Electric carving knife
  11. Trouser press
  12. Face steamers
  13. Teasmade (tea brewer)
  14. Mini disk player
  15. Facial tanners
  16. Egg slicer
  17. Electric tin openers
  18. Yoghurt makers
  19. Towel warmer
  20. Back scratcher

Discussion Questions: Do you think there are more useless products being produced than in the past? What is the value of these type of gadgets for retailers? Do you see online customer-review sites greatly influencing sales of these products?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

11 Comments on "Britain’s most useless gadgets named and shamed"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Ben Ball
Guest
14 years 8 days ago

Anyone for a “Rube Goldberg” (or if you are a Brit, a “Heath Robinson”)? Useless gadgets abound, but who can deny America’s claim to that fame when we have icons like Rube Goldberg and Ron Popiel? (OK, I admit I bought a Showtime Rotisserie — but I’ve never owned a Pocket Fisherman!)

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 8 days ago

#1 most useless gadget: Vista by Microsoft. Why buy an annoying-to-use unstable platform when a stable platform, not quite as annoying, is already available (XP)? Why enrage millions of users by making it almost impossible to downgrade to the software many (not all) would prefer (XP)? Britain may sell useless gadgets, but just one useless gadget, Vista, outweighs all useless British gadgets put together for the past 100 years.

Jeff Weitzman
Guest
Jeff Weitzman
14 years 8 days ago

I think a review of USPTO records from the early 1800s onward will dispel any thought that we moderns have a lock on the useless gadget industry. Automatic hat tipper, anyone?

Ryan’s right–the market is particularly efficient and deciding what is useless and what isn’t. The electric carving knife has survived since at least my grandparents’ day, so how useless can it be? Maybe to Brits, but then we’re not big on electric tea kettles here in the U.S….

What’s in it for retailers? Well I suppose we could ask the first store to carry a ‘mood ring’ in the seventies. Or the Hula Hoop in 1958….

Mel Kleiman
Guest
14 years 8 days ago

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Look at what creating this list has done. It even got the company to show up on RetalWire.

Now they will come out with a yearly list, the press will pick it up and the site will become the number one useless site on someone else’s list.

Lisa Everitt
Guest
Lisa Everitt
14 years 8 days ago

In the process of researching what went wrong with Linens N Things for BNET, I came across the Margaritaville “frozen concoction maker” as a featured gift for Moms and weddings. “Does your mom really need a $300 blender?” I asked. (Mine was horrified at the idea.)

When the market is robust, people buy stuff for kicks. In a down economy, you need to give the consumer a good reason to spend that money–and I don’t see many compelling offerings on the Reevoo list.

Joel Warady
Guest
Joel Warady
14 years 8 days ago

Absolutely, there is a lot of questionable product being manufactured. But the fact is, as long as people are willing to buy the product, even if it is senseless and worthless, the manufacturers will continue to manufacture. One of my current favorites is the Ped-Egg, the egg shaped callous remover for the feet. The product is in every retail store, and as best can be tracked, it is selling tremendously. While not an expert, I believe it is nothing more than a cheese grater that has been repackaged for the feet.

These gadgets continue to sell, and without them, chains like Linens ‘n Things would be in trouble. Oh, they are in trouble, aren’t they? Maybe the consumer is finally getting smart, and leaving these useless gadgets on the store shelves.

Art Williams
Guest
Art Williams
14 years 8 days ago

I don’t see any significant increase in the amount of useless products. The current economy could even make it even harder to sell these types of products. I imagine it was difficult keeping the list to only twenty products when there are so many frivolous items for sale these days. Just another example of people having way too much time on their hands.

Dan Desmarais
Guest
Dan Desmarais
14 years 8 days ago

The iPod has created more useless gadgets (and landfill) than any other invention in history.

My favorite is the toilet paper holder docking station. Seriously, you can buy this gadget at Fry’s.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
14 years 8 days ago

Who says (that on a percentage basis) there are more useless things being made today than in the past? And, who says they are so useless?

An electric carving knife might seem useless to a 30 something but it might also be the only way a 80 year old with arthritis can carve a turkey.

It’s a free market and the truly terrible will be rejected over time (except of course in politics where it flourishes).

Bob Phibbs
Guest
14 years 8 days ago

There is always a market for everything. I doubt the people who would impulse buy these items were included in the survey. Clearly, the “idea” of usefulness was immediately apparent to the store that purchased them and, I’ll bet, to the customer. Is this really any different than cosmetics?

Laura Davis-Taylor
Guest
Laura Davis-Taylor
14 years 8 days ago

I can see both points, as inventors usually try to create a “cure for a disease” with new products. But many do indeed seem to be for kicks. Have you looked at the Harriet Carter direct mail catalog or website lately? Give it a peek and you’ll spot quite a few. But, you’ll also see some clever and useful things.

My gut says that we are entering an era of new awareness regarding the impact of “too much stuff” on our environmental resources and already cluttered lives. And many of us will be downscaling due to this awareness and thinking harder before we buy. We’ll have to see, I suppose.

wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

Do you think there are more or less useless products being produced than in the past?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...