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22 thoughts on “Steve Novella and Banachek on Power Balance bracelets

  1. Helmholtz says:

    Not bad for The Early Show, not bad at all. The bit about everyone still wanting the bands afterward is a little disheartening though. Actually, it’s very disheartening…

  2. BillyJoe says:

    “They all agreed it didn’t work but they still wanted the band”

    I despair sometimes. :(

  3. BenAlbert says:

    I was going to make the same comment BillyJoe. Sometimes people make me ashamed to be human.

  4. StandardCurve says:

    “Programmed to mimic eastern philosophies”

    What is that even supposed to mean? I want to know if people that buy these things find that to be a meaningful statement.

    The copper and magnetic bracelet fad was bad enough, but these hucksters still needed to push their product further so that absolutely nothing of value is offered, assuming the copper or magnets were recycled or re-purposed. If they could sell a cardboard box of “mystic air” they would, and they would probably try to skimp on the cardboard box.

  5. Jan Willem Nienhuys says:

    They offer a no good money back guarantee. Sounds like an excellent business plan. I will predict the sex of your baby (for only 30 dollars) right after you have tested positive for pregnancy. No expensive echo needed, and best of all “no good, money back”.

    Suppose they offer “no good, double your money back”? Then I would buy one too!

  6. tmac57 says:

    This was a fascinating demonstration of what hucksters and con men (and even magicians) have known about human nature for centuries.
    There are none so blind as those that will not see.

  7. ccbowers says:

    “…mimic eastern philosophies”

    All you have to do is string a verb, adjective, and noun together, and as long as they are poorly understood or vague terms it works for nonsense like this. For example:
    “captures quantum technologies,” “balances bodily auras,” “captures infared energies,” and “supports magical thinking.”

    Only the last one is accurate =)
    Seriously though, I really would like to know why people still want it. Is it because not wanting it would be an admission that they were wrong? Is it so bad to be a flip flopper? How would the passage of time affect this? I’m of the (hopeful) opinion that if they don’t buy the product at that moment, they would be less likely to buy it later knowing that it doesnt really work (but many still would).

    For those who view it as a fashion statement… isnt the only statement being made is “i’m really gullible to spend $30 on a small plastic ring?”

  8. Jan Willem Nienhuys says:

    I understood that the participants of the test got one for free, and that the ones that got the ordinary rubber band got the real thing as a present (if they wished so), as a souvenir, to show to their friends. Or did they have the choice between 30 dollars cash or the souvenir? “They all wanted the band to walk out of the door with.” That’s what I hear.

  9. re: “All the participants wanted a band”

    Made me think of that interview with Randi when he said that after he busted Popoff on Carson, all the post-show phone calls wanted to know how to get in touch with Rev. Scammy McFraudulent.

    Disheartening, indeed.

  10. Costner says:

    Every time I see the commercial for these bracelets, I’m reminded of the “Stimulator” that was sold to the masses as some type of a miracle pain reliever.

    In reality… it was a grill igniter inserted into a plastic holder and cost all of about 80 cents to manufacture. I think the original selling price was something like $29.95 plus S&H… and sadly enough – idiots out there bought MILLIONS of them.

    Eventually the FDA stepped in and shut them down, but not before they had made tens of millions of dollars convincing the feeble minded that a spark from a grill igniter could treat and relieve their chronic pain. There was no science, no peer-reviewed research, no evidence… just another snakeoil salesman with an idea and a seemingly unlimited supply of uneducated clients.

    Rinse and repeat. The bracelets aren’t the first “miracle” sold to the masses, and they surely won’t be the last. How does that old saying go? A food and their money are soon parted?

  11. Anthro says:

    As to why people still want the things, I can only tell you all that no matter how much I debunk things to certain people I know, and no matter how much I can sometimes make them squirm, the conversation usually ends with, “but…..it MIGHT work–why not just TRY it?” They only trust “experience”–theirs, not that of scientists or others educated enough to actually understand the laws of physics.

    I despair. It has to be the same brain function (malfunction?) that makes so many billions sign up for the local religion.

  12. hehe, I love foghorn leghorn.

  13. ConspicuousCarl says:

    Foghorn Leghorn: Ah- ah- ah- you’re right, Dr. Oz DOES look like a dog, but he’s a rooster alright! He just wears that dog suit to keep the lovesick hens away!

    Prissy: Ooooooh!

    (…unless “lab” coat means something else, but then again I’m not a doctor or a veterinarian. Or a farmer.)

  14. That, dog, Ah say, that dog is lower than a snake full of buckshot…

  15. LMA says:

    Not that I intend to actually argue that those particular bands are anything but plastic, but there could be something more going on here psychologically. None of the athletes they mentioned are people I’m interested in (honestly, I couldn’t even ID by sight the ones whose names I know), but I would imagine that most of the people buying these “power bands” do, and are buying them to “be like Mike.”

    Me, I’m a mountain biker, work at an outdoor retailer, and once the Tour de France started being aired on American cable in the late ’90s, I’ve followed the race every July. So naturally, when Lance Armstrong brought out *his* plastic band, the one that never claimed to do anything except raise money for charity, I had to have one. First, because it “told” people I was a fan, second, because the band sales did raise millions for cancer research, and third, let’s face it, wearing one was “cool” for about two years before knock offs became so ubiquitous. But the relevant effect to this post is that when I had my yellow band on while struggling along on my bike (on inclines that Lance wouldn’t even have noticed more than a pebble), it would catch my eye. I’d be thinking about stopping for a breather, then I’d see the yellow band on my wrist, I’d think about Lance, I’d think about all those guys riding for weeks on mountains (drug doping or not, the Tour is an insane athletic achievement), I’d think about how he and other survivors didn’t give up despite cancer diagnoses, I’d realize I’m a pathetic middle aged asthmatic wimp, and I’d urge myself on a little further. I imagine the flashing holograms on the “Power Bracelets” produce similar effects — not by magic, not even through the placebo effect, just by being a silent reminder to the people who buy them of their favorite athlete’s performance.

    Wouldn’t it be a great world if they could just market them that honestly, without all the nonsense about magnetic eastern bullshit? That’s my “string theory;” “Here’s a piece of rubber string. Looking at it will remind you that you want to be a stronger, fitter, healthier person. Thinking about those goals may help you decide to push a little harder during your next workout. If not, the only side effect is a loss of $30 you might otherwise have spent on candy and soda on your way out of the gym. Get yours today!”

  16. laproxdoc says:

    @LMA -

    Yes, as an old geezer road bike rider that’s exactly the reason I wear my yellow Livestrong bracelet too! Also, the most challenging local century ride here uses colored bands to identify riders on each course and I proudly wear my purple 103 mile bands as inspiration to keep training.

  17. ccbowers says:

    LMA-

    People are not willing to spend $30 on a reminder bracelet to help them remember to try hard. The Lance Armstrong bracelet is a special case in that people feel that they are suporting a good cause, and the bracelet is representative of that. For the power bracelets, giving them vague notions of special powers helps convince people to fork over the cash, apparently, in a way that reminder bracelets would not

  18. ccbowers

    LMA-

    “People are not willing to spend $30 on a reminder bracelet to help them remember to try hard. The Lance Armstrong bracelet is a special case in that people feel that they are suporting a good cause, and the bracelet is representative of that.”

    Piffle, people do spend $30 dollars or more on souvenirs or other things to remind them of something that inspires them.

    While I am not a mountain biker, I am rather fond of my Schwinn cruiser (single speed with coaster brake). I am saving my pennies for a lovely wicker basket, because when I’m pedaling furiously up a slight incline, I love imagining that I am Miss Gulch in Wizard of Oz.

    I also plan on downloading the appropriate music for my ipod.

  19. adrouault says:

    On reminder bracelets: my “reminder bracelet” is a POW/MIA bracelet. It’s in its third iteration, each has cost me far less than $30, always with the money going to a far better cause than lining the pockets of some snake oil salesman.

    LMA, I think I agree with what you are suggesting, but I would like to delude myself into believing that most humans are smart enough to find something worthwhile to serve that purpose.

  20. Bogeymama says:

    Anyone see Modern Family last night? There was a scene where Jay mentioned buying a bracelet for “balance” (the one he was wearing looking like the Power Balance), and as he was demonstrating it to someone his son-in-law opened the door, knocking him to the ground. Hilarious. The context was that he had been duped to pay $30 for something that was useless.

  21. JPZ says:

    Symbolism is very psychologically powerful and encouraged in the OB/GYN wards where I have done a good portion of my research. But, what I respect greatly about that setting is that the symbol must be personal and precious. Using something you buy is to seek symbols in absence of those within you.

    To undermine what I just said, I brought pictures from a Smithsonian article about heirloom chickens to the birth of our second child. She never failed to laugh at each one, and the humor/joy gave her strength many times. On the other hand, she has always laughed at funny chickens.

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