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Consumer Products

Well-crafted pranks and the scent of seduction

by Manny I. Fox Morone
September 9, 2018 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 96, ISSUE 36

 

Beyond bathroom humor

Since 2005, Liquid Assets Novelties has made a name for itself selling sprayable foul-smelling liquids. But in the past few years, one of its prank products—a faux flatulence spray—has become serious business.

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Credit: Manny Morone/C&EN
Eau de toilet: Liquid Assets' smelly spray has more refined uses than you may think.

The accuracy of the product’s aroma has gained it a loyal customer base beyond run-of-the-mill pranksters. For example, Pocket Nurse, a medical supply company, sells a relabeled version of the spray for preparing nursing students to help patients who are incontinent or who have had colon or bowel surgeries. And Strategic Operations, a company that offers “hyper-realistic” field conditions for training military and law enforcement, has incorporated Liquid Assets’ product into its Cut Suit, a wearable suit full of artificial organs that allows medics to treat simulated battle wounds before deployment. The liquid sits inside the suit’s artificial bowel, which if punctured releases an unmistakable stench. “Once you smell it, you’ll never look for anything else,” Strategic Operations President Stu Segall tells Newscripts.

The liquid’s stench is so strong that Liquid Assets CEO Allen Wittman and Chief Financial Officer Andrew Masters have had trouble finding suitable packaging for their 1-oz (about 30-mL) squeeze bottles. The smell escapes through pores in flexible, and thus squeezable, polyethylene, both the low-density and high-density types. And various levels of fluorine treatment on these materials—which is applied to certain perfume bottles—can’t contain the liquid’s putrid power either. For this reason and others, the company is discontinuing the squeezable bottle and focusing on its more rigid poly(ethylene terephthalate) spray bottle, which it says holds in the smell just fine.

Besides saying that their product contains no hydrogen sulfide—a staple of other stink bombs that can be toxic in larger quantities—Wittman and Masters won’t comment on their formulation, which Wittman discovered by accident in high school and has been using a version of ever since. Although its material safety data sheet says it has no known hazardous ingredients, Wittman insists on secrecy: “We can’t let it get out into the world.”

 

Olfactory allure

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Credit: Eric Ellis
Follow your nose; follow your heart: Smelling T-shirts at a pheromone party lets you find an agreeable mate.

In matters of the heart, the nose knows. Or at least, that’s what Pakke, a Washington, D.C.-based social experience start-up, aimed to show with its so-called pheromone party this July.

“We want people to get off dating apps, at least to a certain extent,” said Pakke CEO Emmett Ferra in a recent chat over coffee with the Newscripts gang. “It’s not just dating apps; I’m trying to disrupt a lot of people,” he says, referring to the company’s mission to create unusual events in people’s otherwise unused spaces that cause participants to physically meet.

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In the midst of D.C.’s sweaty and swampy summer, the event brought together 70 hopeful romantics to longingly slam their snouts into T-shirts that had been worn by other attendees for the previous four nights. Participants then tried to sniff out a compatible companion, much the same way that some animals pair up on the basis of chemicals that their species exudes. Each shirt was accompanied with a Polaroid photograph.

Though human pheromones have not been shown to exist, Ferra sniffed through several of the shirts and said he had strong reactions to them, describing some scents as “feminine” and others as “palpable” and “intoxicating.” He’s not ready to dismiss the notion that you can follow your nose to a savory suitor: He knew of three couples who were still dating after meeting at the event.

Manny I. Fox Morone wrote this week’s column. Please send comments and suggestions to newscripts@acs.org.

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