If the violence inherent in fly swatters has always bothered you, rejoice; relief is at hand. The Fly Swooper, a funnel on a stick that, rather than smashing the living, sentient beings that you believe flies to be, nuzzling their young with a human-like affection, instead collects them safely in a small net.
“And then what?” I asked Matt Schipper, demonstrating the product Saturday, opening day of the 2015 International Home + Housewares Show at McCormick Place, the four-day convention where all the makers of household devices from toasters to toothpick holders hook up with all the vendors who sell them or try to.
“You release them outside,” he replied. “It’s more of a Zen-ful approach. We’ve done $1 million in sales in Malaysia.”
That’s why I love the housewares show. You never know what you’re going to find.
Seven hours of increasingly footsore marching past exhibits barely scratches the surface: countless home care products from the utterly mundane — mops, brooms, sponges, cleaners — to the almost unbelievable, such as Bob’s Butt Wipes.
“The polish after the paper!” brand manager Kayla Ward chirped when I hurried over to regard the new product in drop-jawed wonder.
“We leave nothing behind, like the Marines,” added Robert Delaney — the “Bob” in “Bob’s Butt Wipes.” He explained that he is a builder in Louisiana, and noticed his contractors taking packs of baby wipes with them when they visit portable toilets.
“We like to be clean,” he said.
As the guy who predicted cellphones would be a fad 30 years ago, I wouldn’t dare guess how Delaney’s product might fare. The most outlandish invention can thrive. I noticed, once again, The Dipr, “The Ultimate Cookie Spoon,” a wand with a hook designed to snugly fit around the middle of an Oreo cookie, the better to dip into milk without risking wetting the tips of your fingers. Had I been asked to bet when I first saw it, four years ago, I’d have slid my chips onto “Dipr Fails.” I would have lost.
“We’re still here, still doing our thing. Year after year, growing,” said Robert Haleluk. “We introduced our own Dunkr cup last year, as a complimentary product for the Dipr, and it snowballed.”
Some new products seem sensible. The Beep Egg “the singing, floating egg timer,” a bit of German engineering that plays “Oh! Susanna” when your hard-boiled egg is ready. The same company, Brainstream, offers a round, smooth little purse light, “Sol,” that might be useful. The Sit-On-It-Carry-All is exactly as advertised, a rolling carry-on bag that doubles as a sturdy chair for the weary traveler. Click & Carry is a hard plastic handle designed to load shopping bags for the tote from the car into the house. “My wife will love this,” I said.
Others, well—vanilla-scented rubber gloves? Hmmm.
Sometimes you see a good idea, only to find an improvement a few steps down the aisle. Steven Ross showed off a bottle that holds 20 ounces of water and a week’s worth of pills. “People go out they want to have pills,” said Ross, showing off the Pill Organizer Water Bottle, a thermos-sized capsule. “What do you do if you don’t have water?” Makes sense.
It was only when I came across Port-o-Pill, a bottle the size of a prescription pill bottle, holding 1.5 ounces of water with room for 10 pills, did I realize that this smaller, more portable device is what people would actually use, with the bigger bottle saved for weeks-long desert expeditions.
Sometimes you notice trends. There were many bento boxes, the Japanese compartmentalized lunchbox. Lego is offering one. There are even bento-themed companies — “Bentology” — with inexpensive versions of the lacquered mainstay.
“Americans are more and more interested in bento boxes because there are so many ways you can use it,” said Melodie Becquet, of Bento & Co. “In Japan, you eat with your eyes. It’s more beautiful, you can take it to work, show it to your colleagues.” It also has a gel pack in the lid to keep your beautiful lunch cold.
As with bento boxes, purveyors of old products cast them as new, such as the tabletop butter churn that Alyssa Henke vigorously demonstrated for the Progressive International Corp.
“The Brooklyn crowd,” said PIC’s Aaron Jones, after being asked who’s buying it.
I asked Richard Spitaletta, president & chief executive of Lola Products, to explain his “100 percent corn” broom.
“An old reliable staple item,” he said. “It actually is a very good sweeping broom, corn.”
They lavish visitors with samples at the show, and I took some home for beta testing. The Bob’s Butt Wipes container fits easily over the toilet paper holder, hanging below it. That said, the Tucks folks have nothing to worry about. I tried to interest my wife in the Click & Carry, but she wouldn’t touch it: she said it is more bother — opening the handle, lining the bags on it – than it’s worth.
But all those eager folks pushing new products at McCormick Place should not despair. It took years to teach consumers to eat yogurt. And look at it now.
The show runs through Tuesday, March 10; it’s open to the trade only.