Ever had an idea that bombed? There's often a disconnect between what you think is a great idea and what consumers actually want. Here are the 15 worst products we came across in 2015.
1. "OCD" Christmas sweater
Ugly sweaters may be in vogue but not when they make light of mental illness. In November, Target unveiled a sweater emblazoned with the letters "OCD," standing for "Obsessive Christmas Disorder." The garment sparked an uproar on social media, with customers calling for the removal of the sweater, which retails at $27.99. "As someone with OCD, I'd really appreciate it if you didn't sell my illness as a fashion statement," one disgruntled viewer tweeted.
2. Gun-shaped iPhone case
As gun violence in the U.S. reaches an all-time peak--resulting in about 90 deaths each day--you have to wonder what Gizmo Gallery, among other retailers, was thinking coming out with a gun-shaped iPhone accessory. National police authorities warned in July that these cases are "a terrible idea," as they could easily be mistaken for actual weapons. Such items are still available for retail through eBay, starting at $7.78, as of publication.
3. Holocaust tapestry
This isn't the first time Urban Outfitters has peddled an offensive product. In February, tapestries resembling the uniforms that gay prisoners were forced to wear in Nazi concentration camps--complete with gray and white stripes and pink triangles--prompted the Anti-Defamation League to call for the item's removal from stores. "Whether intentional or not, this gray-and-white-striped pattern and pink triangle combination is deeply offensive and should not be mainstreamed into popular culture," ADL national director Abraham H. Foxman said.
4. Trophy T-shirt
In July, Target came out with a shirt, in the women's junior section, displaying the word "Trophy." The garment drew criticism on social media, with one incensed customer creating a Change.org petition calling for its removal. "Labeling any person as a 'Trophy' is demeaning their humanity and objectifying them as a tangible object that can be bought, used, and disposed of," it stated. The shirt is still available for retail at $12.99, as of publication, as part of a collection of engagement and wedding tops.
5. Cat jewelry
Intending to save you--and your pet--the "embarrassment of a bare behind," e-tailer Twinkle Tush manufactures jewelry to bedazzle a cat's anus. The gems come only in blue, made to hang from your cat's tail. Twinkle Tush is available for purchase at $5.99 (plus a standard $1 ship fee) through Cat Crib, an online marketplace for cat hammocks.
6. The Skinny Mirror
Entrepreneur Belinda Jasmine created a Skinny Mirror product to produce a "slimming effect" for viewers, but when she pitched the business on ABC's hit series Shark Tank this year, the investors were none too thrilled. As Kevin O'Leary succinctly put it: "I deal in reality."
7. EZPeeZ toilet seat
Operating with the slogan "as EZ as 1...2...Pee!" this startup, which sells a convertible toilet seat, is designed to make potty training a breeze. Unfortunately for EZPeeZ creator Brian Kleinschmidt, who appeared on Shark Tank in October of this year, investors don't see much market potential. "You can take this behind the barn and shoot it," said Kevin O'Leary.
8. Somabar drink robot
This $430 robotic bartending device, which is controlled by an app, will mix and shake your cocktails for you. The startup roped in more than 800 backers on Kickstarter this year, pledging a total of $312,707. Unfortunately for Somabar, early reviews weren't too positive. "The fundamental issue with Somabar [is that] it promises craft cocktails when in reality its limited feature set makes it more of a mixed drink dispenser than an automated mixologist," one cynic wrote on Engadget.
The Utensilmate is designed to help you measure out just the right amount of hot sauce onto your hot-sauce-requiring meal. Retailing at $14.99, TreeHugger dubs the plastic contraption "a great candidate for the wrongest product award." To date, Utensilmate has raised only $2,944, from 54 backers, of its $18,000 Kickstarter goal.
Created by Brooke Martin when she was 12 years old--and discovered that her golden retriever suffered from separation anxiety--the iCPooch is a machine that allows pet owners to videoconference with their animals when they're away from home, and deliver them a treat via an automatic dispenser. When Martin and her CEO, James Pelland, appeared on Shark Tank in March of this year to demo the product, however, the dog failed to recognize its owner on the screen. The investors were out.
11. Kanye West's air
Back in March of this year, a number of users on eBay were selling ziplock bags of air, allegedly from Kanye West's "Yeezus" concert tour. Prices on the air bags ranged from $1,000 to $1,500, and amazingly, some listings had actual bids. "WOW he can sell anything!" tweeted Kanye's wife, Kim Kardashian West.
12. Maven cocktails
These wine-infused vodka cocktails might sound appealing (after all, they're gluten free). But as one Inc. staffer put it upon tasting: "Was there a pressing shortage of cheap wine that tastes like battery acid?" LA Weekly's Andy Hermann had an even less savory reaction: "I'm picking up aromas of grape juice, sugar, and just a hint of Lysol."
13. 50 shades of merchandise
Having won the rights to manufacture the official "Fifty Shades of Grey Pleasure Collection" in 2015, based on the best-selling novel and film franchise Fifty Shades of Grey, U.K. retailer Lovehoney sells sex toys like Inner Goddess Silver Pleasure Balls and Nothing but Sensation Nipple Suckers, going for $34.99 and $14.99, respectively. If you spring for those, however, you'll probably also want to pick up a bottle of Sex Toy Cleaner ($9.99).
14. "I Use Both Hands" shirt
Billing itself as the "Confederate flag headquarters," e-commerce shop BeWild sells a T-shirt emblazoned with the words: "I'm all for gun control. I use both hands." The garment became especially distasteful as of December, on the heels of a mass murder in San Bernardino, California, for which President Obama has urged: "Congress should act to make sure no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun. What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semiautomatic weapon?"
15. Chicken leash
Because how many people desperately need to reel in their free-flying hen? This adjustable chicken harness won the 2015 Global Pet Expo "Most Outrageous New Pet Product" award in 2015. It sells at $11.95 through My Pet Chicken.