Wacky world of Y2K merchandise
NEW YORK (Reuters) -- In America, where business is the nation's business and fads are fleeting, the commercial opportunities offered by the year 2000 are irresistible.
Forget about computer glitches bringing about the end of civilization as we know it when the digit counters turn from 1999 to 2000 on December 31.
Instead, put on your Y2K tie, chew on that Y2K beef jerky, quaff a Bud Y2K beer, pick up your Millennium Y2K bowling balls and go to watch the official Y2K fireworks.
Or how about donning a Y2K diving suit, downing a glass of Mumm Cuvee Speciale Y2K champagne (or Y2K-H2O flavored water, if you don't imbibe) and take your pet for a walk in his Y2K dog collar and twirl the official Y2K yo-yo.
Welcome to fin de siecle, make-a-quick-buck America.
Web sites are awash with ads by entrepreneurs hawking products that play on Y2K to welcome in what many consider the start of the new millennium -- even though some argue it does not begin officially until the year 2001.
A random trawl of the U.S. Patent Office's trademark applications came up with 205 listings for products with "Y2K" in their name.
Jonathan Gavzer, an acupuncturist/masseur in San Francisco, is marketing a body lotion called "Y2K Jelly - Millenni-lube."
"For those with millennial angst, this is a way to glide into the new millennium," he told Reuters in a telephone interview. "People were freaking out about Y2K, so I just said: 'I think I'll make a jelly.' It's half glib, but it's also good for you."
His potion combines herbs and essence of flowers, which Gavzer said are helpful for easing fear and anxiety.
Of course, Millenni-lube is not to be confused with one registered by Kevin Nelms of Fort Worth, Texas, whose Y2K jelly is described as a "computer cream". Nelms was not available to explain how it works.
With computer health high on the priority list for millions of people as the year 2000 rolls in, many enterprising entrepreneurs have come up with variations of the Y2K bug from stuffed animals to brooches.
There's the "Y2K Guardian Angel" -- a plush decoration for computers that, presumably, keeps the bugs at bay. If it doesn't work, then maybe you need "Y2K Computer Bug Spray" -- registered by Gary Mazur of Springfield, Virginia, and described as "compressed air or gas to clean computers and clocks, etc."
At $12.99, the "Y2K Bug ornament" from Bronner's Christmas Wonderland, is designed to sit on your monitor with the message "Happy New Year! 2000 Hope I'm not bugging you."
If the computers do crash and you have to resort to old-fashioned technology, the "Y2K Bug pen holder" from San Francisco company KareTech will be useful.
And if you don't get computer bugs, you can always pretend you did by playing the electronic interactive game "Y2K Millennium Bugs" from ABC International Traders of California.
When it's all over, of course, you need the T-shirt or the baseball cap to say so, and there are countless companies with various trademarks including "I Survived Y2K" "Byte Me Y2K", "Y2KDE'BUG" and "YNOT2K?" emblazoned on all kinds of apparel.
If there's a blackout at the turn of the year, then next September's babies might wear "I'm a Y2K Baby" clothing from a company in South Canton, Ohio that's even called Y2K.
In a spoof of the whole issue, Kia Motors America recently ran a national advertising campaign poking fun at the hysteria.
Claiming "Y2K" is an acronym for "Yes to Kia," the campaign advised consumers huddled in bomb shelters or in bank lines, not to worry about imminent disaster, but to buy new Kia cars.
"We've taken a broad and well-publicized global event and turned it on its ear," said Fred Goldberg, of Kia's advertising agency Goldberg Moser O'Neill.
"The Y2K issue is full of intrigue, suspense and fear, people are ready for the worst. The advertising makes it humorous and familiar."
"Everybody is going to try to own the millennium," said creative director Jim Noble. "No one but Kia has the gumption to try to own Y2K, which is turning out to be as big a deal as the millennium. So we decided to take the idea, run with it and have a little fun."
Hammacher Schlemmer, a store that specializes in such gifts as $19 nose-hair trimmers and $67,000 two-person submarines, has a few items that play on Year 2000 fears, many of them solar- or hand-powered.
For writers who are worried about computers going down, how about a new, classic Olivetti manual typewriter for $185.95?
"Our products reflect the concerns of our consumers about Y2K," said Sabrina Balthazar, a spokeswoman for the company, which has stores in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles and a world-wide catalogue and online business.
There is also the "Y2K Survival Kit" -- a tongue-in-cheek $14.99 gift from Computergear that includes the means to protect your family -- a squirt gun; start your own food supply -- sunflower seeds; and find water -- a forked twig.
Jerry Horton of Minneapolis has probably the best idea: the Y2K Rock.
"If your computer doesn't work, you throw the rock at it," he said.
At $3 or $4, it could be the bargain of the century.
Senate grapples with bill limiting Y2K lawsuits
U.S.Patent and Trademark Office
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