My mother forwarded me an email from one of her colleagues who is looking for investors in a side business that he is trying to get off the ground. I’m not sure whether she sent it specifically because of the product involved or because the solicitation was somewhat (awkwardly) intriguing, but here are some excerpts: (sorry Mom, I just can’t help myself)
You can learn about the company’s single product — the digital, timer-locking, solid steel, CapturedDiscipline® safe — by visiting www.CapturedDiscipline.com. There are a number of related products I intend to market; but for now, one careful step at a time.
Ohhhhhhhh, I get it, the safe acts as a commitment device. I’ve written about commitment devices before, and it seems to me that such products and strategies have gotten more popular as of late. In case you are not familiar, commitment devices are the real-world equivalent of Ulysses tying himself to the mast of his ship in order to not be lured in my the Sirens. In practice, they range from Christmas Clubs, where people put money into savings accounts that they cannot withdraw from until Christmastime, to agreements whereby your friend punches you and takes your wallet every time you have a cigarette. (You can also think of products like Alli as commitment devices, albeit gross ones.)
Commitment devices have no place in the world of the traditional economist, since, if people make choices that maximize their happiness (as these economists assume), there is nothing to be gained by limiting one’s options. Behavioral economists, on the other hand, argue that sometimes people’s short-term urges cause them to make decisions that are not in their long-term best interests, in which case artificially limiting one’s options in the short-term can actually be beneficial. In other words, behavioral economists can potentially see the value in a product marketed as follows:
For you or a loved one:
The drug-free way
to defeat unhealthy habits,
— quit smoking —
— lose weight —
— moderate drinking —
— stop abuse of prescription drugs —
— end “addiction” to television —
— end “addiction” to the Internet —
— reduce or quit gambling —
— spend less money–
— save more money–
— exercise more often —
— sleep better —
The drug-free way
to defeat unhealthy habits
Q – What is CapturedDiscipline®?
A – Using a CapturedDiscipline® digital, timer-locking, solid steel safe (patent pending), CapturedDiscipline® is
the instinctive, intuitive, desired, and repeatable ability of an individual to lock away, for any amount of time he
or she selects; from 2 minutes to 99 hours (4.1 days), items that are damaging to her health, or a threat to his
I do think that this idea has potential, even if the marketing is a little…creepy. The next generation actually has some interesting features:
3 – The maximum lock-time on the new 4th generation safe will be increased from 99 hours (a little more than a weekend) to 999 hours (41.6 days). For example, this will allow users to lock up all their (abused) credit cards for a week (168 hours); or use their CapturedDiscipline® safe as a real piggybank that can only be opened up to every 41.6 days, and can instantly be relocked for up to another 41.6 days.
4 – The new safe will have a “slot” cut into the safe’s steel cover, allowing the safe to be used as a real piggybank. Additionally, credit cards being abused can be placed into the safe during any period of lock-time.
5 – When manufactured to our specifications, the top of the steel edges of the right and left sides of each CapturedDiscipline® safe will include two “grooves” cut out of the steel. These grooves, the size of a half a dime, will allow the plug end of any power cord to be placed inside a CapturedDiscipline® safe. The steel safe cover is then closed flush, and the plug end of a power cord is locked up for up to 41.6 days. Think about a television power cord locked up for any period of time the user selects. For example, just before leaving for work, a concerned/involved parent locks up a television power cord from 7:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
I’m not sure why “slot” and “grooves” needed to be in air quotes, but I suppose I can let it slide. Like I said, an interesting product…albeit not a perfect one, as Mom astutely points out in a follow-up email:
I can just picture some schmuck with Wile E. Coyote tendencies hooking up dynamite to blow up that safe in which he has deposited his cigarettes/cocaine/chocolate……… 🙂
Oh man…is it wrong that this makes me think that the next generation of the product should include a hidden camera?