It's become a tradition among Amazon users: Find the stupidest products for sale on the site, and write sarcastically glowing reviews of them. The examples are legendary: the Three Wolf Moon T-shirt, of course, and also Bic for Her pens. Now, the latest idiotic product to get a ceremonial roasting is the Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer, a little plastic gizmo that lets you "slice an entire banana with one quick motion." Universally panned as something completely unnecessary, the product is thus being faux-celebrated as a milestone of human invention. Mock reviews have been flooding into the product's Amazon page in recent days, though in fact, this is just the latest surge of sarcasm directed at it. The most popular comment (23,604 of 23,792 people found it helpful) was posted in March 2011:
For decades I have been trying to come up with an ideal way to slice a banana. "Use a knife!" they say. Well…my parole officer won't allow me to be around knives. "Shoot it with a gun!" Background check…HELLO! I had to resort to carefully attempt to slice those bananas with my bare hands. 99.9% of the time, I would get so frustrated that I just ended up squishing the fruit in my hands and throwing it against the wall in anger. Then, after a fit of banana-induced rage, my parole officer introduced me to this kitchen marvel and my life was changed. No longer consumed by seething anger and animosity towards thick-skinned yellow fruit, I was able to concentrate on my love of theatre and am writing a musical play about two lovers from rival gangs that just try to make it in the world. I think I'll call it South Side Story.
After a lull, the comically pro-Banana-Slicer comments picked up again in recent weeks, with users trying to one-up each other's absurdity. Interestingly, Hutzler has publicly said it's thrilled with the attention, sincere or not. The bottom line? Sales are up, and of course that's never a bad thing. "Avery binders, Bic pens, & our very own Banana Slicer are all seeing a surge of humorous reviews," the brand writes on Twitter. "Those hysterical reviews certainly are creating more sales. … We're all crying with laughter!"
Not every marketer would be happy to see one of its product pages hijacked. In the end, it probably comes down to how seriously the brand takes itself—and whether it can have a chuckle at its own expense. Big brands usually cannot—unless the environment is strictly controlled, or the criticism mild and limited. Hutzler is part of a different breed—a company that sells infomercial-quality products, and thus may be more likely to have a campy, infomercial sensibility (or be open to adopting one). Either way, it's clear: For a certain type of brand, an avalanche of terrible Amazon reviews is the greatest thing that could happen to them.
UPDATE: Mr. Griner tells me Amazon has been promoting people's Facebook posts about this product for weeks—suggesting Amazon itself sees the humor, and the traffic potential, in the sarcastic reviews.