Back in 1955, the marketing execs for Quaker Puffed Rice and Puffed Wheat came up with an ingenious way to sell breakfast cereal. They bought 19.11 acres of land on the Yukon River in Canada. Then they divided up the land into 21 million square-inch plots and gave away deeds for these 1-inch plots inside the cereal boxes, which flew off the shelves.
Nobody at Quaker Oats could have anticipated the mass idiocy of American consumers. One guy had over 10,000 deeds and wanted to convert them into one single piece of property that would be a little less than a quarter-acre. And Quaker received thousands of letters from consumers who wanted to mine their 1 square inch for gold. However, mineral rights were not included in the deeds, and if gold would have been discovered, it would not have accrued to the deed holders.
Quaker Oats never paid taxes on the Yukon land, so in 1965 the Canadian government reclaimed it. Which means that anyone who still has one of those land deeds no longer has any claim to the tiny plot of land. However, the deeds themselves have appreciated considerably in value as collector's items.
In 1973, Lloyd Honey opened the Tricircle drive-in movie theater. It was the first-ever circular drive-in. The advantage of this was that it allowed x-rated movies to be shown, because the picture couldn't be seen from surrounding areas. This circular design was marketed as "Visible X" technology, but it doesn't seem to have caught on.
Lloyd Honey of [Richland, Washington] already owned a couple of standard-size drive-ins in the area when he opened a miniature one on May 30, 1973. It was circular in shape, with 120 individiual screens each of which was 3 by 4 feet, a sixty-inch diagonal. The projection booth was located in the center of the circle, 165 feet from the viewing area. Using 120 lenses and reflecting mirrors, the image was back-projected to all the screens. Sound was picked up on the car radios. Honey said that this theater — built at a cost of $70,000 — needed just two people to operate it. While not designed specificially for X-rated films, this new theater "could very well show them," Honey conceded. He claimed that it was the "first of its kind on the West Coast." It was also the last.
According to drive-ins.com, the Tricircle was torn down at some point, and there's now a Wal-Mart on the site.
Companies do all kinds of things to boost staff morale. They hire motivational speakers, have team-building exercises, give employees gifts, etc.
But the industrial psychologist Lawrence Zeitlin, in an article published in June 1971 in Psychology Today ("A little larceny can do a lot for employee morale"), argued that the most effective way a business could boost morale was by allowing its employees to steal a little from the company.
He argued that theft added to a sense of "job enrichment" by making the job more interesting. It gave employees a sense of satisfaction at getting away with it. Also, workers "often looked upon theft as a condition of employment." Furthermore, he noted, allowing the theft could be cheaper than installing elaborate security precautions.
In her book Management and Ideology, business author Judith Merkle provides some background info on Zeitlin's article:
Before its publication in Psychology Today the Harvard Business Review had previously turned down the article. It was, after all, a classic application of amoral Scientific Management techniques, and it offended the HBR down to its puritan roots. The interesting point is, however, that the control practices recommended in this article bear a close family resemblance to the working practices of Stalinism. Allowing theft, while keeping the rules against theft, certainly makes theft more thrilling, but it also opens up the way to arbitrary and discriminatory uses of power through the selective application of dead-letter rules. This is, of course, the first step in the destruction of the rule of law, and, in the long run, leads to the introduction of de facto totalitarianism.
In 1992, Mississippi State Coach Jackie Sherrill arranged for a bull to be castrated in front of his players before a game, as an "educational and motivational experience." Asked how it was motivational, Sherrill replied, "That's everybody's different perception."
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.
Chuck is the purveyor of News of the Weird, the syndicated column which for decades has set the gold-standard for reporting on oddities and the bizarre.
Our banner was drawn by the legendary underground cartoonist Rick Altergott.