Monday, February 4, 2013

Cheating? There's an app for that.

Mr. J and I don’t watch a lot of TV together. Our tastes and interests vary. Sometimes I’ll say, “How can you WATCH that commentator? He’s downright SCARY, with the views he promotes.” Husband just smiles and shrugs, because he usually doesn’t share their views either, but finds some sort of perverse pleasure in occasionally watching them. OK, I can live with that.
The one show we do watch together is Shark Tank. For those who aren’t familiar with the show, six highly successful (we are talking millionaires, billionaries, tycoons in various fields) form a panel. Very brave (or sometimes very stupid) entrepeneurs present their business model or product to the Sharks, hoping the well-connected Sharks will want to invest as partners. I find it a fascinating picture of personalities, creativity, salesmanship, and, occasionally, downright stupidity. I don’t have a good feel for the numbers and percentages and the financial details that fly back and forth, but it’s a study in human nature to see how each segment unfolds.

For the example, take the engineer who invented little mesh tents you can set over your delicious picnic food to protect it from flies. This hopeful man had actually invested in a short video on flies, where they like to land, and the terrible diseases they can carry when they then settle on your food. Ten seconds of “We all know flies can spread germs that cause . . ." or “it’s estimated that ______ people a year are sickened by diseases carried by flies,” would have been sufficient. Enough already. We get the message. Instead, we saw some unforgettable footage of flies landing on . . . . . dog excrement . . .  and then on potato salad.

By then I was so nauseated I didn’t want to listen to the guy. “What is your invention?” I kept asking him (from my living room couch). “I know what flies do. What does your product do?” Finally, as the clock was running down, he unveiled his little food tents. Maybe they are a good idea, but I didn't see them as too practical, as everyone has to reach inside each little tent just to get a serving of food. . . 

And then, what prevents those nasty, filthy flies who have been waiting on their comfy perches of dog excrement from landing on your potato salad when it’s on your plate, as you sit out in the open to eat it? Flies are flies and they’ll go where they like and land where they choose. So, with the gentleman's little food tent, your picnic food isn’t really that protected at all.  
The Sharks agreed with me on that one and didn’t nibble. If he'd offered potato salad at that point, I'm sure a couple of them might have thrown up. The man left the show empty-handed. 

However, Shark Tank “rejects” occasionally receive other offers on the basis of their  appearance on the show. So - - - just the national TV exposure can be golden.

Sometimes the Sharks will bite (i.e., show interest in a product or business). Then, for the entrepeneur  who’s hoping for a deal, here’s the dilemma: whether to accept the offer (such as $100,000 for a 40 % share in the business, plus royalties, etc.) Some presenters get greedy (or perhaps it’s the Sharks who are greedy) and are reluctant to give up so much ownership or control. Or they want more money. After all, it’s their baby. Others go for the deal. Sometimes the Sharks compete with each other for the investment opportunity. Or two may they join forces as partners in a proposal.

Of course, no actual money is exchanged on the show, and no actual papers are signed. It’s a verbal agreement and it makes for good reality TV. Then the lawyers and accountants and patent researchers and other experts must do their jobs before a deal is actually inked.  Occasionally we see a follow-up story on a deal that has made a small-town business into a multimillion dollar concern. Sometimes we never hear about a product again, even though a “deal” was struck on the show.

So about the cheating . . . 

The other night, an entrepreneur presented his product to the Sharks. It was, simply, a phone app that allows you to cheat. Wha???????? “Love is blind. Keep it that way.” is the slogan this gentleman has chosen for his app, which he’s named “The Cheater.” Using the app, you can program various names into your phone, and when one of those people calls or texts you, it won’t show on your screen until you can be alone and call up the information at your convenience. In other words, if you don’t want to be embarrassed by something on your screen that someone else can see, this app is for you.

Then the general subject of cheating on your significant other was raised among the Sharks. One Shark, who swears he has never cheated on his wife, thought the app was great---a potential moneymaker, which is his bottom line---and immediately began to negotiate. Another, whose rule of thumb is “Can I take my kids to work where they will see this?” decided he didn’t want his children to learn about an app designed for cheaters, so he said “I’m out.” (I like him.) 

A third Shark, who has extensive connections with QVC and other mass market outlets, said, “This app has broad applications in many legitimate areas---including business and law enforcement, to mention a few. If you're in the middle of an investigation, you don't want your informant's name to show up on the screen where someone else could see it.  Realtors and stockbrokers use their phones extensively for business, but wouldn’t want others (competitors, perhaps) to be able to see sensitive information on their screens. If you'd be willing to re-vamp the name of the product and your current marketing approach, and call it a privacy app, I’m interested,” she said, and made what I thought was a generous offer. If I’d been the owner of the app I would have taken her up on it.

But the hopeful businessman focused on the Shark who wanted to keep it as a cheating app and advertise it as such. And they struck a deal.

So here’s what I think:

Mr. Cheater limited his target audience, though people may eventually learn about the app and use it for many other purposes than cheating on their spouses, boyfriends, or girlfriends, just as Ms. QVC suggested. But he’s chosen to stay with the cheating concept, with the same name and the "Love is blind. Keep it that way." slogan. My personal impression, based on his presentation, speech and body language, was that he was on the sleazy side himself. To borrow a line from “My Fair Lady," it appeared that “oozing charm from every pore, he oiled his way across the floor.” I could be wrong. I hope I am.

I think it is unfortunate, though, that he is trying to enable people to be less than honest in their personal lives, at least when it comes to their phones. As cell phones are a virtual body attachment for many people, no doubt this app would be used frequently by its purchasers. I forget the statistics he quoted on how many of us cheat on the ones we love, but they told a sad story indeed. And he wants to make the whole process a little bit easier. 

So, assuming the deal was successfully developed after the show, feel free to cheat away, with even less chance of being caught. There’s an app for that.


1 comment:

Pam Williams said...

Hey, I have some of those little food tents, and they do work nicely to give people confidence in your outdoor buffet. Don't know about the cheating... that's never been my style.