Service of Failure

April 10th, 2023

Categories: Failure, Product Recall

Clothesline with hooks too narrow to hang over the tub in my bathroom.

When an HR person or potential future boss asks “give me an example of one of your failures” you might describe how you can’t tear yourself away from work so you give a client more than they pay for. Maybe you admit to being so organized you drive colleagues nuts. Who likes to celebrate or highlight failure?

A Swedish psychologist does. He founded a museum dedicated to it. Headquartered in Helsingborg, Sweden, the Museum of Failure has popups around the U.S. One will be open in Brooklyn, N.Y. until mid-May. Dr. Samuel West, who studies innovation, found product failures more interesting than successes.

According to several credible sources, here are some of the featured products:

  • Rejuvenique Electric Facial Mask from 1999, that promised to shock your wrinkles away
  • An office chair claiming to give you a seated ab workout via hula dance movement
  • Bic ballpoint pens for women
  • Gerber Singles, individual baby food portions for single adults
  • Metal tipped darts for kids
  • Coffee flavored soda: Coca-Cola BlāK
  • Colgate [the toothpaste brand] frozen beef lasagna
  • Ford Edsel
  • Donald Trump’s board game
  • Harley Davidson cologne

Visitors are invited to describe their failures on sticky notes to post on a wall.

I remember a toothpaste that supposedly had a Scotch flavor.

In the day, you’d see demos at stores like the Five and Dime of gadgets that diced and sliced as well as practically did your laundry. As a child I was mesmerized by the action which I saw at our local Woolworth’s. Late night TV has its share of similar products most of which cost $19.99.

I bought a clothesline for use in a bathroom [photo above]. Trouble is, the hooks are too small to fit over my shower rod or shower head so there’s no water safe place to use it in my apartment and who knows if it would work to dry hand laundry at a hotel. The hooks are inflexible. I like the colored hooks.

The liberal policy at Trader Joe’s encouraged me to return three cans of beer charmingly packaged to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. The taste of the liquid in the fourth can was atrocious. I didn’t see them the next year.

Have you some examples of failed products? Would you visit a museum of failed products?

Image by Richard Taimalie from Pixabay

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9 Responses to “Service of Failure”

  1. Deb Wright Said:

    This was a really fun blog! It is true that the failed inventions or products are more interesting than the successful ones. I would definitely go see this exhibit. I wonder if the peppermint Pringle potato chips will surface this coming Christmas? I admit I am fascinated by new gadgets or products. I am the eternal optimist who buys bird feeders that insist that they are squirrel-proof! Or pasta pots that have built in strainers that unfortunately don’t work very well.
    It is intriguing to see how inventive human beings are.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Having a major business failure under my belt—Delivered Delicacies—my heart bleeds for those who feel such hope for a service or product they thought would be a smash and is the opposite. Easy for others to scoff but at the launch every inventor thought they’d hit the sweet spot!

    My dad called my mom Mrs. Gadget and I inherited that trait.

  3. ASK Said:

    Years ago, my husband succumbed to advertising and bought a pickpocketp-proof wallet to carry in his back pants pocket. It had an outer suede-like covering. The only problem? While it may have stopped pickpockets, my husband also found it impossible to remove it when HE needed to retrieve it. The wallet was tossed into the trash after a few frustrating days.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Ahhhh! So that’s how they were sure nobody else could get at his wallet! I’m still giggling.

  5. Linda Levi Said:

    Linda on Facebook: enough negativity in everyday life. No need to visit a museum full of it.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I imagine it would be a good place for inventors to visit to help themselves feel better, to see what didn’t work and perhaps why and to realize that many of the companies still exist in spite of failure/missteps.

  7. Lucrezia Said:

    Failure is often the precursor to success. It also serves as a way to learn. I’m all for visiting that museum!

  8. Martha Tepper Takayama Said:

    I constantly find glitches on websites for government agencies, online ordering and phone communication. I am never transferred to the correct person or department by Bank of America. Any attempt to communicate results in wasted hours. Somehow I consider all these major inconveniences failures. I was given a new set of Panasonic telephones, but only 3 out of 4 ever worked. I think so many forms of communication we depend on like hospital communication systems are constantly failing to fulfill their purpose, but it seems no one ever addresses them as failures!.

  9. Martha Tepper Takayama Said:

    I would visit a Museum of Failure because it should be interesting!

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