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The Woot-Off

Woot is hands-down my favorite place to buy strange things on the Internet. The idea is simple: one thing per day, one price, cheap shipping. They put up a new thing each day, slap a price on it (generally a low-low price), and sell it until they run out, or until tomorrow comes (specifically, "tomorrow" occurs at 11:59pm Central Time in the U.S.). The items are all over the map, though typically they're electronics of some sort -- MP3 players, laptops, television sets, speakers, thumb drives, and so on -- though occasionally you'll see items like the Mediocre 6 Piece Luggage Set ($39.99) or the infamous Random Crap ($1) -- the latter being a bag containing up to three random crappy items (Woot writes: "In return for your money, you'll get some kind of bag and some quantity of crap. We promise nothing more than that. You should expect even less.").

So why do I love Woot? Because they're funny and they're honest. They make a business out of selling slightly obsolete (or refurbished, or discontinued, or just sort of mediocre) stuff at a good price. They also routinely write the best product descriptions in the world. Here's an example: below I'll reprint the entirety of their product description for the Sunforce Solar AA Battery Charger offered on October 25, 2007 ($4.99):

Looks like the longhairs and the eggheads were right. The planet really does seem to be heating up. Temperatures and ocean levels will continue rising in the coming years - and if you're smart, so will your personal net worth. Here are a few tips for profiting from the coming global catastrophe:

* People always say beachfront property is so valuable because nobody can make more of it. Wrong! Right now, you can get a three-bedroom bungalow in the town of Jackson, Alabama (elevation 772 ft.), a hundred or so miles from the Gulf of Mexico, for around $40,000. But what happens when the ocean levels rise, all 400,000 residents of coastal Mobile (elevation 10 ft.) need a new place to live, and you're sitting on a brand-new piece of oceanfront real estate? Name your price!

* Consider pursuing an advanced degree in dermatology, oncology, or another skin cancer-related field. With every new hole in the ozone layer, demand for those services keeps going up, up, up. Ch-ching!

* Think "outside the big picture". Sure, you could just plant some orange trees in Maine and wait for the profits to roll in. But somebody's going to need to protect those orange groves from mobs of starving looters - and they're going to need bullets to do it. Hoard ammunition, explosives, armor, and weapons now, for resale in the post-cataclysm world. They aren't getting any cheaper!

* Concentrated, portable energy will be at a premium after the collapse of civilization. Turn the sun's brutal radiation into $$$! The Sunforce Solar AA Battery Charger can juice up 4 AA batteries at once, with no AC connection needed. Today's Sunforce owner is tomorrow's battery mogul. The planet's future is going to be sunnier - with the Sunforce Solar AA Battery Charger, so is yours!

Pure poetry.

So it's with great joy that I point you to the current Woot-Off, a rare event during which Woot deviates from its one-thing-per-day model and instead sells a backlog of leftover or small-lot items. The items go up for sale and are sold until stock runs out -- then another item appears. Nifty flashing lights and a sales progress bar let you know something special is going on, and you can follow along in the Woot Forum as fellow Wooters complain about each new product.

To announce this latest Woot-Off, loyal Wooters received a "leaked" memo yesterday. It's really a joy to read. Check it out:

WOOT, INC. INTERNAL EMAIL
STAFF EYES ONLY

Attention Woot employees -

We are now entering the final phase of preparations for the Woot-Off planned for midnight tonight. This is when we depart from our usual deal-a-day model and sell one product after another, offering a new deal as soon as the previous one sells out. For some reason, Woot members like chrishiggins continue to have high expectations for this event. We must make every effort to ensure that they feel disappointed and betrayed.

All workers should be physically and mentally straining to make this Woot-Off a success, like every muscle in a wolf's body strains to capture and devour its prey. We expect total compliance with the following objectives:

* Make sure the stables are thoroughly cleaned and the horses properly groomed and shod. As you know, Commander Rutledge prefers to lead us on horseback during Woot-Offs. Charge!

* Customer Service department: all vacation requests for this week and next are approved. If you have not filed a vacation request, take one anyway.

* The little green pills in the kitchen are there to keep you alert and working. Take as many as you need. Officially, Woot does not believe in the concept of "overdose".

* Take at least one of our servers offline, just for laughs.

* Go to the landfill and dig up some more Sansa media players. If you see any Digipro Graphics Tablets (and you will), grab those, too.

* Place crap bags in company latrines so those orders can be "filled". To this end, the company will provide free lunch today from El Feo, the filthiest burrito joint in Dallas. Do your worst, guys.

* Neutralize all negative thinking among our members. We simply cannot tolerate any more posts like "do not want" or "Woot-Off killer". If electronic means like word filters and IP bans do not work, we must reactivate the rapid-response teams to physically eliminate all threats to our reputation.

* Last time, spot checks revealed that approximately 25% of products shipped are broken, incomplete, or excessively dirty. This is unacceptable. For this Woot-Off, defective shipments must make up at least 40%.

* Remind SmartPost that there's no need to hurry on these orders. Prompt delivery makes our customers spoiled and argumentative. Let them learn humility and gratitude while they wait.

Above all, we must strive to make this Woot-Off even more tedious, disappointing, and lucrative than the last one. The employee who achieves the most toward this end will be rewarded with one brown Zune. Second place: two brown Zunes.

Forward into battle! Remember: to give one's life for Woot is glorious!

Larry Stalin
eCommerce eKommissar
Woot, Inc.

THIS EMAIL WILL SELF-DESTRUCT IN 90 SECONDS

All hail our new Woot Overlords.

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The Funniest Word in the English Language? 'Booty,' According to New Survey
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Some words, regardless of their meaning, are simply more chuckle-worthy than others. To determine which expressions in the English language are truly the most comical, Smithsonian reports that psychologists at the University of Warwick in the UK conducted a survey in which they asked people to rate the “humor value” of a sampling of chosen words. They recently published their findings in the journal Behavior Research Methods.

The researchers selected nearly 5000 words, and then used Amazon’s online crowdsourcing tool Mechanical Turk to ask more than 800 individuals to rank the humor value of 211 randomly chosen words from the list, on a scale from 1 (humorless) to 5 (humorous). Likely not surprising to anyone with younger siblings, the funniest word ended up being “booty,” with an average ranking of 4.32. In descending order, the remaining top 12 words—which all received a score of 3.9 or higher—were “tit,” “booby,” “hooter,” “nitwit,” “twit,” “waddle,” “tinkle,” “bebop,” “egghead,” “ass,” and “twerp.”

Why these words are so funny remains fuzzy. But when they analyzed their findings according to age and gender, the researchers did find that sexually suggestive words like “orgy” and “bondage” tended to tickle the funny bones of men, as did the words “birthmark,” “brand,” “chauffeur,” “doze,” “buzzard,” “czar,” “weld,” “prod,” “corn,” and “raccoon.”

Meanwhile, women tended to laugh at the words “giggle,” “beast,” “circus,” “grand,” “juju,” “humbug,” “slicker,” “sweat,” “ennui,” “holder,” “momma,” and “sod.” As for people under the age of 32, they were amused by “goatee,” “joint,” and “gangster,” while older participants liked “squint,” “jingle,” “burlesque,” and “pong.” Across the board, all parties were least amused by words like “rape,” “torture,” and “torment.”

Although humor is complex and dependent on elements like syntax and delivery, the study's researchers say that breaking comedy down to single-word units could demystify its essence.

“The research initially came about as a result of our curiosity,” said Tomas Engelthaler, the study’s lead author, in a press release. “We were wondering if certain words are perceived as funnier, even when read on their own. It turns out that indeed is the case. Humor is an everyday aspects of our lives and we hope this publicly available dataset allows future researchers to better understand its foundations.”

[h/t Smithsonian]

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Watch the Original Spinal Tap Short Film
Chris Weeks // Staff // Getty Images
Chris Weeks // Staff // Getty Images

Spinal Tap formed in 1979, five years before the classic film This is Spinal Tap premiered. They performed on TV and began developing their personas as idiotic heavy metal monsters.

When the band, along with director Rob Reiner, went to pitch their mockumentary to production companies, nobody "got it." It wasn't clear what an unscripted comedy pseudo-documentary would feel like. So Reiner asked for the screenplay fee—$60,000—to be paid up front as a budget for a short proof-of-concept film.

That skimpy budget went a very long way, allowing the group to produce The Last Tour, a 20-minute Spinal Tap film exploring some of the plot (and many of the songs) that appeared in the later film This is Spinal Tap. There's a surprising amount of concert footage, as various bits that were repeated in Tap (some interview clips were even used in Tap unaltered).

The Last Tour is delightful because it shows a well-developed idea being implemented on the cheap. The wigs are terrible, the sound is spotty, but the vision is spot-on. The characters and the core story of the group (including a string of dead drummers) is already in place, and we get to see the guys improvise together. Tune in (and be aware there's plenty of salty language here):

(Note: Around 4:38 in the clip above, we see Ed Begley, Jr. as original drummer John "Stumpy" Pepys in the "Gimme Some Money" video. Stumpy died in a gardening accident, of course.)

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