A human-sized threaded screw called Miss Snappy recently cavorted for the cameras filming the crowds of Good Morning America and NBC's Today show.
It is part of a guerilla marketing campaign that inventor Nancy Tedeschi launched to hustle votes to get Walmart to sell her SnapIt eyeglass repair kit.
A Sand Key winter resident, 55-year-old Tedeschi entered SnapIt in the Get It on the Shelf contest at walmart.com. She's vying with 4,300 new products like Hungry Hair conditioner, Sock Brew plant food and Spring Loaded insoles for email or text messaged votes. The winner gets $25,000 and a chance for shelf space at the world's largest retailer.
Tedeschi paid $500 for the costume, then dressed her assistant, Tampa grad student Alex Benshoff, as the giant threaded screw for a New York trade show.
"First we were out at 5 a.m. jostling for position in the sidewalk crowds at the morning news shows," Tedeschi said. "The camera crews loved us. They put us behind the weather forecaster with our text message product number sign (code number 656 at #383838). Then we passed out hundreds of cards with our numbers around Times Square."
"I came home exhausted," said Benshoff, who is working on her MBA at the University of Tampa.
Tedeschi designed SnapIt to remove much of the mind-numbing hassle of amateur eyeglass repair. The kit contains a 3 millimeter stainless steel optical screw built with a three-quarter inch snap-off extension. The extension lines up the screw with the frame or hinge clasps. A twist sets the screw in the groove, ready for screwdriver tightening. The extension snaps off by hand.
Tedeschi is working Internet blogs to garner more votes, and somehow got her YouTube video posted on a Huffington Post report about the contest. During an awards speech honoring her entrepreneurial skills, she refused to leave the stage until the audience texted in their votes.
Walmart has shown no tally of the first round of voting, which ends today, but SnapIt hit the "trending" list a few times.
"I'm winging it, but I think my destiny is to win this," she said.
Pill Time: A Florida engineer created a gadget to help people remember when to take medications.
Marketers are lobbying Florida pharmacies and supermarkets to stock Stuart inventor James Osberg's Rx Timer — a patented pill bottle cap fitted with an LCD stop watch.
The 100-hour watch resets when the bottle is opened, so patients and caregivers know when the last pill was taken.
With a typical 75-year-old taking 7.9 prescriptions, solutions range from written logs to pricey bottles with wireless alarms.
"I needed an Excel spread sheet to track my father's meds," said Richard Burke, president of Thousand Oaks, Calif.,-based Rx Timer Cap LLC. "It's a big deal in health care."
Indeed, the World Health Organization says half of all patients don't take drugs as prescribed. A third of them forget to take doses.
Once Burke's company gets stores to order enough, he figures the cap will be cheap enough (under $3) for druggists to give them away like pill sorters.
If you cannot wait, he sells them with free shipping at $5 to $10 each depending on order size at rxtimercap.com.
Dollar Days: No, it doesn't just seem like dollar stores are popping up like clover. Last year the number of dollar stores (21,537) owned by the three dominant chains, Dollar General, Family Dollar and Dollar Tree, surged ahead of the number of drugstores (20,155) owned by Walgreen Co., CVS and Rite Aid.
This year the gap widens as the trio opens 1,375 dollar stores compared with 400 drugstores.
"We are becoming a nation of dollar stores," said Spencer Mehl, senior vice president of RCS Real Estate Advisors, a consultant to many big retailers.
Mark Albright can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8252.