Like any savvy investor, I am always on the lookout for signs that the economy may be overheating, that things may be getting a bit frothy. Of particular concern are exotic businesses that pop up at the very end of economic booms, selling products or services that will be the first items struck off the shopping list once things go south. You know what I’m talking about. Fantasy Capo di Tutti Capi camps. Cribbage with the Stars. Falconry Schools for the Blind.
Recently, several enterprises matching this general description caught my eye. The Sirens of the Deep Mermaid Camp in Weeki Wachee Springs State Park down in Florida is a perfect example. Here, for $450, women can slip into a tight, taut body-sculpting spandex tail with matching fins and learn how to convincingly impersonate the mythical denizens of the deep. The two-day camp teaches aspiring mermaids how to perform a variety of sophisticated thalassa-balletic maneuvers, including the archetypal “mermaid crawl.” (Will camp alumni have a legs-up, so to speak, at next week’s auditions to be professional Weeki Wachee mermaids?) The camp also shows participants how to hold a submerged pose when being photographed. As anyone familiar with this sort of thing will tell you, nothing is more humiliating for a faux-mermaid than not being able to hold a submerged pose. Why even bother attending mermaid camp if you can’t learn how to hold a submerged pose? Rank aquateur.
Mermaid camp sounds like a lot of fun, even more fun than Fantasy M.C. Hammer Camp, but it also sounds like the sort of what-will-they-think-of next venture that always attain a certain popularity just before the economy craters and people have to go back to paying their electricity bills and feeding their kids. It does, however, hold out the prospect of similar camps for those who would like to impersonate other mythical creatures: unicorn camp, minotaur camp, centaur camp. By the way, it is not entirely clear whether mermaid camp is open to men.
Kidnap Solutions is another highly unusual business that seems to presage the end of an ebullient market cycle. The firm springs from the mind of one Raymond T. Moody, who describes himself as “a serial entrepreneur” based in Glendale, California. His “radical immersive” brand of theater offers just-plain-folks the opportunity to find out what it feels like to be abducted and held for ransom.
According to the firm’s website, Kidnap Solutions will “whisk you right off the streets, blindfold you and drive you to our undisclosed location. There you will be grilled, pressed and tortured until we get what we need. And you get what you want! All for an affordable one-time fee!”
To wrap a nice, fancy ribbon around the whole thing, Kidnap Solutions “personalizes” each abduction experience to “fit the needs of the client.” Some people may want to be kidnapped by aliens, others by terrorists, others by standard-issue con artists. Still others may be go totally retro and pay to be held incommunicado by the seventies-era Baader-Meinhof Gang or the Red Army or the dreaded Symbionese Liberation Army who abducted Patty Hearst. Different strokes for different folks.
The last three times the country went into a recession, I ignored all the telltale signs that things were getting out of hand, that people had way too much money to burn. I have learned the hard way that when we reach the point where consumers are willing to pay to be abducted, interrogated, and even tortured—perhaps merely to find out if their spouses would be willing to pony up the $525 ransom to secure their release—we may be reaching the end of a market cycle.
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Source: Weekly Standard