Celebrating monumental mistakes at the Museum of Failure

A swiveling chair that will melt off those pounds (the Hawaii Chair!); a diet suppressant with an unfortunate name (“Why take diet pills when you can enjoy Ayds?”); and a doomed line of cars that couldn’t live up to the hype (the Ford Edsel): Flops and failures, one and all, and each with a place of honor at the Museum of Failure, a pop-up exhibit now on display in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Swedish psychologist Samuel West  has spent years amassing the collection. “I felt like I was like a professional buyer of weird things off the Internet,” he said.

Weird things like bottled water for pets. “It’s so ridiculous,” said West. “It makes sense only in a world that doesn’t make sense!”

Because Fluffy and Fido deserve flavored water. 

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Who can forget Harley-Davidson cologne? And how about Bic pens for women?

Eau de toilette for motorcycle enthusiasts, and pens for girls. 

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“Seeing these massive corporations fail when they try something new or experiment, it kind of also gives us permission to fail when we try out new things,” said West.

For example, in the 1960s Hasbro introduced Little Miss No-Name, a disheveled doll meant to teach girls empathy. “She holds out one hand, sort of begging,” said West. “It doesn’t work, because nobody wanted to play with this doll.”

Little Miss No-Name, begging for love. 

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Crystal Pepsi, a colorless twist on the classic cola, was memorably spoofed on “Saturday Night Live”:

Crystal Gravy – SNL by
Saturday Night Live on

The Museum of Failure exhibition, which has traveled the world, features more than 100 failed “innovations,” from Circuit City’s DIVX disposable video rental discs, to Coca-Cola’s coffee-flavored soft drink, Blak. “This company or these people did something that didn’t work out,” said West. “We shine a light on it and try to learn from it.”

There’s even a wall where visitors can share their own failures, and write themselves helpful reminders (i.e.: “I have to divorce my wife”).

Post-It Notes was definitely NOT a product failure, but they’re perfect for memorializing failures of our own. 

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West said, “We need to take meaningful risks. It’s not just these companies that need to do that. We have to do it on a personal level. If we want to develop as individuals in our relationships and just about anything that’s meaningful to us, we have to be willing to take these risks.”

Even if it means inventing the next Edsel.

In 1957 the Ford Edsel was introduced as the car of the future. That future never happened.  

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Story produced by Robert Marston. Editor: Emanuele Secci. 

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