Every day we run across things that are perplexing in some way. Maybe it’s a complex idea or a strange new gadget. Even if we don’t understand a thing, however, there’s always the hope that it makes sense to someone. That there’s a purpose behind it. It actually does something.
Depending on your outlook you will either be disheartened or oddly comforted to find out that some things out there don’t actually do anything at all. Maybe they used to or maybe not but in the here and now they are totally pointless. And yet they still exist.
10. Most Office Thermostats Control Nothing
This one’s for people who work in a building where they have access to the thermostat. Usually this happens in office buildings but sometimes retail operations have them out where employees can fiddle with them. So if it’s too cold one morning you can head to the thermostat and boost the temperature a few degrees hoping you’ll be more comfortable soon.
You’ll probably be waiting a long time to warm up if you’re solely hoping for that thermostat to do the trick. Most office thermostats aren’t connected to anything. About 90% of these controls in large office buildings are completely fake. Some of them even connect to devices that make noise so you think you did something by adjusting them when, in fact, nothing happened.
Fake thermostats are over half a century old at this point and the reason is what you probably suspect. It’s a money-saving feature. Landlords keep the environmental controls pretty static. They don’t want to waste money on heating and cooling. But tenants complain, so they install fake controls so you feel you’re doing something. It’s basically a temperature placebo.
9. Close Door Buttons On Elevators Rarely Work
Surely if thermostats don’t work, most other buttons do, right? Not necessarily. For instance, have you ever tried to use the close door button in an elevator and felt it was awfully slow to respond? It probably wasn’t connected to anything.
Legally, an elevator door has to remain fully open for three seconds according to the Americans with Disabilities Act to allow someone who may have a disability time to enter. To accommodate this, some elevator manufacturers simply disconnected the door close button so it could never violate the law. The act passed in 1990 so any elevator made since that time will probably not have a functional button. The only way you can use it is by having a key override, like the ones firefighters use.
For what it’s worth, the button may still work on older elevators, even though it shouldn’t. Also, the open door button should be functional on any elevator.
8. Citronella Candles Don’t Keep Mosquitoes Away
Depending on where you live and the time of year, mosquitoes can be a serious issue. No one enjoys being bitten by them, not to mention the many diseases you might catch. For that reason, keeping the little pests away is big business and there are tons of products you can buy to kill or repel them.
One of the old standbys that most campers know about is citronella candles. Those yellow candles with a vaguely lemony scent that produce an acrid smoke meant to force the bugs on to greener pastures.
Citronella is a plant that has a citrus scent and the oil is sometimes touted as a good mosquito-repellent. But studies have shown citronella candles are no better than any other candle for keeping the bugs away. And they are definitely inferior when compared to actual repellants made with things like DEET.
If you want to repel mosquitos, there are several methods that do actually work and have been proven to do so. If you want to waste money, invest in a sonic mosquito repeller or citronella, which do nothing.
7. Crosswalk Buttons Rarely Do Anything
Did you think we were done with buttons? Not so fast. The world is just lousy with buttons that have no purpose other than to make you feel you’re doing something. Crosswalk buttons, for instance, are just like elevator door close buttons. Most of them are not connected to anything.
Contrary to what you might think, the buttons that are connected don’t do what most people think. They won’t let you cross sooner at the expense of traffic, nor were they intended to. The purpose of the button is to indicate someone wants to cross. The system won’t necessarily indicate that a person is safe to cross unless the button has been pressed. The light will still turn green for traffic and a pedestrian can safely cross, but the crosswalk symbol won’t change.
During high traffic times of day, the entire system can be switched over to a default mode where pressing the button does nothing at all. This allows the lights and crosswalks to work on a set schedule no matter who may wait to cross.
There have been cases where a city just disconnected the button altogether. In 2018, CNN reported that only about 100 of the city’s 1,000 crosswalk buttons did anything. That was down from 750 in 2004.
6. Most Cough Medicines Don’t Actually Work
As cold and flu season kicks in every year, sales of cough medicines will likewise increase. No one wants to spend all day coughing if they can avoid it. Cough medicine sales are a $3.6 billion market worldwide. That’s a lot of money and the fact that research has shown that medicines made with ingredients budesonide, fluticasone, salbutamol plus ipratropium, and montelukast don’t actually work makes it worse.
That’s not to say these medicines have no effect. If they contain antihistamines or decongestants, you can still benefit from those products, usually. But not always, and the cough suppressant part is probably not doing anything for you either beyond placebo. If you want a cough to go away, you’ll just have to wait it out.
5. Phenylephrine, Found in Decongestants, Does Nothing at All
Speaking of medicine, one of the big reveals in recent years was that phenylephrine is a completely useless product that people have been spending millions of dollars on. So what the heck is phenylephrine supposed to do? It’s touted as a decongestant and sold in over 260 kinds of medication from Mucinex to Tylenol and some Benadryl formulas. So many studies have concluded it has no effect at all that doctors have recommended to the FDA it be taken off the market.
Phenylephrine rose to fame on the coattails of pseudoephedrine. Pseudoephedrine is in medications like Sudafed, which used to be sold over the counter but now you need to ask for them. The reason for that is that people make meth out of it. Some stores stopped selling it and others give you the stink eye if you try to buy more than one box at a time. They make you show ID to buy it, too.
If you have legit allergies, buying pseudoephedrine is a hassle you don’t need. In comes phenylephrine, which is advertised as having the same benefits minus the meth part. Except it doesn’t, and it never has. It’s no better than placebo despite how it’s advertised and the money drug companies make off of it.
4. Sports Drinks are Pointless
Gatorade is a hugely recognized brand and the biggest in the sports drink segment. For decades now it’s been associated with athletes and sports, branding itself as a drink scientifically developed to help athletes hydrate better than even water can.
Much of the research into how sports drinks work and help athletes perform was conducted by the companies that make the drinks. Thus, all the sciencey claims they make would be like Oreo scientists concluding Oreo gives you the vital cookie goodness you need to survive.
Even outside research is done using data originally collected by places like the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, who may be slightly biased. They based a lot of their conclusions on ideas like the human body can’t be trusted to know when it’s actually thirsty.
Independent research has shown that most of us never need to replenish our electrolytes after a workout because they didn’t go anywhere. One study on runners had them head out for a 45 minute run followed by a blood test which showed their blood sugar and electrolyte levels were fine and water was all they needed. In fact, drinking a Gatorade after a workout could make you less healthy overall thanks to the excess sugar and salt.
3. Kinesiology Tape Has No Science Proving It Does Anything
If you’re an athlete, there’s a good chance you’ve endured an injury or two related to your sport of choice. For some, that means a trip to the kinesiologist to help get you back in peak condition. Just be careful about what products you’re using for this, especially if you decide to get some on your own. Things like kinesiology tape do nothing.
Sold in brightly colored rolls, kinesio tape has been around since the 70s and is supposed to stabilize muscles, promote blood flow and other performance enhancing things. It’s often used for things like hamstring injuries, tennis elbow and a handful of others. The problem is that there’s no scientific evidence it does anything at all.
The tape is pseudoscience, a modern day elastic snake oil for athletes. You see it every four years at the Olympics adorning the bodies of competitors who clearly need a more skilled team of doctors. One major manufacturer was sued for bogus health claims and settled a class action suit while not admitting any wrongdoing as part of the deal.
2. Foaming Agents in Soap Serve No Practical Purpose
Have you ever switched to a new brand of hand soap and tried to wash your hands only for it to barely lather? Chances are that, if you did, you tried to use more to work up more of a lather. In our minds, lathery bubbles means the soap is working. But in reality, that foam has nothing to do with the soap’s ability to clean.
In the breakdown of what goes into something like shampoo, the cleaning is done by water and a surfactant. Companies add foaming agents to a shampoo so you get a good lather because customers expect a good lather. It’s not the part that does the cleaning though and the soap would work exactly the same without out. You feel like it’s doing something when it lathers, and so that’s why they make it that way.
Foam may actually be bad for you overall, in the sense that foaming soaps don’t even work as well as normal liquid soap. Foam soaps that come out of a pump already in foam form have been aerosolized. The cleaning power is actually reduced during this process. Something like an antibacterial hand soap will actually eliminate fewer bacteria if it’s in foam form than if you just used liquid soap.
1. Pepsodent In Toothpaste Had No Purpose But Made People Feel Like It Did
Have you ever wondered why almost all toothpaste is minty? There have been attempts at other flavors but few were well received. It’s thanks to the fact that mint makes your mouth feel clean. They talk about this in toothpaste commercials a lot, the feeling of a minty fresh mouth or whatever. But there’s nothing inherently clean about mint in and of itself, is there?
Back in the early 1900s an inventor came up with a minty toothpaste he called Pepsodent. At this time oral hygiene in America was almost non-existent. Within 10 years of Pepsodent hitting the market, advertised by ad legend Claude C. Hopkins, half the country was brushing their teeth.
Other companies wanted to recreate the success but had trouble until they realized Pepsodent was made with citric acid. That was part of what caused people’s mouths to tingle. This tingle became habit forming, people anticipated it as a sign that their mouths were clean and they looked better because of it.
In reality, Pepsodent had nothing to do with cleanliness or the function of the toothpaste, but people felt it did. No toothpaste needs to tingle or even be minty. But it convinced generations to brush their teeth even though it had no actual purpose at all.