February 6, 2013 by kittynh
Skeptics know of the long fight against “Power Balance” bracelets. These cheap bits of plastic, with a hologram, earned millions during their peak of popularity. Claims of increased strength, speed, and stamina, along with celebrities from sports figures to Kardashians paid to wear the bands resulted in huge sales and even gigantic profits.
Sports shops, including my local shop “Dick’s Sports” carried the bands. My friend Noel Dilks, a photographer living in California, reported among children’s sports teams she photographed almost every child was wearing one of these expensive bands. Prices from $20 to over $100 meant a parent had to shell out a lot of money for a cheap piece of plastic. Any athlete, amateur to professional, child to senior, had to have one of these bands.
The “proof” of the effectiveness of these bands was a series of simple tests. These tests are still performed at mall kiosks and county fairs. The tests, while seeming to prove wearing a band will indeed increase your balance and strength are nothing but a sham. This video, by my good friend Richard Saunders, shows it’s a simple trick that anyone can do. It’s well worth watching the video, as the tricks shown are great fun to do at parties.
Just in case you are thinking there still might be something to Power Balance and the other bracelets that have claims, just know that Power Balance admitted the bands are a fraud and have been fined 57 million dollars. If you like how the bands work, just go to your local dollar store to buy one.
However, if you are like me, and like to have a little fun with your skepticism, you might want to order a “Placebo Band”. A placebo band has far more power than the “Power Balance” band. All profits go to help worthy charitable causes. Recently, revenue from the placebo band watch have gone to help victims of Hurricane Sandy. Placebo bands come in many great colors, but I personally like the glow in the dark and the UV changing ones.
Placebo bands do have the power to help teach critical thinking skills and skepticism. When you are wearing one, people will ask you “Hey, do those really work?”. Sometimes a complete stranger will show you their power band, and ask you about yours. I even scared my doctor when she saw me wearing my placebo band. She wanted to have a “little talk” with me. When I explained it was a placebo band, she laughed and asked if I could get her one. She now uses the placebo band to educate her less skeptic patients.
My favorite story is from my younger daughter, Aynsley, who is never without her glow in the dark placebo band. One of her friends asked “does it really work?”. Aynsley laughed and told her friend, “Well, yes it is a placebo band, so if you believe it works, it will.” Her friend had no clue what the word “placebo” meant. She put on Aynsley’s band and claimed she could “feel the power” coursing through her body. She felt stronger and more balanced. My daughter tried to explain “Yes but that is the placebo effect!” This one time, my daughter was unable to educate someone that could not grasp the definition of “placebo”.
So, if you want to engage people in skeptic conversation, please order a placebo band. They are a lot of fun (kids love the glow and UV color change ones), and a great way to educate anyone that happens to ask about it.
Plus, it will scare your doctor! (Just bring along an extra one, your doctor is going to want one, she knows what the word “placebo” means!)
Also don’t forget, another great way to support skeptic education is to order something for the “forumfriends” site on etsy. 100% of the revenue goes to the Mr.Skinny Scholarship fund that sends skeptics to The Amazing Meeting.