Huan Truong

Notes from a developer


Shoving an Arduino into a pillow

Yesterday my friend sent me a link to a giant Enter button that sells for $18. He probably saw it on Facebook or something and thought I would find it funny. I thought the price was reasonable and it makes a good gag gift. Since I've just watched a video about how many things that seem original are actually made in China, I wonder whether this is an original idea. So after 5 minutes of searching, I found the same product on Alibaba for as low as $3 and as high as $5.

Let's put the min-order aside for a minute, what's interesting to me was:

  1. Despite the higher price, the reseller does not ship from the US. They ship it from China too, probably by drop shipping. You're not getting it any faster by paying >4x more.

  2. The original product was not advertised as just a useless novelty product. It has a function - office workers in countries with warmer climates often take siestas by napping in office for 30 minutes after lunch. This is a makeshift pillow with a half-assed effort to disguise as a fun office item.

So the added-value for the product the reseller did here is to advertise it as a product that does less. And perhaps, they had two white guys posing with a Mac instead of an Asian lady posing with a PC for the product – it appears more fun. And it isn't sold on a Chinese wholesale website.

So I imagine the conversation in Shenzhen where it was created probably went something like this:

  • Check this out, this Arduino microcontroller is totally cool, the chip costs a quarter each. It even has native USB. We can do a ton of cool stuff with it.
  • What can we do with it?
  • IoT something, I don't know. Perhaps we can ask Jenny, she is often full of ideas.
  • She's taking a siesta though. Look, she's using a black brick as a pillow or what? I used to wonder what the heck she had that black block on her desk for…
  • I have an idea, shove it with a tweeter speaker to her pillow, so we can prank her when she's napping!
  • I have an even better one. Shove it to her pillow and disguise it as an office item, like a keyboard or something, no one wants to see a pillow on your desk.
  • That's brilliant. I'm gonna make it double as a giant dedicated Enter key, let me code it up.

[10 minutes later. Jenny woke up.]

  • Jenny, can I borrow your pillow for a minute?
  • What for?
  • I need to shove an Arduino into your pillow.

[15 minutes later.]

  • Here Jenny, your pillow also doubles as an Enter key now. We should manufacture this.
  • Why do you think that it is a g–… So, it's a pillow and a keyboard. How do we price it?
  • The electronics is 0.75. The pillow is 0.5. Assembly is like 0.5. Add our profit on it.
  • That sounds great. I'll make sure that we're able to manufacture the first batch tomorrow.
  • Cool. By the way, can you pose for the product pictures real quick…?

The conversation at the place that resells it probably went like this:

  • Hey Tommy, check this giant button out, let's buy this for James' birthday next month. He's a mech keyboard nut.
  • That's hilarious! Let's buy it – by the way, I'd share the cost with you.
  • Don't bother, it's 5 bucks. But wait, we have to buy 20 of them. What do we do with the rest?
  • It's so cheap, I don't care, just give one to everyone in the office. I'd pay 20 for one even.
  • Chad, come look, we think we are gonna buy this for everyone in the office. This giant button is like 5 bucks. It's hilarious.

[Chad the manager came and look. 5 minutes later…]

  • Hey Diane, can you add this to our product catalog, also can you create a new advertisement campaign for this as a gag gift? Just don't mention anything about the anti-stress pillow crap. Remember to negotiate a good drop shipping price before you put it online. Also – Justin, how much did you say you're willing to pay?
  • 20.
  • OK. Diane, make it 17.99 so it doesn't start with 2. Can you guys help Diane with some funny poses?