What do chicken thighs, home safes, used SUVs, temporary tattoos for pets, American sperm, and Asian-American egg donations have in common? Lately, consumers have demonstrated a curiously high level of interest in these goods and services, along with a few other random ones.
In a sign of how much people love their pets—and perhaps, also of the apocalypse—USA Today has highlighted the growing trend of “creative pet grooming.” Pets might have designs shaved into their fur, their fur colored in outlandish colors, or temporary tattoos stenciled with non-toxic dye onto their skin. One high-end pet-grooming client—an LSU football fan—had his golden retriever get a makeover so that he looked like a tiger, the LSU mascot. There are also DIY temporary-tattoo kits for pets, offering owners the option of placing, say, a John Deere logo on their cat for $6.99.
In Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and many other countries, sperm donors are not allowed to be anonymous. U.S. donors are under no such obligation, which is why America has become the world’s largest exporter of human sperm. More than 60 countries now import American sperm.
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A Los Angeles Times investigation reveals that while the typical woman gets about $6,000 for “donating” her eggs, females of Asian descent regularly receive $10,000, even over $20,000 for giving their eggs to infertile couples. Why the difference? Asian couples tend to want their children to look like them, increasing demand for Asian eggs. There is plenty of supply of eggs from other ethnicities, but a relative scarcity of eggs from pure Asian donors. One source from an egg-donor center confirmed that Asian donors can charge a premium for their services, especially “if a donor is 100% Chinese [and] highly intelligent with a degree in math, for example.”
Soaring demand for chicken wings has caused a rise in wing prices over the past few years. Lately, another part of the chicken is hot—and no, it’s not the “nugget.” The Associated Press reports that chicken thigh prices are up 15% over the past year and are now on par with breast meat. Dark meat, which has long been considered a notch below white meat in the hierarchy of poultry, is having a moment in the marketplace, as chefs and home cooks everywhere are prizing thighs because they are juicier, more flavorful—and, up until recently, cheaper—than white breast meat.
A $450 Cookbook
Who would buy a 2,438-page cookbook that retails for $625? Apparently, lots of people. The Wall Street Journal recently described the amazing run of Modernist Cuisine, a five-volume cookbook that has been translated into German, Spanish, and French (more languages to come), typically sells for around $450, and has been snatched up by more 45,000 (and counting) food enthusiasts around the globe. Any good recipes for chicken thighs?
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Sales of home safes have risen as much as 40% compared to a few years ago, according to data gathered by SmartMoney. Why the renewed interest? All of those buyers can’t be drug dealers, mobsters, under-the-table cash business operators, and money launderers, can they? Experts instead point to a heightened distrust in financial institutions as a prime reason for rising safe sales. Standard combo-lock safes that sell for around $50 and up are hot, but so are sneaky high-end safes designed to be installed under beds or behind pool-cue racks. Some homeowners even have climate-controlled vaults the size of walk-in closets.
Luxury Menswear—Purchased Online
A study from iProspect on the “Digital Affluent Male” estimates that there are 19 million rich American men who use the Internet regularly, many of them for shopping purchases: Approximately 40% of this demographic shops online at least twice a week and spends over $30,000 on e-purchases annually. Luxury menswear and accessories are among the most popular purchases of this group—a group whose favorite brands include Rolex, Louis Vuitton, and BMW.
Last year, Whole Foods removed Skinnygirl margarita for its shelves due to reportedly faulty claims that the product was “all natural” and free of preservatives. Nonetheless, data from the Technomic consulting firm indicates that Skinnygirl was the nation’s hottest-selling spirits brand by volume last year, with sales increasing 388%.
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Manual Transmission Cars
Sales of cars with stick shifts have been so abysmal that a grass-roots movement to “Save the Manuals” has been launched. Perhaps the movement is working. USA Today has it that 6.5% of the new cars sold in the first quarter of 2012 were sticks. That’s much higher than the previous two years (under 4% in 2010 and 2011), and the highest rate since 2006, when 7.2% of new cars sold were manuals. This is despite the fact that only 19% of today’s models are available in stick.
Thanks to the ubiquity of cell phones, pay phones have been disappearing from city streets for years. There were 2 million pay phones in the U.S. as recently as 2000, and just 870,000 as of 2007. Old-fashioned phone booths are popping up, though, in an odd place: the offices of Internet, consulting, and other companies. Phone booths “are enjoying a second life as a quirky, retro addition to workplace décor,” according to Businessweek. More than one booth has been decorated with a handy Superman costume, should the sudden need to jump into superhero mode arise. Given the standard cubicle office arrangement, employees do actually use the booths to make private calls—only with their cell phones.
Many of the drivers who have opted to buy small fuel-efficient cars lately have traded in their old cars during the transaction. Often, their trade-ins are the polar antithesis of their new fuel-efficient wheels; they’re gas-guzzling SUVs. One might imagine the scenario would cause a glut in secondhand SUVs on dealer lots. That’s not the case, reports the New York Times. Instead, used SUV prices are on the rise, as they’re being snatched up in especially strong numbers by families and outdoor enthusiasts who need the extra room, but are reluctant to pay new-SUV prices. Here’s some help for buyers: a new roundup of the best deals for used SUVs from Consumer Reports.
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Weird Rides to the Prom
Forget the trusty limo to the prom. To really stand out on the big night—a night that’s increasingly expensive, now topping $1,000 per family, on average—the Wall Street Journal reports that today’s high school attention seekers are opting to hire fire trucks, school buses, and even replicas of the “Dukes of Hazzard” General Lee and hand-pulled rickshaws to take them to the prom.
Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.