8 Hysterically Bad Ideas That Actually Worked Out Well

Once in a while, someone in a position to know better responds to a truly dim-witted suggestion with, “Sure, what the heck, let’s try it,” and beyond all expectations, it succeeds.

By Andy Simmons
Also in Reader's Digest Magazine February 2014
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Nishant Choksi for Reader’s Digest

Return to Sender

Bad Idea: Dogs are wonderful creatures with one major flaw—they refuse to pick up after themselves. This is especially challenging in Brunete, Spain, where dog owners 
don’t pick up after the dogs either. But the advertising firm McCann concocted the ultimate nudge: Send the poop back to the owners. The idea, which it dreamed up without being asked, works this way: A volunteer chats up a non-scooping owner and finds out the canine’s name. After the dog walker and pooch leave, the volunteer gets the owner’s name and address by matching the dog’s name and breed in a database accessible on his cell phone. He then scoops up the poop, places it in a package marked “Lost Property,” and messengers it to the owner.

It Worked! During the campaign, 147 deliveries were made, resulting in a 70 percent decline in the amount of dog droppings littering the streets.

Nishant Choksi for Reader’s Digest

Potluck Pigs

Bad Idea: With marijuana legal in Washington State, pot growers pondered how to profit from all the plant’s leftover stems and roots. Meanwhile, local pig farmers were coping with expensive feed that cut into their bottom line. One farmer proposed a solution: Combine the cheaper marijuana remnants with the feed, and serve it to the pigs.

It Worked! The surplus pot lowered pig farmer Susannah Gross’s feed costs and produced another benefit: the munchies. Pigs that snarfed down the pot gained an extra 20 to 30 pounds compared with hogs that didn’t. Gross told Reuters, “They were eating more, as you can imagine.”

Nishant Choksi for Reader’s Digest

Barking Out Bad Guys

Bad Idea: After two suspected car thieves in New Haven, Connecticut, refused to come out of the house they were holed up in, police announced that they would send in the K-9 force. Only trouble? A serious lack of police dogs on the scene. So a couple of cops snuck up to the front door and began barking.

It Worked! The petrified intruders ran out and surrendered to police.

Nishant Choksi for Reader’s Digest

Flushing Trouble Down the Drain

Bad Idea: A severe drought and poor maintenance had done 
a number on the sewers of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. 
And because of insufficient water pressure, the pipes kept clogging, causing some to burst. So, without the benefit of a massive plunger, what’s a city to do? Simple, said the town council. Twice a week, citizens will simultaneously flush their toilets in order to produce enough water pressure in the sewer system to dislodge clogs.

It Worked!
One resident told the Associated Press, “So far, the flushing of the toilets has been a success.”

Nishant Choksi for Reader’s Digest

A "Relations" Strike

Bad Idea: As long as anyone could remember, the lone road that linked the small Colombian village of Barbacaos to the rest of the world had been awful. So bad that it took half a day to make the 35-mile trek to the next town. Demands that the road be fixed went unheeded. The last straw came when a young woman and her unborn child died in an ambulance after it got stuck on the road and couldn’t reach a hospital in time. Women hit the streets last June in a mass protest dubbed “the cross legs movement.” In short, there would be no lovin’ until the road was repaired. Even the town’s mayor fell victim: His wife took to sleeping in another room.

It Worked! The strike was called off in October as bulldozers and heavy machinery began repairs. The new road is expected to cut travel time to the nearest town by 
six hours. Source: pri.org

Nishant Choksi for Reader’s Digest

Skirting the Job

Bad Idea: When a heat wave struck north of Stockholm, 
Sweden, last summer, male train workers began wearing shorts on the job. But management pointed out that their sartorial choice ran afoul of the railroad’s dress code. So the men switched to wearing skirts.

It Worked! If men want to wear skirts, that’s OK because women wear skirts, said a company spokesman. “To tell them 
to do [otherwise] would be discrimination,” he explained. Said one cool male driver, “The passengers stare at us, but so far, no one has said anything.”

Nishant Choksi for Reader’s Digest

Mountain Mirrors

Bad Idea: Winter in Rjukan, Norway, is a depressing time. That’s 
because the town is situated in a deep valley and goes up to seven months without sunshine. To lighten the mood, so to speak, the town acted on an idea that had been bouncing around for a century: Construct huge mirrors on a nearby mountainside to reflect the sun’s rays down into the town square.

It Worked!
Thanks to computer-driven motors that allow three massive mirrors to follow the sun’s path, the sun shone on Rjukan’s town square for the first time ever last fall. 
To celebrate, some Rjukans sipped cocktails while tanning on lounge chairs; others played volleyball on a makeshift beach. “The idea was a little crazy, but madness is our middle name,” a local project coordinator told Agence France-Presse. “After basking in the sun, people are beaming themselves.”

Nishant Choksi for Reader’s Digest

Music to Flee From

Bad Idea: Either Portland, Oregon, is not a happening place or its train station totally is, because young men have taken to hanging out in it. Numerous attempts to disperse the crowds have all failed. Now, apparently, the authorities have delved into their own youths for a solution by asking themselves, What would drive me away? The answer: opera. And classical music. Blared over the station’s speakers during a pilot program.

It Worked!
There was a drop in 18- to 25-year-olds loitering once the fat lady sang. In one incident, a young guy stormed out of the station just as Bizet’s Carmen proclaimed her love for he who does not love her. Half a world away, the British Royal Navy is blaring Britney Spears at Somali pirates. “These guys can’t stand Western music,” an officer told metro.co.uk. “As soon as they get a blast of Britney, they move on as fast as they can. It’s so effective that the ship’s guards rarely need to fire guns.”

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