Monday, March 23, 2009

And Now for Something Completely Different

I've been harping on about a lot of big ticket issues: bailouts, bonuses and such. So, when I noticed a much smaller atrocity on the front page of the WSJ today, I thought I should bring it to your attention. Basically, a small businessman is attempting to get an Asian skin treatment technique to catch on in the U.S. He uses fish to defoliate people's feet. At first it sounds kind of gross, but read the article. It's not so bad. The guy bought these little dead-skin-eating fish about the size of sardines, and he constructed individual plexiglass foot baths to keep them in. And the idea is starting to spread. So, naturally, this happens:

Until Mr. Ho brought his skin-eating fish here from China last year, no salon in the U.S. had been publicly known to employ a live animal in the exfoliation of feet. The novelty factor was such that Mr. Ho became a minor celebrity. On "Good Morning America" in July, Diane Sawyer placed her feet in a tank supplied by Mr. Ho and compared the fish nibbles to "tiny little delicate kisses."

Since then, cosmetology regulators have taken a less flattering view,insisting fish pedicures are unsanitary. At least 14 states, including Texas and Florida, have outlawed them. Virginia doesn't see a problem. Ohio permitted fish pedicures after a review, and other states haven't yet made up their minds. The world of foot care, meanwhile, has been plunged into a piscine uproar. Salon owners who bought fish and tanks before the bans were imposed in their states are fuming.

The issue: cosmetology regulations generally mandate that tools need to be discarded or sanitized after each use. But epidermis-eating fish are too expensive to throw away. "And there's no way to sanitize them unless you bake them for 20 minutes at 350 degrees," says Lynda Elliott, an official with the New Hampshire Board of Barbering, Cosmetology and Esthetics. The board outlawed fish pedicures in November.

I think the concept of "cosmetology regulators" pretty much sums up the absurdity of this whole scenario. Granted, Ho's original plan to keep the fish in a communal bath that people would use simultaneously sounds pretty unsanitary, but I'm guessing customer sentiment would have led him to create the individual washable tanks pretty quickly if regulators hadn't forced him. Just another example of a promising business model being trodden over by peabrained regulator thugs.

Ho, I salute you!

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