Invention

The Rise and Fall of Snuffy the VAC-a-derm

Limited resources leave invention open to theft

Gary Janosz
12 min readMay 18, 2020

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I’m almost 70 years old now. This is the story my youngest son brings up to taunt me. “We could have been rich dad!”

If necessity is the mother of invention, mom was kicking me in the ass in 1978. I was in the retail beauty supply business and much of our merchandise arrived buried in poly-foam peanuts. No sooner would a shipment arrive than a customer would ask for something out of stock on the shelf. The search would begin, through the 30 or 40 boxes of merchandise covered in peanuts. The stock room would be swimming in peanuts by the time the item was found. Never was the sought after item in the first ten or twenty boxes, but invariably in the last ten or twenty.

Now a typical clerk would probably ask the customer to return after the new shipment was sorted and stocked on the shelves. But that clerk would not last long working for my dad. My dad would rather turn all the boxes upside down than miss a sale. So, the hunt and the mess was inevitable. Poly-foam peanuts drove us crazy.

I suppose the manufacturers of poly-foam peanuts had to come up with a dispenser to make their product useful and efficient for the packaging industry. And they did! It was a giant hopper-like device suspended from the ceiling over the packing stations. The peanuts were dispensed by gravity into open boxes of merchandise by way of a butterfly valve at the end of a six-inch chute. Simple, effective, and absolutely useless unpacking.

I tried a household vacuum, but the peanuts just clumped up at the suction tube and you pretty much had to feed them one by one to keep the vacuum from clogging up. The same thing happened with the larger hose of a shop vac. Not helpful. Even if I could reduce the suction, which I tried, the typical suction tube was just too small even on a shop vac. Then there was the problem of volume. The biggest shop vac could barely hold a box of loose fill peanuts. Emptying the vacuum container forty times a delivery was not exactly the time saver I was after.

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Gary Janosz

Finding the humor in a world of frustration. Always learning, usually the hard way.