Funny Business with Jane Wells

Balloon Boy: The Halloween Costume

By balloon boy business opportunity, we're not talking about a reality show cashing in on the Heene family.

We're talking about the Balloon Boy Hoax Halloween Costume, being sold for $19.99 by Plantraco Microflight, a company that usually sells model airplane kits and related merchandise. Why not? These people know how to make small things fly.

The costume comes with a flying saucer balloon made of "mylar-like" material which, when inflated, measures 38" in diameter, plus an attachable gondola. There's also a "Hello My Name is Falcon" nametag "for added realism."

The website has even created its own "balloon boy hoax video", where you see three "brothers" disobey their father (wink, wink) and launch the balloon, claiming Falcon is on board. Oscar-winning acting this is not, but I did laugh at the end when you hear "dad" say off camera, "Quick, someone call Wolf Blitzer at CNN."

"When I saw that thing landing in Colorado, I knew it was a hoax," says Plantraco and Microflight Managing Director Bud Kays. "Helium and mylar are my thing."

Kays says he was gripped by the balloon saga until he could get a perspective on how small the balloon really was, and that wasn't until he saw it on the ground with a man running toward it. He says the balloon would not have been able to lift more than maybe 20 pounds. "That's when the wheels went into motion," Kays said, and he came up with the idea of making a little money off the incident with a special costume. His company already had UFO-shaped balloons in stock, but they had to design and manufacture the gondola using a laser cutter at their Saskatoon. Their website went up Tuesday, and they sold 180 costumes the first day, with no publicity. "I think we'll sell 1,000 pieces by next Thursday," Kays says.

The company hasn't gotten any hate mail yet accusing it of exploiting the Heenes, and, as much as I want to call this a case of American entrepreneuralism, it's 100 percent Canadian. Even with the Loonie so strong against the dollar, Kays' company is still making a healthy profit.

Already some sales have led to sales of other merchandise on the website. Kays is hoping more people buying the costume will look around at some of the model and remote control airplanes and say, "Oh, boy, for Christmas, my husband might like that."

Update: Bud Kays tells me that due to media coverage (like this blog), he now expects to sell 2,000 to 3,000 costumes by next Thursday. "I have to bring more people into the office just to assemble and pack these up!" he says. "It's nuts."

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