When it came to an outrageous business ploy, New Mexican Keith West-Harrison decided the only move was to go bad.
As in “Breaking Bad.”
His Albuquerque-based spa products firm is selling “bad” blue meth-looking bath salts in honor of the popular cable television show. The product looks very similar to the pure meth seen on the AMC series, which is filmed in Albuquerque and stars Emmy-winners Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul.
Even though West-Harrison’s sky-blue “Bathing Bad” bath salts are not illegal drugs, they are marketed in 8-ounce plastic bags to carry the show’s illicit theme.
“Bathing bad, baby!” he told the Los Angeles Times, describing his product as a concoction of lavender, orange, geranium, cedarwood, rose and frankincense.
“Breaking Bad” has become a cult hit, especially among younger viewers. The drama series depicts a struggling high school chemistry teacher who is convinced he is dying of cancer. To pay for his family’s future, he turns to a life of crime, teaming up with a former student to produce and sell methamphetamine.
West-Harrison is just one local entrepreneur aiming to capitalize on the show’s popularity.
This summer, a local trolley company began popular tours of the show’s filming locations. One candy store is selling what it calls “meth candy,” a rock candy dyed blue to resemble the meth produced by TV show characters Walter White (Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Paul). And Rebel Donut, a popular pastry shop, is selling “meth” doughnuts with blue candy on top.
But not everyone is lining up to buy the products. Some Albuquerque parents have complained that the sale of such products glorifies drug use. Some have taken their complaints public, registering comments on the website of firms that sell products related to the “Breaking Bad” show.
Amelia Chavez, a manager at Rebel Donut, said some customers have complained in comments that blast the company on its website.
“We’re not into glorifying drugs -- it’s just an ode to the show,” she told The Times. “If you sell donuts with powdered sugar, are you promoting cocaine? It’s just candy. It’s just a doughnut.”
Still, Chavez has responded to several negative comments on the firm’s website. “I tell all these people who say we’re sending the wrong message to kids that if your children know about drugs, you should educate them and not blame a doughnut.”
She says the store sells out of “Breaking Bad” donuts every day. “If you’re a fan of the show, you have to buy one,” she said.
Chavez added that she doesn’t think the show or her product gives Albuquerque a bad rap.
“The show is about meth, not Albuquerque, which isn’t a big meth place anyway,” she said. “I watch the show because I like to see locations around town I recognize, not because I’m into drugs.”
Tasia Martinez, a spokeswoman for the Albuquerque police department, said the sale of products based on the show have raised some eyebrows but the department has yet to issue a statement.
“As a police officer, I can see the problem,” she said. “You sell candy cigarettes to kids and you send a message. The same goes for crystal meth-looking candy or doughnuts. You have to draw a line someplace. If it looks like meth, you could fool young minds.”
To add to the problem, police in Los Angeles and other cities are battling the spread of a new designer drug that uses “bath salts” as its street name. The drug often contains a substituted substance that has effects similar to amphetamines or cocaine. The white crystals, which resemble legal bathing products such as Epsom salts, come in packaging that often states “not for human consumption” as a way to avoid interception by law enforcement.
West-Harrison said sales of his product have gone through the roof, and fast.
“It’s just amazing,” he told The Times. “We expected to sell well in Albuquerque, where the show is based, but we’ve filled orders to the U.K. and to 30 of the 50 states.”
The business owner, who provides spa services and sells products to salons worldwide, said he and his partner moved into a new 9,000-square-foot warehouse and needed a way to pay for the upgrade.
“Well, I knew I couldn’t make meth -- I’m not a chemist. And there’s that jail time thing,” he told The Times.
The advertising for the product is as racy as the show’s script.
“Do you find yourself worrying about taking care of yourself or your family? Do you spend time during your TV show wandering around in just your underwear? Even had a plane crash over your house? Are you looking for better ways than a carwash to launder your money?” says a company release. “Then Bathing Bad is for you. We relax away the bad with every long, hot, luxurious bath. We have to tell you these are for external use only. Not to be used with a shovel or a meth pipe.”
The show will end its run soon, but West-Harrison expects it to run on indefinitely in syndication. And so he expects his product will continue to sell as well.
“The show is addictive,” he said. “I think our product will be around for some time to come.”