Notorious UK prankster Oohbah Butler recently launched an attack on online retail powerhouse Amazon – repackaging bottles of delivery drivers' pee to sell on the site. The goal? Achieve the coveted 'best seller' badge and in turn, highlight Amazon's allegedly morally dubious policies. You know, the ones that supposedly discourages workers from taking simple bathroom breaks? No wonder the outskirts of Amazon fulfilment centres are pee bottle graveyards.
In a revelatory, and quite frankly disturbing exposé, Butler chronicles his journey, 'harvesting' the product and refining its identity before exploiting Amazon's troublingly loose policy around the trading of consumables. The project was alarmingly successful – and it's all thanks to some ingeniously crafty design. For a selection of less biohazardous designs, check out our collection of inspiring packaging designs).
According to a VICE article, after lurking outside various Amazon fulfilment centres Butler had successfully harvested enough bodily fluids to kickstart the project. Meeting with visual artist and friend Stan Cross, the pair collaborated on the project, drafting a series of names before settling on the grossly fitting, 'Release'.
The design itself mimics the size and shape of a typical energy drink bottle, closely resembling the popular YouTuber-funded energy drink, named 'Prime' (no relation). Naturally, the packaging colour could be nothing but yellow, and the pair experimented with different shades to capture a "healthy" tone – resulting in a surprisingly sophisticated imitation.
Running up the side of the bottle, the Release logo takes on a rather phallic form, while still maintaining a certain credibility to the naked eye – perfect for courting Amazon's algorithm. In fact, it worked a little too well, with Amazon automatically moving the product to the 'energy drinks' category – rustling Butler's plans to rise in the ranks of the less populated 'refillable pump dispenser' category.
After pestering the bigwigs at Amazon to move his product to the slightly more specialised 'bitter lemon drink' category, Butler made it to the desired top spot with the help of friends, associates and a number of unsuspecting punters (who thankfully had their orders cancelled).
While Amazon attests that "Safety is a top priority" in its retail process and that it has "industry-leading tools to prevent genuinely unsafe products being listed," Butler shares that he, "couldn't have predicted how easy it would be," revealing a troubling inconsistency in between its protocol and practice.
More importantly, while the product has since been removed from the site, Butler's documentary highlights an important issue about Amazon's controversial practices. The consumer market is a rapid and (sometimes) lawless landscape, but that doesn't excuse the deprivation of basic human functions. Putting products over people is certainly not a prime way to function as a business.
Disturbing factors aside, it's certainly a great spoof design that emulates similar products with surprisingly impressive accuracy – I just hope I won't be seeing bottles of Release at my local corner shop.
Butler's revelatory documentary is available to stream on Channel 4 and YouTube, and Butler's step-by-step account of the ordeal is available on Vice. For more Amazon controversy, check out its unpopular star rating system that's been getting bad user reviews.