Give Me Your Odd Pairs

DESCRIPTIONPhoto: Dan Hamermesh

I love to collect examples of bizarre pairs of goods that sellers or buyers apparently believe are complements or substitutes.

Our local, now-defunct Tower Records used to have condoms for sale at the check-out counter, presumably in the probably reasonable belief that they and rock music are complements in students’ consumption.

Near my apartment in Germany this summer, a funeral home has a casket in the window, with seashells on top, sand strewn around, and a seagull perched atop a cross. Do the owners really believe that customers will be consuming funerals and beach vacations together? I wonder.

I disgust my introductory economics students by listing peanut butter and mayonnaise as complements, since I used to make myself sandwiches of these two items when I was in college.

Any other amusingly bizarre real-world examples like these are most welcome, the weirder the better.


My all-time favourite was a gas station offering free jell-o with a minimum purchase of $X (X being relatively low, but prices were low at the time).


In a supermercado in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, I saw a package of spaghetti shrink-wrapped to a box of corn-flakes.

Tim H

Don't know about Germany, but here in the US some of the "death care" conglomerates have been desperate for ways to revitalize their business. Which, I should add, is in awful shape overall despite what people usually assume -- the WW2 generation had a cultural preference for very expensive ceremonies and caskets which the Baby Boomers have so far been disinterested in, with no improvement in sight.

Due to institutional arrogance, none of the conglomerates have taken the obvious step of developing a national brand. Instead, riffing off the notion that Boomers are into self-expression, it's become common in marketing materials to promote the idea of an "individualized" service, which means that some objects representing the interests of the deceased will be strewn around the casket display. The hope is to revive the cultural image of funerals. Most likely the display shown as an idea for what your funeral could look like if you like going to the beach.

As one might expect, this has been a failure, in no small part because Boomers as a whole prefer to express themselves by doing what they believe everyone else is doing.



A store near me sells Birkenstock Sandals and Futons. I never understood the combo and why there would need to be a store specializing in just birkenstocks and futons.


- Rice and Ketchup!!!!


I seem to recall driving by a small store advertising live bait and Beanie Babies.


I went to college out in western Mass. and was always fascinated by the sign for a place called Dave's Soda and Pet Food City. I always meant to go in... just to see what was going on in there.


I found my favorite combination business a few years ago near the border in one of the states that sell fireworks. Since everyone is trying to make money from people coming across the state border to buy fireworks, there are a lot of combo places (sub shop & fireworks, tobacco & fireworks and so on).

The best one ever was a Volunteer Fire Department and Fireworks place. I was amazed. It's not like they're even gaining income by drumming up business for themselves, since they're volunteer firemen.


Although they are not necessarily from the same marketers, they are always from email spammers... I have always found odd the advertisement of penis enlargement therapies, followed subsequently by advertisements of cheap erectile dysfunction medicines.


Along these lines, I have noticed an entertaining phenomenon in my neighborhood in Queens- businesses within a business. Much like the condoms at the record store, these counters sell a totally unrelated product- cell phones cases in a shoe store, cakes in a clothing store, etc. My favorite one as of late was the racy underwear counter in the internet cafe...


Best combo I can recall, a store that sells ice cream and garden gnomes. Must have something to do with the conical hats.


In Korea, there are combination wedding halls / swimming pools. As you walk out of a wedding ceremony you see people coming in to swim.

I also saw in Seoul a combination makeup / candy store.

Brian S.

Well, the florist/clothing store down the street recently went out of business.


I recently saw a combination cigar store / shoe repair location.

I once went to a French restaurant in Arcola, Illinois that was located inside a bowling alley.

Best combo I ever saw: a drive-through beer barn and tattoo parlor in Denton, Texas. It wasn't specified on the sign, but I have always assumed the tattoos were not done on a drive-through basis.


In Melbourne, Australia, we saw a shop across from the Victoria Market: Pet Supplies and Martial Arts. "Now there's a recession-proof business!" I said.


Gasoline and beer.


A business near me in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, sells grave markers and fresh-baked bread.


In the Netherlands, ordering the contraceptive pill in an online pharmarcy, I always receive a trial pack of prenatal vitamins.

Substitutes, complements?????


I have a photo of a sign I saw in a small town in Wyoming. It's a NAPA sign, and the message said "ASE Mechanic & Full Menu." Who knows, maybe they can fix your car over lunch.


Karlovi Vary, Czech Republic, boasts a large business called "Spa and Dentist".