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.


Jesse: I completed know what you're talking about with the reece's and cool ranch doritos. I've never tried it, but I used to put peanut butter on my cool ranch doritos so I imagine it tastes pretty similar!


A couple blocks away from my apartment, in Harlem, there is a store whose awning advertises a combined funeral parlor and hair salon. I'm not sure if the owner's intention was to cut the deceased's hair in the event of an open coffin, or if the store owner anticipated that family members would want to spruce up for the occasion. Either way, an odd (but not wholly illogical) combination.

Jason Walters

The growth of red box is bringing back some odd pairs I remember from the VHS era. Gas stations, drugstores, grocery stores and now even fast food eateries are all offering video rental service.

Also have you ever been to an auto repair shop that has the old fashioned candy dispensers? Put in a quarter, give it a turn and you can enjoy some sugary goodness while your oil is being changed. That always struck me as an odd combination because the smell of motor oil, exhaust fumes and engine coolant usually make me a bit queasy.


There is a store here in town that sells guitars and guns.

Jason Walters

Another I forgot to mention is the Gas Pipe here in Austin is a head shop but they are also the best place in town for darts and dart accessories.


My favorite Texas 2-fer (seemingly unrelated businesses operating under the same roof) was Smitty's Garage & Bridal Boutique. My brother worked for Smitty, and Smitty's wife and daughter catered my wedding. Scout's Honor!


In Manchester, NH, just past the airport there's a hockey rink.

As you come up on the rink, they have a large billboard highlighting the upcoming games and events. Beneath this list, they have an ad for another business conveniently located within the rink:

A dentist's office!

Laugh every single time I pass it on the way to visiting the in-laws!

Leigh Caldwell

Sally, a commenter on your last post, disagreed with me that wine and wives are substitutes, so I guess they must be complements. I haven't seen them for sale together in a retail environment, however.


Its somewhat obvious, but Ikea has paired cheap furniture and Sweedish meatballs for years...successfully.


I once bought a pack of AA batteries that came with a free fishing lure.


Local business here sells used cars and artificial lawns


In a supermercado in Cusco, Peru I found a shrinkwrapped bottle of whisky and a packet of cigarettes.


On the Oregon coast, I came across a place that was a combination bait shop and espresso joint.


Puppet Show and Spinal Tap

Bernard Garner

My strip mall office used to be right across the lot from Jens Cafe and U-Haul. They used to sell ostrich meat on the side as well.

Another David

Laundromat/Bar. The idea is sound "hey, if I'm going to be stuck here for an hour and a half, I might as well put down a few," but I can promise you, it never works out as well as you hope.


One of our favorite (now defunct) restaurants had a menu that was 1/2 Cambodia and 1/2 Mexican. Both types of food were excellent, but we suspect they went out of business due to their bad location.


Near me is a hair salon that made room for a (fairly large) secondhand clothing boutique right inside the same space.


Back in my college days (aka the 80's) there was Pub & Tan just off campus. Yes, get yourself all bronzed up for spring break then get an early start on your liver damage, all in one stop!


Great after last call

Chicken and Waffles