Hundreds of thousands of pets already have identification chips installed in their bodies. But now those frisky little microchips are making a bid to replace our furry friends altogether. Because who really needs a living, breathing, barking, pooping pet when you can have a companionable Pet Chip instead, complete with his or her own feeding and housebreaking mats -- all for just $2.99?
The man behind the Pet Chip is 36-year-old Arronn Peznell of Arlington, Texas. But the CEO of Trixie, the company marketing the friendly chips, is not your typical Net entrepreneur. "I was a blue-collar worker in a food warehouse," Peznell says. "A year and a half ago, I would have had a hard time turning a computer on."
The wannabe mogul hatched his grand scheme for world domination last year: "The idea came to me back on Jan. 7 of 1999. I was reading a book on the Pet Rock, and I thought: Man, I wish I'd thought of that."
Each of the six chips for sale have goofy personalities associated with them. For example, the Blue Chip's favorite heroes are Bill Gates and Michael Dell. Get it? Apparently, the Cow Chip is a big seller in the company's home state of Texas. Chip models coming soon: the Relation-chip and the Intern-chip. So far, the company has sold 6,800 chips in all.
Peznell started the business with his brother, his brother-in-law and 42 investors who are helping finance a $500,000 "media blitz" of TV and cable advertising this fall to try to spark a Pet Chip craze. "We believe we'll be the next Pokimon, but we'll be [coming] out of America," says Peznell confidently. "I know that's talking big, but basically that's the way it's going."
Best of all, most of the chips for sale aren't even real microchips. They are pieces of plastic molded in the shape of chips. Peznell quickly found that real chips "weren't safe for children," he says. If you want an authentic honest-to-God microchip as your pet chip, you'll have to pay extra: $7.99. "If you're intelligent, you can put them in your computer, but you don't," says Peznell.
The "chip story" on the company's Web site declares that Pet Chips are a form of chip liberation: "Chips have been around for years and are native to most parts of the world. Many were from the Valley of Silicon where they were bred by the millions. The majority of these chips were put to work in small dark places never to be seen again except when discarded after they became to old to be useful. This has been their sad end, which we in our small way are trying to remedy."
Still, some customers seem unclear on the concept: "We've had people call us up when they buy them and say they couldn't fit it in their computer. How do you tell them it doesn't go in your computer? It's your little pet."