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July 22, 2014

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Conventions:

Plumbing disasters, liquid fireworks, reverse vending machine — it’s what’s new at RECon

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Eli Segall

A “plumber” fixes a sink at Ideal Services’ booth at RECon, the retail industry trade show at the Las Vegas Convention Center, on May 20, 2013. The mannequin was used to demonstrate one of many problems that could result from hiring the wrong repairman.

It’s tough getting people’s attention at RECon, the retail industry trade show, with its 30,000 people and 1,000 exhibitors.

But repair guy Ray Salzer has found a way: fart sounds and plumber’s cracks.

Salzer is the president of Ideal Services, an electrical, plumbing and general repair company in Fife, Wash., about 30 miles south of Seattle. He has a booth this week at RECon, but unlike other vendors, he’s not just giving away bite-sized candy or pens to lure in prospective clients.

Instead, he wants to show what happens when you hire the wrong guy.

There is an electrocuted skeleton of an electrician trying to fix an electrical panel at Salzer’s booth. A woman is in a clothing-store changing room that is collapsing on her. Meanwhile, a man is seated on the toilet in a poorly built bathroom stall, his pants and underwear down and a rolled-up newspaper in his left hand. Using the newspaper, he tries from behind the stall door to retrieve a runaway roll of toilet paper.

And a plumber, on his knees working under a sink, is showing his underwear and plumber’s crack to passersby. Flatulence noise fills the air, and his plunger is on the ground in a small puddle of amber-colored goo.

These four people are built from mannequin parts and plaster molds. Salzer spent $40,000 on the display and designed it himself. He has shown the booth, or some variation of it, at other conventions, but this is the first time it’s in Las Vegas.

“My family thinks I’m disturbed,” he said.

RECon, put on by the International Council of Shopping Centers, began Sunday at the Las Vegas Convention Center and wraps up Wednesday. Here's a look at some other booths and products on display.

    • ‘Liquid fireworks’

      Waltzing Waters has one of the more unique booths at RECon: a live water show.

      The Florida-based company, which describes its shows as “liquid fireworks,” spent almost $100,000 on the booth. That went toward renting floor space, hooking up electrical and plumbing services, and building the fountain, President Michael Przystawik said.

      The company does not have any water shows in Las Vegas, though it provided one for a scene in the upcoming HBO movie “Behind the Candelabra,” Przystawik said.

      The movie, which airs Sunday, is about the late pianist and Las Vegas headliner Liberace.

      Przystawik said his grandfather, Otto Przystawik, built the first “musical dancing fountain” in 1928, in a Berlin ballroom.

    • Stationary surfing

      Ever wanted to go surfing without going to the beach?

      Executives with American Wave Machines say they have just the thing.

      The Solana Beach, Calif., company sells stationary wave machines that let people surf or body board on adjustable wave heights, peel angles and break points. The company says its air-powered system mimics ocean waves and creates up to 10 barreling waves per minute.

      It has sold a handful of machines in the Caribbean, Sweden, Taiwan and Peru. Its first machine in the United States will open in August in New Hampshire, business development representative Willy McFarland said.

      The machines can be built in a range of sizes and typically cost between $300,000 and $5 million, he said. The water is at most 4 feet deep, and the machines are more similar to river surfing than ocean surfing, he said.

      “It’s user-friendly because you’re not going to get slammed on this machine,” McFarland said. “It’s gentle.”

      The company, however, is not offering live demonstrations. It has a miniature version of its product at RECon as well as video of people using the real (albeit fake) thing.

    • ‘Reverse vending machine’

      When people recycle cans and bottles, they might only get cents on the dollar in states that offer money for the trash.

      Now, they and other recyclers also can get coupons.

      Chicago-based Greenredeem USA has designed a kiosk that accepts cups, cans and bottles; in return, it prints out coupons for retailers. The machine itself also can be slathered with ads.

      The company says its 500-pound kiosks — described as “reverse vending machines” — are designed for sports arenas, college campuses, shopping malls, supermarkets and other areas with high foot traffic.

      Greenredeem has sold about 3,250 kiosks. They’re in almost every state and some foreign countries but not yet in Las Vegas, said Craig Gordon, a local salesman for the company.

    • Free food

      There is no shortage of free food at RECon — and there is no shortage of real estate brokers, developers and others lining up to get it.

      Among other things, Auntie Anne’s is serving up fresh pretzels, and Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches and Jersey Mike’s Subs built mock-stores and formed assembly lines to churn out their signature item.

      Atlanta-based Focus Brands has a row of booths offering the pretzels, Carvel ice cream, Cinnabon iced coffee, and Moe’s Southwest Grill chips with salsa and cheese sauce.

      Company officials expect to serve 12,500 pretzels, said Sean Keyes, director of construction for Auntie Anne’s.

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