|Style over substance|
- Are you or your pets bothered by flies and ticks? Why deal with the problem using noxious chemicals when, with a simple magnetic tag, you can raise quantum deflector shields to repel pests!!
Shoo!Tag (also Shoo!Bug and Shoo!bug TAG) is a pest-control product. Well, not really. What it really is is a particular instance of woo that claims to harness "Nature's energetic principles in combination with physics, quantum physics and advanced computer software technology" to "[utilise] the power of the bio-energetic field which surrounds all living things to create a frequency barrier which repels targeted pests for up to four months." Its makers even have the gall to include a "science" page on their website to bolster their claims. Yes, you or your animal will be using The Force to repel insects. Oh, and quantum. Did we mention quantum theory enough?
The Shoo!Tag was "ïnvented" by Energetic Solutions Ltd, a company which initially developed homeopathic creams for stress reduction. The company was founded in 2003 by sisters Melissa Mowrer Rogers and Kathy Heiney of Wimberley, Texas and who worked in the "quantum biofeadback [sic] industry". Rogers and Heiney are linked to "Professor" William Nelson, "quantum bioenergetic healing" magnate and inventor of QXCI/EPFX/SCIO "biofeedback" machines. Nelson is currently wanted on nine counts of felony fraud by the United States Food & Drug Administration. The US Patent application for Shoo!Tag lists as its inventors, Heiney, Rogers and Nelson (under the name of his assumed current transgender persona 'Desiré Dubounet').
In April 2011, Energetic Solutions announced a donation of $30,000 worth of Shoo!Tag products (their 'people' tags) to the to Family Legacy Camp LIFE mission in Zambia "to assist in providing relief from mosquitos and contribute to the prevention of disease among Camp LIFE participants this summer".
As of May 2011, Shoo!Tag started marketing under the name of 'Shoo!Bug', with a more definite pitch towards human efficacy.
 Shoo!TAG in their own (mostly) words
“”Shoo!TAG™'s magnetic strip is encoded with beneficial frequencies and resonances and an electromagnetic charge bearing a polarized energy signature, which when introduced into the bio-energetic field of the wearer produces results.
“” ...the slight magnetic field of a scissors or other household magnets will not cause damage.
“”Remember to clean them periodically with a soft, damp cloth to remove accumulated sweat and body oils that can lessen the effectiveness of the tags.
“”Can I recharge or recycle my tags? As a “green” company, we are very concerned about our environment. Our tags are made with recycled, bio-degradable materials and we use soy-based inks. Spent tags that are not damaged can be returned with a donation and they will be re-encoded and donated to animal rescue organizations; damaged tags will be recycled.
 Does it work?
Beyond anecdotal evidence there is nothing to suggest that the Shoo!Tag works. The manufacturers have provided no real data that would assess how well the tags perform, if they perform at all. This suggests they do not actually work, as an actual trial appearing to show poor performance would be damaging to sales.
The science, as the website explains it, was complete and utter crap. Any attempt at a scientific explanation has now been largely removed from the Shoo!Tag site. The assumption must be that Energetic Solutions has grokked that their far-fetched 'quantum' explanations are more of a liability than just some general dissembling about 'energy fields'. It appears that they have new PR people giving them advice.
Here is the text from the first 2009 version of the site:
|All things are composed of atoms that are mostly electrons and protons. In between the electrons and protons and in between the atoms is mostly empty space, filled with magnetic static, quantum and gravitational fields. The science of voltammetry tells us of the electrical principles of all biological entities. Our research has shown that subtle inductance/capacitance fields (magnetic and static) can have dramatic effects on biology.
The only true measurement in electricity is the voltage and amperage, everything else is a mathematical variation of the two. These calculations are referred to as virtual or mathematical measures. Variations in flow of amperage and voltage give us a way to measure capacitance, inductance and frequency. These measurements reflect the static and magnetic effects of bio-electricity.
Shoo!TAG™ represents a paradigm shift in the pest management industry. Shoo!TAG™ utilizes an understanding of Nature’s energetic principles with combination with physics, quantum physics and advanced computer software technology. The key to Shoo!TAG™ is the three dimensional electromagnetic static field embedded in the magnetic strip.
Introducing the Shoo!TAG™ into the body’s electrical field produces an expanding barrier effect, keeping away the targeted pests. Shoo!TAG™ is leading the way in managing pests while being safe for pets, people and the Planet.
Here is the text from the second 2009 version of the site:
Shoo!TAG™ represents a paradigm shift in the pest management industry. Shoo!TAG™ utilizes Nature’s energetic principles in combination with physics, quantum physics and advanced computer software technology. The key to Shoo!TAG™ is the three dimensional electromagnetic field embedded in the magnetic strip.
Shoo!TAG™ utilizes the power of the bio-energetic field which surrounds all living things to create a frequency barrier which repels targeted pests for up to four months.
Shoo!TAG™'s magnetic strip is encoded with beneficial frequencies and resonances and an electromagnetic charge bearing a polarized energy signature, which when introduced into the bio-energetic field of the wearer produces results.
Shoo!TAG™ also assists the body in altering its external bio-energetic field so as to effectively repel targeted pests. This is possible because various insects and pests react to frequencies. These frequencies are introduced into the bio-energetic field of the wearer. These specific frequencies and resonances have proven to disturb targeted pests and create a barrier.
There really are few words for how much bullshit is contained within those explanations. While electroreception has been observed and has been used to deter animals, this is almost entirely confined to aquatic animals, rather than flies. In addition, fairly high power is needed to deflect animals and the weedy little field produced by a non-powered magnetic strip isn't going to bother anything. However, no trials have really been done on the tag and no RationalWikian has thought about buying enough to launch our own trial (as fun as this would be). However, Santa Fe Sandy, who is quoted above as being quite happy, has made other posts claiming that they're "just not cost effective" and that they "lasted 5 weeks" when they were supposed to last several months.
In February 2011, Energetic Solutions claimed to have carried out field trials 'monitored by Texas A&M University' that yield a '74% reduction in mosquito bites'. Neither the trials, nor the boast of the University endorsement carry credibility. The university endorsement was removed from their site in April. In August or September 2011, all other references to the Texas A&M trial were removed (including a video mini-documentary that previously featured prominently on the front page).
Shortly afterwards, a claim of a new experiment appeared on the Shoo!Tag site. A linked pdf letter, endorsed by an assistant professor at Texas State University and on a TSU letterhead, synopsized the experiment and claimed impressive results (quoting statistics that were almost identical to the Texas A&M University trial).  Texas State University was unaware of the endorsement  and they apparently requested any reference to the experiment under their name be removed from the Shoo!Tag site as the hotlink to the document was killed in October.  As of late October the document itself is still there, however. 
 Specific issues
Specifically, there is some fractal wrongness in the claims made. Each point makes the preceding one completely irrelevant.
- Most of the science description is technobabble.
- Ticks and fleas don't grok magnetic strip cards (see below).
- Insects are not known to be repelled by magnetic fields, although some social species will navigate by the geomagnetic field.
- The field will quickly decay to undetectable levels at a distance of mere centimetres, let alone the several meters required to ward off insects.
- The magnetic fields from credit card strips aren't strong enough anyway by standards of magnetoreception.
The Shoo!Tag FAQ offers numerous escape hatch arguments for if the tag doesn't work. For instance, the FAQ claims that tags require 24-36 hours to "extend the pest barrier frequencies into the animal’s entire energy field". Even if this phrase wasn't just bullshitting, the delay would give an ample excuse for seeing poor performance from the tag after trying it on. Such a delay would also pose problems for anyone using the "human" tag, which seems to be marketed towards hikers and campers who don't necessarily want the 36 hour warm up period before the repellent starts to work. As the frequency of mosquito pests alters over time any low points would be attributed to the tag and any times where they don't seem repelled would assumed to be because the tag hadn't had time to "extend the pest barrier frequencies" yet. In addition to this relatively short delay, the FAQ also states that, as the tags don't actively kill pests, it's possible to still see them for some time after first pinning them to yourself or your animal. While this is an understandable claim, it is awfully convenient and may cause pet owners to resort to conventional chemical means to rid their pet of ticks and fleas; and eventually attribute the lack of pests to the tag, rather than the chemicals.
The FAQ also offers the explanation that the tag may not work if it "is near or has been near a strong frequency (cell phone towers, electric transformers, fault lines, electronic home security systems, etc.)" If the ubiquity of cell phone towers isn't enough, the 'or has been near' and 'etc' leave a hole big enough to drive a truck through (for instance: maybe the courier delivering the tags drove under a cell phone tower - you get the drift). The FAQ previously mentioned geomagnetic anomalies as a possible source of interference with the Shoo!TAG efficacy, but that excuse has now been removed (in keeping with the constant revisionism at work on the Shoo!TAG site).
 The economical argument
However, there is one very good point raised by a blog commentator:
“”If this thing does all that its manufacturers claim, why isn’t it being shipped in container-loads to the mosquito-ridden equatorial regions across the globe in an effort to wipe out malaria? Think about it – who is likely to be the most gullible: pet owners who are poor observers and badly trained in critical thinking (as you have just demonstrated of yourself), or scientifically trained doctors who want nothing more than to stamp out the scourge of a disease that kills hundreds of thousands of people every year.
|—anaglyph, December 1, 2009|
 Investigating the magnetic encoding
Further investigation appears to show that it is simply impossible for the tag to work, unless the mechanism is something other than what is claimed. For example, if the tags actually carry a dose of flea repellent chemicals, then they would "work": but not in the chemical-free way that the sellers use in their marketing.
The "active ingredient" is the data on the magnetic strip. Ones and zeroes are not harmful to ticks or fleas. The data on the card is a few standard formatting characters, a few numbers, and the words "TICK" or "FLEA" respectively. It stretches credulity that insects might be scared by names humans gave them, written in English, encoded into a form of ASCII called DEC-SIXBIT, which is then recorded as three rows of magnetic dashes. That's like saying "mix a ground magnet with your printer ink, print out the word 'FLEA', and tape the word to your pet's collar, and it'll ward them off." One could argue that maybe the magic's in the numbers that haven't been decoded yet.
In conclusion, if Mother Nature doesn't read English, she sure as heck doesn't read binary digits off magnetic strips at distances larger than the distances that we can read magnetic strips from.
In an apparent effort to deflect criticism of the above investigations, as of April 2011 the ShooTag FAQ has carried a claim that "Customers can take their shoo!TAG® to any retailer that carries a magstripe (credit card) reader and swipe it through. The type of tag (i.e. fly, mosquito, tick) will show up when scanned." This is demonstrably a blatant lie. The card, when swiped, will, on standard credit card readers, throw a card read error. The FAQ continues: "If there is no name, then the shoo!TAG® tag has lost its efficacy." What this means in effect, is that anyone who doesn't know better will swipe the card and assume their card has expired. It seems self-evident that the manufacturers of ShooTag would not find such a test desirable, in any case. As most people know, credit cards will last for a lot longer than 4 months, the stated maximum period of effectiveness of the ShooTag. In addition to this, the ShooTag patent application explicitly says that "…the trivector data stored on the three tracks (of the tag's magnetic strip) is not readable by a conventional credit card reader."
Further to the preceding paragraph, as of June 2011, this section of the shoo!TAG® FAQ has been amended once more, in a presumed additional effort to bring observed behaviour of the tag when swiped in line with claims in the patent. Specifically, a differentiation has been made between the supposedly 'effective' data on the tag and the data defining the ASCII characters such as 'tick', 'flea' etc. Simply put, the ShooTaggers are inferring that The Tetherd Cow decoding of the tags is irrelevant, because the names of the pests were put there on purpose to 'help' the customer, and the true efficacy is in all the other data. The fact remains that swiping a supposedly active tag within the four month efficacy window still throws a card read error.
Like most woo products, the Shoo!Tag isn't entirely harmless as described. Not least due to the standard woo caveat of people avoiding and distrusting more proven mechanisms.
- There are reports of the tags being chewed off by pets. Mangled shards of credit card plastic (ABS) are probably not good for the digestive systems of pets, which is why this type of plastic is not normally used with chew toys. The magstrip, paint, etc. may also not be too good to chew; it is very doubtful that these materials or the tags themselves have been approved for use as chew toys.
- There are some reports that the company manufacturing Shoo!Tags has shipped tags to Africa and Haiti to help humans combat malaria. If true this could be a potential disaster on par with HIV denial.
- The same goes for pet owners who may disregard effective treatments, allowing their pets to genuinely suffer while the 30-dollar magic credit card blinds them of the fact.
- There is a faint chance that the tags genuinely do work as pest repellents. Given the known evidence, which indicates that their described mechanism is impossible, the remaining rational possibility is that rather than the inert plastic repelling pests, some chemical is involved - the magnetic strip being just misdirection. Selling harmless, non-functioning stuff as functioning isn't nearly as bad as mislabelling poisons as "chemical free".
- As with most woo products, Shoo!Tags may be detrimental to your personal wealth.
 See also
- The Shoo!Tag website - Online and store sales
- The very similar Shoo!bug website - Online sales only
- Or the repetitively similar Shoo!bug TAG website - Store sales only
- An alternate version of the Shoo!Tag site above
- Austin Business Journal: Startup Energetic Solutions' sales spike (Friday, April 3, 2009).
- A sort-of postive review...
- Shoo!Tag US Patent Office Application
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 Archive copy 1img, archive copy 2img - now replaced with http://www.shootag.com/science-schmience/ .
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 http://austin.bizjournals.com/austin/stories/2009/04/06/story3.html
- ↑ http://www.shootag.com/product_review
- ↑ http://www.thesafepetshop.com/Testimonials.html Statement by Keith Turner, Global Pet Expo, petconnection.com
- ↑ http://www.tetherdcow.com/?p=7414 Shoo!TAG: Waterloo
- ↑ http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/ABPub/2007/11/16/2004018337.pdf PDF of Nelson's court docket courtesy Seattle TImes
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 ShooTag US Patent Application - Sept. 30, 2010
- ↑ 
- ↑ ShooBug Site
- ↑ Yes, you can send us even more money if you like!
- ↑ http://www.shootag.com/product_review Sandra J. Koster, proprietor of Santa Fe Sandy's, Winston, Florida
- ↑ 12.0 12.1 Old Fish and Lemonade - Does Shoo!TAG™ Really Work? (bonus material in the comments section)
- ↑ YouTube - Shoo!TAG Cost Analyses & Effectiveness Update
- ↑ Shoo!TAG Cost Analyses & Effectiveness Update
- ↑ Tetherd Cow Ahead - Shoo Us the Science (Project)
- ↑ Tetherd Cow Ahead - Science Schmience
- ↑ Personal email to tetherdcow.com
- ↑ Tetherd Cow Ahead - Pants Down
- ↑ Letter of Endorsement from Ken Mix PhD on Texas State Univ. letterhead
- ↑ Wajnberg. E., et. al., Magnetoreception in eusocial insects: an update. J R Soc Interface. 6, 7 (2010)
- ↑ Without specialist equipment and a long time to get the signal-to-noise ratio down, at least, the field would be indistinguishable from any background magnetism. Certainly insects, which aren't equipped with SQUIDS aren't going to sense it at a distance.
- ↑ Shootag.com - FAQ
- ↑ Simpson, L. "By your logic I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away" Much Apu About Nothing 3F20, 151, (1996)
- ↑ Tetherd Cow Ahead - Misty Watercolour Memories
- ↑ 25.0 25.1 Tetherd Cow Ahead - Decoding of Tag data
- ↑ Tetherd Cow Ahead - Patently Absurd
- ↑ An independent corroboration of this would be of value.
- ↑ PetSitUSA Product Review: Shoo!Tag
- ↑ 
- ↑ Tetherd Cow Ahead - Advertising Begins at Home