Beth Dubber / ABC

Vend-geance Is Mine On Shark Tank

If talk of cutting-edge vending machines thrills you, tonight's ep was made with you in mind. All five of you.

When an episode of Shark Tank fails to grab me -- and man, tonight's episode couldn't have had a harder time grabbing me if it spent the entire day greasing up its hands just before the episode aired -- I find my mind wandering toward petty grievances about the show that I might otherwise overlook when I am an engaged viewer. The subject of those petty grievances tonight, for better or for worse, is Mark Cuban.

To put it bluntly, Cubes's chtick is beginning to grind my gears. I roll my eyes when he hoots like he's a member of Arsenio's Dog Pound every time someone from Pittsburgh appears on the show. I grimace when someone from Texas shows up and the camera cuts to a smiling, nodding Mark, because all of Texas is apparently just a suburb of Dallas, where Mark owns a basketball team in case you were unaware. Speaking of that basketball team, I grow weary of those shots of Cubes mugging with a championship trophy won by 15 men not named Mark Cuban that happened an entire Olympiad ago. And I wince whenever anyone mentions government regulation for fear that this is finally the episode where Cuban starts reciting 45-minute passages of The Fountainhead from memory.

You know what else grinds my gears? Episodes like this one with few compelling products and little drama. Did two segments of this show really need to be devoted to a Fancy-Dan vending machine? Apparently they did.

So let's rank tonight's participants not by how clever their products are or how sound the deals they struck proved to be, but rather by how much they forced me to sit there as Mark Cuban worked my last nerve.

Michael Desmond / ABC

Michael Desmond / ABC

4. The Good Promise

Karen Posada built herself a nice little pasta sauce business, in that she's sold about $260,000 worth of the vegetable-laden sauce in about 18 months. Problematically, she's not making much profit on that aspect of the business, so she decided to branch out with pouches of veggie-based smoothie squeezes, even landing her product in Wal-Mart. That's the good news. The bad news? Judging by the Sharks' screwed-up faces and visible shudders, the veggie pouches are an acquired taste.

"Three out of four taste like industrial waste," Kevin O'Leary says, which is not the sort of thing you should aspire to have said about your product on national television.

This is not just Kevin being his usual bastardly self for the cameras: None of the Sharks are particularly enamored with the taste of most of the smoothies, and they drop out just as soon as the feeling returns to their tongues. Mark does that thing where he waits until everyone drops out before he speaks -- another stupid tic of his -- but this time it's to lecture Karen on how she's trying to take on too much instead of focusing on just one aspect of her business. Annoyingly, he's probably right. On the bright side, he had to sample those vegetable smoothies same as everyone else, which I gather was none too pleasant. So at least there's that.



3. Vengo

I'm sure that in certain circles the news that Brian Shimmerlik and Steve Bofil have designed a slim vending machine that hangs from walls, saving valuable floor space, is greeted with shouts of glee. I bet there are lots of people fascinated by their business model, which appears to be selling those machines to vending companies while also taking in advertising dollars. And when Brian keeps mentioning that he's partnered with the largest vending machine company in the country, I don't doubt that people nodded their heads knowingly. None of those people is typing this recap, though, and I'm struggling to understand just why Brian and Steve think their business is worth $16 million.

So are many of the Sharks, given that Daymond John doesn't like the valuation and Robert Herjavec is puzzled by the business model. But Kevin is willing to do one of his venture debt deals, giving Vengo the $2 million it wants at 7 percent interest over 36 months for a 6 percent stake in the company. He's even willing to let Lori in on the deal when she expresses more enthusiasm for this business than I could ever hope to fake. I will spare you the horror of Kevin/Lori arguing with Brian/Steven over half-percentage points and cut to the chase: They agree to the deal after settling on a 3 percent equity stake.

Then again, Mark Cuban dropped out right away because he has a competing business, so Vengo is all right by me.



2. Wondercide

It sounds like Stephanie Boone and Laura Alter have built themselves a heck of a business with their effective, organic bug spray that manages to eighty-six fleas and ticks without also poisoning you and your pets. They've done millions in sales, they enjoy 70 percent margins, and most of their sales come from online.

So what's the problem? Well, for starters, Stephanie and Laura want $500,000 for a mere 5 percent of their company, and they plan to use that money to expand their retail operation. That's likely to harm their margins, but more distressingly from my perspective, it triggers a lecture from Mark. Let's all agree that anything that makes Mark talk is, by definition, bad.

Daymond will give Stephanie and Laura the $500,000, but he wants 15 percent, and Kevin has another debt equity deal to float by them. Stephanie points out they can get better deals elsewhere, to which Daymond counters, not unreasonably, that they're not exactly elsewhere right now, are they? Lori is equally put off by the 5 percent proposal, but not so put off that she can't come up with a proposal of her own: $500,000 for a 50 cent royalty until she makes her money back, plus 3 percent of the company. Stephanie and Laura decided that's amenable to them, freezing out Daymond in a way that's even more off-putting than if they had allowed Mark to speak more.

1. Beer Blizzard

Let's cut through the over-rehearsed palaver of the Beer Blizzard presentation to get right to the point: Mike Robb and Tom "Ozzy" Osborne have created a reusable ice cube that tucks neatly into the divot at the bottom of every beer can to keep your beer from getting warm. Mike and Ozzy point out that your beer becomes uncomfortably warm after six minutes when left in a can, but strap on a Beer Blizzard and a beer cozy, and you've got 21 minutes of cold beer drinking time. How long would that be with just the beer cozy and not the Beer Blizzard? Well, that's a mystery that we're just not going to unravel in this show, you quizzical cynic.

Also, why call it Beer Blizzard when it would clearly also work with sodas? And what if you prefer bottled beer? GODDAMMIT, WHAT IS THIS, AN INQUISITION?

Anyhow, Mike and Ozzy have sold 66,000 Beer Blizzard disks, which is certainly respectable. Not respectable enough for the likes of Robert, Daymond, and Kevin, who don't see much future growth opportunity to merit a $100,000 investment for a 20 percent stake. But Mark points out that not every business needs to bring in millions to make money: He's willing to put up the investment for 25 percent. Lori is even more enthused about the product's future potential, and she's willing to settle for the 20 percent stake that Mike and Ozzy originally wanted to give up. Still, Mike and Ozzy go for Mark because they are from Pittsburgh -- cue the shameless whooping from Cubes -- and Mike admits to having a man-crush on Mark.

So clearly, they are monsters.

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