Entering the murky, mercenary and occasionally as-seen-on-TV world of zipper repair kits.

As often happens, I recently fell down an unexpected rabbit hole of research. And learned more about a whole niche industry whose existence I never even imagined.

Here’s the background:

A few years ago at ReStore I found a little product called ZIPPER RESCUE, for about fifty cents. The blister pack of two sliders, large and small, looked like some kind of ineffective gimmick product, produced maybe in the 1990’s. With that classic Indiana Jones font indicating breathtaking adventure, it promised to fix any zipper, “no tools required.” The package did not say “As Seen on TV” which is surprising, because it’s classic A.S.O.T. graphic design and was probably once stocked in Rite-Aid alongside Chia Pets and BluBlockers.

And then last week, I finally had a reason to use it. One of the zippers on my tent’s rainfly broke. I mean, broke big time – just snapped in half along the weld seam! I was unhappy to say the least. It’s still a great tent, and I still recommend it despite being a quasi-real Chinese brand called SAFACUS (which sounds like what two impatient Boston hookers would say – “you pahked the cah, safacus already!). It’s well-designed with quite a number of good details like reflective strips at anchor points and reflective lines so you don’t trip over them and the silnylon is thoroughly water impermeable. But let’s face it, zippers should be YKK, and YKK only, period, but on this particular detail they cut corners. (Many people don’t pay attention, so stop what you’re doing and look at any zipper on any garment or luggage you have nearby. 99% of zippers on the planet will say YKK.)

I felt a little flash of optimism to see that “tents” was at the #1 spot in the package’s extensive, but not exhaustive, list of Things That Have Zippers. Guess that means I’m susceptible to marketing. The Zipper Rescue product is straightforward enough. It’s a plastic zipper slider, admittedly kind of thick and toylike, which is held together by a little metallic knurled screw similar to a wristwatch winder knob. How to use: unscrew it, position the top and bottom sections between the teeth, tighten screw. No tools required!

(FYI – I just googled it, and the proper watch industry term is “crown” and definitely not “wristwatch winder knob.” Don’t ever call it that otherwise some dude who owns a loupe will think you’re an uneducated cretin.)

As simple as installation is, it’s really not easy to do alone. You have to simultaneously insert both rows of teeth into the guides of the bottom piece, hold them steady, position the top piece and then tighten the screw. And do all that while making sure the teeth stay evenly aligned otherwise you’ll end up with a slack bubble on one row of teeth and have to start over. It’s truly a three-hand job. (Three hand jobs considered a slow day of work in Portlandistan’s jack shack industry…)

But after about a half hour of doubts and elevated blood pressure… WOW – it worked! (Switching from the small to the large size helped)….. Zip up, zip down, zip back, zip forth, zip fast, zip slow. Dat dere is a sturdy new zipper! ZIPPER INDEED RESCUED! Cue John Williams.

With the enthusiasm of a religious convert I went online to try and buy a few more packs to keep at home and definitely to put in my camp box. If I can’t save my soul, at least I’ll save my zippers. That’s when the rabbit hole opened around me and I unexpectedly fell into the shadowy world of zipper repair products. It gets a little confusing, so stick with me.

* * *

Start by typing “zipper rescue” into google and you’ll discover that today’s “Zipper Rescue” is not the same company or product as this original “Zipper Rescue” even though it proclaims that it’s the “original.” Indeed, like French dip sandwiches and cyanoacrylate glue, there’s a number of zipper fixer products declaring themselves “the original”…

While the current product called Zipper Rescue might work fine – and I don’t see why it wouldn’t because it looks like a basic little collection of sliders and stops that you could get at JoAnn Fabrics but for half the price – it’s far from a “no tools required” thing. It doesn’t look complicated, but I also don’t think you’d want to do in the woods, especially since you need a pair of pliers. (“But of course, I have a Leatherman,” you sneer.)

I looked a little closer at my own Indiana Jones ZIPPER RESCUE package – literally with a magnifying glass, the manufacturer details are that tiny (where is snooty loupe guy when you need him?). First I tried googling Item No.02048 which usually zeroes in on the right replacement part, such as a dishwasher fill valve or a blend door motor, but no luck. It’s so teensy – seriously, the size of an ant – so I missed it at first, but I finally saw a company logo on the package – Handy Trends. A Chinese fly-by-night fake brand if I ever heard one.

Even though Zipper Rescue is missing the A.S.O.T. logo, turns out Handy Trends does indeed make some “As Seen on TV” products.

  Such as the “Roll-A-Bag Deluxe” – TAKE IT ANYWHERE!  (“*Fruit and accessories not included”)

And the Handy Tool Band which invites you to FEEL THE POWER OF MAGNETS!

And the Power Grip Jar OpenerPOWERFUL TORQUE!  (which is also what it says on my Tinder profile)

More digging revealed that Handy Trends is still making a zipper repair product, this one called “Fix A Zipper” which is less inspiring than “Zipper Rescue” which is probably why there’s no more Indiana Jones font, though there is an A.S.O.T. logo now. Good of them to change the name anyway, since Handy Trends radically redesigned the product by eliminating the secure screw (or, crown, s’il vous plaît) and making it a “click to close” design. Which so clearly is going to be inferior and insecure compared to a metal screw that it predictably has a string of negative Amazon reviews complaining about how it constantly fails. Simple logic makes you question how something you can flip open with your fingernail will also have the strength to stay closed when applying 30 psi to your overstuffed carry-on.

Research also led me to the FixnZip which looks to be pretty close, maybe even an improvement, because it seems like it’s all metal and has a serious securing screw with Maglite style ruggedness. But damn – almost $15 for just ONE slider!



Speaking of shocking pricing: the new Fix A Zipper, formerly Zipper Rescue, was apparently aggressively touted on TV by some Limey pitchman, at the price of $19.95 plus $6.95 shipping. That’s $26.90 for 6 sliders, nearly five bucks each. They justify the luxurious price point with the claim that the cost to replace your Louis Vitton purse whose zipper snapped would cost vastly more…

* * *

But, luckily for me, like many obsolete products, I found an old pack of classic ZIPPER RESCUE on eBay which I snapped up for $5.

And then…. (cue more John Williams just for the heck of it) I FOUND A NEW MAKER OF THE OLD PRODUCT! It’s eight bucks, but you get three sliders instead of two now. “Marketed” if you can call it that, under the catchy name “Fix Zipper Universal Zipper Repair Kit Plastic Zipper Fixer with Metal Slide”…

Which means, dear reader, that you too, like me, can always be confident that you’ll never be stranded by a derailed sliding tooth connector.

* * *

And because, you know, compulsive googling – I learned that the word “zipper,” like kleenex, linoleum, yo-yo and more – is a generalized word for a product that used to be a brand name. As Consumer Reports wrote – (I so want to edit out those double “makes” and I think they mean “fastener” and not “fastened”… perhaps it’s the same writer that came up with “Fix Zipper Universal Zipper Repair Kit Plastic Zipper Fixer with Metal Slide”…)

“The word zip was already around as a noun and a verb, referring to sound it makes when you make the motion that accompanies that kind of noise. You zip and it goes “zip!” It was first registered as a trademark in 1925 by B.F. Goodrich for overshoes with fasteners invented by Gideon Sundback. An executive is said to have slid the fastened up and down saying, “zip ‘er up,” thus, Zipper. The company sued to protect the trademark in 1930 but only got to keep the rights to Zipper Boots, as zipper had entered the common lexicon by then as a generic term.”

Ah, internets, you makes us so smarts!


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