DJ6ual - An Irish Girl

Search This Blog:



Comment FAQ...

When leaving a COMMENT above, if you have any trouble please try clearing your cache and refreshing the page. Thank you.

Best and worst infomercial products

January 7, 2010

Infomercials are the Rodney Dangerfields of advertising: They've gotten no respect for their quirky hucksters, ceaseless superlatives, and corny product names since at least the early 1960s, when Ron Popeil pioneered the Ronco Veg-o-Matic.

"The magic of TV and film editing and shooting can make anything look good," says Christian Holiday, CEO of Global Media Marketing, an infomercial producer in Santa Ana, Calif. According to Larry Nusbaum, managing director of Vertex Capital Management and CEO of Ronco, which Vertex bought in 2008, "About half of infomercial products deliver on their promise, 30 percent do what they say but are a bit expensive, and the rest are junk."

In recent years, Consumer Reports has turned up a mix of "miracle" gadgets and goops that deceived, delivered, or landed somewhere in between. Read on for a roundup. Products are current, though packaging might have changed. Prices don't include shipping, which can hike the cost a lot. Freebies are often included.

Slap Chop

The claim
By slapping this gadget with your palm, you can "dice, chop, and mince in seconds" and remove skins from onions and garlic. "You're going to have an exciting life now," pitchman Vince Shlomi says. Cost: about $20.

The check
We slapped mushrooms, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, chocolate, almonds, and other foods. We also assessed how easy the device was to use and clean.

Bottom line
No high fives for Slap Chop. It chopped unevenly. Harder foods, which needed about 20 slaps, tended to get trapped in the blades; we had to fork out the stuck bits. Garlic peels came off after five slaps, but onion skins were only partly separated after 10. The splash guard, which must be aligned with the blades, became misaligned in two of three choppers. Lots of slapping can make your hand sore. An exciting life? Hard to tell.

Magic Jack

The claim
Magic Jack, a VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) phone device and service, "makes your monthly phone bill disappear," an online ad says. "Save hundreds, even thousands, of dollars" and get "no more poor reception." You plug Magic Jack into a computer's USB port, plug the line cord of your own phone into the other end of the USB adapter, and Magic Jack uses the Internet to make and receive calls. You need broadband Internet access, and the computer has to be on for you to make or receive a call. If it's off, messages go to voice mail. The charge: $39.95 for the device and one year of local and long-distance calling; then $19.95 per year. Details are at magicjack.com.

The check
One of our electronics experts made dozens of calls over several days, sometimes while downloading files or playing online computer games.

Bottom line
Shazam! Calls connected, and voice quality was clear, though not as clear as on a good corded phone on a regular line. When our tester downloaded a big file while playing an online game and making a call, there was some interference. But if you can live with a few limitations, it's a great deal. Vonage VoIP service can cost $216 a year; Skype, $95, and you must buy a Skype phone.

PedEgg

The claim
This foot file removes calluses and dead skin to "make your feet feel smooth and healthy with NO MESS!" Powdery filings collect in a little compartment. Cost: about $10, sometimes with an extra PedEgg and buffing pads.

The check
Twenty-six women and three men with rough, callused feet tried a PedEgg on one foot and a pumice stone on the other. They used each product once, rubbing PedEgg on dry skin (per instructions) and the stone on wet skin, where it's more effective.

Bottom line
Crack open a PedEgg. It was very good at removing calluses and good with dry skin. It did better overall than a pumice stone, and buffing pads smoothed leftover roughness. But some filings escaped, so use it over a wastebasket.

Snuggie

The claim
"The Snuggie Blanket keeps you totally warm," says a video on the Web site. "It's made of ultrasoft thick luxurious fleece" and is "perfect for men, women, and children." Two cost-you guessed it-$19.95.

The check
We put Snuggies through 10 wash-and-dry cycles and asked 11 staffers to wear them and comment.

Bottom line
The Snuggie was so far from snug that many staffers had trouble walking, and smaller people found its sleeves too long. Several said it left their backside uncovered, though it kept other body parts toasty. When washed, it sheds. Each time we laundered two Snuggies, we removed a sandwich bag's worth of lint from the dryer screen. After 10 cycles, the fabric had bare spots between pills and clumps.

Grease Bullet

The claim
"Just fill your sink with hot water, drop in the Grease Bullet, and soak your toughest baked-on cookware," the Web site says. "No more scrubbing!"

The check
We tested it on glass, ceramic, stainless-steel, aluminum, and porcelain-coated cookware in which we had baked a thin layer of beef broth and a smear of what we call monster mash-an evil mix of cherry pie filling, tomato purée, egg yolks, lard, and cheese. We also used it on cookware in which we'd cooked chicken and beef and overcooked mac and cheese.

Bottom line
The Bullet is no bull's-eye, but it could be worth a shot. It did a reasonable job with most residues if the cookware soaked for the recommended half-hour. Longer soaking generally helped. But soaking cookware overnight in hot water and dish detergent would also aid cleanup, and you wouldn't have to pay $10 for 12 Bullets.

ShamWow

The claim
Last year an ad claimed that ShamWow ("like a chamois, a towel, a sponge; works wet or dry") "holds 20 times its weight in liquid." Now the claim is "12 times its weight." Four 19½x23½-inch towels and four 15x15-inch towels cost $19.95.

The check
We dunked ShamWows in water, soda, and milk until each could hold no more liquid. And we tested whether the small ones could slurp up as much water, milk, and used motor oil as sponges.

Bottom line
We weren't wowed. ShamWow soaked up only 10 times its weight in water or soda and usually 12 times its weight in milk. Sponges often held a bit more water and soda. If we used a damp ShamWow, we needed another cloth to wipe remaining droplets. Two little wows: A small ShamWow held more motor oil than a sponge, and a bigger one is good for drying a wet dog.

Tyre Grip & AutoSock

The claim
Tyre Grip "helps keep you on the road regardless of the road conditions." You spray it on tires and get up to 50 miles per application. It costs $19.95. A second product, AutoSock, is a cloth-and-mesh cover you slip over a tire and wheel. It's "a quick and easy alternative to metal chains when driving on slippery roads." We paid $99 per pair.

The check
We sprayed Tyre Grip on the tread of a Honda Accord's front drive wheels, then drove on a snowy Vermont road. We also drove up a small, snowy hill with the Accord's all-season tires alone, with Tyre Grip, and with AutoSocks over the front wheels.

Bottom line
Don't toss your snow tires. Tyre Grip improved traction modestly during acceleration and braking, but any benefit waned after about a mile. The Accord couldn't reach our hilltop with or without Tyre Grip. With AutoSocks, however, the car made it uphill many times. The downside: AutoSocks are cumbersome to put on and are meant to be used only on snow or ice and to be removed right away when the roads clear.

Ab Circle Pro

The claim
It will "firm and flatten your stomach in just weeks" and "takes just three minutes a day." It comes with a nutrition plan and a workout DVD. Try it for 30 days for $14.95 plus $34.50 shipping and handling or buy it for $200.

The check
We reviewed the nutrition plan, measured energy expenditure and muscle activity as two women and two men used the device, and had nine women and four men do the DVD workout.

Bottom line
Three minutes a day? That won't cause much weight loss. The device engages core muscles but burns no more calories than brisk walking. The nutrition plan is strict, so most people could lose weight on that alone. Just three of our 13 panelists said they'd consider buying the device.

Debbie Meyer Green Bags

The claim
They "prolong the life" of fruits and vegetables by absorbing and removing the ethylene gas they release, which accelerates rotting. At www.greenbags.com 20 bags cost $9.95 plus $6.95 shipping and handling.

The check
In tough tests, we put bananas, peaches, apples, melons, blackberries, strawberries, basil, asparagus, tomatoes, broccoli, grapes, lettuce, and carrots in Green Bags for up to five weeks. We stored the same foods for the same time in regular plastic food-storage bags on a counter, in a refrigerator, or in plastic supermarket bags.

Bottom line
When we saw green in Green Bags, it was sometimes mold. Only bananas fared much better in them. And at almost 85 cents each, Green Bags are much pricier than the typical food-storage bags.

Mighty Putty

The claim
Mighty Putty is a two-part epoxy that can be applied to "most any surface." It can "support up to 350 pounds," says the late pitchman Billy Mays, still appearing at www.mightyputty.com, and (cue truck towed by a puttied chain) "pull this fully loaded, 80,000-pound tractor-trailer!" You cut it like dough, knead it, apply it, and let it dry.

The check
We used Mighty Putty to join overlapped pieces of plastic, metal, and wood; clamped them; let them cure for 24 hours; then measured the force needed to pull them apart. We didn't tow a truck.

Bottom line
It's moderately mighty but pretty pricey ($19.99 for six sticks). It took more than 350 pounds of force to break its hold on metal and wood (270 pounds on plastic) and it excelled at filling gaps. But other adhesives are stronger and cost less.

See all 14 infomercial products reviewed by Consumer Reports

Go Back



Comment