Get Informed About Infomercials

watchingtv 150x150 Get Informed About InfomercialsDo you want to eliminate the hassle of annoying bra straps?

Yes, this is the salutation in an email I received recently. (I must say, I’ve never felt hassled by my clothing, except for my pants: the waistline seems to be shrinking.) It got me to thinking about infomercials. Who watches them? Who believes them? Who pays to buy that stuff?

A friend of mine commented the other day that he’s noticed a pattern: Many infomercials attempt to create a problem, then push their product as a breakthrough. Oh, pencils. They’re so difficult to use. But wait! We have the solution. Tired of trying to wash your feet in the shower? Now you can do it without bending down! (Are you kidding me?) I just don’t know what to do when my extra leftovers won’t fit into the container. (I guess it’s too simple to have two containers.)

 According to Wikipedia, the first infomercial for a blender aired around 1950. Now, more than $150 billion is spent annually in the U.S. on infomercial products. The financial crisis increased the number of infomercials, as struggling TV stations reduced syndication contracts. Infomercials can be sensational. But watch out, because some products are questionable.

Considerable Federal Trade Commission scrutiny has focused on diet/weight loss ad claims. Recently, the FTC sued several companies for publishing allegedly fabricated customer testimonials to support their infomercials. In addition, consumer protection agencies have successfully sued or criticized infomercial pitchmen in the past.

See something on TV that you like?

1) Start with Trust by checking out the company at www.bbb.org.

2) Investigate the product with Consumer Reports or another trusted organization. If it is a diet or health-related product, ask your doctor for his or her opinion.

3) Try to verify the company’s claims.

4) Ask about the company’s return and exchange policies.

5) If the salesperson tries to pressure you into buying additional merchandise you don’t need or want, hang up.

Bottom line: Just as you would when purchasing products not seen on TV, do your homework before buying infomercial merchandise.

Previously published in the Spokane Spokesman-Review

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About Holly Doering

Holly Doering has worked for the Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Washington, North Idaho, and Montana for half a decade. Her areas of expertise include the CORE Values Program (Character, Optimism, Respect, Ethics) for Teens and Charity Review as well as writing and editing. Prior to that, she has written for two newspapers, a local magazine, and taught English at the community college. She is the proud author of a short story in ZYZZYVA literary magazine and has had good luck publishing lots of poetry. Each year she rolls up her sleeves and wades into the autumn Nanowrimo writing madness and has several unfinished novels to her credit.