Does it really work As Seen On TV?

February 4, 2010 6:05:38 PM PST
Infomercial products are a 100-billion-dollar-a-year business. If you've bought an "As-Seen-On-TV" wonder only to be mega-disappointed, check out this next report. Consumer Reports looks behind the marketing of these products - plus puts several to the test.

There are infomercials for exercise equipment and kitchen gadgets.

"One slap and you've got chunks for stews. Two slaps you've got home fries in a second," says one infomercial.

And, of course, there are products you never thought you needed.

"Now there's the Snuggie, the blanket with sleeves," says another infomercial.

Consumer Reports says infomercials are designed to pump up the dopamine levels in your brain, according to marketing experts. And that can stimulate your impulse to buy.

"That's why infomercials have claims and testimonials flying at you, and they say 'order in three minutes' because your dopamine levels drop in about five to six minutes," Kim Kleman of Consumer Reports said.

Consumer Reports routinely tests infomercial products like the Ab Circle Pro.

"The fastest, easiest way to have the flat washboards abs," the infomercial says.

Panelists gave the 200-dollar device a whirl.

"Following the Ab Circle Pro's strict diet plan will definitely help you lose weight. But the three-minute exercise routine, not so much," Alex Willen of Consumer Reports said.

Turns out the workout is about the same as going on a brisk three-minute walk.

To test the Slap Chop, Consumer Reports chopped nuts, onions, carrots, tomatoes, mushrooms, and even chocolate.

But it turns out the Slap Chop doesn't chop evenly. And the harder vegetables took 20 slaps or more! Ouch!

"The Snuggie keeps you totally warm," an infomercial says.

"We tested the Snuggie by washing it 10 times looking for shrinkage, pilling, and also lint. Pills are these fuzzy little balls, and between them is bare fabric," Pat Slaven said. And in 10 washes this much lint came off two Snuggies!

Plus its one-size-fits-all claim hardly stands up.

So the next time you see an infomercial product you really want to buy, resist the urge for at least 10 minutes! That'll give your dopamine levels a chance to return to normal.

Consumer Reports did find a couple of infomercial products that did pretty well in tests. For one, the Magic Jack that lets you make and receive calls via the Internet. It plugs into your computer via a U-S-B cable. Not only does it work well, the Magic Jack costs a fraction of what similar services like Skype and Vonage VOIP charge.

Another product that did well in tests - the 10-dollar Ped Egg. It's designed to remove calluses and dead skin from your feet, and overall it worked better than a pumice stone.