Don’t deny it, at some point in your life you’ve ordered a gadget or product because of an infomercial you saw on television at 3 a.m. Whether it’s the lack of sleep you’re experiencing or the excitement of that “One-time-call-now-amazing” deal they’re offering, infomercials have a way of making people order products they wouldn’t otherwise.
A colleague of mine recently pointed out a pattern with infomercials: Many infomercials attempt to create a problem, then push their product as a breakthrough. “Tired of trying to wash your feet in the shower? Now you can do it without bending down!” (Seriously?!)
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.
Previously published in the Spokane Spokesman-Review