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DAVIS: Those sneaky infomercials

April 11, 2011

Spring is a time when folks decide to clean up, spruce up and fix up around the house. It’s a time of re-birth of sorts. We venture out into the sunlight, our eyes squinting at the bright sunlight. But once our pupils adjust we see the list of projects growing. Such is life.
We are not immune to this annual ritual in the Davis house. On our “Wish List” is a new screen door to our patio. Oddly enough, a television commercial seemed to solve our problem. We watched as a very uncoordinated person struggled with old-fashioned patio screen doors. He winced in pain as the door rollers seized up despite his continued efforts to open the door wide enough to exit the room. He clutched his back as the scene showed him hopelessly trying to re-engage the door upon the track. And what about those unsightly rips in the screen fabric.
“There’s got to be a better way!” And guess what, there is! “Introducing Instant Screen Door. Keeps Pests Out, Lets Fresh Air In!” It installs in a second with “hook & loop” (aka Velcro) hinges. “No more struggles with doors that won’t slide. No more holes that let pesky insects in.” How did we manage without one of these wonders? But wait, there’s more! “Order now and we’ll double your order. Not one, but two Instant Screen Doors, complete with hook & loop hinges (just pay separate shipping and handling).”
Needless to say we avoided the overpowering urge to grab the phone and “Call Now!” But it did start my mind to thinking. Were there other times when we had not been so steadfast and fell prey to the slick marketing we all know as “the infomercial.”
I sorted through the files in my brain and decided to take a little walk around the house, looking for evidence. It didn’t take long.
In the kitchen I found perched on the counter, snugly tucked into their decorative butcher block stand, a set of the original Ginsu Knives. I believe this was one of our first purchases from an infomercial. We actually called the number on the screen! But, I must say, they are great knives. They have been cutting, slicing and chopping now for going on thirteen years. I gave it a thumbs up.
I thought for a moment about other purchases we had made via the phone. It came to mind that we, (I actually) had used our old land line phone for a purchase. I recalled watching Ricardo Montalban as he told of a special necklace from which a cross dangled. But this was no ordinary cross. In the center of the cross was a small bubble which contained dirt from the actual tomb of Jesus. I thought to myself, “Laura would love one of those” so I called. It had to be true. Everyone knows Ricardo Montalban wouldn’t lie about Jesus. So, it seems I was the first to fall victim. A sobering revelation indeed.
I scoured my memory to find other product purchased I had made that may have been influenced by the likes of Billy Mays, Ron Popeil or George Foreman. One by one, I wrote down each product and the list grew longer than I am able to honestly admit.
“Hi. I’m Brent. I’m an Infomercial Idiot.”
Not only had I purchased the Jesus Tomb Dirt necklace, but also the Gator Grip Universal Socket, the Simonize Fix-It Pro, the Windshield Wonder and UGLU the magic adhesive that won’t harm walls. I was a bit perplexed. I don’t recall ordering these products. Then it hit me. I didn’t order them over the phone, I bought them in the store!
So there it was. The infomercial people had formed an unholy alliance with corporate giants, home improvement stores and auto parts suppliers. How else had they suckered me?
The list grew longer.
I watched the list as my pencil scribbled feverishly “Caulk Dr. Pro, Roll & Grow (shady garden, not the old English version) and Grip-It.” I shook my head in shame.
Then I realized the virus had spread to other members of the household. My wife had purchased “Bumpits, Clever Clasps, Gift Wrap Cutter, not one but two Snuggies (not to be confused with the Snuggie wannabe, Slanket), HD Vision Ultra Sunglasses and their spinoff HD Vision Readers. I must admit, I have a pair of the HD Vision Readers – black, not the tortoise shell.
But wait, it gets worse!
Not only had we purchased these items for personal use, but for gifts as well! I’m not going to tell you what we bought but suffice it to say that our granddaughter got a very cool pillow that is also a stuffed animal for Christmas. My mother received the “Bug Zapper” for her 80thbirthday as a present from my Uncle George. It looks like a tennis racket and you hit the bugs with it while holding down a button on the handle that sends a very strong electrical current through the wire strings. On word of caution, beware cousins asking you to be the test bug.
At the end of it all, I looked back and decided no harm was done. The products were for the most part good. If you have the same problem as I do, I pass along a cautionary note. Stay away from two places. The “As Seen On TV” website and their store by the same name in Branson. You will feel the overwhelming urge to buy “The 1877 $50 Gold Half Union Proof” coin set for $19.95. What a deal!

Brent Davis is a lifelong resident of Benton and Saline County. The Courier has been part of his life for as long as he can remember. He is a graduate of Benton High School. His column appears twice a week: on Fridays on Page 3 of The Saline Courier and on www.bentoncourier.com and on the Opinion Page in Sunday’s edition of The Saline Courier. 
davisb@flash.net

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