Anyone else been hoodwinked by a TV infomercial?
For years, I prided myself on never buying a product I hadn’t tested in person—be it apparel, cookery, stain-remover, or the latest all-in-one grill-n-pasta-straining spa facial-izer. If I couldn’t try it for myself then I wasn’t handing over my pennies. This philosophy served me well over the last decade. I’d avoided being ‘taken’ by any gypsy peddlers on the cable network yellow brick road.
To be fair, there are some excellent QVC products on the market. If and when an item peaked my interest, I tested a friend’s first. If nobody I knew owned the product, I chalked it up as another reason it was probably not as “amazing!” as the TV personalities claimed. Yes, I recognize the hubris here—thinking that my posse of friends and family holds the gold standard of product knowledge. Which, of course, in my somewhat limited and biased perspective, they do.
But all of this is moot because they got me. The smiling, friendly, perfectly-manicured TV personalities sucked me in like a moth to the flame.
Here’s how it went down:
Last Sunday, while my husband was at a soccer game, I clicked on the TV with the intention of putting something “mindless” on to entertain Gatsby while I baked and packaged Snickerdoodles for my brother in Iraq. (It’s one of his favorites—my mom’s secret, family recipe.) I didn’t pay an ounce of attention to the channel. Just clicked on the TV, surfed past the first ten telenovela channels (remember, I live in El Paso) until I hit English. Then I went to cream my butter and sugar.
Note: Snickerdoodle dough has to refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour before it’s solid enough to roll in cinnamon-sugar.
So during my 30 minute wait, I sat on the den floor beside my pup-o-fluff Gatsby staring intently at the screen (I swear, he ‘watches’ the TV) and put together the other ins and outs of my brother’s package. This was when the bait was cast.
I won’t slander the product or its inventor or the channel broadcasting the infomercial by telling you exactly what it was. Instead, I’ll simply say that it claimed it could cook, fry, bake, steam and grill in seven minutes or less! Yes, indeed. For those of you faithful readers who read my ‘Microwave Meltdown’ post on June 1, you know I’m predisposed for anything that makes a quick meal.
As I stuffed tissue paper into my brother’s box, I tried not to listen, not to be interested, not to believe. But then the machine timers went off one by one: ding, ding, ding! And one by one the inventor lifted the lid on bloomed muffins she’d poured minutes before, crisp and melty paninis, steamed and buttery broccoli, perfectly cooked pizza in five minutes, and even chocolate cake!
I was transfixed. The cookie dough was chilled and ready, but no, I remained before the television, eyes glued with Gatsby’s, wheels turning. “That would make dinners so easy,” said the little voice in my head. “I could make muffins and chicken and calzones without warming up my entire oven. Save money and energy. Be earth-friendly.”
When the infomercial ended, I rolled, baked and packaged my Snickerdoodles. But the whole time, I was thinking about this THING—this counter-top gadget so clean and shiny red. I even went so far as to Google it and read customer reviews. In the end, the idea of explaining to my husband that I’d signed us up for installment payments so I could grill his steak and bake his rolls simultaneously was just too much for my pride. So how were you hoodwinked, you ask?
Well, the infomercial gods weren’t finished with me yet. Two days later, while shopping at Target, THERE IT WAS. The machine. It was on a display with a handful of other TV-hawked items: that funny bra clasp that pulls your straps into a razor back; the hair-removing sandpaper mitten thingy; some kind of doggie nail trimmer gadget; the green bags that claim to keep your produce fresh for months; and then, my cook-fry-bake-steam-griller.
I stopped, mouth open, mind racing. “On sale! Only $24.99. No shipping. It’s the last one, too, so others must have bought it. It must be legit!”
And here was the moment I went from circling the bait to swallowing the hook. I scooped up the box, tossed it in my cart and ran for the checkout like it was Supermarket Sweep and somebody was about to tackle me. I handed over my hard-earned bills in a fit of giggles! Sheer madness. By my nature, I have slight adrenaline junky tendencies and this was obviously a slip to the dark side.
It wasn’t until I got home and excitedly unpacked the machine that I realized it was a lot different than I’d imagined. First off, it was light—I’m talking plastic and super glue light. Not really what you’d suppose for an all-in-one cooker. And the hinges didn’t exactly “expand” for food the way it said they would. Oh, and mine didn’t have the dinging timer. That accessory was completely absent. Lastly, I took a realistic look at the cooking space circumference. I couldn’t fit a hot dog on that thing, never mind a chicken breast or pizza. I thought back on the TV images I’d seen the past Sunday. Those had to be munchkin-size meals! All I could do was hang my head.
But I’m not a woman who gets hoodwinked and takes it. I packed that machine up lickity-split and considered the 40-minute Target return line wait my due penance.
Next time I’m lured into buying one of these infomercial items, I’ll remember this and spend my money on something of merit, like sweet butter and good cinnamon. My brother deserves a little taste of home more than I need another handy-dandy thingamajig.
Yours truly, Sarah