Things I Don’t Like About Television, Episode 12: Infomercials

Infomercials are often the domain of scheisters and the gullible.

Many of us have seen these things. Most of the time, some crap is being pedaled late at night on some of our favorite channels. Either they pop up late at night or during the day for some networks that have gotten rid of particular programming altogether. They’re repetitive, yet highly effective and I know their purpose.

That said I really hate it when I’m channel surfing just to see an infomercial. When is this commercial ending? Oh, it’s a stupid infomercial. I just wasted two minutes when I could have been looking for real programming.

To be fair, I have come across infomercials selling legit products every now and then. For example, Shamwow is still remembered to this day and so is Vince (the man known for pedaling this product).

The towel was promised to soak up anything, but it sounded too good to be true then. However, it gets a passing grade since it does do most of the things it was promised to do.

Now, here is a general complaint about the worst offenders.

There are just too Many Infomercials

A problem with infomercials is their abundance. They can be on for entire 4- to 8-hour blocks. These can involve anything from sales of religious text to cheap, tacky products.

  • Take FOX. It was one of the last major networks to show Saturday morning cartoons. It ultimately signed those over to the CW, dropped other programming, and started showing infomercials until the afternoon on weekends.
  • Comedy Central has 4-to-5-hour blocks in the morning devoted to paid programming.
  • Infomercials will show up late at night on network TV every other week.

Most Infomercials Sell Useless Products

Usually in an infomercial, you’ll see some con artist selling some cheap product that no one needs. In this case, what’s being sold doesn’t work anyway.

The Following Examples Tickled Me the Most

(Thanks to Slapped Ham)

  • The UroClub: This is the definition of a useless product. I’m sure anyone at a country club or golf course would be excused to relieve themselves and there would have to be restrooms nearby whenever someone needed to use one. The UroClub wouldn’t just facilitate indecent exposure, it looks ridiculous. Not to mention that the issue of dumping the waste would present another problem.
  • The Comfort Wipe: Users were supposed to put toilet paper in a holder, use the stick that “fits the contours of your body” to wipe themselves, and then press a button to release the toilet paper. This was supposed to be more sanitary than normal wiping. Nevermind that the Comfort Wipe would have to be cleaned itself eventually or that the whole process would be inconvenient. It looks like more of a hassle than normal wiping.
  • Sauna Pants: The benefit of a sauna should be for the entire body.
  • The Fluidity Barre: The price is ridiculous. People were expected to pay $400 for a bar. Really.
  • Hair in a Can: Just awful.

Here’s an Old Favorite

Anyone remember the type of product I’m referring to?

“Are you an idiot who does not know how to properly open a carton of milk? You suck at life, but We can help! Just buy this spout that you can insert into one side of the carton, pour and enjoy!

Really? Did anyone really need something like a carton spout?

This One’s Relatively off the Hook

The Snuggie. Part of me wishes I invented that even though it would be embarrassing to wear with other people around.

Harmful Products Are Sometimes Sold

Seriously, products from infomercials can really do damage.

Have you heard about the Rio Hair infomercial by any chance? This product was peddled in the mid-1990s and it was promised to be a better hair care product for black women in particular. The “story” behind it was that the active ingredient was found in the rain forests of Brazil. The truth was that this “all-natural” product was made by a mixture of manmade chemicals and the women who used it saw their hair break off.

Staying with “hair care” products, Wen by Chaz Den is under fire and so is Guthy-Renker. In late 2015, a class-action lawsuit was brought against both companies by 200 women in 40 states. The women allege that the products case hair loss and scalp damage. The products contained ingredients contained in most shampoos and hair care product — except one, hydroxycitronellal, a fragrance ingredient which is banned in the EU. Additionally, no actual cleansing agent was found in any of the products, meaning that women were essentially washing their hair out with lotion.

The Sacrilegious

I will count just about all the paid religious programming here, as well as [faux] psychics.

The Psychics

Some past examples include:

  • The Psychic Friends Network: Dionne Warwick isn’t only known for her singing career as she was once the host of this series of paid programming. The PFN was a real company by which callers — who would call a 1-900 number and were charged 3.99 per minute — would be paired with a psychic. The company faced bankruptcy in 1998, a year after the infomercials ended, but it continues on. It’s based on its website which was established in 2012.
  • John Edward: No, I’m not talking about the former Senator from North Carolina who once ran for president in 2008. His name ends with an “s.” The person I’m talking about once had his own show, Crossing Over. He is still around and is what is known as a cold reader. A cold reader is not a psychic at all but a person who can pick up on cues from another person (called a mark) and give them a false reading. This con artist might be helped by assistants who ask the mark a few questions and get some basic information from them.
  • Theresa Caputo: While her current show — Long Island Medium on TLC — is a “reality” TV show, she got her start on who own infomercials and was repeatedly exposed as a fraud. Obviously, that hasn’t stopped her.

Religious Con Artists

Sometimes, some religious text might be pedaled, but the worst offenders ask for money. People in this group occupy a special place on my list. What they do is disgusting. They’re liars. They use religion to bilk their followers and make themselves richer. Then on top of that, may have the audacity to brag about the things they were able to buy with their money.

One of the first names that come to mind is Benny Hinn. I have seen him several times on TV, particularly on CBN. He calls himself a faith healer, but he has used his platform to make himself richer. He was rich before, but once asked for his followers to help him pay off his Gulfstream G4SP plane at $1,000 per person. (This reminds me of Oral Roberts, who once said that God would strike him down if his followers didn’t give him $8 million dollars in a period of 3 months.) Currently, Hinn’s net worth is estimated to be at $40 million.

Creflo Dollar is another infamous minister. His net worth is estimated at about $27 million. In 2014, he has the gall to ask his followers to help him pay for a $65 million-dollar jet.

TD Jakes is featured on BET and TBN. In 2014, his net worth was estimated at $18 million while the median annual income of his followers was under $57K.

Surely, this should be recognized as being un-Christian for those who profess themselves as followers.

Repeat Offenders

I was asked about this once, but it appears that the United States hardly ever punishes con artists [connected to infomercials]. The above names I mentioned are repeat offenders, and none of them has had to serve time for their infomercials.

One person who has been prosecuted is Kevin Trudeau. He’s a curious character who sold a series of books beginning in 1999 that alluded to shadowy figures [connected to the government] and promoted them in infomercials. One book in particular, The Weight Loss Cure “They” Don’t Want You to Know About, is the book that helped the FTC to finally nab Trudeau. He was given a 10-year prison sentence for misrepresenting contents in the book and violating a consent decree by making more infomercials to promote the book. He was ordered to pay $37.6 million in a civil settlement. The payout is to begin in early 2016.

What’s more are the millions of dollars Trudeau made from fees from his Global Information Network. It was basically a scheme, but he wasn’t prosecuted on that at all.

Keeping the above in mind be warned when viewing an infomercial. Some products are useless, some are too expensive [for what they are promised to do], some products are downright harmful and many promises will never be fulfilled. BUYER BEWARE.

Next, I will talk about one source of misinformation: network news.

Have any thoughts on the subject? Time’s yours.

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.