Have you ever watched an infomercial and thought to yourself "That product looks interesting, but I'd really like the option of testing it before I buy?" Probably not, but I need some kind of hypothetical scenario to get us started. Make up a better one if you don't like it. Yeah, that's what I thought.
Anyway, I recently went to the Calgary Stampede, which is a major stop on the "sell overpriced infomercial crap live" circuit, and sampled over 12,000 dollars' worth of products. I don't want to spoil anything, but they were overpriced.
#6. Smart Living Eye Massager
Based on the complaints of people who read my columns, eye pain is a modern epidemic. But you can fight it if you have a spare $250 and don't mind looking like an unused extra from Johnny Mnemonic.
Club sandwich, cold Mexican beer, and $10,000-a-night hooker not included.
Air pressure and heat supposedly "stimulate 20 acupressure massage points" and "[Decrease] wrinkles to keep your eyes healthy and beautiful," because these products are sold with more technobabble than a bad Star Trek episode. In practice, it feels like a warm robot is prodding you while birdsong plays through the headphones. That relaxing sound is offset by the whir and hum of the machine, which suggests that the birds are being fed through a meat grinder.
The five-minute session left me with a mild headache for 20 minutes, which is either the sign of a faulty massage product or an underwhelming first shot in the robot revolution. You may scoff at the latter theory, but gaze upon the unsettling sight of a row of people using them, and try to tell me the machines aren't planning something.
It's like The Matrix crossed with an especially dull waiting room.
The competing iSee 360 Eye Massager "generates a micro-current of multiple frequencies via a hi-tech IC chip, which concentrates on important acupuncture points in the eye and the brain." This supposedly relaxes the brain, strengthens your memory, and improves your eyesight, among other dubious and unproven claims. And get this -- it stimulates blood flow and increases oxygen supply! Wow! Science isn't my strong point, but I think their descriptions translate to "This machine uses electricity, and no one can be bothered to prove that it doesn't help, so suck on some buzzwords!"
So there you go, Smart Living Eye Massager. If you're looking for a new endorsement, feel free to use "Headache-inducing, but not quite as dumb as other products on the market." That should generate a micro-current of cash flow.
#5. Vibration Fitness
The hot new trend in exercise (based on my limited understanding of exercise as something there was a Nintendo game about a few years ago) is vibration. Three products promised me weight loss through vibration, and I tried them all as part of my ongoing quest to replace fruit with Froot Loops and still be healthy. First came the $1,000 Maxburn Fitness Plate, a simple board for vibration minimalists.
They didn't say if it would do anything for my posture.
Their booth showed an attractive young woman doing the vague, undefined exercises you see in commercials, but the employees had no suggestions beyond "Stand perfectly still and shake like Graboids are near" and "Push-ups, maybe?" This didn't stop them from claiming that you could get fit with a few minutes a day, a claim which both experts and common sense dispute. If science is on your side, you don't need to film a commercial in which a hot young rich couple acts like they're about to film a porno before treating the plate like a novelty that will briefly bring joy into their numb lives. Apparently, if I really want to get fit, I should dance sensually in formal wear.
Next, I tried the DZT Whole Body Fitness Vibration, which was the same thing, but with handles.
Sadly, the handles didn't vibrate.
Their brochure promised that I could reach my fitness goals in "10 minutes per day!!" and while I imagine that's probably true of my goals specifically, I doubt the average consumer would be satisfied. Their booth was even more bombastic, claiming that 30 minutes a week are all that's needed to keep you from a Cheetos-induced heart attack. If 30 minutes of vibration kept you healthy, the world's only fitness trend would be masturbation, and you wouldn't need $2,600 to do that.
Yeah, $2,600. But they had a "show special" of $900. That's not a sale; that's an admission that you're selling an overpriced hunk of plastic with a couple of dildo batteries crammed into it. Plus, both the DZT and the Maxburn left me feeling nauseated after mere minutes of use. It was like using a seasickness simulator in the middle of an earthquake.
You're not suckering me in, vaguely dystopian propaganda!
Finally, there was the $1,900 Hypervibe. What it lacked in value and a name that didn't sound like the sex toy of the future, it made up for with an honest saleswoman. She made it clear that I had to work hard to get results, leaving me wondering how she found herself in the "Throw money at your problem instead of finding a real solution!" world of infomercials. Anyway, she taught me a few proper moves, and that's why there's this picture of me sticking my butt out.
#4. Neck And Shoulder Massager
The BackPlus 3 in 1 Massager looks like a life vest gone wrong.
Luckily, I have no life.
I was told it was great for my neck and shoulders, and was then left to play with it. When your device promises three benefits, but your sales pitch (and website) can only muster up two, you're leaving your potential customer with questions that you really don't want them to answer on their own. Just where is this mystery third massage point? Is it somewhere that can't be spoken of in public?
Its "fantastic 3D massage rollers" (as opposed to flat rollers?) made my neck sore, continuing the trend of supposedly soothing infomercial products leaving me in more pain than when I began. At 150 bucks, it's not an unreasonable price, but aside from it looking ridiculous ...
I'm ready to either get a back massage or be escorted to a psychiatric prison.
... they desperately need to work on their salesmanship. The salesman tried to win me over by telling me that it was great for relaxing after the eight-hour video game marathons he somewhat contemptuously assumed I routinely partake in. Now sure, I like gaming, but I also like contributing to civilization. When your sales pitch is, "Hey, parasitic nerd, come briefly salve your pathetic body that's been malformed far before its time by your stupid obsession!" people don't exactly reach for their wallets.
I'm not sure if he was failing to sound hip, or if he hated his job and took it out on his customers. Either way, I can only imagine what his other pitches were like. "Excuse me, ma'am! You look like you suck a lot of dick for meth, and I bet that's rough on your neck!" "Sir, you strike me as the sort of fellow who's never known love. My product can simulate the touch of a loving companion, as you cry yourself through another long night!" "Hey! Lady! Don't walk away from me! Fuck you! Give me your money! Fuck yoooooouuu!"