6 Insane 'As Seen On TV' Products That Are Worse In Person
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.
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.
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.
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!"
Dr. Ho's Pain Therapy System
Dr. Ho has been mercilessly hawking his pulsing electric pads for years. If they did half of what he claimed, the world would have long forgotten the very concept of pain.
Dr. Ho makes you look like the world's lamest cyborg, or your money back!
I told the surly attendant that I was experiencing an ache in my neck, thanks to the 3 in 1 Massager. She slapped the slimy pads on, handed me the control unit, and walked away without giving me instructions.
Frankly, its app store sucked.
The controller changes the intensity and frequency of the pulse. The lower settings just felt like flies were buzzing around my neck, so I cranked it to maximum. That was a mistake. One mode jolted me forward like I was getting repeatedly punched in the neck. Another made my neck and shoulders twitch involuntarily, like I was possessed by a laid-back demon who wanted me to shrug rudely.
I couldn't find a comfortable setting between "whisper" and "ghost assault," so I left with even more neck pain than when I arrived. This was despite the fact that Dr. Ho claims to help with every ailment known to man.
Usually, when a doctor lies this boldly, it's about whether they were a member of the Nazi Party.
Their info sheet's nonsense science-y words claimed that they help with over 30 ailments, ranging from slipped discs to fibromyalgia. I'm pretty sure I could have told them I was experiencing the shakes in my thorax dropsy and they would have nodded, slapped the pads on my face, and walked off. They also bragged that "your Dr. Ho can be used as often as needed." Does Mrs. Ho know about that?
I hate to ruin your faith in the infomercial industry, but some of Dr. Ho's products have been banned by the FDA because they treat precisely zero of the conditions they claim to. But he's a Doctor! And there are two acronyms in the product name!
And there's a leaf!
Dr. Ho shovels more bullshit than a cattle farm. His website boldly proclaims "It has been scientifically proven to help relieve pain and tension and help to improve circulation," then hides a tiny grey-on-white disclaimer at the bottom: "The statements and products referred to throughout this site ... are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or condition." Usually, if you're that contradictory, a robot's head explodes.
Dr. Ho, you quack. Don't try to sell the sensation of getting slapped for 200 goddamn dollars and tell me it will help with 5,000 diseases. And while you're at it, maybe don't mix claims of legitimate medical benefits with giggling girls in bikinis. There's a reason you don't see actual medical products set their commercials in strip clubs, and that's because they don't feel the need to override the brain's common sense with tits.
Looking to get rid of unsightly body hair? Scour it from your flesh with some sort of wand thing!
No functionality! No shame!
You have to admire the Hair Remover's name, if nothing else (and we won't be admiring anything else). Life would be a lot simpler if everything was so utilitarian. "My date last Time Cycle went well. I took her to the Food Provider, and then we went back to my place for some Alcoholic Liquids. Afterwards, I put on a Baby Preventer and we had Sexual Intercourse. And it was all thanks to the Hair Remover getting rid of my ugly arm hair."
You may have seen a commercial for a similar product, as its ads run constantly to remind viewers that they're a hairy mess incapable of finding love. What they gloss over is that the product is just a fancy heating element that cleanses hair in righteous infomercial fire. So while it did indeed remove a patch of arm hair ...
Hello, arm-hair-averse ladies.
... it smelled vile, and left my skin sore. It was like someone gave me an Indian Burn, and after I informed them that "Indian" is an outdated term, they called me a nerd and gave a worse one.
The nice saleswoman, whose arms were bare and red from showing it off, assured me that the soreness would go away as the body adjusted to constantly being scoured. Having no desire to stage daily recreations of the Tokyo firebombings on my body, I instead turned to online reviews to determine if it was worth forking over $300 to achieve the silky-smooth arms that society so unfairly demands of men.
Consumer Reports' very critical analysis found that any hairs thicker than a nanotube resisted the mighty power of a warm piece of metal, dashing my dreams of giving myself a manzilian in the comfort of my own home. Worse, it took their testers an average of 25 minutes to shave a single leg. You think I have that kind of spare time, Hair Remover? Okay, I do, but the people who insist that they're always way too busy to hang out with me definitely don't.
And you didn't even tell me about the nightmare function!
The official site links to several clinical studies which it claims prove the product works, but they neglect to mention that every lengthy session leaves you feeling and smelling like an arson victim. If you need to hire clinicians to prove that your product performs the basic function its very name advertises, you're only going to make people suspicious that flaws are lurking in the background. That's why my review of my new steak knife doesn't read "Steak Knife cut my steak, just as Yale's year-long double-blind study promised. Unfortunately, I also cut through the plate, the kitchen table, and the thin fabric of our reality. As I watched the barrier between worlds tear asunder and the Dead But Undying Soldiers of Mantorok the Corpse God stream into our plane, my steak sat uneaten, taunting me with its perfectly cut yet rapidly cooling visage. Steak Knife had given me everything I asked for... but at what cost? Four out of five stars."
This massage chair promised to heal my body with Magnetic Resonance Therapy.
Okay, who taught the intern how to change font colors in Word?
What does that mean? Let's ask this slide from their bullshit pseudoscience promo video.
Did they steal their presentation from the Church of Scientology?
I don't speak Magnet Wizard, but I think that reads "We're going to vomit gibberish to hide the fact that no legitimate study has ever supported magnet therapy. You'd get more stress relief from adding malt liquor to butterscotch pudding, but we ain't in the puddin' business."
No function-- wait, I already made that joke. No graphic design skills!
Once you're in the chair, you're fucking in the chair -- it kicks back and tells you to buckle your ass up for some serious goddamn relaxation. I had to wait half an hour for other people to finish, and while I thought they were abusing their free sample privileges, the horrible truth is that if you want to use the Magnesphere, you better be ready to commit.
Hour three of seven.
Getting massaged by the Magnesphere is like getting attacked by a lazy octopus. Your neck, back, arms, and legs are inconsistently prodded, while your limbs get repeatedly trapped and released, like the chair is taunting you.
If a machine's going to take my arm from me, it better be at least as cool as a Terminator.
But it's not as random as it seems -- the chair calculates and then acts on your Shiatsu points. Shiatsu is Japanese for "some bullshit about unblocking your energy flow that hasn't been proven to do anything but sounds sufficiently mystical, so we can charge twice as much as the white massage therapists down the street."
By the time I looked that up, my massage still wasn't over, and an impatient crowd was forming. Panicking, I went for the emergency stop button -- which, come to think of it, was an unnerving thing for a massage chair to have.
But how will I press it once my arms have been ripped off?
That didn't actually lower the legs, forcing me to awkwardly flop out of the chair. When I landed on the floor, I noticed a tiny label on the back.
Tesla's name hasn't been misused this badly since The Big Bang Theory referenced him.
That's an interesting disclaimer for a product whose website claims it can "lead to improvement in many areas of health and wellness, such as tension, stiffness, pain, sleep, digestion, and energy levels." Oh sorry, "may lead to improvement." Well shit, that vague promise is certainly worth $7,000. But they were letting it go for a mere 6,000 at the show! What a deal!
The sales rep was somehow even vaguer on the benefits, offering nothing but a constant comparison to an MRI machine. Buddy, MRIs work because trained medical professionals analyze the results. They aren't the magical healing pods from Elysium. The Magnesphere is like an MRI in the same sense that a pile of ground beef in a trash can is like a steakhouse's best cut.
The Magnesphere technically promises nothing, but alludes to promises of everything with a wall of words more obtuse than a philosophy student's doctorate thesis. It might improve every aspect of your health, or it might just help you briefly ignore the panic you're feeling over dipping into your child's college fund to pay for a magic space chair. And it's part of an industry that's built around the hope that people are stupid enough to think that sounds like a good gamble. I won't say that's definitely evil, but I'm pretty damn sure it is.
Special thanks to Cracked writer Evan Symon for his photography and assistance. You can read more from Mark at his website, which may improve your physical and mental well-being by stimulating your chakras.
Headache inducing eye massagers are just the beginning when it comes to useless TV products. Check out the "Easy Toothbrush" in The 10 Most Laughably Misleading Ads because apparently brushing teeth is just too taxing for some people. For even more useless products take a look at The 10 Most Ridiculous Inventions Ever Patented and pick your pets up a pair of ear protectors.
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