The latest round of examinations by Consumer Reports bursts the bubble on a few popular items — the Shamwow, iRobot, Slap Chop and Snuggie among them.
Ever since Ed Valenti coined the phrase, “But wait, there’s more!” in the 1970s, the late-night television commercial for the super-duper gadget has never been the same.
Despite the goofiness of the pitches — Valenti also came up with “Now how much would you pay?” and “This is a limited-time offer, so call now” — it has turned into a multimillion-dollar business. Valenti even helped create the 1-800 toll-free number concept where “operators are standing by.”
The commercials often left viewers chuckling — remember Ginsu knives, another Valenti product — and wondering whether the item really worked.
That has led consumer groups, Web site aficionados and even a few media outlets to test the products themselves. After all, if the item is so great, why isn’t it in stores already?
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The latest round of examinations by Consumer Reports bursts the bubble on a few popular items — the Shamwow, iRobot, Slap Chop and Snuggie among them — though other organizations that tested them sometimes recorded different results.
Consumer experts say it’s all a matter of use and preference. For instance, the Slap Chop was panned by Consumer Reports for not working easily and because food became stuck in the cutting blades.
Others found the unit worked just fine when the vegetables to be chopped were pre-cut into smaller segments.
The Shamwow, however, didn’t fare so well. The fleecy-looking cloth was panned by nearly every group that tested it. Consumer Reports even slapped its claim that it can soak up 10 times its weight in liquid — down from previous claims of 20 times.
“So does a sponge,” Consumer Reports testers found.
In all, consumers need to watch infomercials warily, take time to seek product reviews before buying — no, there’s not a time limit like they say — and be leery of upselling for other merchandise if you order.
Here’s a look at some infomercial products, what the ads claim and what Consumer Reports and others have found.
Claims: Holds 10 times its weight in liquid, “it’s like a towel, it’s like a sponge.”
CR: The 10-times claim is true — also for a plain old sponge. And at 14 cents a sponge compared to the $28 for eight Shamwows, the Shamwow is no bargain. Shamwow left behind droplet streaks and you need “towels and sponges to clean up” behind it.
Others: Most are not impressed. One YouTube offering shows a Shamwow sitting in a pan of water
Claims: Dice, chop and mince in seconds. “You’re going to have an exciting life now,” says pitchman Vince Shlomi, who’s also the Shamwow pitchman.
CR: Use a knife. The foods got stuck in the blades and sometimes the product was difficult to operate properly.
Others: Some thought it is a great product, noting that items to be chopped should be small to begin with.
Claims: “Keeps you totally warm.” Made of ultrasoft, thick, luxurious fleece.
CR: Very staticky. Ads imply it covers your back but doesn’t. Enormous amounts of lint left behind with each washing.
Others: Generally positive comments, although some pointed to the thin material. Commented one Internet reviewer: “No offense to the Snuggie commercial, but would anyone wear a Snuggie to a sporting event, especially the whole family?”
Claims: Just fill your sink with hot water, drop in the Grease Bullet, and soak your toughest baked-on cookware. Commercials show pristine cookware emerging from the soak implying no scrubbing.
CR: It works if you scrub, but no better than soaking your dishes in soapy water overnight.
Others: Not many were impressed with its cleaning ability.
Tyre Grip and AutoSock
Claims: Tyre Grip said it keeps you on the road “regardless of the road conditions.” AutoSock said it’s a “quick and easy alternative to metal chains.”
CR: Using a Honda Accord to climb a snowy hill, only AutoSock did the job, but installation was a chore.
Others: Colorado Department of Transportation approves of the AutoSock instead of chains in some areas.
Ab Circle Pro Work
Claims: Will “firm and flatten” your stomach in just weeks, just three minutes a day. Uses top-shelf fitness model to promote the product.
CR: Ad’s fine print shows it requires “low calorie intake and regular aerobic exercise.” You’d lose weight by following the strict diet alone. Knee cushions uncomfortable.
Others: Try it for a month for only $14.95 — plus $34.50 in shipping. Not happy? Another $34 to ship it back. You get about the same workout walking to the post office. More strain in arms than abs.
Claims: Cleans gutters easily.
CR: Not really. It got stuck, though the CR testing site used a gutter with overhanging shingles. The commercial’s gutters are on a flat roof.
Others: Doesn’t quite live up to the hype but is a fair tool in aiding the lazy with gutter cleaning.
Debbie Meyer Green Bags
Claims: Prolongs the life of fruits and vegetables by absorbing and removing the ethylene gas they release, an accelerant to rotting.
CR: Sometimes the stored items grew moldy and the bags are more expensive than regular food-storage bags.
Others: Some happy users, but most were disappointed.
Claims: Can support “up to 350 pounds” and applies to “most any surface.”
CR: It’s “moderately mighty.” Took more than 350 pounds of force to break its hold on metal and wood, but only 270 on plastic.
Others: JB Weld Stick works the same for a lot less, the same as many other two-part epoxies.
Claims: The Voice over Internet Protocol device “makes your monthly phone bill disappear” and get “no more poor reception.”
CR: Bingo. It worked as promised though not as clear as a good chorded phone. Priced decently.
Others: Mostly bad, largely for tech-related issues and difficulty in solving them.
Claims: Removes calluses and dead skin to “make your feet feel smooth and healthy with no mess.”
CR: Did better overall than a pumice stone but use over a wastebasket as some filings escape.
Others: No miracle cure, but pretty good results. Shop around for better pricing and no shipping.