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Call now, operators are standing by

You’re watching TV and one of those ads come on — a loud-mouth guy hawking some revolutionary new gadget, talking in that carnival-barker voice.

 “Call now and we’ll send not one, not two, but three sets for the price of one!”

“Who buys this crap?” you say to your spouse.

Sigh. I do.

I hate to confess it. I am a well-educated woman (two university degrees) but I have a streak of gullibility when it comes to TV hucksterism that seems to defy logic and learning.

I see that coin counter or pet hair remover, or the only bra you ever need, and I am entranced by the promise of the pitch.

I don't dial right away — I'm not impulsive and gullible. I am practical and gullible, a dangerous combination for TV ads. So, I watch it four, five, maybe even 10 times until I finally think, “It's only $9.99, plus shipping and handling. I could use that.” And so I dial the number.

I am not sure why I am this way. Perhaps it's my upbringing, in which television was strictly controlled. I’ve noticed that those of us whose parents limited exposure to the idiot box seem more susceptible in adulthood to its hypnotizing power.

Some people, knowing their weakness, spurn TV. It might be a good idea for me, but I'm married to a TV journalist. For the past 20 years the TV has been on during most dinners so we can watch Daddy on the six o’clock news. When my oldest daughter was about four, I knew she was consuming too many ads with her nightly meal when she grabbed my hand upon seeing inside an aunt's broom closet and gasped: “Oh Mom, look! It’s the stuff that get’s your floors SO clean!”

She is now a jaded-20-year-old, so inured to TV exposure that she would never be taken in by a pitchman. But while she grew out of it, I did not.

Over the years I’ve bought the Sham-wow®, the Genie Bra®), the Pet Rider Seat Cover®, the Topsy Turvey® tomato planter, the Coinmaster®, the SpaceBag To Go® roll-up travel vacuum bags; the Steam Buddy®,and the Pet Hair Lifter® — and that's just the short list. (But I'll never get the Buxton® sling bag purse, that is just plain ugly!)

 In fact, my two daughters now make fun of me and give me joke gifts. Two Christmas's ago I got a Snuggie® and a Slap Chop®. They were laughing, while I was eager to see if I could get the Slap Chop® to make egg salad in three hits (while dressed like a blue-robed Gandalf in my Snuggie). I could not. The egg got jammed into the blades. So did everything else I tried to chop. The Snuggie arms were so long they impeded all useful movement except lying inert on the couch holding a remote.

Of course you're wondering how much money I waste on such junk. Well, not that much — the stuff is cheap after all. That's its hallmark. And I do make some back in garage sales

Do any of these things work? In general, not as well as advertised. (Short list of useful purchases: Genie Bra is a good sports bra, but buy sizes larger than you think you need. Coinmaster is handy. Pet Rider seat cover is good for shedding dogs, and the space bags are very good for travel.)

Perhaps that explains why I recently succumbed to the U-Glue® pitch, "the super glue with the convenience of tape." I had a practical need, of course: I wanted to create a display of family photos across an entire wall in the upper hallway of our 1912 home. But the wall consisted of old plaster over brick from the chimney stack, impenetrable to a nail. When I saw the barker in the U-Glue® commercial attack house numbers with the power washer, I was sold.

I soon spent a happy afternoon blocking framed pictures of great-grandparents, grandparents, cousins, kids in an artful, Martha-Stewartish display. “That looks great," my husband said. My hard-to-impress girls concurred. Even our cleaner left a note with a smiley face: "Like the photo wall!"

I was chuffed.

That is, until two weeks later, when we awoke to a resounding crash. The picture of Granny and Grandpa Middleton was in the middle of the hallway floor. Over the next week, the pictures toppled off the wall. The dog yelped and whimpered with each crash. At first I was dismayed but soon I simply stacked the latest picture on the hallway bookcase, to be dealt with later.

And when that time came, I found all the pictures were stuck to each other and to the bookcase. Yes, one big hunk of fused frames in an immovable U-Glue® mass, firmly adhering to the top of the bookcase. They are still there, mocking me every time I walk past.

So now I am watching TV infomercials looking for a good universal solvent, the type that removes stubborn adhesives without damaging family treasures. I could really use that.

(Reprinted from April 2012 Boulevard Magazine "Wry Eye" column.)


Posted on Sunday, September 30, 2012 at 06:25PM by Registered CommenterAnne | CommentsPost a Comment

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