By ROBERT SMITH
Like Dan Aykroyd’s classic Irwin Mainway character in those classic early “Saturday Night Live” sketches, companies are always trying to put their hands in your pockets. It’s easy to be cynical in this Internet-driven, infomercial world, but sometimes – as rare as it might seem – some of the products sold though mass media can actually be decent. Amazingly, not every TV product is a get-rich-quick scheme, dubious male enhancement product, or “miracle” food preparation device.
The cheap plastic food prep stuff draws the biggest laughs from this corner. One of our infomercial shows on the airwaves these days concerns the Magic Bullet blender, a chopping/blending device so small that you practically have to pre-cut most every type of solid food that goes into it. So why not just keep going with the knife you used in the first place? We like a “full family meal” as much as the next guy, but cleaning our food processors and blenders doesn’t rank all that high on our list of problems.
While perusing the Rite-Aids and Walgreens of our neighborhood (frankly, those who order products directly from TV ads pay ridiculously inflated shipping and handling charges), in recent months we’ve become exceedingly bold and actually tried a handful of the products you see on the tube virtually every day. Miracle of miracles, some really, really work!
It all started with The George Foreman Grill and the Ronco Showtime Rotisserie; the makers of these excellent products deserve a tip of the cap for making goods that aren’t scams in the least, and they do what they are intended to do. Here are more recent products, all available through many brick-and-mortar stores no matter where you live, that are shockingly excellent:
The Swivel Sweeper G2: It works! This little mini-vacuum cleaner actually does a pretty fair job cleaning rugs and bare floors, and it’s so light that even kids and seniors can handle it with ease. The product has gotten even better recently with the addition of levers on the top of the canister that enable hands-free emptying of the dirt tray. Well worth the $40 or so you’ll pay for it (swivelsweeper.com).
MagicJack: It works! A recent sampling of MagicJack proved the service provided by this little plug contraption offers VOIP home phone service that’s as good (or better) than cable company phone services, and it’s a whole lot cheaper. Yes, you have to leave a computer on to use the phone or receive calls, but since the service includes voice mail, it’s virtually the same as using an answering machine. MagicJack’s faux “home shopping”-style infomerical is the worst such show for just about the best product available through TV. Go figure. However, those pondering switching from monthly phone service to MagicJack might want to give this a tumble; consider your lifestyle before making the move. Even Consumer Reports liked this device. (magicjack.com)
The Titan Peeler: It works! This sharp, well-constructed little slicer is one of the best ways to cut and slice vegetables we’ve ever tried, and it comes packaged with a versatile little mandolin board. This is a shockingly durable kitchen tool you’ll use for the rest of your life … uh oh; we’re starting to sound like Ron Popeil … (titanpeelersale.com)
UGlu Glue Strips: It works! A simple idea: Glue strips that peel off patches of fabric. This is such a good idea we’re shocked no one thought of it years ago. Actually, someone had; UGlu was available at hardware-type stores before some genius decided to make some splashy TV ads (getuglu.com).
Turbo Snake: It works! Another simple idea: Take a plumber’s snake and shrink it down to several inches long, and you get the idea of the Turbo Snake. This handy little contraption clears out clogged bathroom sinks far better and safer than toxic liquid drain cleaners, and it’s built to last. At about $10, this is the best buy of any of these products (buytheturbosnake.com).
HD Vision Ultra Sunglasses: It works! Well, we like’em, in both the wraparound and regular versions, but obviously these aren’t for everyone – just like no one kind of sunglasses are perfect for everyone’s particular vision needs. That being said, these are what we reach for first on bright, sunny days (buyhdvision.com).
TV Travails: Here’s a compendium of products told through television that you should at least think twice about: ShamWow (it’s … a towel); Invicta watches sold on ShopNBC (a D+ rating at The Better Business Bureau only begins to tell the story of the “quality” of these timepieces); any infomercial that looks sorta kinda like the Larry King show; any “health supplement” or exercise equipment sold via infomercials; and anything hawked by Kevin Trudeau – who actually has been banned from selling anything but books via infomercials and has been found guilty of credit card fraud, yet has reached the New York Times bestseller list a couple of times with titles such as Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You To Know About, despite warnings from groups such as The New York State Consumer Protection Board.
Thinking about that last one, we finally figured out how George W. Bush got elected to a second term.
We wouldn’t buy anything manufactured by Robert Smith.