By Joel Schectman
Infomercials have fun, camp value. Some offer what appear to be panaceas for life’s important challenges, like molding Hercules-like biceps. Others offer solutions to problems you may not have even known you had—who would think that cutting tomatoes was so tricky? And it’s good to know that six minutes of gyrations with a metal bar will turn you into a man who wouldn’t look out of place in a Roman coliseum. But do these vaunted products actually work? Jeff Blyskal, a senior editor at Consumer Reports, says that many actually do, as long as you read all the fine print and understand what they really claim to do. Most of the speedy-workout gear comes packaged as a fitness system, requiring a mixture of diet and exercise. Sure, you'll get great abs by working out for five minutes each day—if you also eat better and lose weight, which is no different from results offered by less overhyped products.
And the functions of many of the products, like Tater Mitts, can be accomplished with simpler tools that you already have ... like a peeler. Blyskal says infomercial pitches, with their powerful encouragement to “change your life now,” give viewers a natural high, making them more susceptible to impulse buying. “If you feel like you have to get these products, wait 10 minutes and see if you still feel that way,” says Blyskal. For those who are less patient—and perhaps insomniacs to boot—here are some of the more infamous infomercials broadcast in the wee hours.