Dopamine and Infomercials

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Consumer Reports' Tests of 15 Popular Infomercial Products Reveal Many Are not Worth Buying
Snuggie, Slap Chop, and ShamWow among them

YONKERS, N.Y., Jan. 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Products sold on late-night television promise to solve problems like scrubbing baked-on crud from cookware, mopping up gallons of spilled milk, and falling off ladders when cleaning gutters. But Consumer Reports' tests of 15 products sold through infomercials reveal that many of them are not worth buying.

CR's experts suggest that some of the products not worth paying for include the Slap Chop dicer, the Snuggie, the ShamWow, the Ab Circle Pro, Debbie Meyer Green Bags and the iRobot Looj gutter cleaner.

According to the report 'Should you buy this now!?,' infomercials are a mighty money machine. They can chop marketing costs to as little as one-tenth the size of a traditional advertising campaign and slice posted prices when they increase the total bill with shipping and handling fees and other extras.

The secret, according to an advertising expert, lies in neuroscience--infomercials are carefully scripted to pump up dopamine levels in your brain. The fun starts with dramatizations of a problem you didn't know you had followed by an incredible solution, then a series of ever more amazing product benefits, bonuses, and giveaways, all leading to the final thrilling plunge of an unbelievably low price. After the ride, dopamine levels drop in 5 or 6 minutes, which is why they ask you to buy in the next 3 minutes.

"Consumers should pause 10 minutes before buying anything from an infomercial and see if they can get the same job done for free or with a product that they already have in their house," said Jeff Blyskal, senior editor, Consumer Reports. "Think if you can find another solution for this 'problem.' Instead of buying an exercise machine, for example, doing sit ups or just following a diet may accomplish the same thing."

The full investigation is available in the February 2010 issue of Consumer Reports on sale at newsstands January 5 or online at

In recent years, Consumer Reports has turned up a mix of "miracle" gadgets and goops that deceived, delivered, or landed somewhere in between. Here's a roundup:

Slap Chop. The Claim: By slapping this gadget with your palm, you can "dice, chop, and mince in seconds" and remove skins from onions and garlic. Cost: About $20. The Check: CR slapped mushrooms, potatoes, carrots, chocolate, almonds, and other foods. Bottom Line: No high fives. It chopped unevenly. Harder foods needed about 20 slaps and tended to get trapped in the blades. Garlic peels came off in five slaps, onion skins were only partially separated after 10.

Snuggie. The Claim: "The Snuggie blanket keeps you totally warm," and is made of "ultrasoft, luxurious fleece." Cost: $19.95 for two. The Check: CR testers put Snuggies through 10 wash-and-dry cycles and asked 11 staffers to wear and comment. Bottom Line: The Snuggie was so far from snug that several staffers had trouble walking. When washed it sheds. Each time CR laundered two Snuggies, they removed a sandwich bag worth of lint from the dryer.

PedEgg: The Claim: The foot file removes calluses and dead skin to "make your feet feel smooth and healthy with NO MESS!" Cost: About $10. The Check: Twenty-six women and three men with rough, calloused feet tried a PedEgg on one foot and a pumice stone on the other. They used each product once, rubbing PedEgg on dry skin and the stone on wet skin. Bottom Line: Crack open a PedEgg. It was very good at removing callouses and good with dry skin.

Grease Bullet: The Claim: "Just fill your sink with hot water, drop in the Grease Bullet, and soak your toughest baked-on cookware, no more scrubbing!" Cost: $10 for 12 bullets. The Check: CR tested it on glass, ceramic, stainless-steel, aluminum, and porcelain-coated cookware in which testers baked on a thin layer of beef broth and "monster mash," an evil mix of cherry pie filling, tomato puree, egg yolks, lard, and cheese. Bottom Line: The Bullet is no bull's eye, but it could be worth a shot. It did a reasonable job with most residues if the cookware soaked for the recommended half hour. But soaking cookware overnight in hot water and dish detergent would also aid cleanup.

ShamWow: The claim: "Like a chamois, a towel, a sponge, works wet or dry, holds 12 times its weight in liquid." Cost: Four 19 1/2x23 1/2-inch towels and four 15x15-inch towels cost $19.95. The Check: CR testers dunked ShamWows in water, soda, and milk until each could hold no more liquid and the small ones to see if they could slurp up as much water, milk and used motor oil as sponges. Bottom Line: CR wasn't wowed. ShamWow soaked up only 10 times its weight in water or soda and usually 12 times its weight in milk. If testers used a damp ShamWow, they needed another cloth to wipe remaining droplets.



getting rid of tv was a great thing

We got rid of television about 4 years ago, and do not miss it one bit. We still use the tv set to watch movies, but no longer have cable or network reception, and boy, am I glad. Accidentaly running into a tv show, like at a restaurant that has one in the bar, is actually painful now. The manipulation of prejudices, drive and desires is so patently obvious it just makes me ill, because tv is clearly designed to cause dopamine spikes and swings, and is clearly designed to be as addicting as possible.

I have been considering the same

especially now that so many more interesting and inspiring things are online. I am only concerned about the reaction of my kids. But from my side, the more I get into meditation, the more I see for myself what TV really does to our minds. I guess I could make it up to them by saying they can each get to choose a hired movie each weekend (which is how often I have them around). Then maybe I could let go of the TV for good, and like you said, just have it set up for playing DVD's, with no external reception.

I have cut back my tv usage

I have cut back my tv usage a lot. I did have one beside my computer. Well it would be on the whole time I was on the computer. the hours and hours of gaming and the hours and hours of p/m. The TV would be going on beside my. I removed The TV and started making myself get up and go to my other room to watch TV if I wanted to watch a show. It has helped a lot. I have almost lost interest in TV all together. It is like the addiction of the video games. You do not want to miss your favorite show. It makes you upset and throws you off if you miss it. I was very much into a few shows. Now I just stopped watching them. I only get a desire to see them when I hear people talk about them. I want to cut off cable but others live in the house with me. So until they are no longer here I just have to control my viewing habits. I also will probably still pick up shows form time to time on video. At least that way I will not be subject to the commericials just the stuff in the shows.

OK well one good thing came of my obsession and addiction to hypnosis. I was going over so much in the subject. All the mind control techniques. After you get into all the manipulations and stuff that is out there you notice things a lot more. I got to (and still do) the point where I would see and ad or something and notice and think about all the hidden manipulation and subliminal effects in it. NLP approaches in the way they say things what words they use how the words are put on the screen. How they distract you over here and this other part of the add just zaps right to your subconscious. All of the stuff on TV does this. I am sure of it now. It is all using mind control and mind manipulation techniques based on how the brain works. They know how to tap into that old brain as it were to get the results they want out of people. OK sorry that was my rant for the day.

So yes I am growing a larger dislike of TV. Although I still watch it more than I should.

You're right on, James,

You're right on, James, about the NLP and mind control techniques on tv, because since I've been without tv for so long, I can see them, too, epecially if the tv has the sound turned all the way down. I hardly even like to watch movies anymore, either, because of all the manipulation. Its all aimed at the subconcious mind, which is where we form our personal and collective reality.

Were I ever to fall prey...

It would have been for the slap chop - before the hooker bit his tongue out, the dude was hilarious to watch. How many people could resist a severely faked abortion of a NY/Jersey accented guy claiming in front of millions - "You're gonna love my nuts...."

Anyone remember the old Saturday Night live infomercial for the Bass O Matic, or the combined desert topping/floor wax?

Now that I have made light of a genuine predatory advertising assault on your neurochemistry - I give you the chance to return the ridicule. My mother, who obsesses on what she perceives people need rather than what they truly need or want, will call and demand a list of options for Christmas/birthday gifts. This year's choice in lieu of the listed items? Yes, sports fans - every member of my household was given a Snuggie for Christmas this year. Yes, I'm serious. They are (a) paper thin, (b) more suitable for at best a temporary robe, and (c) never long enough - so don't mind the frostbite in your toes while you (ever so slightly more) conveniently turn the pages while reading Marnia's books.

Yes, Marnia - this is the death of your "Buy a copy of Cupid's Poison Arrow, get a free Snuggie" campaign.

Marnia - you asked me if I had tried drawing up and channeling the energy surplus whilst in celibacy mode - I propose this. I will update on the mass of lint that is found by putting all four Snuggies in the same dryer - perhaps even with a photograph of the anticipated lint pile as my avatar temporarily (I'll stick with the Joker longer term, I do NOT wish to change my ID to "LintFetish") - and will then, with your permission, ask Reuniting website members for ideas on what to craft from the lint pile. I see it as not only a means to verify the lint production, but to channel my energy surplus, and let the interested membership contribute to a form of art/creativity to illustrate that a thing of beauty can come from rechanneling one's energy. As well as make a small but poignant statement against the advertisers who appeal to/abuse our neurochemicals by turning the offal of their products into a form of artistic neurochemical revolt against their abuse of our triggers!

Or, perhaps a joint business venture, if the lint continues to be produced with subsequent washings - a free Snuggie lint bookcover or bookmark with every purchased copy of Cupid or PBTS?:)

Sometimes the truth isn't good enough. Sometimes people deserve more; sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded.


Somehow, I'm on an NLP mailing lists for CD's, home training, becoming irresistable to woman etc etc etc

Normally, I'd send just material to the junk folder and be done with it, but it's just so entertaining to read. A lot of these "stealth" techniques are anything but. One cheeky guy said that other people's NLP techniques are no longer effective on women because (get this) more women than men have purchased them. His secrets (he says) are available only to [gullible] men.

Besides, I'd be happy to be irresistable to just one woman, and I think Marnia's way is more likely to lead to good results.