It could just be the insomnia talking, but if you’re like many people, you’ve seen a late-night infomercial and thought, “I could use that!” The pitches for “as seen on TV” items may be goofy, as are the products themselves sometimes, but many of these gadgets strike a chord with American consumers. Who can forget the Snuggie craze or the Chia pet jingle?
The best-selling infomercial gadgets aren’t just fodder for jokes. “As seen on TV” products are big business. Infomercial king Ron Popeil has sold more than $2 billion worth of tools like the Chop-o-Matic, Veg-o-Matic, and the Showtime Rotisserie Grill over the past 40 years. Total Gym, the home exercise system hawked by Chuck Norris and Christie Brinkley, has generated $1 billion in sales, according to Bankrate. Overall, the industry might be worth between $200 and $300 billion, according to Slate. That’s a lot of Mighty Putty and Ginsu knives.
While some as seen on TV products are definitely more on the WTF side, not everything sold during television’s graveyard timeslot is total junk. Some infomercial products earn high marks from buyers. The easy-to-mock Flowbee Haircutting System has largely positive reviews on Amazon, with 86% of buyers giving it either 4 or 5 stars. And people really love their Showtime Rotisserie Grills, with people on Amazon calling it “incredible,” “awesome,” and “outstanding.”
Unfortunately, for every “set it and forget it” grill, there’s an “as seen on TV” product that’s a total dud. Before you dial that 1-800 number, check out this list of seven infomercial products with the worst reviews.
The Eggstractor promises to “peel hard-boiled eggs instantly and perfectly,” saving you time and frustration when making deviled eggs and egg salad. That sounds great, assuming you’re the kind of person who eats a lot of hard-boiled eggs.
Sadly, this dedicated kitchen gadget is apparently better in concept than in practice. Numerous Amazon reviewers declared it “worthless” and a “waste of money,” though it might be good for laughs.
“[T]his product is terrible,” wrote one person. “My wife pressed down on the plastic pump, the yolk popped out and almost hit the dog in the head … It was actually pretty funny, but product does not work at all.”
2. Tater Mitts
Like the Eggstractor, Tater Mitts promise to make an annoying kitchen task easier. Just buy these special gloves and you’ll be able to peel a potato in a mere 8 seconds. Even if you just use these around Thanksgiving when making mashed potatoes, it seems like they might be worth the $8.99 investment.
Not so, say many dissatisfied customers. First of all, you need to boil the potatoes for 5 minutes before you peel them. Then, you can use the rough-surfaced gloves (some reviewers said the surface looked like fish tank rocks) to remove the skin from the potato. The process wasn’t very efficient, the gloves were hard to clean afterward, and the material on the glove may end up in your dinner.
“They don’t really work like they are supposed to,” said one reviewer. “Not in 8 seconds. I guess if you wanted to spend one minute or two peeling the potato, and then have it look like it had been gnawed on then it’s worth it. To me, I think I’ll just stick with my knife.”
3. Juggle Bubbles
Bubbles are the perfect way to keep kids entertained at summer picnics and barbecues, but it’s disappointing when they pop within seconds. So it’s easy to see the appeal of Juggle Bubbles, an activity kit that claims to create bubbles you can “catch, pass, and juggle,” provided you’re wearing the special gloves that come in the package.
Yet Juggle Bubbles didn’t live up to hype, according to some who bought the product. Many said the bubbles didn’t seem any different from similar, yet less expensive, products, while other pointed out the “special” gloves just seemed to be cheap winter gloves.
“I was so sad for my daughter when we tried these,” said one customer. “She’d been asking for them for her birthday and she was SO disappointed that they didn’t work. Total rip-off. And yes, we followed the directions.”
4. 5-Second Fix Liquid Plastic Welding Kit
5-Second Fix is a “super-powered liquid plastic welding compound” that uses UV light to bond to surfaces. It claims to be less messy than glue, allows you to reposition until you’re ready to permanently affix the items, and is supposedly sandable and paintable.
While 5-Second fix has some excellent reviews on Amazon, more than half of people gave this as seen on TV product just one star, complaining it doesn’t work as advertised and that the liquid in the package had leaked before they opened it.
“I now understand the name of this product. The repair I made lasted about 5 seconds,” said one reviewer. You’re probably better off sticking with super glue.
5. Pocket Hose
You’ve may have seen former Home Improvement star Richard Karn pitching the Pocket Hose on TV. It’s a compact hose that expands as it fills with water. For anyone who’s had to struggle with a cumbersome garden hose, it probably seems like a pretty nifty product. But you’d be smart to read the reviews before you buy.
The Pocket Hose has a 2½-star rating on the Home Depot website. Many buyers said the hose worked great initially, but eventually started to leak, sometimes after only a handful of uses.
“This item needed more time in R&D and in-use testing before it was inflicted upon the public,” said one customer. “I bought two (duh!), and on the third or fourth use, both sprung major leaks. A total waste of money!”
6. Hot Stamps
Hot Stamps are a “glitter gel hair accessory that help give your dull hair a little pizzazz.” Essentially, you use the stamp to add glittery heart and star patterns to your hair. They might not make much sense to grownups, but if you know – or have ever been – a pre-teen girl, the appeal is pretty obvious.
Yet turning your child’s hair sparkly is not as easy as it seems. Many Amazon reviewers complained the product was dried out when it arrived and that the tubes didn’t contain much glitter (some even came empty).
“Can I put zero stars? My daughter was so disappointed,” said one reviewer. “The glitter was all dried up. One stamp was almost empty when we opened it … Don’t waste your money on it. I’m usually quite positive but this was just sad.”
7. Grass Shot
Maintaining a large lawn can be pain, but Grass Shot, an at-home hydroseeding kit, claims to make it easier by allowing you to spray new grass on your lawn using a garden hose. All you have to do is attach the device to the hose, then spray the mix of lawn seed, fertilizer, and mulch onto your yard.
Don’t assume the Grass Shot will free you from yard work, though. Though TV ads showed the device spraying a green or blue color so you knew what areas had been seeded, reviewers complained that the liquid was actually clear. Worse, many claimed no grass grew after seeding.
“Don’t waste your money on this product, it was nothing like the commercials,” said one customer. “Pretty much is all it does is mix water with seed and that’s it. It is nothing like real hydro seed applications.”