We’ve all seen those quick and impulsive ads telling us to buy something wonderful and incredibly helpful in our daily lives. In a way, these infomercials are similar to any other advertisement; they will try to sell us their products by any means necessary. Why then are infomercials any different? The answer is undoubtedly the tactic of hope. Almost every infomercial has a well-mannered spokesperson praising the incredible effects of their product. He lures us in with the thought of how much better their product is than whatever second rate product we’ve been using. In essence, infomercials give us hope for a better standard of living in such a way that most of us have caved into this billion dollar industry on more than one occasion. And that’s perfectly understandable when we see an infomercial telling us to buy some product right away because these paid actors can attest to how great it has worked in their lives. Sure, everything might be staged, but that’s a small price to pay in order to get the consumer this life changing product, right? Wrong. The problem comes in when the product isn’t actually life changing at all.
Take the ShamWow, for example. It’s one of my favorite infomercials. We all remember Vince Offer (the ShamWow Guy) telling us how these German-made towels can clean up any mess quickly and easily. The commercial itself praises the ShamWow for its durability and capacity to hold up to twenty times its weight in liquid. Not only that, but the ShamWow, as demonstrated in the commercial, seems to have a magnetic, almost “magical” effect of attracting and cleaning up liquids. This sounds great –I wish I was ordering one right now. But hold on a second. Has anyone evaluated these claims? The makers of ShamWow have, of course, but they’re the ones trying to sell us their product. Back in 2007, this infomercial was our main source of authority on the validity of these claims. Now, quite a few years later, it’s pretty obvious the ShamWow was nothing more than a “ScamWow.” Once tested a few times, it was discovered that the ShamWow doesn’t in fact hold twenty times its weight in liquids, it’s more like ten times its weight (ShamWow actually had to change their infomercials to say “ten times its weight in liquids” because their information was discovered to be so false), making it basically just another rag. Also, those wonderful testimonies in the commercial? Yeah, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if none of those people ever used a ShamWow, considering they just bought one.
But still, the infomercial made it look so good. Why doesn’t my ShamWow work like Vince’s? I think this video best explains why:
So the ShamWow’s not that good. Clearly there is deception in this video. Vince and the ShamWow people are deliberately suggesting something false about their product just so they can sell it. And not only are they suggesting it with words, but they are physically manipulating the commercial so we make the connection on our own that their product can do magical things. This is more than just wrong –it’s deplorable. For nothing more than money the makers of Shamwow or any other product will construe their product in the best possible light. It makes sense for them to stretch the truth, but do they need to do it to such an extent as to flat out lie to us?
Yet still millions of ShamWows were sold, and it’s obvious as to why. As human beings, we crave our hope of better conditions in our lives. Yes, there is probably some survival instinct linked with hope, but it’s more than that –hope is a positive emotion, and as such, people will desire it. The problem with this now is that “hope” has become equated with “convenience” thanks to our constantly bustling society. And people like Vince know this, and will flat out lie to us just to get our hopes up and to get us to buy his product. Maybe there are some good products sold in infomercials, but examples like this have convinced me to never buy from one again.