I don’t know why, but it’s undeniably easier to believe something you hear in the middle of the night. “Sure,” you think, sitting in the lonely glow of your TV, probably drunk, “maybe I could lose 9 kg a month by taking an herbal pill,” or “maybe I can keep food from slopping all over my chest when I eat.” So you give up the credit card digits, and 6 to 8 weeks later a package filled with disappointment arrives.
The claims made in these 12 infamous infomercials would, at minimum, raise scepticism — if not outright disbelief — during prime-time, but in the dead of the night, these silly, useless, and sometimes fraudulent products can seem like gifts from heaven. Or at least, they seemed that way to the millions of people who actually bought them.
Kinoki Foot Pads
In these ads, Kinoki suggests strapping their special pads on the soles of your feet overnight will help rid you of toxins, metabolic waste, heavy metals, and more. According to the ad, the pads “also contain ions.” Cool!
It’s understandable that people fall for this one: If you put one of these white things on your feet, you will wake up to a brown mess on the pad in the morning. But it’s not toxins escaping your body. According to this debunker video, when your feet sweat in the night, the sand in the pads turns into dark mud. That’s all that’s happening.
Even if the Eggstractor peeled hardboiled eggs exactly as advertised — and judging by the Amazon reviews, it doesn’t — it would still be nearly useless. How often do you need to peel hardboiled eggs anyway? Plus, it’s not even hard to peel an egg, especially compared the effort of dragging this machine out of the back of your cabinet and setting it up, then cleaning it when you’re done. Here are several articles containing egg peeling methods that are better than sending money to these clowns.
This ad makes a promise that is technically possible, but highly improbable. I’m not going to say no one has ever trained a cat to use the toilet. I’m am going to say it’s impossible to train my cat to use the toilet. I tried every day for months, and Schmedley wanted nothing to do with it. The closest he ever came was peeing in the corner of the bathroom. Ultimately, cats don’t want to use the toilet because that would make things easier for you, and they’d rather watch you scoop their waste out of a box of sand.
For a brief time around 2006, Head On commercials were all over TV. All anyone could talk about were these bizarre ads that repeated the phrase “Head On, Apply directly to forehead” three times, but offered no further explanation. It left you asking “why should I apply it directly to forehead?” and “what is even happening?” It turns out, an earlier version of the campaign promised the homeopathic product would provide relief for headaches, but the FDA said “no.” They kept the ads legal by promising nothing, and letting viewers fill in the blanks. Heavily implying something because stating it outright could be fraud is a common method of fooling people into buying dumb crap that doesn’t work.
The Fushigi Gravity Ball’s TV campaign doesn’t make false claims per se; whether this sphere is mystifying, amazing, and/or “so much fun” is really a matter of opinion. Fushigi is ultimately an acrylic sphere that costs 20 bucks. It doesn’t levitate, float, or do anything else. It’s designed for contact juggling, and contact juggling is very difficult, so the claim that it’s easy is highly suspect. You could spend thousands of hours learning to make a ball appear to levitate, but even if you do, it’s still kind of lame. The only exception is if you are David Bowie in Labyrinth.
All male “enhancement” products
Dudes are really weird about the size of their dicks, and there’s a whole cottage industry that profits off this insecurity — and I’m not talking about the sales of F-150 pick-up trucks. “Male enhancement” pills, ointments, and unguents promise a lot, but don’t seem to actually do anything can keep them on the legal side of advertising, so these ads only imply they’ll give you a bigger, harder member, without actually saying it. They’ll just “enhance” you in some unspecified way.
iReknew Energy bracelet
The iRenew Energy Bracelet is proof that you can get a lot of mileage out of a sales pitch that’s only technically true, and a product that does nothing. The ads promise this bracelet uses “natural frequencies that promote strength and wellness” is “worn by athletes and movie stars” while peppering in other claims that don’t quite mean enough to actually be lies. The “demonstration” that sells the bracelet’s ability to help your balance actually does work, and genuinely amazes people, but it’s really a cheap carny trick that has nothing to do with the bracelet at all. This video goes into depth about the whole thing.
Miss Cleo’s Psychic Hotline
Actress Youree Dell Harris created a character who became household-name-famous in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. Miss Cleo was on TV selling psychic services seemingly 24/7. Harris says she made only 24 cents ($0.33) a minute from her readings, while the companies behind Miss Cleo reportedly raked in a billion dollars. Eventually, the FTC slapped the company with a complaint, but it wasn’t based on the fact that psychic power isn’t real. Instead, it was due to unfair trade practices, like promising free readings that were actually quite expensive. The shady phone companies wrote off the $US500 ($694) million that they were trying to collect from users, and paid a $US5 ($7) million fine, while “Miss Cleo” returned to obscurity.
There are too many weird exercise devices out there to list, so I chose the Shake Weight to represent all of them, because it’s hilarious. Like most TV workout gimmicks, it’s not that the Shake Weight doesn’t do anything; it’s that it doesn’t do enough. You would derive some muscle benefit from shaking the thing around, but it doesn’t require a full range of motion, so it’s almost definitely less effective than using a dumbell, and it definitely looks a lot more like you are…well. Sadly, there are no shortcuts to weight loss or fitness, except maybe…
I love the Vibro Belt because it speaks to the doomed hope that makes humans both hilarious and pathetic. Who would believe that they could lose weight through jiggling their fat around? (I mean, I would, but only at 3 a.m.)
This “professional toning system” includes the Vibro Belt, the “walk it off” plan, and a nutrition guide. I can’t say for sure, but I my guess is that you’d get the same results following the nutrition and walking guides and leaving the belt at home.
Santo Gold commercials were everywhere in the early ‘80s. Entrepreneur Santo Victor Rigatuso realised that buying ads in the middle of the night on pre-cable TV stations was very cheap, so he basically bought all of them and used them to sell Santo Gold. At its height, over 100 channels across the country ran his bizarre ads for cheap metal chains coated with a minuscule amount of gold, sometimes for 8 hours straight. You could buy spools of Santo Gold and sell your own jewellery. Santo didn’t care. He also had something to do with wrestling, fronted a rock band, directed Blood Circus, a seemingly lost horror film collectors are desperate to see, and (reportedly) issued “credit cards” that could only be used to buy Jewellery and refurbished furniture from Rigatuso.
A guy as awesome as Santo Gold is naturally going to have byzantine legal problems that are way too complex and awesome to go into here, but read this article. It will change your life.
Skinnies Instant Lifts
Skinnies Instant Lifts do exactly what they promise: Reshape various parts of the body instantly — but so does packing tape. That’s essentially what the product is: Expensive tape you can use to give yourself an instant arm, neck, or leg lift by taping your fat where no one can see it.
They don’t recommend this, but you could use Skinnies to pull your lower lip downward, affix your nose to one side, and otherwise deform yourself in exciting ways.