You can now read 5 articles in a month for free on BostonGlobe.com. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

Consumer Alert

‘As Seen on TV’ products not always what they seem

A reader’s ongoing saga of trying to find someplace, anyplace, to fix a broken “As Seen on TV” product is a reminder of the issues that come with that category of goods .

In the early days of promoting what were then not mainstream products, over-the-top pitches made them known nationwide. Today, you can buy some “As Seen on TV” products in stores, but much of how these gizmos are sold has stayed the same as when Ron Popeil (Ronco) was hawking his Veg-O-Matic and Pocket Fisherman.

Continue reading below

Such products tend to be marketed with a certain kitschy flair that sets them apart from traditional products. Pitches to buy them by phone or online can also be filled with traps. That includes add-ons, upgrades, and offers for a second item “free.” That comes with an asterisk about added shipping and handling charges, which can equal the price of the “free” item.

That leads to a key rule of purchasing “As Seen on TV” products: Be sure to sort out how much the product is really going to cost before buying.

From WaxVac (ear wax cleaner) to ShamWow (a cloth that holds a lot of liquid), you need to check out what people who bought the products have said about them. Forget the people in the commercials who are wowed by all these products — or your children begging for one of the kid products they saw on TV — until you’re convinced they are worth buying.

One issue that has long dogged “As Seen on TV” products is durability. Many tend to be made inexpensively. They might actually do what they claim for a time, but then they break and can prove next to impossible to repair.

If you decide to go for it, avoid the TV offers and buy at a major retailer — Target, CVS, and Walgreens carry quite a few — to avoid shipping charges and other issues.

Even if some of these products started with a sideshow-like quality, consider the now ubiquitous OxiClean. You don’t have to dismiss the genre altogether: Just shop smart, and you might end up finding the solution you’re searching for.

Mitch Lipka has been helping consumers for two decades. He also writes the Consumer Alert blog on Boston.com and can be reached at ConsumerNews@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @mitchlipka.
Loading comments...
Subscriber Log In

We hope you've enjoyed your 5 free articles'

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Already a subscriber?
Your city. Your stories. Your Globe.
Yours FREE for two weeks.
Enjoy free unlimited access to Globe.com for the next two weeks.
Limited time only - No credit card required!
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.
Thanks & Welcome to Globe.com
You now have unlimited access for the next two weeks.
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.