Saturday, March 8, 2008

Infomercial Scams…..Hype or Truth!

You know what they say, to coin a phrase, “if it sounds to good to be true”, and we have all heard this at one point in our lives.

I lay awake, blinking in the darkness trying to see the faintest of morning light, when, with reservation I look at the clock......I sigh.....another sleepless night. It is 3 am in the morning. I climb from bed and head for the family room to turn on the TV so I can whittle away the time until the sun comes up. No rest for the weary! I blink at the glaring blob of white and begin to focus on one of many infomercials that saturate the airways during this timeframe. I change the channel.....nope here is another one trying to get me to spend my buck and place me in a hypnotic state. Give me “I Love Lucy” reruns anytime over this stuff.

So I settle in to watch one that has caught my attention since it is an airbrush method for applying mineral makeup. Hmm...... haven’t seen this one before. After watching how the device works and then observing their marketing strategy, I actually became intrigued. Spray on makeup with an airbrush?! However, this can’t be for the average consumer, this must be a pitch to professionals in the industry, I thought! Nope, it is for us to use in the comfort of our homes, ladies. They always make it look so simple and fun to use, too! At least until the novelty wears off and it just becomes another mundane task in our already cluttered lives.

Some of us also receive an adrenalin rush from sheer excitement of trying something new and just the act of buying makes us feel good. Now, if you don’t get caught up in the hype and take a minute to think about the truth of this unit, you will realize this is not for women on the go. Never mind the learning curve to make sure you don’t spray it into your eyes, get it on too heavy, on your clothes, or all in your hair, but the sheer inconvenience of loading each time with foundation and then cleaning it after each use to prevent clogs, or between changes to a blush or bronzer. The instructions for this machine and the claims they make are exhausting. Also, think about how much unused makeup is wasted within or washed through the machines’ mechanism. Seems like an expensive proposition.

Then there is the issue of touchup! Do you haul this thing around in a shoulder bag? What happens when the motor breaks, how do you apply this makeup then? Does it come with a warranty? It appears to be about 3 months and you are forced to only use their makeup, otherwise this is void. Great marketing strategy to get repeat business! Going on vacation? Is this thing really even portable? Where do I store it when not in use? Another added step since some of us has limited vanity space making this a disadvantage. What if my power goes out before or right in the middle of applying my makeup? What then? Is the makeup safe, preservative and chemical free? They claim so, but can’t tell since no actual ingredient information is provided by the company in this regard! Seems like a lot of undue stress, work or mess to begin your day with.

Then they show how nice it looks on the women models, flawless to perfection. I’m thinking this is a fantastic device for a professional esthetician for doing photo shoots on models, Hollywood starlets and those special occasions. In the hands of a professional the results are probably astounding. But for everyday use for the casual user, this unit just doesn’t seem practical.

The lure of this machine is pretty incredible, until they show application on a paper face and compare it to traditional foundation and loose mineral makeup. Now I grow skeptical as I continue to watch further. They demonstrate how smooth and perfect the gradual shading is over the face as you spray it on. Hmmm.......looks good! Then they show how liquid foundation applies and it of course is thick and pasty, looking like a mask. Like this is new information! Then the loose mineral makeup is used on the face and they show how it accentuates fine lines by settling into them due to a chalky consistency. Now I furrow my brow with disdain since this is now bordering on the ridiculous. Remember now, this is all being played out on a paper face, which is a dry, flat surface with no skin texture, moisturizer, or natural skin oils to blend with the minerals. Plus they also stipulate that they have created texture in the paper to mimic facial fine lines.

Now they repeat the same, only this time they demonstrate with the mineral powders over the same area they sprayed foundation and.....hey look.....more lines are showing up again due to the chalky consistency, as they so eloquently put it. Well, here is the clue! When spraying onto a surface, the application will be uniform, plus the moistness swells the paper. So now the application of the loose minerals over the liquid are absorbing the moisture and adhering to the wet areas caught in the paper creases, hence the lines appear to return while making it appear less uniform. Excellent marketing strategy if our faces were made of paper. But, fortunately our faces are 3 dimensional, made of living tissue with oils, nooks and crannies and fine lines, and express our emotions.

All minerals are not created equal as many of us know, and a high quality blend will adhere and meld into our moisturizer or our natural oils for a smooth flawless complexion without accentuating lines or drying our skin due to its’ consistency and light refracting properties. Using mineral powders is absolutely the cleanest method for makeup application, leaving a smooth, perfectly uniform complexion with no line of demarcation either.

They further tout how this machine eliminates bacteria by not using brushes and makeup sponges. Yet they advise using a brush to smooth the makeup after application for various problematic reasons. What’s the point then if you still need a brush to correct makeup issues? Besides, I would rather clean a brush or sponge than this device after every use. And they advise running water through it and discharging it into the sink for cleaning, yet now they have created the perfect environment for bacteria, mold or yeast growth. Moist, air and dark! Common sense would dictate, next time you use it, your makeup is now contaminated with microbes and you are spraying them onto your face. But unfortunately, many of us are more enthralled with the concept rather than the reality of using a device like this. I just don’t have that much time to spare within my busy day or worry about things like contamination which occurs frequently when moisture is introduced.

Although the women demonstrating this product believe in what they are selling as innovative, I would however, appreciate it more if they sold it strictly on its’ merits and not insult my intelligence by demonstrating on a paper face or make it sound easier, safer, cleaner, and a far better, faster application than traditional makeup. It is always about truth versus hype and the tricks they use to entice us to buy. We have to be wise in determining which is which before spending our hard earned dollar. Especially at the very high price tag on this machine!

Reviews for this product on message boards are also mixed, about 50/50 of con vs. pro. However the majority of the pro reviews seemed to have been removed due to obviously being spam related for this product. So for now a true take on the perception of this machine is still a coin toss.

Good rule of thumb, never buy on impulse, sample this product if possible before making a final decision, (they seem to offer a 30 day trial period for a deposit) and then sleep on it to be sure this is a wise decision. As for this gadget; inventive and interesting.....but nice try, this gal isn’t buying into this infomercial hype!

After that entertaining ½ hour, I finally change the channel only to look at another infomercial of many, for skin crèmes. They always show the before and after and they get in real tight to the face on some. Brows appear lifted, wrinkles and fine lines seem improved. Texture on the skin is much better. If you look closely you can see an obvious shift in the position of the facial expressions such as minimizing lines around the mouth.....A slight pucker to emphasize lines, to then almost a smile to make the lines appear to have vanished or be reduced. Or they furrow the brow to emphasize folds in the skin, only to relax it in the after shot. Or they are in so tight, you see the brow furrows, lines around the eyes and the droopy eyelid all seem to be lifted and appear more youthful. I often times wonder, is someone standing there using their fingers to lift the skin just out of camera range? Or is it actually even the same person? Especially since all we get to look at is an eye or forehead of the individual. I also notice lighting is different in the before and after picture. Bright light is clearly being washed over the face in the after picture which gives a more youthful appearance by obscuring facial flaws. As my skepticism grows over the years, I decide to try this myself by using a bright light on my face with freshly moisturized skin and flaws were obscured and my face of course appeared brighter, more lifted as the light literally bounced back from the shine of the moisturizer before it was absorbed.

Then I begin to examine the content of what I am really looking at. Have you ever noticed that in the before pictures, the hair is flat and messy, they never smile, and lighting is dark? Now the after pictures, the women are made up, the hair is coiffed, they are smiling and their face is brightly lit. Of course the lines seem diminished due to the brighter light reflecting off of their skin, similar to the light refracting properties of mineral makeup. Smiling ever so slightly also lifts the face and gives a more youthful appearance. We all look better and younger after a visit to the salon.

Now I will admit, many moons ago, I too have been lured into purchasing some of these products and to my dismay, though any face crèmes I used made my skin feel smooth and soft, they did nothing to actually reduce my fine lines. In fact, one well known company that is on almost daily, I had to return their products since my skin reacted terribly to the ingredients they used, and caused burning, and made me break out.

Don’t get me wrong, not all infomercials are hype and many offer reputable products, as in the case for acne sufferers and some skin crèmes. These seem to work well for many and they swear by them. However, I have found the same active ingredients in drugstore brands as well for far less money. It is just about reading ingredient lists and doing your homework. And some of the crèmes do feel wonderful and smell good, but I have learned that natural, organic oils and butters do exactly the same job without the hype of advertising. In fact, I have found some of the best facial care products in obscure locations like my local food co-op. No advertising to get you lathered up into spending that hard earned dollar, but just plain healthy, natural, safer and better for your skin ingredients with similar or better results. No commitments, no payment plans, no repeat billing for club members.

The endless bombardment of hype thrown at us can certainly be daunting. Money making schemes with promises of becoming independently wealthy in real estate, earn money with your own internet business, getting money out of the government, and earn money on Ebay. Let me assure you, money does not come easy, it takes risk, tenacity and hard work and nothing in life worth having is free or easy. Next time you think you may want to whip out the credit card with a promise of getting rich quick, google the word "infomercials Scams or Hype" and really learn what they are selling and how they entice you out of your money. Their marketing strategies are brilliant and they are designed to enthrall you about this supposedly new and innovative breakthrough. If you want easy money, then know that you are already money ahead by closing your purse and changing the channel.

Now for my absolute favorite; weight loss gimmicks through diet pills or useless machinery. And again, I have to admit, I too was suckered by many of these products promising to help me lose weight. The disclaimer at the bottom of the screen in teeny tiny print is always the same. “Results Not Typical! These are unique experiences.” Either the products they are selling work or they don’t. There is no magic bullet for the problem of overweight Americans. It is diet and exercise and a "stick to it" mindset. So whenever I see the infamous disclaimer I know it is time to change the channel and put the credit card away.

If you're like me, it took me several times of being fooled by claims to get me to spend my money, only to finally achieve that "I get it" moment. And still today, I will come across an infomercial that is calling my name, and I bite my lip and switch channels, knowing this will only lead to the fleecing of my bank account. These marketing strategists know how to play on our weaknesses and our desires of achieving that cure for what is bothering us. Needing more money, being thinner, more beautiful, having more free time, and accomplishing this through images of fantasy of big houses, shiny cars, perfect bodies, and far away tropical places.

I found two interesting news articles that will shed more light on how the consumer is being duped out of their cash by these people who are clearly in violation of the Federal Trade Commission rules for making false or misleading claims. MSNBC Infomercial Scams is a detailed article about how they actually did a study on a fictional face crème they invent to show how through marketing, they can get you to buy it despite the fact it is completely ineffective. The New York Times Infomericals, Ceveat Emptor is a great article and addresses weight loss and medical gimmicks, and many other devices and money making programs that entice us out of our dollars.

However, I have found infomercials to be really good for one thing despite the hype, assisting me with falling asleep since now I am comatose from postulating marketing tactics. Until tomorrow, when in the wee hours of the morning I will seek out another dose of infomercials to put me back to sleep.

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