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Why I Don't Buy Off Infomercials

by Rich Finzer

We've all seen those somewhat annoying TV ads that tout the latest gizmo or gadget. The ad promises that this product fills a need you've had for years, it's new and totally "revolutionary," or it's the very best new gizmo/gadget to hit the street since the gasoline-powered alarm clock. And here's how the sales pitch goes.

For $19.95 plus shipping and handling, the pitchman will ship your gizmo to your door. If you order right now, you'll receive a second gadget for free (just pay separate shipping and handling)! I'll admit to taking the bait on a few of these deals, but not anymore. Here's what changed my thinking.

I was interested in a type of sealant that was packaged in an aerosol can and seemed to promise extremely satisfying results. The same BOGOF sales pitch promised a second "free" can, etc. Here's how the math worked out; the cost was $19.95 plus two shipping charges of $4.95 plus tax (eight percent here in New York) for a total of $31.45. And although I was eager to try the product, I did not call 1-800-BUY-THIS-PRODUCT. Instead, I employed a second strategy. I checked the internet, which turned out to be a good move.

My local blue home improvement store sold the same product for $12.99 plus tax. This meant an equivalent purchase of two cans plus the sales tax totaled $28.06, saving me a cool $3.39. Yeah, I can hear you all smirking, because a $3.39 savings is paltry. It is until you consider the following.

  • Assume for a moment that if I ordered from the pitchman and the product didn't meet my expectation. I'd be stuck with a second can of something I didn't want.
  • Assume I returned the second can. I'd be paying $4.95 to ship it back, costing me even more money.
  • I could just as easily have purchased a single can at the home improvement store. There was no need to buy two. And if the product performed poorly, I could return the can for a no questions asked refund, meaning I didn't have to pay to ship it back.
  • Last, I wanted to use the product immediately, but if purchased from the TV pitchman, I'd have likely waited five to seven days for "standard ground delivery."

The tactic used in these TV ads is to entice impulse buying on the part of consumers. Now, think back to the last time you bought something on impulse or on a whim. How did that work out? Did you experience a sudden rush of buyer's remorse? Unless I'm springing for a frozen treat on a hot day, I rarely buy anything on impulse. It's counter intuitive, but sometimes taking it slow is the fastest way to find a better deal.

Reviewed October 2017

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Rich Finzer resides in upstate New York. During his 40+ years as a writer, he has published over 1,200 newspaper, magazine and Internet articles. His award-winning book; Maple on Tap is available through his publisher, Acres USA. His enovels Taking the Tracks, Dawn Toward Daylight, and Julie & Me are available through Amazon Kindle.

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