Jan. 5, 2010 -- Infomercials may make for an odd form of entertainment, but the products they tout don't always live up to their promises -- just ask the staff at Consumer Reports magazine.
A new report by the magazine reviews 15 "miracle gadgets" sold on TV and finds that many didn't quite make the grade. We've picked five duds, and combed through Consumer Reports archives to find some previously ranked -- and better -- alternatives.
Infomercial Dud: The Slap Chop
As promised by infamous pitchman Vince Shlomi, the $20 Slap Chop can "dice, chop, and mince" foods in seconds. But Consumer Reports said the gadget got "no high fives" because it chopped unevenly while harder foods tended to get trapped within its blades.
Tested alternative: The $15 Black & Decker Ergo EHC650. With a score of 66 out of 100, this chopper was Consumer Reports' highest-ranked chopper and, thanks in part to its $15 price tag, was named a "best buy" by the magazine.
Infomercial Dud: Garry Ultra Light Vacuum
The makers of this $199 vacuum tout it as "professional quality" and claim that it loosens "stubborn" dirt the first time you pass over it. Consumer Reports found otherwise, complaining of weak air flow and giving Garry the lowest rating of all its uprights for deep cleaning. "The Garry is lightweight in more ways than one," the magazine quipped.
Tested alternative: The $230 Hoover WindTunnel Anniversary Edition U6485-900.With a score of 73 out of 100, this Hoover was Consumer Reports' highest-rated upright vacuum. Although fairly noisy, it "excelled in cleaning both carpets and bare floors," while keeping dust emissions low, says the magazine.
Infomercial Dud: Ab Circle Pro
Who wouldn't want a $200 gadget that will "firm and flatten" stomachs with three minutes of exercise in "just weeks?" Not the folks at Consumer Reports. The device "burns no more calories than brisk walking," they found.
Tested alternative: Consumer Reports frowns on most exercise gadgets that promise fast results. Instead, the magazine recommends investing $100 in a home gym and sticking to a fitness regimen. Some cheap work-out tools that actually work: dumbbells (Cost: $6-$60 a pair), elastic bands or tubes (Cost: $10-$15 each); stability ball (Cost: $20-$40); workout DVDs (Cost: $15 each); and exercise mat (Cost: $13-$20.)
Infomercial Dud: Mighty Putty
With an irresistible name, this "super-powered epoxy" made famous by the late pitchman Billy Mays sticks to "most any surface," can "support up to 350 pounds." That's all true, says Consumer Reports. The problem is the $19.99 tag for 6 sticks; other adhesives work just as well and cost less.
Tested alternative: Multipurpose adhesive: Loctite Sumo Glue, which scores 77 out of 100 and costs $5.50 for 2 ounces. The magazine in particular lauds its "excellent" adhesiveness to wood and plastic, its gap-filling ability and water resistance.
Infomercial Dud: Tyre Grip
Traction in a can, for $19.95, is what Tyre Grip promises. Sprayed on tires, it supposedly "helps keep you on the road regardless of road conditions." But Consumer Reports begs to differ. "Don't toss your snow tires," it warns. The spray "improved traction modestly during acceleration and braking" but only for a mile.
Tested alternative: You'll have to spend some dough if you want winter traction. Michelin X-Ice XI 2 tires, with an 84 score and a $106 price tag, do an "excellent" job in the snow and braking on ice. Of course, $424 (for four tires) is a lot more than $19.95, but think of it this way: if you spend less on quick fixes that don't really work you'll soon have enough money to spend on the real deal. Plus, those tires will last you more than a few winters.