Putting Infomercial Products to the Test: Do They Really Work?

ByABC News via via logo
December 31, 2008, 8:00 AM

March 2, 2007 — -- Those infomercial products look amazing in the commercials, but do they really work?

"Good Morning America" technology contributor Becky Worley tested several infomercial products and checked in on the show today with her results.

The Claim: The Hercules Hook is the easiest way to hang pictures, mirrors, shelves -- just about anything. Easy to install just twist, push and turn! No more drilling or pounding to try to find a stud -- no more damaged walls! The reinforced steel design provides the muscle to hang and hold up to 150 pounds. Great for plaster, drywall or paneling.

Grade A: Simple, does what it says it will. And the infomercial scores points for visually explaining how the product works

Click here to visit the Web site.

The Claim: A key chain-size digital recording device that you can speak into to remember appointments, phone numbers, lists, directions and the like. Also has a built-in LED flashlight.

Grade C: You have to read the directions to figure out how to listen to multiple messages. Audio quality is very poor, and there is no volume control. When recording sound with ambient noises present (like in cars or parking lots) the audio quality is even worse. Given that the advertised use of the product is in parking lots, or loud public spaces like grocery stores, My Lil' Reminder is not delivering what it promises.

Calls for comment to My Lil' Reminder were not returned.

Click here to visit the Web site.

The Claim: Forget the fuss and muss of potting mixes forever. Our exclusive Chia Growing Sponge lets you grow fresh herbs indoors -- even in winter. Simply place a sponge in one of the quality pots, sprinkle seeds on top and water daily. Soon you'll have fresh herbs at your fingertips. The Chia Herb Garden comes complete with everything you need.

Grade B+: If you want to grow something and you live in a confined space or aren't really a green thumb, this is a good product. The best thing is there's no dirt involved. The herbs grow in a sponge so there's no messy dirt all around the pots or during the potting process.

I couldn't truly test if the herbs were transplantable since my seedlings are still pretty small and it's cold out. Plus, that's not the point. It's about the simplest way to grow something, not about creating a greenhouse or actually having herbs to eat. The amount of herbs produced is small, so you could maybe use the basil once or the parsley in a pinch, but not ongoing.

Click here to visit the Web site.

The Claim: A dry steam iron that gives the results of dry cleaning. Cut your ironing time in half and say goodbye to wrinkles and expensive dry cleaning bills.

Grade C: There's powerful steam when it's ironing flat. It's good on wrinkles when used together with traditional ironing functions. You can turn the "soleplate" on to have a traditional iron, and when you add the serious steam power, the Pressa Bella does a good job. But it doesn't live up to its claims, and it's slower than traditional ironing.

Complaint: The first unit Worley used broke after about 15 minutes, and steam stopped coming out.

Company Response: Ann Flynn from All Star Marketing said that is is the first line of of production and occasionally there are slight defects that they aim to fix. They do offer a full refund. To get the refund, you call a customer service line and they talk you through it. They refund 99 percent of requests, Flynn said.

Complaint: The infomercial and all the packaging says this is a "dry steamer." But Worley said it constantly leaked water onto her clothes -- a lot of water. The directions said if the steamer was leaking to stop ironing and wait for the red steamer light to turn off, but it didn't matter if I did this or not.

Complaint: Although the power of the steam is good enough to use the Pressa Bella as an upright steamer (no contact with the material -- only blowing steam on it to remove wrinkles) the iron is too heavy to hold as a traditional upright steamer.

Company Response: They know it is heavy but it is really more in the line of what a professional iron looks and feels like. It's a tradeoff. Many people think its too heavy and have told them that, but if you want the results quickly, you need an internal boiler and, unfortunately, that makes the unit heavy.

Complaint: The unit can only hold 5 ounces of water at most. When steaming and ironing pants and shirts, the steam ran out after five minutes of use. You have to turn the unit off and let it reheat the water every time you refill. That can be a three- to process, so the ironing time with Pressa Bella was actually slower than with a traditional iron and a spray bottle.

Company Response: Typical steam irons hold only 5 ounces. The Pressa Bella is really effective and doesn't require a ton of steam. Flynn says that it takes people time to get used to limiting the amount of steam that you use. You should be able to get a lot done before refilling the water, but because most conventional irons require so much more steam, people are conditioned to "steam away." It's all about consumers getting used to the strength of the product, she said.

Click here to visit the Web site.

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