June 22, 2007 -- Summer's officially here and with it a whole new crop of infomercial products for the season. See how "Good Morning America's" technology contributor Becky Worley rated them.
Deni Soft Ice Cream Maker
$59.95 plus shipping and handling
Worley's grade: B-
Worley's comments: I wanted to love the soft ice cream maker and easily turn my homemade concoctions into the swirl cones with chocolate Jimmy's sprinkled on top that I loved as a kid. But alas, it's never that easy is it?
The recipes that come with the Deni are easy to follow and quick to make. My ice cream had only four ingredients that I threw into a blender and then cooled in the fridge. And when it finally was done, the ice cream tasted great, even if it wasn't that cold.
But the directions say to churn the ice cream for 10 to 20 minutes. At 10 minutes the ice cream was soupy and not very cold. So I churned for another 10 minutes. At 20 minutes total churning, the ice cream came out of the dispenser at a glacial pace. It took two minutes to get the ice cream to fill the cone just up to the lip. It stopped after if filled the bottom of the cone and it wouldn't dispense anymore. I ended up pulling the churning paddle out and eating the ice cream off of it.
The motor didn't seem powerful. At one point while I was trying to dispense my ice cream, the motor ground to a halt. I had to hit the machine to get the motor going. Another time, I had to stick a knife into the machine to coax the paddles to start turning again.
On top of that, the machine was loud. Having this thing on for 20 minutes was tough. It was louder than my vacuum cleaner. And it was a real pain to clean up, with lots of pieces and nooks to scrub.
Rocket Fishing Rod
$39.95 plus shipping and handling
Worley's Grade: C
Worley's comments: I've fished with everything from a cane pole to a $500 graphite fly rod, so I know my way around tackle. I could see how the Rocket Rod's promise of simplifying casting could be good for beginners or young children. But it just didn't make fishing any easier; in fact it made the process more difficult and the chances of catching a fish more remote.
My longest cast was 20 feet. I often had fouled casts that went just 10 feet, and the leader and hook/bait often got tangled in the bobber capsule.
The reloading mechanism of jamming the leader, weight, hook and bait back into the bobber capsule was laborious. The catching process (where the spool "catches" so you can actually retrieve your line) was only intermittently successful. I was often forced to jimmy with the rod for a minute or two before I could reel and retrieve my line. And finally, I didn't catch anything.
Zippy Scoop Doggie Pickup Bags
$9.99 plus shipping and handling for 48 zippy scoops
Worley's grade: C-
Worley's comments: I have two dogs, so I do a lot of doggie mess cleanup. I use plastic bags over my hand, but for people who are squeamish about how this experience feels, I thought I could see a real use for the Zippy Scoops. It is a plastic bag attached to a cardboard handle/shovel. The idea is that you latch the shovel part together, scoop directly into the attached bag, fold over and dispose.
Though you don't have to feel your dog's waste through the plastic, it's just not that easy to get the waste into the bag, you end up pushing the waste around. That pushing and scraping results in a lot of mess on the shovel end of the scoop. When you close the scoop, this shovel end is exposed and gross. You have to walk around with the imminent threat that it will brush against you as you try to find a trash can.
Also, the sealing mechanism is weak. You latch two pieces of the cardboard together, but it's not like tying a bag shut. You can't fold it over to truly seal the mess away.