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Just That Easy: 3 a.m. Infomercials a Trap

4/10/08

by Scott Spinelli

This just in: I am a sucker.

Late at night, I can be convinced to buy almost anything. Knives that cut through cement. Cement that cuts through knives. Whatever.

To date, I haven’t actually purchased anything. But I have come alarmingly close. In fact, I’d be less concerned if I had bought these items. The idea that I’ve convinced myself these are useful contraptions is what worries me most.

The crème-de-la-crème of infomercials has to be that Ron Popeil fella, commonly known as the “Set It and Forget It!” guy with the rotisserie grill. Though, even if you haven’t heard of Ronco, all of these late night pirates employ the same tactics.

Each one starts off with the biggest loser of all, the helper, Mr. or Mrs. “Please, Tell Me More.” It’s always some “random” guy, almost as if they found someone who happened to know about rotisseries and asked if he wouldn’t mind shooting a commercial.

Once Ron has gone through each and every example of what this grill can do, he finally gets to the price. But, at this point, it really doesn’t matter what the price is, does it?

He looks you right in the eye, as if you’re going to purchase his soul, and then astronomically high numbers start appearing in the upper right hand corner.

“You won’t pay one million dollars. You won’t pay 500 thousand dollars. You won’t even pay 100 thousand dollars…Not even…”

After this seemingly endless charade, the final price still isn’t on the screen.

“What you will pay (you’re thinking, ‘YES I WILL PAY THIS’) is four, eaaasy payments of just $39.95.”

The simple inclusion of that one descriptor does it for me. If this guy is saying it’s easy, how hard could it be? He could say four easy payments of $399.95, and I’d still find a way to make it seem easy.

“You know, if I just stop eating for a few months, I could probably squeeze this rotisserie grill into my budget…”

Once you’ve basically agreed to sign over the deed to your house, give away your first born and give a blood sample just to have a chance to buy the product, they always keep roping you in. Then comes the “free” stuff, the stuff that they’re just going to throw in, as if you’re the only one getting that deal.

“If you call right now, this exact millisecond…”

The best throw-in, in the history of all throw-ins, is the flavor injector – basically a flu shot for a rhinoceros. That demonstration Ron always does with it never makes any sense. Also, I’ve never thought of using some of the combinations he uses, but somehow they always come out good.

“First, you take the lamb shank. Then, you load up your flavor injector. Buckle up, folks, next stop, Flavorville, USA! All right, let’s try using…orange peels, rosemary, dog crap and some thyme.”

I’m sitting in my room, lights dimmed, wearing nothing but my boxers, potato chips all over my stomach, thinking, “Wait just a gosh darned second! Rosemary and orange peels?!”

Somehow, it seems more often than not, people are trying to sell knives really late at night, which doesn’t seem wise. People half conscious at 3 a.m. shouldn’t be purchasing 20 different ways to cut steak.

Could you imagine if someone went a little out of the box?

“For just six easy payments of $99.95, this entire cocaine cartel can be yours. But wait! Call now, and we’ll throw in two free flavor injectors, a set of steak knives and a brand new T-shirt folder!”

I can’t talk about infomercials without bringing up my old pal, Chef Tony. He’s that clown who dresses up in a ridiculous chef’s outfit, as if anyone thinks that A) he’s a real chef and B) his pencil-stache makes him more Italian.

Truth is, it could be the Ronco grill, the George Foreman grill, the Magic Bullet or something Chef Tony has whipped up, one thing that remains constant is these jokers are damn good. You’ve got to hand it to them. They’ve mastered the art of convincing people they need things they clearly don’t. If you’ve ever been a single guy down at the bar, you know for certain that’s a lot easier said than done.

Scott Spinelli is the humor columnist for The Daily Orange where his columns appear every Thursday. He knows you haven’t bought tickets to his charity comedy show. You know, that one on April 26. Don’t act like you didn’t know. He can be reached at saspinel@syr.edu.

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April 10, 2008 - Posted by | Spinelli

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