TV shopping fails

We take a look at five 'miracle' products being spruiked on daytime TV.

Have we got a bargain for you!

On maternity leave or couch-bound with the flu? You're the target audience for daytime TV advertising. Tune in and you'll hear all about 'miracle' products that will make your life easier and safer.

And you don't have to watch the shopping channels to be exposed to these ads! Up to four infomercials per hour are screened during the mid-morning shows of the three flagship commercial stations in Australia. 

We take a look at five products recently promoted on daytime TV, and find a catch with all of them:

Plus, find out how to protect yourself from the lure of the infomercial.

Kleva Range Essential Bundle ($61.90 incl postage)

The Kleva Range Essential Bundle includes six gadgets that claim to slash your prep time in the kitchen. Our colleagues at Consumer NZ put them to the test and the panellists weren't impressed. While the gadgets perform largely as claimed, there were some snags:

  • The "world's best can opener" has a stiff handle that took considerable pressure to turn.
  • The spiralizer felt unsafe, as the sharp blades inside the plastic cones are too exposed. See our spiralizer reviews for safer models.
  • The manual food processor required you to chop your vegies in small pieces before you place them inside, so isn't much of a time saver. See our food processor reviews for a better option.
  • Two slicer gadgets didn't perform better than much cheaper ones.

Panellists also struggled with a gadget to seal plastic bags, and questioned if zip-lock bags wouldn't be a better option. 

Renovator Paint Runner Pro ($140 incl postage)

Renovator Paint Runner Pro claims to offer the benefits of a paint roller without the spatters. Our colleagues at Consumer NZ decided to put it to the test.

The Paint Runner Pro is a large, hollowed-out paint roller. It fits up to a litre of paint, which is pushed out through small holes onto the roller's microfibre pad by running it down a surface. However, the paint was difficult to get through the small microfibre holes in the pad. And while it met the claim of no drips and splatters, it left an unprofessional finish.

It also covered only about 6m² with one litre of paint instead of the claimed 17m²/L. 

So while it may be suitable for a quick touch-up, you'd be better off with a cheaper standard roller for a more professional looking job. 

Your free credit score

Commercial comparison sites are spruiking your free credit score and credit report on daytime TV. While it's a good idea to check your credit report regularly, you don't need the middleman – everyone is entitled to a free credit report from the three national credit reporting agencies every 12 months. You can find them at:

Do you have a bad credit score? While some lenders may look at your score, it's not the only element to getting your loan approved. "In reality, credit providers must look at a range of factors relating to your financial situation when deciding whether to offer you a loan, and will be more interested in your actual income and expenses than your credit score," says Katherine Temple, senior policy officer from the Consumer Action Law Centre.

And the real problem with getting your credit score from commercial comparison sites is that they use the opportunity to promote offers like credit cards or personal loans. It's important to keep in mind that these recommendations may be influenced by commissions and that too many credit applications can become a red flag on your credit report and actually damage your ability to get a loan when you need it. 

Exercise belts

Imagine getting fit and toned without any effort as you watch TV, do household chores, check emails or play with your children – simply by strapping on an exercise belt. There are several products on the market that claim to do this – they usually have an extra-wide belt, which apparently forces your tummy muscles to contract, and presumably the weight will just fall of you. 

If this sounds too good to be true then you're right to be cautious – our US sister organisation Consumer Report measured the calories burned running on a treadmill with and without the "Belly Burner" exercise belt and found no difference. 

"Since those belts normally only target individual and small muscle groups, they have no real benefit for healthy people," explains exercise physiologist Elaine Killen. 

Some of the claims made may actually discourage people from doing physical exercise, which goes against current medical and government guidelines, is detrimental for health overall, and would increase chronic disease risk, says Killen. So an exercise belt alone is unlikely to help you get in shape. 

Creating a workout space at home? See our tips for a home gym on a shoestring and our exercise bike reviews.

Funeral insurance

TV ads for funeral insurance send you on a guilt trip by reminding you that your death could leave your family in financial stress. And it couldn't be easier to take out a policy, as no health checks are needed. But we found some catches:

  • You can end up paying more in premiums than the value of the funeral cover. 
  • Premiums can rise sharply when you get older, and it may be hard to afford them, especially if you're on a fixed income.
  • If you stop paying your premium, you'll no longer be covered and in most cases won't receive a refund
  • In 2014, 16.5% of policies were cancelled, one in three of those by the insurer because of non-payment of premiums.
  • Pre-paid funerals, funeral bonds and life insurance or a simple savings account are often a better choice. 

Read about more about funeral insurance.

Protect yourself from the lure of the infomercial

You might ask yourself, "Who buys this stuff?", but people stuck at home are often bored and not in critical-thinking mode.

And there's another factor at play.

"People form a virtual relationship with the presenter and in the absence of other information, if someone familiar is telling you something, the natural response is to trust them," explains Dr Paul Harrison, an expert in consumer behaviour at the Deakin Business School.

A product is not necessarily a bad buy just because it's spruiked on daytime TV. But it pays to think twice before you dial the number on the screen and have a smooth-talking salesperson on the line.

Harrison suggests you instead:

  • Step away from it and give yourself time to think.
  • Ask yourself: how would my life be better with this product – and how would my life be worse without this product? What problems would this solve beyond what the advertiser is telling me?
  • Talk to someone you trust about your plan, someone who doesn't have an investment in you buying the product.
  • Consider how much money you have and how buying this product will affect your bottom line.