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Lifestyle

May 2, 2013

What's the catch with 'As Seen on TV' products?

Dear Jill,

Your column is the first thing I read in the morning. I love couponing and your answers are so informative. I have a question for you about the ads on TV that sell an item for $20. I can buy it locally for that price, too, but if I “order now” they will send a second one for free, and if I “call now,” shipping is free. So, what’s the catch? Are they selling my name or what?

Gerane S.

Oh, the ubiquitous “As Seen on TV” infomercial. Designed to showcase a product’s virtues in a fast-paced, energetic format, an infomercial’s goal is to educate a shopper about what a product can do for them (especially if it’s something new and wonderful!) as well as to encourage shoppers to purchase the product quickly. Often, the magic selling price is $19.99, and there are numerous calls to action – bonuses added to the offer if you “act now.”

So what exactly is the catch? Most infomercials are not scams – you will receive the product you’re buying and you will pay the price that’s advertised. Consider this though – the $19.95 price point is not chosen arbitrarily. Numerous studies have shown that $20 is a “magic” price point for shoppers – it’s not a huge amount of money with which to take a chance on something new. If an ad is telling you to “Act now, and we’ll send a second one free,” rest assured that it isn’t free. The company planned to sell you two items all along and throwing the second in “free” is an attractive incentive designed to push you further along the decision-making path, encouraging you pick up the phone or go online to order.

I have some knowledge of what goes on behind the scenes with infomercials, as I’ve previously been approached about bringing my Super-Couponing DVD workshops to the infomercial market. I’m always interested in helping others learn to save money and shop smart, and I want to bring that knowledge to as many people as possible. But after going through part of the planning process, I felt that infomercials were not necessarily about helping shoppers.

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