As Seen on TV: Are They Worth the Money?

You’ve seen the infomercials: ShamWow, Magic Bullet Food Processor, Ginsu Knives…and the list goes on. The product demonstrators make the gadgets look really cool. But do they work? And more importantly, do they help you save money?

That’s what Ben wanted to know when he wrote me the following email.

Could you write a post about some of the gadgets you see on tv? Food
dehydrator, does it save money? Vacuum sealer, can that help stretch bulk
foods? etc.
Thanks, I enjoy reading your site.

I don’t have a ton of experience with products seen on TV, though I do own a few. Last Christmas I was given the Magic Bullet food processor. I will say it’s a handy gadget to have on hand. I use it frequently for scrambling eggs and making homemade mochas. I wouldn’t say it saves me money. But since I received it as a gift, I love it!

I recently purchased the Shark Steam Mop at Costco. I believe the Shark has also been seen on TV. I needed something to quickly clean my large laminate flooring. I considered the Swiffer, but I hate the disposable pads and chemicals. The Shark seemed like a good option.

I used it for the first time this week, and it left a bit of streaking on my floors. I’m hoping that gets better over time. I might also try to add some vinegar to the water chamber to prevent streaking. All in all, I’m also happy with this purchase, though I’d definitely put it in the saves time, rather than money, category.

I also recently bought a food dehydrator (I’m not sure if this particular model has ever been seen on TV). Now that is one purchase that will pay for itself, if you use it a lot! I love to make homemade beef jerky, which is not only cheaper than what you find in the store, but it tastes better, too!

I also love the food dehydrator, because you can dehydrate lots of produce, if you find a good sale. And if you have an overabundant garden? Dehydrate the extras and use them through the winter.

So my opinion is that some products that are seen on TV will save you money. Some will not save you money, but will save you time. And I’m sure some aren’t worth it at all. You need to be selective.

Do you have any experience with products that have been seen on TV? Any products to recommend? How about horror stories?

Photo by michale.


By , on May 8, 2009
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.


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  1. Irene:

    I like the idea of using diapers as a reusable alternative for a swiffer cloth. We have 3 cats and a dog and I use squares of fleece from a blanket I picked up at a thrift store. It is fantastic for attracting the pet hair. Wash them and add vinegar to the wash, do not use fabric softener and over dry them to add static cling.
    Harvest Maid is the best dehydrator I’ve every had and worth the $5 I paid at a yard sale years ago. Used in conjunction with the vacuum sealer (Tillia) that my husband brought home from the Oshkosh Air Show about 25 years ago, I have saved $$$ on food. I also use it to protect things from the humidity here in the South. I have sealed everything from car and equipment filters to off-season clothing. We even vacuum sealed down parkas for a trip to Alaska to save luggage space.
    The swivel sweeper did not work as it is shown on TV. The brushes kept sending dirt flying.
    Ped egg works great
    Procactive really works for my daughter.
    The underbed vacuum storage bags work great.
    Most of the stuff we have that was advertised on TV we picked up at thrift stores or yard sales.

  2. Peter L:

    Watch out for auto shipping Auto shipping is a scam in and of it’s self I have a friend that works in the industry and he tells me the following

    1. Whether it is internet or a phone sale the auto ship is explained however it is never clear. They are trained to gloss over auto ships and just meet the FCC guidelines that keep them out of court.
    2. This is true only for the 800 number call operators are standing by calls STAY AWAY FROM THE FREE OFFERS AT THE END OF THE CALL. They are trained to try and lull you in by using a very monotone voice and at the end of the statement saying “OK” real brightly. People they are reading you a CONTRACT and it IS binding The best way to not mess with these is as soon as they start hang up!!

  3. I have never bought these items from a TV ad, but someone is buying it or they wouldn’t keep advertising them . . .

    I usually find a cheaper, yet effective, alternative at Wal-Mart . . .

  4. bob:

    I can’t help but feel that most of those “As seen on TV” gadgets are really crappily made. I see loads of them at the local Salvation Army or Goodwill store and honestly, its amazing that they look as good as they do on TV because some of them seem way too cheaply made, even for $10.

  5. Bri:

    I was super excited to buy ShamWow to replace paper towels, but I was super disappointed in how they worked…which was not at all. They kind of absorb liquid spills, but they don’t pick up all the water. They leave a film on the surface of everything.

  6. Thank you, Meg @ FruWiki! Why does no one seem to realize that friggin Snuggies are just ROBES ON BACKWARDS! They’re a little longer, fine. Go buy a GUY’S robe, ladies.

    That said, Attack of the Show on G4 often tests similar seen-on-TV products. I recall they tested the ShamWow and one imitator. Both did decently, but one did better than the other. I think it was the second one. I bet they have clips in an archive on the AOTS website, if you looked. (For Snuggies and similar, they actually got guys to put on the things and then sit in cold storage for a few minutes. It was pretty hilarious AND informative.

    I never thought the dryer balls were for reducing dryer time. But they would be a good alternative to dryer sheets if you’re like my husband and are chemical sensitive. Good to know that there are mixed reviews out there, though.

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