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. Matthew:

    I bought an “express gourmet food processor” in 2002. It’s perfect for finely chopping onions without dealing with the fumes and without pureeing the whole thing to a liquid mess. Plus, it’s a lot quicker than chopping them by hand.

    The container on it cracked when it fell off the counter one day so I bought a second one. It lasted another three years until (you guessed it) the container cracked again falling off the counter so last week I replaced it and bought two more (reserving them for the future).

    In essence, here is a product which I know has a flaw, but provides so much added value that I’m willing to “stock up” on them in case they stop selling them.

  2. D:

    I definitely agree with you! Some products are great and do save you money and time! For example I have some of those Debbie Meyer Green Bags (I got on clearance at Bed Bath + Beyond) and they definitely are a money saver, and frugal, and time saving! They’ve kept my produce much longer. I also have a version of the snuggie and I love it! It works perfect for me! I love it and it helped lower my heating costs in the winter!! :D

  3. TStrump:

    I purchases the sham wow and they actually work really well.
    I generally don’t buy these products unless I actually feel they will do the job.

  4. Lara One:

    About 2 years ago, I purchased 2 packs of the blue rubber dryer balls at the drug store on sale. They have paid for themselves several times over. They do not shorten dryer time, but they do eliminate the need for pricey dryer sheets. Also, our neighborhood covnents prohibits hanging clothes outside, so we have to use the dryer all year long.

    I see how a rubber dryer ball could break open. Mine are well made and very solid. THe only problem I have is that sometimes when I open the dryer, they jump out and bounce across the floor. I do find that catching a dryer ball is a lot more fun that paying a bundle for fabric softener.

  5. We just bought the Big City Slider Station. My 8 yr old has been wanting to get this for his Dad since Christmas – so we just got him one for his birthday.

    We like it. They don’t look as ‘pretty’ as Billy May’s on TV, but we have enjoyed it!

  6. Marci:

    Snuggies – very easy to make a similar version out of an old blanket. Fold over about 1/4 to 1/3 of the fabric. Cut a head hole like a poncho. Run a quick seam along the edge of the back and thru the front 1/3rd of the way in from either side for the arm separations, and voila! Instant snuggie. Old blankets are about $1 each at garage sales.

  7. Marci:

    Food Saver Vacuum Sealer – Old and used all the time! The “Simply” (or similar) brand bags (BiMart) will work just as well as the more expensive Food Saver brand bags.

    Harvest Maid Food Dehydrator – $10 at a garage sale 12 years ago – used constantly almost! Wish I had another one just like it during harvest season. I’ve had two other brands – also from garage sales – but the Harvest Maid is the ONLY one I would heartily endorse!!!

    Swiffer – bought the stick/pad for $1 at garage sale. Use raggy old kitchen towels instead of pads on it, with vinegar water, and throw the towels in the wash machine. Works nice on the wood laminate floors. I’m going to try Liana’s cloth diapers (from a garage sale $10 for 4 dozen) on them tho – that would probably clean better than the worn out towels.

    Yes on the Oxyclean also.

    Tomato upside down planters. You can easily make one yourself from any 3-5 gallon bucket with lid and some baling twine or rope. Yes, they work. I like to add some strawberry plants or curly parsley to an extra hole in the top once I flip them over.

    Obviously, my stuff came from garage sales tho, and not from the TV ads :) Saved even more money that way!

  8. Heather:

    I LOVE oxyclean. We moved into a rent home with awful carpets and the oxyclean took the spots up very good, and that was after the carpet cleaner was used! I also love to throw it in a load of laundry that I’m unable to put bleach in(dark loads) With two very active boys and stain prone girls it works great, esp. on red softball dirt!

    We have the pedi paws and my dog still hates to get her nails cut but it’s not as bad as the clippers, it takes a little longer but she is not as scared.

    I’m so trying the cloth diaper idea!!

    We also made our own tomato tree with 2 five gallon buckets, so far so good with those!

    There is a website I have bookmarked that rates infomercial products, but sorry I don’t have it on me!

  9. Meg:

    P.S. For a “Snuggie”, I just wear my bathrobe backwards :D

  10. Michelle in Colorado:

    Would you like some more trays? My dehydrator broke and I got a different kind with a longer warranty.

  11. FoodSaver = Aweseomeness

    My grandma bought one of these when I was in high school. My mom, my aunt, and my grandma all got together each summer/fall to can & freeze all kinds of local produce.

    This process got amazingly easier, faster, and had better results for the things we froze. We used the FoodSaver for everything from corn to peas to green beans, to meats and fish…

    I just got my first one last year, but am still working on finding local farms/markets, as well as getting around to cleaning my freezer.

  12. Kristen:

    I love my Shark Steam Mop. I haven’t personally had a problem with streaking on my floors. It’s great for fast clean ups too, especially when the dog runs across the floor with dirty paws!

    I also recently ended up with a set of the Smooth Away hair removal pads. (Long story as to how I came by these, but I didn’t intent to get them.) I was impressed. They actually worked!

    I’m always skeptical about “As Seen on TV” products. Our local news station does a weekly segment testing the various products, so it gives you something to go by.

  13. Angelsong:

    I would not buy dryer balls at all. I add clean, dry towels to each dryer load to cut drying time in half (or better). They are FREE.

  14. Angelsong:

    I bought a Snuggie at Bed Bath and Beyond to try to save money this past winter on our heating bill. It worked so well, I bought a second one (for my husband to use, or so that I can wash one and wear one.) They wash easily (I use cold water, gentle cycle) and dry quickly (hang to dry; I don’t put them in the dryer). We saved around $50 to $75 or more on our heating bill by using the Snuggie. I fasten it in the back with a safety pin and roll the sleeves up to keep them out of the way. Since I am sensitive to cold (and in pain when I am cold), I found the Snuggie to be a great help.

    When I went to the website to try to order one, they had a “buy one get a second one for only the shipping cost” deal, but I decided it was just too expensive that way, so I’m glad I found one in the store. My husband even uses the included reading light to get around at night because our home is so dark.

  15. BJK:

    I got a Food Saver also when my husband went to Iraq with hopes that I would seal food and things to send to him. I did not do as much as I thought I would. I do however, like having it. I think I got it at Sam’s.

    I bought the Shark at BJ’s last year thinking it would make mopping easier and cheaper than having to buy the pads and soap for the swiffer. I am still not sure if I like it. I have not thought of putting anything into it besides water. I may try that. we have wood floors and I HATE to mop but I LOVE a shinney floor.

    The kids wanted to try the tomato plant thing. Since it was at the PX for really cheap, I went ahead and picked it up for them to tend to.

    I am fine spending some money on something if I think it is going to really work. It makes me mad when I buy something and it does not come close. If it saves some time I feel it may be worth it since I will have some time for homeschooling or playing with the family.

  16. Jean:

    My food dehydrator is in almost constant use all summer and fall – fresh herbs in the summer and apple slices in the fall when apples are so cheap. I consider it some of the best money I ever spent. I tried that rubber fingered mop mentioned above too and it was the worst thing EVER!!!

  17. Andrea:

    My sister is a nurse and she told me the other day that they use Sham Wow’s at the hospital and they really are amazingly absorbent! I think we saw them while shopping at Bed Bath and Beyond and I made a comment about how I wondered if they really worked and she said they did.

  18. Trudy G.:

    I have a Food Saver vaccuum sealer that I just love. We purchased it several years ago and are still using it today. Meat will last twice as long versus conventional freezer bags without getting freezer burnt. It saves me money as I can buy large quantities when on sale and not have to worry about the food going bad before I can use it.

  19. Meg:

    Some products are all right, but they’re just regular products hyped to raise the price. You can get that Mighty Putty stuff by other names at a hardware store for a lot less, and microfiber clothes come in big bags at auto stores, Big Lots, Sam’s Club, you name it. And there are plenty of alternatives to the Magic Bullet, like the Tribest version which was rated a lot better on Amazon when I bought it. It definitely pays to shop around before dialing that 1-800 number!

    More importantly, BEWARE of scams! I will NEVER buy stuff from the t.v. commercials over the phone after reading all the awful company reviews online. Even when the product is decent and well-priced, there may well be another catch. Many of these companies have complaints against them for scammy practices. For example, you might get the second item ‘free’ knowing that you’re expected to pay shipping and handling on it, but they don’t tell you that it’s not $6.95 like the first item — it’s $20+! And MANY of these companies like to enroll you into subscriptions that are near impossible to get out of. I’ve known plenty of people that have had this happen to them, but the online record speaks for itself. Please, NEVER buy stuff from t.v. without checking out the company online.

  20. I’ve had great luck with the green bags used for fresh produce. I posted about them twice on my blog. I’ve also received numerous comments, some saying they work great, others saying they don’t work at all. But they work great for me, and they can be used many more times than just twice (as the package states).

    I’ve also had very good results using OxyClean (which used to be an “As Seen On TV” item), and in some applications, those small steam cleaners.

    This year we are trying the upside-down tomato planters for the first time, so I don’t know yet how well they work.

    Also, I never by the items by calling the phone numbers on the commercials. Most of the items can be found on eBay with a lower shipping cost, or can be found in stores (like Bed, Bath & Beyond) at the advertised prices with NO shipping cost.

  21. Kimi:

    I purchased the dryer balls that are supposed to cut down on your dryer time and eliminate the need for dryer sheets. I have mixed feelings about these balls. I paid $10.00 for a package of two in October or November of 2008. I only use my dryer in the winter months, already one of the balls broke open in several places and is no longer usable. I found that it did NOT decrease the drying time but it DID reduce the amount of static without using dryer sheets. I would not purchase these balls again.

  22. Dawn:

    I think the important thing is to only buy products you will actually use. I have two friends that get sucked into those infomercials and QVC and frequently end up with things they don’t need. One of them bought a GPS system off QVC…. twice! He donated the second to a charity auction.

    I use OxyClean at nonprofit where I volunteer that has lots of nasty dirty sweaty laundry – it really does work great. Also, thanks to everyone who wrote about the food dehydrators. I’ve been thinking about getting one for all the spring and summer fruits, you’ve helped me make up my mind!

  23. To the people buying pads for Swiffers: Use cloth diapers instead. The small size fits a Swiffer perfectly. Then toss them in the washing machine and reuse. Then you can also use your own preferred cleaning products (I use Murphys Oil Soap on hardwood).

    My mom got me the plastic food storage containers on the lazy susan holder “as seen on TV”. I love them because they stack well and all 3 sizes use the same lids.

  24. Angie:

    I find that the products eventually come out in stores and if you will hold out and purchase them in person it will save on shipping. Our local tv station does a deal or dud test on infomercial items which I also find interesting and helpful. I wonder if there is a similar site that does reviews on these items.

    I love my food dehydrator, which I eventually bought at Wallie World. It saves big bucks on beef jerky (my kids love it) and it doesn’t have all the MSG and preservatives that store bought jerky has.

  25. I purchased a mop that I’d seen on TV and at a demonstration. I don’t recall the name, but it was one that has rubber “fingers” and is supposed to clean up liquid spills as well as other messes. It did not perform as advertised, and it went back to the store!

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