The TV shopping channels are slipping. Time was most of them gave you a decent product at a decent price. They are marvels of speed shipping, second only to Amazon and Zappos. And masters of fat “shipping and handling” charges.
We are not going to name names. But you probably know that the biggest player has acquired the second biggest player, that the third biggest player has changed its name for the fourth time in ten years.
And you probably know that the two biggest players now have three channels each on your TV provider. Company number three is working toward adding to this glut.
Let’s start with the basic premise that the main point of these huge and complex virtual stores is to make you want stuff that you might not have thought of without their help. Kindly, no? The targets are mostly women.
Hair goo, skin goo, a thousand varieties of cosmetics. Eye stuff. Hair removal stuff, moisturizers, wrinkle creams, all things that key into the Great Secret of the American Woman.
What is that secret? Deep in her heart of hearts, many believe her appearance is somehow flawed. This starts pre-teen and often lasts right through to old age -- and old ain’t our grandparents’ old. We live way longer.
In her three o’clock in the morning self evaluation, many women believe “My this is too big. My that is too small. I’m only (fill in the age) and my eyes have big bags, my neck looks like a turkey and my skin is turning to crepe paper.”
There’s nothing wrong about putting your best face (and other things) forward. Even if you don’t… you’re fine just the way you are. But as long as you think you aren’t, you’re going to buy lifting creams and hair thickeners and the electrical appliances that go with them, like curlers or straighteners or blow dryers, each the supposed be-all and end-all of beautyworld. Once home, you’ll find the appliance is too heavy or to loud or the cord is too short or too long. But you’ll keep it anyway.
There are channels that specialize in jewelry, though they all sell at least some. A lot of them brag about gemstones you never heard of. Tanzanite, Morganite, Russian Diopside. Often the stones are pretty nice and well priced. But the settings of rings and the clasps of chains are pure junk. You get what you pay for.
Who will pay to fix that nice sweater you had when your Herkimer Diamond Quartz ring’s setting rips a hole in the sleeve?
Shoes: A thousand brands. Some you’ve heard of and trust but shouldn’t. Some make promises they can’t keep and don’t. EZ returns (at a price.) Slow refunds.
Usually, they have nerdy men to sell you electronics to scare you. Video cams, video doorbells. Brand-X telephones and tablets and the occasional bloatware-larded computer with trial programs and actual programs you’ll never use.
Decorations: battery operated candles. Lawn gnomes. Water hoses that “can’t” kink. Flowers both real and fake. The mechanical stuff lasts about as long as the warranty.
Cleaning products. Your supermarket has everything you need and nothing you don’t. But Dr. Whizbang’s Clean-It becomes the holy grail of stove cleaners, or clearer of clogged drains. Until a few hours later when something else makes the same claim. Note: You can get Formula 409, Windex or Krud Kutter for a few dollars a bottle at any supermarket.
And then there’s food. Beef and fruit at usurious prices. Cakes and cookies that tempt. Poultry. And the machines to cook all that. Pressure cookers, toaster ovens, tableware, cookware, air fryers. A hundred different kinds and sizes of pots and pans.
In point of fact, much of the merchandise, whether a diamond ring, a steak, a cookie, a cell phone, tablet, wrinkle cream or lipstick don’t live up to your expectations.
Big stuff: Mattresses, exercise machines, recliners. Disappointments at stupendous prices with iffy guarantees you won’t read but should. Buyer beware.
How about the men? Tool kits with stuff you’ll never use. Laser measuring devices you can get at Home Despot, Ace, Lowe’s, Wal-mart and Sears if there’s still one in your town.
Ugly watches, some B-stock from famous names, others from names that you never heard of except from a shopping channel.
It’s not all bad, people. But it’s worse than it used to be.
When you hear the carnival barker barking, or the “middle-aged lady next door” showing you shoes, either turn off the television or watch those “classic” movies. They’re much more fun than you remember.
Who can resist a John Wayne classic or a Perry Mason re-run? Or episode 5,408 of Law and Order.
If you must leave the TV on to combat your loneliness, there’s always Lester Holt or Wolf Blitzer.
SHRAPNEL: Remembering Martin Luther King Jr. on the hard-won holiday honoring him. Normally this space doesn’t speculate on what Dr. King would say about today’s world. But I would love to have had him moderating the Republican debate that eventually gave us the present occupant of the White House.
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
With this post, we resume our thrice-weekly schedule of putting drivel on the internet since “On the Weekend” was a glint in my eye and funded by a grant from Bloomberg News.
© WJR 2020