Well, you’ve seen them on TV, those get-rich-quick schemes on how to make millions in real estate or the revolutionary bee pollen that will make you look years younger, they’re a new wrinkle on TV advertising today. It’s the TV shopping service where viewers can watch merchandise being offered for sale on TV and then order and pay for the products by telephone.
Program-length TV commercials or “infomercials” are on nearly all TV channels. Infomercials are made to look like regular TV programs such as talk shows and investigative news reports. The sponsor’s product is discussed by a panel of paid “moderators,” “experts,” or “reporters.” These programs, which last fifteen minutes or longer, may even be interrupted with realistic-looking commercial breaks that give instructions on how to order the product. Before ordering anything, it’s advisable to get information on what product is the best value for your money.
TV shopping programs are aimed at the impulse buyer, the person who decides to buy just from seeing the advertisement. But, shopping on TV should be no different from shopping at the mall or your neighborhood store as you still need information to make an informed decision. Whether buying a product off the store shelf or ordering it from a TV show, you need to know things about the product, such as:
- How does the merchandise compare in price and value with other similar merchandise on the market?
- What other charges are added to the price for delivery and servicing?
- What is the refund policy? Is satisfaction guaranteed? If it is, don’t hesitate to demand a full refund if you are disappointed after receiving the product.
- If jewelry is advertised as gold, is it solid, hollow or electroplated gold? And, how many karats is it?
- Warranties are important, especially for electronic equipment like CD players, DVD players and TV sets. What kind of warranty comes with the product? And, is servicing convenient or will the products have to be shipped back to the seller on the mainland when servicing is needed?
If you must depend only on advertising, you’re taking a risk. What you get may not be what you think you saw on TV. It may be different in size and may not work in the same way. So, when you are shopping the “easy way,” sitting in front of your TV set, before punching in your order and charge card number on the phone, ask yourself, “Do I know exactly what I am buying?” BE SURE BEFORE BUYING!
How can you tell an infomercial from a regular TV program, such as a documentary report? Either at the beginning or at the end of all infomercials, the TV station must identify who is paying for the program. And, commercials running 15 minutes or longer must also include disclosures saying that the program is a paid commercial. The smart consumer will note if the manufacturer of the product is also the TV program’s sponsor. The consumer should be wary of any claims made on the program stating that the sponsor’s product is better than others, when there is no reliable scientific evidence showing this to be true. If instructions are given on how to order the product, it’s more likely that you’ve just watched a program-length commercial. If you decide to buy a product that is advertised on an infomercial, be aware that you’ll have a little more protection if you charge the item on your credit card or if you order or pay for it by mail. There are laws which apply to credit accounts and the U.S. Postal Service that may protect you if you run into billing errors, non-delivery problems or possible disputes over the quality of the items that you ordered. Be especially wary of businesses which encourage you to pay for their product by check or recommend using their couriers, instead of the U.S. Postal Service. This could be their way of getting around the laws which can help protect you.