BBB Urges Caution When Making Buying Decisions Based on Infomercials

Connecticut Better Business Bureau warns TV shoppers to beware of possible infomercial "inconveniences"

Consumers Who “Call Now” May Get More - or Less -Than They Bargained For

While most shoppers enjoy browsing in stores or online, others prefer spontaneous product pitches on television in the comfort of their own homes.

Unlike dedicated home shopping channels which offer a variety of items throughout the day, an infomercial is typically presented in a half hour-long format and pitches a specific product.

Infomercials lure buyers with hard-to-find-elsewhere gifts and “call now” offers on appliances, cosmetics, jewelry, novelty items and weight-loss products.  However, Connecticut Better Business Bureau warns TV shoppers to beware of possible infomercial inconveniences:

Exaggerated Advertising: Don’t believe marketers that claim to sell “miracle” products with “life-changing” results.  Be skeptical of embellished testimonials, “expert” endorsements and unrealistic before-and-after photos.

Aggressive Upsells: It’s typical for “buy now” offers to come with bonus merchandise, but don’t be talked into purchasing excess products or switching to more expensive packages.

False Urgency: Pause before picking up the phone; some ads fib that “supplies are almost sold out” to sway shoppers into quick purchasing decisions.

High Demand: Be doubtful of TV claims or on-hold phone recordings that sellers are “dealing with high call volumes.”  This is a common tactic—especially in small call centers.

Unscrupulous Salespeople: Upon redeeming infomercial offers by phone, be aware that call center employees may be mishandling information—unintentionally or intentionally.

Mishandled Merchandise: Be suspicious if packages don’t show up within 30 days—or by specified shipping dates.  Don’t settle if items appear damaged or defective upon arrival.

Underperforming Products: Be mindful that goods may be less impressive in-person than in demos, samples and photos.

Sneaky Billing: Watch out for repeat charges associated with affiliate marketing programs or membership subscriptions.  It’s a warning sign if unordered products or unexpected solicitations start arriving in the mail.

Connecticut BBB offers some tips to avoid potential problems if you want to buy a product advertised in an infomercial:

  • Research companies and products on bbb.org and consumerreports.org.
  • Search for products online to find sellers’ sites and see comparative pricing.
  • Make sure you understand purchase policies, including return or exchange options.
  • Check out the seller’s privacy policies before offering payment information.
  • Get a delivery timeline; request purchase confirmations and tracking numbers.
  • Always pay by credit card and retain receipts to dispute charges in case of fraud.  Check your financial statements regularly.

Notify sellers immediately if items are disappointing, damaged or do not arrive as anticipated.  If you do not get a response, you can file a complaint at www.ct.bbb.org.

-Submitted by Howard Schwartz, Executive Communications Director Connecticut Better Business Bureau

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Kaptainsteve February 24, 2013 at 08:41 PM
Jim, that's what they said about the VegoMatic.
Edward Fast Lazarus February 24, 2013 at 08:53 PM
Jim G has it completely right. Have you noticed that these are usually promoted at 1 am? When it appears too good to be true---
Mike Butler February 25, 2013 at 12:50 AM
"Help me Mr. Popeil!"
southington man February 25, 2013 at 01:24 PM
What's funny is BBB is telling to you be cautious, but BBB got caught selling aaa+ ratings on companies if the pay they BBB ransom. Maybe these companies won’t pay the ransom to BBB so this is their way of getting back at them.
Connecticut Better Business Bureau News February 25, 2013 at 02:05 PM
Thank you folks for the wonderful feedback. Connecticut BBB has never, does not and will never take money to change a company's business review. Companies apply for accreditation - and some are turned down because they do not meet accreditation standards, which you can find on our website. There is no such thing as a "AAA+" rating, and if you research our business reviews, you will find non-accredited businesses with an A rating. Similarly, not all accredited businesses are eligible for that rating, and the reasons are also listed on our website. We educate consumers about ongoing business and consumer practices, monitor the marketplace and publicize trends and scams and explain how to protect yourself. Anyone who needs assistance can always visit us online or call us at 203-269-2700 to research a company, find an accredited business or file a complaint. Best, Howard


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