Thursday, July 16, 2009

Late Night TV and Your Wallet

Being on vacation is a lovely thing, even if you don't go to the beach or mountains. I'm a night owl, so one thing being on vacation affords me is staying up late. Sometimes I fall asleep by the television, and wake up to something so ridiculous I actually have to sit up and be sure it isn't a dream.

Such was a recent episode of "out-of-sleep-into-the-world-of-infomercial" where I woke up to a man in a business suit sitting across from two scantily-dressed, low-cleavage women trying to sell a book on how you too could get FREE MONEY from the government!

I'm not going to try to tell this informercial story by myself, so at the end of this blog entry, are other good links to people who have gone before me and realized that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Still, these forrays into the bizarre manage to clip needed dollars from families who feel there might just be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that is easy to get, like taking a pill without exercise and thinking you will actually lose weight.

So here I am groggy and bleary-eyed, wondering exactly where I am and why I am still on the couch, with a dog enwrapped somehow in my throw-blanket, and I see two women with (uh-hum) assets sitting across from Mr. Business as if this were a normal, everyday encounter, and as if they were indeed interested in finding out how they could get money to pay their mortgages, credit card debts and purchase real-estate by simply ordering a book that tells them exactly how to do it. I threw on the coffee and woke myself out of my stupor, because in my day-to-day life as an SBDC person, I knew that soon calls would come rolling in wondering why our office had not been handing out this information like candy.

Without taking you through the A-G-O-N-I-Z-I-N-G (and somewhat ASTONISHING to very smart people) verbage, let it suffice to say that within about two coffee-induced minutes I realized this was a scam. Even if, while in my state of between wide awake and still somewhat sleepy, I hadn't really focused on the purpose of the two women, I could hear loud and clear that the claims being made were inaccurate--this based on my 23 years of experience applying for and searching for specific grants for individuals and our own office (a non-profit, educationally-linked, government-funded agency). But I digress...much like this infomercial.

Please please please please please please please don't believe this stuff. Did I say please? YES, there are agencies who have grant money. NO, they don't give it to you to pay your bills and get out of debt. Grants are very eligibility specific, and many have a dollar limit and reasons why you can use the money. PLEASE don't send away $29.99 + $11.95 shipping and handling to find out you will never be able to use the information. Take your family to a theme park instead. You'll have a better day, get more out of it, and lose stress that way.

Just to show you I'm not the only one who thinks about infomercials the way I do, here's some lovely information to back up my story.

To read Chuck Jaffe's (of MarketWatch) commentary on infomercial land, go here. You'll realize this has been going on a long time, since 2007 and even before that.

To learn more about Kevin Trudeau's history (before finding out all the things that others didn't want us to know) go here and scroll down to the section on "Criminal History and Legal Proceedings." I think he probably didn't want US to KNOW this!

Question: How does Kevin Trudeau find out all the things that the government, doctor's, creditors and banks don't want you to know? My mother doesn't want anyone to know that as a small child growing up during the years just following the depression, she accidentally fell into the outhouse hole (whoops, sorry Mom)...do you think I could write a book about it and get an infomercial?

And for one more take on infomercial heaven, read this.

So, if you wake up in the wee hours and find yourself staring at a television set that has an infomercial promising you the moon, do yourself a favor--get some sleep!!
Elaine Tweedy is the Director of The University of Scranton Small Business Development Center, Coordinator of the Buy Fresh Buy Local Northeast Region initiative, and stays up way too late!

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