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As Seen On TV products put to the test

January 6, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Infomercial products are a $100 billion-a-year business. Eyewitness News and Consumer Reports took a look behind the marketing of As Seen On TV products and put a few of the items to the test.Ever hear of the Ab Circle Pro, the Slap Chop or the Snuggie? Chances are you bought one of these As Seen On TV products and are now wondering why you did.

There are infomercials for exercise equipment and kitchen gadgets. And, of course, there are products you never thought you needed.

Consumer Reports says infomercials are designed to pump up the dopamine levels in your brain, according to marketing experts, and that can stimulate your impulse to buy.

"That's why infomercials have claims and testimonials flying at you, and they say 'order in three minutes' because your dopamine levels drop in about five to six minutes," said Consumer Reports' Kim Kleman.

Consumer Reports routinely tests infomercial products like the Ab Circle Pro. Panelists gave the $200 device a whirl.

"Following the Ab Circle Pro's strict diet plan will definitely help you lose weight. But the three-minute exercise routine, not so much," said Consumer Reports' Alex Willen.

It turns out the workout is about the same as going on a brisk three-minute walk.

To test the Slap Chop, Consumer Reports chopped nuts, onions, carrots, tomatoes, mushrooms, and even chocolate. But it turns out the Slap Chop doesn't chop evenly, and the harder vegetables took 20 slaps or more to fully chop.

"We tested the Snuggie by washing it 10 times, looking for shrinkage, pilling, and also lint. Pills are these fuzzy little balls, and between them is bare fabric," said Consumer Reports' Pat Slaven.

In 10 washes more than a handful of lint came off two Snuggies. Plus its one-size-fits-all claim hardly stands up.

So the next time you see an infomercial product you really want to buy, resist the urge for at least 10 minutes to give your dopamine levels a chance to return to normal.

Consumer Reports did find an infomercial product that did pretty well in tests. The Magic Jack that lets you make and receive calls via the internet not only works well, but it also costs a fraction of what similar services like Skype and Vonage VoIP charge.