By Jim Lee
Kathie, who always has a big smile and happy “hello” as she arranges carts in the front section of Wal-Mart, suggested a follow-up column on television commercials. Apparently she is just as weary of all the hype and greed dominating TV as I am.
Kathie shares this frustration with many of us. On top of having to put up with all those commercials — and informercials on top of that — after we pay for cable or satellite, what happens if we actually order something advertised on TV?
I suspect many of us do, because that’s why all that hype and greed don’t go away and leave us alone.
Yes, as you may suspect by now, I ordered something advertised on TV. I confess. I hang my head in shame and accept the official dummy trophy. Have me flogged in the city square.
Not only do I feel guilty, I feel downright stupid.
The merchandise was a kitchen item that cost $19.95 plus shipping and handling. Why does just about everything on TV cost $19.95 plus shipping and handling? I never noticed that until my wife Saundra pointed it out. Then I paid attention to the ads and saw she was right. I guess it will be one of those eternal questions of modern civilization, like why does water run downhill and does the refrigerator light really go off when we close the door?
Getting back to the point before I forget what it is, I called the toll-free number to order the magical kitchen whatever-it-was. It was early on a Saturday morning, but somebody answered the phone. They were open on a weekend, so it had to be my lucky day.
The person on the phone confirmed the special bonus of a second one FREE. And that’s not all! Just for ordering when I did, two additional kitchen doo-dads were included absolutely free of charge!
By this point I was so excited I considered calling my cardiologist. Golly-gosh, how could I go wrong?
Next, the phone voice tried to sell me everything on earth except what I called to order. Several times I said I did not want any other special offers, but this got ignored. That was OK, though. I didn’t have anything better to do for the next few hours. After all, I was getting not one but two of the whatever-it-was and two handy kitchen doo-dads absolutely free.
Wow, this sounded better than winning the Turkistan lottery.
Eventually, I managed to get off the phone, put my credit card back in my wallet, and send the dog outdoors for the night. Soon the whatever-it-was and the free stuff would come to the door. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. And I wouldn’t have to wait long because using plastic meant they wouldn’t have to wait for my check to clear.
About eight weeks later, a mysterious box came to the door. By that point I had forgotten what I had ordered, but I got excited anyway. I opened it up. And there sat my very own whatever-it-was, a second one for free, and the two additional doo-dads.
Nothing worked the way it was shown and was so flimsy it soon broke.
By the way, I got charged more than the entire purchase price itself for shipping and handling on the “free” one, and our phone number was sold to every telemarketer between here and Hanoi.
I bet Kathie is too smart to get hoodwinked by TV ads. I should talk to her more often.
Jim Lee is news director for KENW-FM radio. He also is an English instructor. He can be contacted at 359-2204. His e-mail: