What’s with Those Direct Marketing Commercials that Offer a Second Item . . . for Free?

What’s with Those Direct Marketing Commercials that Offer a Second Item . . . for Free?

If you watch much television, you are familiar with those adds that promise a second item for free. The bonus offer usually starts with, “But wait! If you order now, we’ll send you a second widget . . .  for free!” Then, in a somewhat more muted voice, and stated very fast, is the phrase, “Just pay processing and handling.” Aha!
Let’s parse this marketing technique, using the ChefDini as an example. About that name, my best guess is that it’s a Houdini reference. The ChefDini is a food processor without all the inconveniences of an electric processor because you crank it by hand. Wow!
It’s $39.99. But wait! We’ll send you a second ChefDini for free. Just pay additional processing. Processing costs $7.99. So when you order, you end up paying $53.97.
Why do they do that? Here’s why. Putting a second item in the box costs the vendor just pennies for shipping. The balance of the additional $7.99 means they are still making a profit on the second gadget.
The Ped Egg is a small grater that has an integrated container. It removes rough skin from feet. Price? 10 smackers. Gimmick? $6.99 shipping and handling. Handling? Really? When I go into a local store, how come they don’t charge me for handling? So, sure enough, you can get a second Ped Egg free. Just pay shipping and handling. So when you order a 10-dollar Ped Egg, the yolk is on you (I couldn’t resist). It ends up costing you $23.98.
If you send any of this stuff back because you don’t like it, guess who pays the return postage. Yep, you do. But here’s the unkindest cut of all. They refund the purchase price but not the processing (or shipping and handling) costs. So, in the case of the Ped Egg, you send them 24 bucks, they refund 10 dollars, and you also lose the return postage. Let’s say you pay five bucks to return the stuff. You are now out 19 dollars and you have zero product.
Some malls have As Seen On TV stores where you can buy the direct marketing products that are “not sold in stores.” The trouble with these outlets? They typically charge a 15 percent restocking fee. Here’s the pitfall. You buy a product for, say, $20. You decide the product sucks – or at least doesn’t meet expectations. You bring it back. They charge you a restocking fee of 15 percent, which means you get 17 bucks back. The store keeps three dollars. Then they put the item back on the shelf. So you are out three dollars and they keep their profit anyway.
The bottom line:
Don’t buy direct marketing products from TV. It’s too risky. The two items I ever bought that were both junk. Wait for the products to come to traditional retail stores. If that doesn’t happen, it’s probably for a good reason.
If you decide to buy at an As Seen On TV store, have them cross out the restocking fee notice on the bottom of the receipt. If there is no notice, but a sign posted in the store instead, have the salesperson right on the receipt “No restocking fee” and sign it. If they won’t do it, repeat after me: “Sayonara.” (Hasta la vista or ciao will suffice.)