Have you ever given in to the temptation to buy one of those "As Seen on TV" products? If so, you are not alone. Whether it is the full-length infomercials or the shorter direct-response ads, DRTV (as it is known in the industry) generates over $150 billion in sales every year.
But no matter how many units of their products get sold, TV infomercials have a bad reputation among a large portion of the public. Much of this comes from their confusing or misleading sales offers. Search the Internet and you will find countless cries of "scam" and "rip-off" from angry consumers who called or went online to order a product they saw on TV, only to find that the item they thought was $19.95 ended up costing them over $100!
You can prevent a nasty surprise on your credit card bill, however, if you know what mistakes to avoid when ordering an "As Seen On TV" product.
Mistake #1: Ignoring Shipping and Handling Charges
Shipping and handling charges (indicated by S&H or P&H for "processing and handling") often cost as much as 70% of the price of the item itself! Depending on the offer, you may also be subject to multiple S&H charges. The "Buy One, Get One Free" offers almost always add separate S&H for the second "free" item and sometimes add it for "free" bonuses.
Mistake #2: Not Adding Up the Total Number of Payments
Expensive infomercial products often present their price as a series of "easy payments" in order to make the cost seem less intimidating. So be sure to multiply the number of payments and the amount to get the real price you will end up paying. If a calculator is not handy, then round up the amount to the nearest dollar and multiply that in your head.
Mistake #3: Thinking a "Free" or "Risk-Free" Trial is Completely Free
Another way infomercials try to hide the cost of an expensive product is by offering a "Free Trial" or "Risk-Free Trial." These trials will always charge shipping and handling up front. And a "risk-free" trial is not free at all but will cost you a nominal fee to allow you to use the product during the trial period, after which you will be charged the full price for the item. All "risk-free" means is that you can return the item and get back the money you paid for the "trial" (and S&H is not usually refunded).
Mistake #4: Falling for the Upsells
One common way advertisers get more money out of shoppers is to offer them several "upsells" when they order. Upsells are additional items you will be offered when ordering the item by phone or website. Needless to say, each upsell you agree to will increase the total cost of your order. Plus each upsell usually comes with its own S&H charge. So resist adding any extra or "upgraded" products to your order.
Mistake #5: Not Keeping Track of Where You Bought the Product
You need to write down the phone number or website address that you used to buy the product so that you can contact them if a problem comes up with the shipment or the merchandise. And I mean the exact phone number or website URL! The website may not email these details to you, so be sure to save the order number, phone number, address and any other contact information and keep it in a secure place.
You can avoid all these problems by buying from an online or offline retailer rather than directly from the phone number advertised on the infomercial. If, however, the product is brand new it may not be available anywhere else and some products never become available in stores at all.
But if you avoid the five mistakes listed above, you will most likely be able to enjoy your infomercial product without suffering a rude surprise when the bill comes due.
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