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July 10th, 2008
A sucker is born every minute, before and after midnight

The Devil’s Clack Dish: A Column
By HAP MANSFIELD
Scene Editor

I have to confess that I am a slack-jawed rube when it comes to those “amazing” new products that get advertised on the television at strange times in the night.

I’m like the open-mouthed idiot standing at the state fair watching some shyster with his “wonder knife” slice, dice and then cut a tin can in half before he successfully cuts a tomato so thin that you can read a newspaper through it. I can’t resist the notion that the “chocolate fountain” or the “miracle chopper” is, indeed, going to make entertaining a snap and my life happier and simpler.

I suppose a good part of my gullibility is due to the late hour those commercials tend to frequent. At three in the morning, almost any idea sounds better than it does in the practical light of day. But I can’t totally blame the hour for my idiocy, although, I certainly would like to.

I am the goof who buys the stuff that usually elicits comments from others of “Who would buy that stuff?

Me, that’s who.

I’m the one who bought the “Silver Bullet” cleaning tablets (a cup of borax would be cheaper and works better), the pancake/sandwich maker (nothing a cast iron frying pan couldn’t do better), the “miracle chopper” (the miracle is that the cheap plastic it was made of held together for a couple of months) and the Blu-Blocker sunglasses (I lost them within a week, although this was no great loss because they make you feel like you are one of those prehistoric bugs encased in amber at the Museum of Science and Industry). My one excuse for buying all these things was that I didn’t just get one, I got two for the price of one (this should be a clue as to their worthlessness right there, eh?) and the second one I would wrap up and send to my mom.

My mom was the other great sucker of the world and we would often chat on the phone about how much we wanted the chocolate fountain thingy or the hand blown glass planter waterer. She bought the “miracle mops” (It’s amazing how many of these things are called “miracles.” Gives walking on water a bad name.) and I bought the “magnetic dusting cloths,” and then we’d exchange our buy-one-get-one-for-the-same-price extra. I didn’t realize how many times we had done this until I got the “magic putty” (it actually does work, but it is more than likely something that is available in any hardware/home improvement store) and just bought one at Walgreens. I didn’t need the extra one, since my mom passed away three years ago.

The really funny twist in all this is that, just like a convoluted O. Henry story, I always gave my TV “miracle” product away after a few uses, and when I went through my mom’s stuff after she died, expecting to find the pancake/sandwich maker and the “super dusters,” I found that she had done the same thing. None of those things ever had the amazing after-effects that the blaring hyperbole on late night television promised they would, and neither I nor my mom wanted to hold onto them for fear we would be nominated for the Nobel Prize for the Biggest Sap On Earth.

Now, I know you are probably chuckling at my chuckle-headed late night shopping, but just consider this: these commercials are not lying to us any more profoundly than any other commercial. The slick car ads, the McDonald’s spots, the commercials for beverages and restaurants all do the very same thing. They just have better advertising agencies. That’s all. Your family will not come together over a Big Mac if you’ve got deeper problems than hunger, you will not be a cooler person in a new car, you will not be younger and more like a sports star if you drink some popular sports drink or designer water, and you will not get the girl because of the shave cream you use. Even I know that and I, as you can see, am one of the world’s biggest all day suckers.

So, what does that make the rest of the culture who does buy into these ads? Just a thought.

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One thought on “A sucker is born every minute, before and after midnight

  1. Unfortunately, my beloved Golf Channel is rife with infomercials for magical putters, drivers, handheld GPS units, and magnetic bracelets. So far I’ve been able to resist temptation but those testimonials are so convincing. I won’t give in. I won’t give in. I won’t.

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