From 'As seen on TV' to under the tree

Consumer Reports News: December 22, 2010 06:08 AM

Last weekend was the last shopping weekend before Christmas yet 17 percent of those we asked had not bought a single gift. Not one. For anybody. That's according to the latest poll from the Consumer Reports National Research Center. No wonder so many shoppers resort to buying gifts wherever they happen to be—at drugstores (39 percent), supermarkets (34 percent ), convenience stores (13 percent), street vendors (9 percent), airports (4 percent) and vending machines (1 percent). Yes you read that right, vending machines. So don't snicker if someone gives you a Snickers. At least it's more than the IOUs that some non-shoppers admit giving.
The grab-and-go shopper is a sucker for those "As seen on TV" come-ons situated by the checkout. We grabbed a few ourselves and put them through testing in Consumer Reports' labs. And truth be told, some aren't bad although others make the vending machine gift seem like a good choice.

Forearm Forklift
The Forearm Forklift claims to be "the best moving tool ever." It consists of two adjustable straps that "employ leverage, making the pieces you carry feel lighter." In the infomercial, two women use the straps to move a washer and a stove, and two men move a huge TV, a refrigerator and a mattress. Our in-house movers tried similar tasks and it was an uplifting experience. In fact, they recommend arming yourself with the Forearm Forklift, which can help move big, bulky items more easily and safely.

Slap Chop
With all the holiday cooking that needs to be done, who wouldn't want a device that promises to "dice, chop, and mince in seconds." "You're going to have an exciting life now," the Slap Chop pitchman promises. But maybe not exciting in a good way. There were no high fives for the Slap Chop. It chopped unevenly. Harder foods, which needed about 20 slaps, tended to get trapped in the blades. And too much slapping makes your hand hurt.

Ove Glove
When we heard the Ove Glove "withstands extreme heat up to 540 degrees F," we couldn't wait to get our mitts on one. We heated a cast-iron Dutch oven in a 540 degree F oven for 90 minutes, then removed it using Ove Gloves, regular oven mitts and pot holders. The Ove Glove got a big thumbs-up. We could hold the Dutch oven for 10 to 15 seconds wit the mitts, pot holders and the Ove Glove, but the Ove Glove didn't get scorched, as one pot holder did, or start to melt, as a mitt did.

It's a chamois, It's a towel. It's a sponge. It's the ShamWow. Claims that the cloth holds 12 times its weight in liquid didn't hold water. When we used a damp ShamWow, we needed another cloth to wipe remaining droplets. But there were two little wows: A small ShamWow held more motor oil than a sponge, and a bigger one is good for drying a wet dog.

A PedEgg doesn't make a very romantic gift unless it's for someone with whom you play footsies. The foot file removes calluses and dead skin to "make your feet feel smooth and healthy with no mess!" In our tests it beat out a pumice stone at the same task. So crack open a PedEgg. It was very good at removing calluses and good with dry skin.

We've seen the Snuggie marked down dramatically this shopping season. And with good reason. For starters, it isn't snug. Not even close. And it sheds. Each time we laundered two Snuggies, we removed a sandwich bag's worth of lint from the dryer screen. After 10 cycles, the fabric had bare spots between pills and clumps. Honestly, who needs a cover-up that sheds more than their pet?

—Mary H.J. Farrell

Stop and shop: Before you buy any infomercial products, read "Should you 'Buy this now!'?"

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