Have you ever fallen for false advertising? How about the detergent that makes clothes whiter, or the kitchen gadget that cuts the work in half, or the foam that makes hair grow? I don’t watch the shopping network — thank goodness — because the one and only time I actually watched an infomercial, I fell for it. Hook line and sinker. It happened in the fall of 2005, when I came home from church expecting to watch an Eagles game and instead found two energetic people singing the praises of the “Little-Giant Ladder System - it adjusts to all different heights and configurations – 34 shapes and sizes all in one ladder!” Wow. I immediately recognized the potential: I was still moving-in to my Little Egg Harbor house and had some challenges that this ladder could address. The young woman moved the ladder around like it was nothing: changing the height, the angles, all within seconds and with no discernable effort on her part. Naturally, I thought, “Well, if she can do it…I can do it!” That’s exactly what the makers of the super-ladder wanted me to think. But it was not cheap. Nevertheless, I succumbed to the pressure of “Buy now! Don’t wait! Limited time offer!” I don’t think I even watched half the pitch before I got out my credit card and dialed the 800 number. I was an easy target.
A week later, the ladder arrived. The first indication that something wasn’t quite right was that I couldn’t budge the cardboard box from where the delivery guys left it in the driveway. Not to be discouraged, I opened it right there, excited to get to the first project on the list. It looked just like the ladder in the commercial…but it weighed eight hundred pounds! Ok, maybe not eight hundred – but a LOT. The young woman who threw it around so easily in the infomercial must have been bionic. I broke a sweat just trying to stand it up straight. The buttons she popped in and out so easily required enough blunt force to crush a coconut. And when you’re trying to make it smaller, it becomes a lethal weapon – it nearly took off my arm. It was NOT an easy ladder to use. The problem was that I was a sucker for what every advertising person knows…show them what they want to see, and they’ll buy it – no matter what the product is really like. It was my own fault. I watched Wonder-Woman move that ladder around like it was a step-stool, and I decided that the appearance of ease proved the product. I didn’t know anything about the company that was selling it and I’d never seen that ridiculously strong woman before, yet I bought her #$%@ ladder.
Birds are not such easy targets. I got a bird house as a gift last spring. It’s cute: bright yellow roof, white sides, a silhouette of a cat watching the hole. The birds are ignoring it. They know all too well the size of the hole isn’t quite right and the lavish colors scream “Baby Birds to Eat – Right Here!” to predators. Over the years I’ve tried other gimmicky products to lure them closer...fancy feeders, elegant fountains and delectable seed mixes. Birds simply ignore false offerings. Strange seed mixes get moldy in the fancy feeders and the birds prefer to drink from mud puddles rather than elegant fountains because they buzz unnaturally from the pump inside. Birds don’t fall for cute elegant or gimmicky. Give them tube feeders with black-oil sunflower seed and a dripper, and they’ll be happy.
This has me wondering about what my life says as an infomercial. Is my message true and clear and honest? Do people get what they see when they endeavor to be my friend? Do my actions and the image I present to the world reflect the things I value? Am I who I claim to be?
A while ago, I met someone who’s infomercial was not in-line with who he turned out to be. The funny thing is, he told me more than once that I was a lousy judge of character. I whole-heartedly believed I was good judge of character. Then he hurt me — carelessly, cruelly, needlessly. And so I said to him, “You’re right, maybe I’m not a good judge of character. But what I am good at — really good at — is seeing the good in people.” He laughed and told me I was naïve. I wonder if it’s been a while since anyone has tried to see the good in him.
Better naïve than cynical and suspicious, I guess. But I better stay away from the shopping network.