I wrote this up many years ago (in college, obviously), but it's still pretty relevant:
I frequently stay up late, as most college students do, because I’m either working late or had downed a whole gallon of coffee (as per my caffeine addiction requires) and I flip through the channels looking for entertainment. Inevitably I end up watching the home shopping programs, which entertain through their sheer outrageousness.
The home shopping programs seem to come in only three flavors, as it will—sports collectibles, jewelry and miscellaneous.
Miscellaneous shows are usually just that. One moment they’re selling a $799 camcorder, the next moment they’re selling butt scrubbers. It’s really that random.
On several occasions I’ve seen the “Carousel of Values” which is a rotating display platform that sells—whatever. Whatever they have in inventory or in their pockets at the time goes on the platform. Imagine taking all the items in a junk drawer and putting them on a rotating platform and then having the audacity to sell it for 200 times of what it’s worth.
What’s even more amazing about those shows is that they usually have some guy with a think southern accent saying things like “these be some beauty items here.” Yes, a rotating pile of glass marbles, a wooden hula girl, a plastic necklace, a paperweight from Maryland, and a ceramic napkin ring for $700 is certainly what I would consider “beauty items.”
It’s even funnier when these southern-drawled salesmen start talking to some other person in the room. They will say something like “How’s the fish bitin, Verle?” To which I presume “Verle” replies (I’m not sure, since you never see the people’s faces) something like “They be bitin’ fine, cutie.” Great, not only do people have listen to these genetic dead-ends give a sales pitch, you get to hear them hit on each other.
Moving along to the jewelry programs, there seems to be no limit to the ways one can name worthless pieces of junk to make them seem valuable. “Cubic Zirconium” is the most prevalent name people hear, but the second most is “White Gold.”
“White Gold,” is that the white, as in ivory white, or white as in trailer-trash white, the shopping programs’ core market? My guess is the latter. Further, just because something has “gold” in the name, doesn’t mean that it’s good. A “golden shower” is a perfect example.
Further, the size of the gems they sell cannot be measured in inches, but in microns. Nay, possibly, atoms. They do a remarkable job of making the gem look gigantic of course, but once a finger or a tweezer gets in there to move the gem around, the staggering proportion of gem to say, a fingerprint ridge, becomes apparent. One sharp intake of air might suck the gem into somebody’s lungs. That I would like to see.
“Look at this precious g---GURK!” (cough, cough, body hitting ground)
Also, any time they sell a “precious” gem, they sell it for an outrageous amount, say, hypothetically, the amount a college student would pay for tuition at some Arizona college, and then bring the price down when Bill Gates doesn’t call right away. I once saw a gem go from $5,000 to $50 in the span of five minutes. That’s like making a bluff in poker, getting impatient after not winning in three seconds and saying “oh, okay, all I have is a pair of twos! Are you happy?”
Lastly, there is the sports collectable shows. Every one of these have a Mark McGuire rookie card in perfect condition, and every time they claim it’s their last one. They also say that whatever they’re selling is worth about a twenty times what they are selling it for. Like, say the Mark McGuire rookie card is selling for $200. They’ll claim it’s worth $6,000. This could mean one of a few things:
1. They’re lying.
2. They’re selling fakes.
3. They really are just going temporarily insane as they claim and you better call right now because this won’t happen again
There’s one show in particular where they have this regular cast of characters on it. They have a normal-sounding salesman, then they have this guy who screams as loud as possible and repeats things, and then they have this guy who is supposed to be their distributor saying how he’s feeling nice and is only going to make these deals tonight. Here’s an example of the dialogue:
NORMAL GUY: Okay folks, we have got an amazing deal for you here. A Mark McGuire rookie card for only $200.
LOUD GUY: FOLKS, GET ON THAT PHONE RIGHT NOW! THIS PRICE WILL NOT COME AGAIN EVER IN THIS SHOW! TONIGHT’S SHOW PRICE WILL NOT COME AGAIN, EVER! GET ON THAT PHONE RIGHT NOW FOLKS!
PHONE GUY: This is crazy. If you look at any price guide, a card in that condition will sell for at least $6,000.
NG: It truly is a deal.
PG: It’s an amazing deal! I could go and sell these cards for more than that, but tonight, I’m feeling generous. I want to provide your viewers with the best deals possible.
NG: Get on those phones right---
PG: GET ON THOSE PHONES RIGHT NOW! OUR DISTRIBUTOR HAS GONE INSANE! INSANE, IS OUR DISTRIBUTOR! YOU WILL NEVER FIND THIS DEAL AGAIN! AGAIN, YOU WILL NEVER FIND THIS DEAL! PHONES, NOW! GET ON THEM!
NG: We must be ins-
LG: WE MUST BE INSANE! INSANE MUST WE BE! WE BE MUST INSANE! GET ON THOSE PHONES NOW! NOW ON PHONES ON GET! BRAAAAAA--
(his head explodes)
Okay, the last part doesn’t happen. I wish it did, because then it would make my insomnia-induced late-night T.V. viewing much more interesting.