Tuesday, November 11, 2008
I recently asked all you lovely ladies (and gentlemen, of course) for your honest opinion about that time-honored home shopping tradition of on-air testimonials. Boy do y’all have some strong opinions!
What was the overwhelming response? How shall I put this … well, here are just a few quotes. I think you’ll get the picture pretty quickly.
“Dumb, dumb, dumb. Does anyone ever call and say this sucks?”
“I hate them like a Yankee Fan hates the Red Sox.”
“I tune them out or press the mute button. They bore me to death.”
“Hate them. Especially … the death call.”
“These calls are usually painful to listen to. Sometimes these testimonials force me to change the channel or mute the TV...I can't tolerate them.”
“I usually turn the channel when the callers start talking...”
“I dislike callers gushing over the hosts, providing sensitive personal information, saying "Hi" to someone in the next room, or just plain blabbing too much.”
Don’t beat around the bush now, tell me how you really feel!
There were several comments about how the exchanges make the hosts and vendors uncomfortable, to the point that you can’t watch (or at least mute it until the train wreck is over). I have to admit that when a caller starts talking about an illness or death (the oh-so-dreaded “death call”), I will physically dive for the remote control. I just can’t change the channel fast enough!
One reader pointed out the she preferred watching ShopNBC and Jewelry Television because they had few to no on-air testimonials. I wonder if they are doing this on purpose, or they just can’t get anyone to talk to them!
There were complaints all around that they were simply pointless and boring because you already knew ahead of time that the caller was going to rave about the product. As one reader said, “I am always waiting for someone to call up and say how much they DON'T like something or a caller who says that the workmanship on the QVC clothes has gone down hill over the years. Someone who will say how so NOT on trend their clothing is. That would be interesting.”
I have seen a handful of negative calls—although they are few and far between—and the “uncomfortable” factor just shoots through the roof as the host and vendor’s worst fears are realized on live television.
I had a few people tell me that they enjoyed listening to callers when certain vendors, like Joan Rivers and Jeanne Bice, were there because they try to make everything fun and entertaining. I think there is really something to this. It takes a certain type of person to be able to artfully handle off-the-cuff conversations with complete strangers while trying to sell products. This isn’t a skill that most people have. Joan not only is blessed with natural wit, she can also draw from her years of experience dealing with hecklers while doing her stand-up comedy. How many hosts and vendors have that reservoir of experience?
In fairness, there was one positive remark: if the caller asked a relevant question about the product, and the host or vendor gave and informative response, the call is good. This, of course, ties into the new-fangled online questions that QVC is doing, which most of you seemed tentatively optimistic about. I think it has great potential since most of the questions are better and there isn’t a “cringe factor” going on. Maybe they need to spiff it up with some on-air graphics or something. I do think that they’re going in the right direction though.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this one email that made my snarky attitude come crashing down around me. I forget that there are many, many home shopping viewers that are elderly, shut-ins, and lonely people. I forget that they feel like they have a real bond with the hosts and vendors.
“I am vaguely embarrassed by the on-air testimonials on home shopping channels...but I see they fill a need for some women who are lonely and just want to talk to someone and have some attention paid to them. My mother *adores* getting to speak to her favorite hosts and their guests on QVC. She is always talking about them to me like they are her personal friends and how sweet they are...in my cynicism I see how caught up she is while these people could care less. It is only part of their jobs.”
I’m left wondering if these calls are harmless entertainment that provides some level of company or comfort to those that don’t otherwise have it—or—if these people are being horribly manipulated and mistreated into spending their money. I don’t have an answer, but I will leave you with some words of wisdom that this wonderful reader sent me.
“The bigger lesson here is: cultivate your own interests, because you can't count on your children or a home shopping host to be your constant companions. Growing old gracefully means that you have hobbies you enjoy, good friends, and the ability to reach outside yourself to the world around you. I don't want to live my later years with the QVC host as the only person I've talked to all day.”