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August 29, 2008 - Wes Burns
Ever seen that Sham-wow guy?
Don't pretend like you don't know what I'm talking about. He's that guy on late night TV trying to convince you that you need his space age towels all while wearing microphone headset he got at Madonna's garage sale. While we're all used to wild claims made by the denizens of late night advertising (the glue won't hold, the pills don't work, and there are no women on the party line) this guy has a unique approach. He doesn't scream, he doesn't flash bright lights or slogans and he does it all while saying some of the most blatant lies one could utter.
"You spend more than $20 a month of paper towels." No sir, I do not. One roll is like 100 feet of paper towels. What are you possibly spilling that you need $20 worth? A month? Are you bathing with them? Wearing them?
And when did "Made in Germany" becoming a high water mark of quality. I understand that people, for better or for worse, have come to understand that the Germans are a determined people. But how does this transfer in their ability to clean up a spill? And "beware of imitators?" Like the Towel-Wow and the Sham-Awesome? Not going to happen.
The reason I bring this guy up is I recently saw a pen with post-it notes built in. Stay with me. My friend Joe, by all accounts a man with little interest in the world of pop culture (he still listens to Foreigner on vinyl) had a new pen laying on his coffee table when I came over to his house Wednesday night. The reason it stood out was that it was powder blue, it had a highlighter and a pen inside and had a small dispenser attached to the side complete with a full magazine of miniature post-it notes.
Joe is not the kind of man who highlights many items, let alone use post-it notes. I had to ask why, in the name of all creation, did he spend his money on such a frivolous item. He explained that it was a gift. I gazed upon the pen, imagining how little highlighter fluid it could hold, how much extra the shipping cost is on an item that has a tenuous attachment to its post-it dispenser and just how long its going to take until they sell the refill cartridges in the check out lane. I pondered all of this and only one word came to mind.
Oprah is the only person with enough cultural influence to have convinced otherwise reasonable Americans to spend their hard earned money on insipid little devices such as this. She got a nation of women to read Anna Karenina, she almost single handedly took down the beef industry; Oprah is a force to be reckoned with in American consumer culture.
How does this apply to the Sham Wow guy? They are both unique personalities that are lying to me about what I need. Of course the Sham Wow guy is just one in a long line of charlatans bearing snake oil and of course Oprah would never touch something as little as the Sham Wow towels but can't both of these people do something else? Maybe not the Sham Wow guy; from the look of him this is his first legitimate job after running a street side 3-card-Monty game. Oprah at least should stop hocking these worthless items onto her unsuspecting legion of fans. Can't she organize them to do something important like end the blood diamond trade or get everyone registered to vote? Why waste such influence just so you can spend your days counting the truckloads of money being dumped at your doorstep from companies begging to be blessed as one of your "favorite things"?
Of course if 3M wants to give me a million dollars to use there next unnecessary office supply, I wouldn't say no.
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