Charge it to the Bank of Libya

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 22, 2006

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, but not in the sense of colorful decorations adorning homes and Frazier fur trees.

You know for sure when the holiday season arrives by simply watching the commercials on television. The boob tube is now crowded with gimmick products targeted at those who fit the following criteria: (a) individuals easily influenced by slick advertising methods; (b) people who don’t have a clue of what type of gifts to buy for their friends and/or loved ones; and (c) folks who will make impulse purchases because of the ease of doing so from their own living rooms.

Personally speaking, I’m not buying anything I can’t first see, touch and feel. There are a vast number of web sites where one can sit home in their underwear, peruse the online catalog of products, type in a credit card number and wait for UPS to pull-up in your driveway. It’s shopping made simple, but unless you’re purchasing some sort of music (CD, tape, etc.), you don’t really know if that pair of leather boots you ordered are the right size until the package arrives.

Nope, the convenience of at-home shopping isn’t for me. Rather, I’m a thrill seeker. Nothing gets my competitive spirit going more than circling a mall parking lot waiting for that prime-time spot to open and then heading inside for the real fun – a shopping frenzy among the masses as they scramble to find the perfect gift.

It’s my desire to mingle among those gift-crazed shoppers that makes me laugh at these made-for-TV Christmas products.

TV advertising executives didn’t fall off the marketing truck yesterday. They have devised unique ways in which holiday products are marketed. While the viewer’s attention is distracted with either soft Christmas music or tear-jerking holiday scenes in the background, the &uot;fine print&uot; is delivered.

A few years back there was a sales pitch for an engraved coin commemorating the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Other than using the dreaded &uot;Jap Zero&uot; aircraft as the main focal point of the piece, the coin was beautiful as well as reasonably priced at only $5. At the bottom of the coin were the engraved words – Five Dollars, implying that its worth was exactly that amount. It is, but in Libyan currency and not U.S. dollars.

Another gimmick gift is a wide assortment of holiday music, some featuring the classic tunes that the Baby Boomer generation grew-up with. The music is legit and reasonably priced, but what the ad doesn’t tell you is the added cost of &uot;rushed delivery.&uot; The shopper wants their holiday tunes in time for Christmas and it’s a safe bet they’ll pay extra to make sure it arrives before Santa makes his annual rounds.

Two of my favorite TV ads to pick on are booster devices for cell phones and a &uot;miracle&uot; product designed to tighten ones abs.

The cell phone gimmick promises to boost antenna strength, especially while driving in a tunnel or riding an elevator. The two major problems with that sales pitch are, (1) the worst thing a driver can do while maneuvering a vehicle in heavy traffic while inside the close confines of a tunnel is talk on the phone; and (2) who in the world would like small room full of strangers having an opportunity to eavesdrop on your phone conversation?

I’ll close with my personal favorite – an electronic gadget that will shape, tone and firm-up a person’s abs while they’re at work or even lounging around the house. The pulsating device wraps around one’s waist, upper arm or thigh from where it’s designed to give the sensation of performing 500 sit-ups.

It’s not the sales pitch from this ad that bothers me, but rather the use of what appears to be professional body builders, both male and female, who give the impression their finely-toned muscles can be duplicated by those who purchase and use the product.

If that’s the case then we’re on the verge of becoming a nation of muscle-bound males and females who talk on cell phones in elevators and hang over-priced Christmas ornaments on our trees while waiting for the delivery truck to arrive. And, of course, we can charge it all on our credit cards issued by the Bank of Libya.