Weird products: Do they work?
In a "Dateline NBC"/Good Housekeeping
exclusive, Hoda Kotbe reports on some of the wacky
products you can buy today.
'Dateline’ and Good Housekeeping put
a few to the test.
to load, worth the wait)
Written Transcipt of Above Clip- See the blue text to read
about the Wein Air Supply Personal Air Purifier
— It’s hard to resist those
high-tech gizmos you see in some catalogs. You know, those
strange-looking gadgets that promise to ease your aches and
pains, help you look younger, or even make your clothes fit
better. Sometimes they work, but some of these “miracle cures”
can turn out to be snake oil. So we put a few of them to the
test, and you might be surprised by the results. Hoda Kotbe
reports with a “Dateline NBC”/Good Housekeeping
A LIP PUMP, a peppermint
inhaler, a toe stretcher? Welcome to the world of weird catalog
products. You know, the ones most of us wouldn’t dare own up to
ordering? But with billions of dollars in catalog sales every
year, someone is buying this stuff — even a beeper-like gadget
to clean your personal breathing space.
“You wear it around your neck,” says Sharon Franke of the Good
Housekeeping Institute. “It sucks in the air. It cleanses it
and then discharges it in a stream up to your face. Sounds
really ridiculous right?”
Intrigued and more than a tad skeptical, the Good Housekeeping
Institute ordered the air purifier for an evaluation of catalog
products that seem too good to be true.
“We thought why would this
work?” says Franke. “How could this work?” The Institute put a
variety of products selected from eight different catalogs to
the test, including an odd-looking device for toning your face,
masks for sinus pain, even a pants stretcher for those who are
“fat.” The products were evaluated by a team of Good
Housekeeping staffers who tried them out, along with a panel of
doctors, then given a “reality check” rating of zero to five
“We were surprised that some
of them work,” says Franke.
So which products made the cut? First, the cho-pat knee strap,
which sells for $14.50. Can a simple strap with a velcro
fastener really relieve pain? An old knee injury had forced
Tracy, a Good Housekeeping employee, to give up kneeling in
church. But with the kneestrap on, she even gets right down on
“I knelt on the marble floor without a kneeler and I had no
discomfort whatsoever,” says Tracy. “I love it. It’s
The manufacturer cautions it
won’t help all knee problems and Good Housekeeping’s medical
experts, who do prescribe the very same strap for their
patients, say you should still consult a doctor before ordering
from a catalog. The Good Housekeeping reality check? Three out
of five stars.
And what about gel-soles?
They sell for $15.95, and the catalog claims slipping one into
your shoe lets you “say goodbye to hot, sore, miserable feet.”
The manufacturer also says the gel-soles have medical
endorsements. So how do they stand up?
“It kind of felt
uncomfortable because it felt like there was something in my
foot that was strange and squishy,” says Dana, a Good
“They do make it softer and easier to walk on your feet,” says
The Good Housekeeping
staffers gave the gel-soles mixed reviews and orthopedist Dr.
William Levine says you can buy over-the-counter insoles that
will provide more cushioning.
“I’d be fairly skeptical about recommending this to any of my
patients,” says Dr. Levine.
So the gel-soles get a Good Housekeeping reality check of just
The instructions do
clearly warn that the suction device may cause bruising and the
manufacturer maintains with proper use, it will keep your lips
full for up to 12 hours. But plastic surgeon Dr. Bob Tornambe
says you might as well go a few rounds with Mike Tyson.
“In my opinion you could accomplish
the same thing by getting punched in the mouth,” says Dr.
Tornambe. “That causes a fat lip also.”
The lip enhancer gets a Good
Housekeeping reality check of zero stars.
And wouldn’t it be nice if you could
sniff your appetite away? For $30, the Aroma Works Suppress
Inhaler is supposed to “fool the stomach into thinking your
stomach is full.”
“Nobody reported that this works,”
says Franke. “And none of the doctors that we consulted knew of
any reason why it should work.”
In fact, the manufacturer admits it
has no medical evidence to support its claims, and told
“Dateline” that like anything else, it won’t work for
The Good Housekeeping reality check?
finally, the personal air purifier, and it promises to
“eliminate airborne pollutants, allergens and viruses from your
“My eyes would be itching,” says Carol. “My nose would be this
extreme tickle, I could be sneezing.”
Normally, cats make Good
Housekeeping staffer Carol Wapner downright miserable. But to
put the purifier to the test, she agreed to wear it to this
adoption center, where she was surrounded by the furry
fine,” says Carol. “I do smell the cat litter I must
Remarkably, even after 25
minutes, Carol didn’t sneeze once. Was it really the purifier?
Or could it have been mind over matter? Wein Products,
the company that makes the air purifier, insists it really
works thanks to what it calls a “revolutionary technology” that
destroys pollutants in the air. The company says it has done
extensive testing, but makes no medical claims and says this is
not a medical device. Instead, it says the proof is in the use,
telling “Dateline” it has hundreds of satisfied customers.
Still skeptical, Good
Housekeeping turned to its engineers for help. They devised a
“smoke test” to see if the air purifier could clear out a tank
of smoke. First, they lit a cigarette and allowed it to burn
inside the tank, building up a lot of
smoke.. Then they put the air purifier in the
“If you look in here you
will see that there is no more streams of smoke,” says
“To our astonishment, it did help the people who wore it,” says
Franke, “and it did clear out a tank of smoke. And it’s
something that we could recommend to people with a few caveats
about the downsides.”
The downside? The price
for one — nearly $100. Plus, testers complained it is heavy and
unattractive. So, the purifier gets a reality check of three
stars. But it gets a gold star from Carol Wapner who never
thought she could spend this much time up close and personal
with one cat, much less 18!
“No reaction,” says
Wapner. “It’s amazing. Thirty minutes, half an hour.” The
manufacturer of the air purifier says it now sells a smaller,
lighter model that is 20 dollars cheaper (unit is actually more
actually, error by dateline).
To find out how the
other catalog products fared, pick up the March issue of Good