Avoid infomercial buyer's remorse; turn phone interview into in-person meeting

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!: You never realized how badly you needed a vegetable chopper.

Whether it's to tighten your tummy, remove dead skin from your feet, give your hair a boost or find use for a towel that supposedly holds 12 times its weight in liquid, you may feel tempted by energetic pitchmen peddling such products via late-night infomercials. However kitschy or misleading, they're often successful in getting people off the couch to reach for the phone and $19.95.

But buyer beware, says Consumer Reports magazine, which recently tested a roundup of 15 infomercial products and found some disappointments. The $19.95 Slap Chop diced foods unevenly, while the PedEgg, a pedicure device that costs $9.99, did a good job removing calluses but left a mess.

Still, there are some good offers. The Magic Jack, a voice over Internet Protocol device that costs $39.95, has a clear connection and is a great deal, the magazine said.

Tired of buying as-seen-on-TV products that aren't worth the price? There has to be a better way! Well, there is!

Here are Consumer Reports' tips for avoiding infomercial buyer's remorse:

-Pause 10 minutes before making a purchase. The excited pace of the commercials boosts dopamine levels, so once they return to normal you'll be feeling less impulsive - and less likely to buy something you don't need.

-Consider other options. The item may seem like the perfect solution to a common problem, maybe even genius. But often they are simple ideas that can easily be duplicated, or aren't even necessary. Soaking a pan in hot water overnight with dish soap may be just as effective as using the Grease Bullet cleaning tablets.

-Listen for true "value" clues. When a pitchman cites a $40 value, then says he'll give you two for one, that means the value is probably much less.

-Calculate the real price by factoring in the shipping and handling charges. Sometimes those charges are nearly as much as the item itself.

-Say no to add-ons. Those "operators standing by" will likely pitch additional products, accessories and refills - before you know whether the product even works.

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DON'T HANG UP: With so many candidates in the job market, employers are more likely to use telephone interviews to screen those seeking work, according to one outplacement firm.

"The first five minutes of a telephone interview are the most important, since only about two out of 10 people called are still under consideration beyond this time period," said Annie Stevens, managing partner for ClearRock, based in Boston. "People need to be prepared right from the start of the call to make the most out of the limited amount of time they will be given."

ClearRock gives this advice for those hoping to parlay their short phone chat into an in-person meeting:

-Smile while talking. It will convey enthusiasm, interest and likeability.

-Stand up to better project your voice and sound more confident.

-Don't use a cellphone or a speaker phone. The quality of the call is better on a land line, and a dropped call can mean a dropped opportunity.

-Have a list of questions prepared in advance to ask, and listen carefully to what the interviewer is saying. Be sure to answer the questions you are asked.

-Never interrupt the interviewer. If you feel nervous, silently count about two or three seconds after he or she has finished talking before you do.

-Eliminate one-word answers and negative words. Don't reply with "yes" or "no" answers, and banish negative verbs such as "can't," "haven't" or "don't" from your vocabulary.

-Recap why you're a good fit for the job. Have a 30-second summary of your suitability for the position prepared in advance, using specific examples from your career.

-Ask about next steps. Inquire at the end of the call how well your qualifications meet their needs and their time frame for filling the job.

Organizations: Consumer Reports

Geographic location: Boston

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