27 February 2005

The Ionic Blowhard

I'm sure there have been times where you've been flipping through the stations or watching your favorite program on Lifetime (that's supposed to be a joke), when you run into this seemingly harmless and interesting infomercial about none other than the Ionic Breeze (Sharper Image). They show it working, cleaning dog scent or cooking fumes away to leave your home smelling "fresh and clean." They then flash this quick page of graphs-- Ionic Breeze scored high on these, it must be good! But if you look closely, the graphs are nothing but "best value" or "most trusted", not actually anything scientific. I don't know about you but that doesn't particularly prove jack to me, or is it just me who actually likes proof that an item works before I buy it? Then again, we have to remember that this commercial targets the unwitting people of America who like to buy on impulse.

What really gets me is that in February 2002, Consumer Reports published a report about a bunch of air purifiers. (Unfortunately they have since become a subscription service and I cannot seem to get access to the list.) Out of 16 competitors, the Ionic Breeze scored-- you guessed it, DEAD LAST. Consumer Reports published another, similar test in October of 2003, with the same poor results for the Ionic Breeze. Now, after these findings, what did the Sharper Image do? Maybe prove that it really works? No, they thought it would be much easier if they simply filed a lawsuit against the Consumers Union for maliciously posting falsified or inaccurate results. I like the quote in this article about the (eventually dismissed) case:

Williams, the Consumers Union attorney, said Sharper Image complained after the article was published that the tests were unfair. (Consumer Reports had placed each purifier in a room and measured how much dust and smoke were removed from the air in a half-hour.)

"They said the Ionic Breeze needed to run longer," Williams said. "So Consumer Reports went back and tested again, this time seeing how much cigarette smoke could be removed over 19 hours. It couldn't even clean the smoke from one-eighth of a cigarette."

So. Sharper Image couldn't prove their case. Does that mean that they were wronged, and that the Consumers Union did do bad testing? Does the Ionic Breeze work wonderful? Not necessarily. Personally, watching the commercial itself practically convinces me that:

1) it doesn't work (or at least nearly as well as they claim) and

2) it's a ripoff (they give you the "free bathroom ionic breeze" and recently have added the car one, too. This says to me that the original product is overpriced. Either that or they're trying to snag the impulse buyers. You can keep them free even if you return the ionic breeze. What they don't tell you is it costs 20 bucks to ship the darn thing back. Forgive me, I tried to calculate the costs, but I need the length, width and height. I'll leave you to prove the costs to yourself.)

My aunt swears by this thing, but I think it's an absolutely atrocity-- a way to con you out of your money and convince you it works (hey I'm sure the placebo effect works for appliances too!). Consumer(s) Reports/Union is reputable, and honestly, if I had allergies or asthma, I would go with the regular HEPA filter if it was bad enough to spur me to purchase an air purifier. My dad has pretty bad asthma and we have a squat, round air purifier in our living room that runs every night. Which is better? Who knows, but IMHO that's why we have people like the Consumers Union. Fortunately the Sharper Image couldn't silence them-- this time.

On another note, I found this cool Visual Thesauras online. It's nothing I would pay for, but it's fun to play with for a little while until it doesn't let you anymore.

My next post: That DELL commercial that runs on Cartoon Network ALL the time-- you don't have to know anything to get your kid a computer-- let us rip y--...-- I mean...help you!


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