Monday, July 20

Stupid things you don't need

No wonder Americans are in so much debt...

So there I was, waiting for my prescriptions to be ready at Walgreen's. I checked out sunscreen prices (remember when they weren't $10 each because people were actually into tanning? I suppose it's wrong to wish skin cancer on people just so I can get cheaper sunblock...) and looked around at clearance areas. Hoo boy, was there a treasure trove of useless crap in there!

But before we move to the clearance bin, let's start with the best (by which I mean the worst) product, displayed front and center in the store: the Egg Genie. This lil sucker promises you perfectly cooked eggs, up to 7 at a time! Also great for steaming vegetables! Light and sound indicators let you know when your eggs are done!

All for the low, low price of $19.95 plus $6.95 shipping and handling. (Assuming you're buying it online and not in the store.) And for an additional $6.95 s/h, you can get the Baconwave and Chop Genie. (Is it just me does this list start to sound like the products committed some unholy act of incest and gave birth to one another?!)

In case you care, the Chop Genie appears to be a really cruddy imitation of already specious products like the Slap Chop. (Which I can't ever even consider buying thanks to Attack of the Show's product evaluation. Those of you who get G4 know what I'm talking about. Let's just say they weren't content to leave the test to normal things that people eat. And that parts of a pig were involved.)

In a far more disappointing turn of events, the Baconwave is not some awesome microwave made of bacon. I got really excited for a minute... And that makes no sense because I don't even particularly like bacon. In fact, it's a tray that holds the bacon while you microwave it. Talk about a letdown!

So, for a mere $33.85, you can get an unnecessary gadget to cook eggs (for those of you too cool to fill a pot with water and boil eggs), plus a cheap-looking, Slap-Chop-wannabe AND a plastic tray to hold your bacon, which will somehow cook it to perfection in your microwave.

Of course, maybe the Egg Genie truly does work. But I really don't get it. I grew up with a mom who just boiled the eggs. Then again, she brewed her own iced tea too. She took out a small pan, filled it with some water, heated it and then steeped several bags of tea, which she later poured into a pitcher that went in the fridge. Whew, what a workout!

Then again, I'm still of the firm belief that 99% of people don't need rice cookers. I've always made my rice on the stove. Yeah, you have to check it a whopping three or four times after turning down the heat, but does that really necessitate a labor-saving appliance?!

Let's see, what wonders did I find in the clearance section?

  • There was the overly large ruler that had a calculator on it, with plenty of small buttons that looked hard to operate.
  • The pen that had a 2" by 1" square stuck on it that was, apparently, some Atari game I'd never heard of. On the back, it had a diagram that showed where the directionals were plus a few other key items. Good thing, too, because in front it looked like a chunk of plastic with just a screen and no buttons.
  • Two hideously colored onesies. As in bright, garish colors. One was striped with them. I think it was orange, lime green and red. Or something really unpleasant. (Does anyone actually buy infant clothing at pharmacies? I suppose it can't be much worse than the rest of the mass-produced stuff out there.)
  • A few, cheap-looking Jonas Brothers items. Or maybe they were High School Musical. The painful, teeny-bop trends all meld together into one unpleasant blur for me.
  • Plenty more items that I've probably blocked out to save my sanity.

And so I repeat: No wonder Americans are so deeply in debt. We buy all this ridiculous crap that we think will be cool or fun. But usually it turns out to be stupid, unnecessary and cluttering. At least, until we throw it out or donate it. At that point, we look it over and wonder what we were thinking when we bought it.

I personally have this theory that capitalism (especially the advertising industry) rests so much on stupid, unnecessary purchases that they put special devices in random products. So we go into an induced stupor, from which we emerge only after leaving the store.

By then, though, it's too late. There's a bag in our hand and a receipt in our wallet. By the time we've gotten home, we realize the purchase was dumb and superfluous, but we'd have to go aaaall the way back to the store to return it. (Plus the receipts for this stuff are always the ones you can't find later. But I suppose that my conspiracy theory about engineered disintegration in receipts will have to wait for another day...)

The point is, clearance bins are both amusing and terrifying. Hilarious because it exists; terrifying because somewhere someone has bought it. After all, there was only that one Atari-game pen. I really doubt the store just bought the one. So where did the others go? They were probably purchased.

Okay, okay, I should point out that there are good things to be had in clearance sections. After-holiday candy comes to mind. Cheap water bottles and summer toys. (Tim gets compliments all the time on the $1 water bottle I got at Walgreen's last year. It's shaped like a D, so that there's a handle to grab onto when you're toting it around.) And in this set of clearance bins, there was a set of three Phillips razor replacement blades for $9.99, which seems pretty reasonable.

So I guess it's a mixed bag. But mostly? It's a testament to just how many stupid items Americans will buy. And why so many Americans end up in debt with few real, valuable things to show for it.

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Blogger Meg said...

That Egg Genie is ridiculous. I bet there are people who already have perfectly good steamers that get that not knowing that they could just use their regular steamer -- which is much better for cooking other things and about the same price. Of course, you can just use a pot and boil eggs, but I must admit that we steam ours here. It's easier, uses less water, and pretty damn hard to screw up even for us. Of course, you don't need an electric steamer, you can use a steamer basket (either the Asian in wok style, or a metal one that fits in a pot), but our electric steamer is one thing we've kept through the decluttering because it's so foolproof. Also makes perfect rice with less mess and no stirring! O.k., now I'm starting to sound like an infomercial.

But yes... yes, yes, yes, stores like that are filled with junk no one needs! As I told my Australian friends as I showed them around Super Walmart, the store is full of "solutions to problems you never knew you had".

As for the sunblock, I think part of that is just inflation and a larger part is more expensive ingredients. The sunblocks we have today are, imho, a lot nicer than the ones from when I was a kid. I'll actually use some of them now. Plus, they are now making them to not just reduce burning, but also skin cancer -- now that we know that it's different kinds of rays that cause them and that they need different ingredients, I suppose.

July 21, 2009 at 9:31 AM

Blogger Naturally Frugal said...

Hey hey hey! You leave my rice cooker alone!

Actually, I completely agree with you and find myself to be one of those suckers when walking through Bed, Bath and Beyond or Target's home section. There's just so much STUFF and all of a sudden I want it. Usually I can quell the impulse to buy an egg genie and instead buy cookie cutters or something just as useless yet more cheap. This is why I haven't been to Target in months. Must stay away.

Good post Abby, it brings us down to reality. And yes, I think cooking eggs on the stove is a very practical way to go about it. But rice? Oh hell no....

July 21, 2009 at 11:28 AM

Blogger Jenny's Vegcafe said...

Lugging that pan of water to the stove is so hard- I might just have to break down and get that egg genie. I see Bacon Waves all the time at garage sales for less than a dollar.
I do have a rice cooker because I cannot manage to make decent brown rice. I use it all the time and consider it a great purchase.

July 21, 2009 at 4:58 PM

Blogger Revanche said...

Not only do I burn my rice all to a crust on stovetop, I expect to have hot rice all the time, round the clock. For that, you must have a rice cooker. We do everything else stovetop, though: brown rice, quinoa, etc. I do like the (sort of weird) hot water dispenser that really hardcore Asian families have sometimes. I don't need it, I just like it.

August 5, 2009 at 10:43 AM


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