The best-selling infomercial products are an interesting bunch. Not that you've spent endless hours watching television or staring blankly at the box in a middle-of-the-night zombie state or anything, but you've likely seen a few of these beauties.
Perhaps, you've even pulled out your credit card and called the proverbial “numbers on the screen” in to make “two easy payments of $19.95” for one of these appealing doohickeys or a call to Miss Cleo’s Psychic Hotline.
From the practical to the preposterous, the items in this list are nothing if not entertaining. And the items appearing on the screen ought to fill you with a sense of hope: In this great country, you too can invent spray-on hair or a hose that fits in your pocket and peddle it via an obnoxious infomercial.
Nevertheless, to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best, as they say, so here they are: the infomercial products that compelled Americans to reach for their credit cards like no others.
10 ThighMaster -- Total Sales: $100 million
Marketed by tobacco fortune heir Joshua Reynolds with infomercials featuring Suzanne Somers and promising a way to help you “exercise” while watching television, the ThighMaster had a dominant run in the 1990s.
Want to tone your hips, thighs, buns, arms, and chest? Squeeze this thing between your knees, elbows, etc.
As a customer who purchased the ThighMaster on Amazon wrote in her review: “Now these legs are lethal weapons and I can crack walnuts between my thighs...thanks Suzanne Somers.”
9 Sweatin’ to the Oldies -- Total Sales: Approximately $200 million
Want to make fun of the affected and effeminate Mr. Simmons, gentlemen? Consider this: the dude sold 20 million copies of his aerobics program “Sweatin’ to the Oldies.”
As one reviewer said, “Richard Simmons' charming personality and know-how make Sweatin' to the Oldies a classic of the 80s rage for exercise videos. The music is great, and will appeal to people of every age, and I've enjoyed just listening to it for inspiration while working around the house.”
8 Snuggie -- Total Sales: Approximately $400 million
For those of you who are surprised a single Snuggie sold, consider this: more than 20 million of the abominations have been purchased to date.
The Snuggie isn’t just for ladies, as this reviewer notes:
“I bought this for a 21-year-old boy because he spends a lot of time at his computer in the basement where it's cold. I wasn't sure what he'd think of a snuggie, but it turns out he loves it and uses it all the time! The camouflauge made it seem more "manly" for him.”
Real men wear camo Snuggies (that were most likely purchased by their mothers).
7 Ped Egg -- Total Sales: Approximately $450 million
How about a cheese grater for the dead skin on the bottom of your feet? Interested? More than 40 million people were.
The ped egg is a marvel of modern innovation that scrubs away dead skin and calluses from a user’s lower extremities, saving on the cost of a pedicure in the process. And at just $10, the Ped Egg was apparently too great an offer to pass up.
As one reviewer on Amazon wrote:
“Let me tell you, within 20 minutes my heels were clear of calluses! I was amazed! My feet have not been this soft in 15 years! I used the sanding surface to finish them off and spread on some oil and I was done! I had to be very careful when I started because my feet had cracked to the point where large bits would pull off, but once I got past that layer, I put some muscle behind it and WOW!”
What a compelling visual.
6 Showtime Rotisserie -- Total Sales: $1.2 billion
Spray your hair on and stuff a chicken in this thing; it’s time for dinner!
Pitchman/inventor and infomercial king, Ron Popeil’s capstone achievement at his cleverly named corporation, Ronco, sold more than $2.5 million. To date, he’s roasted himself a tender $1.2 billion slinging the Showtime.
Buyers love their Showtimes, it seems. Here’s part of a review on Amazon for the product: “Well, I must say that in just one week we have done one to two chickens a day for our family of six, a marinated pork roast, salmon in the basket, and everything comes out absolutely perfect and delicious.”
That’s a lot of roasting!
5 Bowflex -- Annual Revenue: $193.9 million
It’s hard to believe that the Bowflex home fitness machine has been on the market since 1986. In 2012, the company sold nearly $140 million of the things to consumers. 2.5 million Americans have one of these things sitting in their basements and garages. No word on how many of the devices are functioning primarily as shelving or something to hang clothes on.
4 George Foreman Grill -- Annual Revenue: $202 million
Former heavyweight boxing champion George Foreman invented the George Foreman Grill…wait, that’s not right. Foreman leant his name to the inventors of the “Lean, mean fat-reducing grilling machine” and the product took off.
The grill reportedly cooked up $202 million in sales and has continued to sell for more than 10 years.
3 Total Gym -- Total Sales: $1 billion
This discerning consumer was pleased with his purchase as his words of praise on Amazon.com indicate:
I had seen the infomercial on TV a time or two before but a couple of weeks ago, I was watching it in earnest. Not sure why that day was different but I was a little mesmerized. I noticed that it seemed to work parts of the body that I wanted to work. As I watched, I had that feeling..."what's not to like?" Well the price was steep so that was one thing not to like. Even with the payment plan and offer to return if not satisfied, I could envision disappointment and expense to return if it was not as exciting as it seemed on TV.
2 P90X -- Annual Revenue: $400 million
P90X earns personal trainer Tony Horton and friends more than $400 million annually. On the market since 2005, the P90X DVD series is a seemingly omnipresent infomercial series. They used to say that the sun never sets on the British Empire. Now, it seems, the sun never sets on P90X infomercials, and that in the U.S. at least, there is at least one on at all times.
And with P90X2 and P90X3, Tony Horton’s Beachbody company is continuing its domination of the home workout sphere.
1 Proactiv -- Annual Revenue: $1 billion
Who is in greater need of relief than pimple-faced teens and adults? Apparently no one (in the infomercial audience, at least). Since Proactiv hit the market in 1995, Proactiv has tapped a network of celebrity endorsers (paying each a reported $2 million-plus) to sing the praises of their product. From Jessica Simpson, to Britney Spears, to Katy Perry, famous faces have told their bad skin tales on Proactiv infomercials. And judging from the ludicrous $1 billion in annual revenue Proactiv generates, we’d say the strategy is working.
To put it another way, Proactiv’s annual revenue is greater than that of all the other companies on this list combined. Further, the company’s annual revenue bests the all-time sales numbers of several products on this list. There’s big money in blemishes.