Beware the product demo!

I am writing this post with this weeks mini missions in mind. It might help you identify some of those too hard to use items loitering in your home. However the intention behind it is actually to help you avoid acquiring such gadgets in the future.

When viewing product demonstrations, whether in store, at a home show, on television or online, one thing to remember is that you aren’t shown the full picture, and the person demonstrating the product may have had hours and hours of practice.

The simplicity of operation of a gadget is enhanced by that fact that you don’t see  the staging of the demo, the clean up afterwards or the training process of the demonstrator. It is easy to be wooed by a single seemingly effective use and application without giving considered thought to whether it really, saves time, is as easy to use as it seems or if you have enough uses for it to justify the space it takes up in your home.

Attributes can be suggested yet not really proved in a quick demo, such as…

  • Ease of use ~ Is it as simple to use as it appears or has the demonstrator had a lot of practice and training. Remember you are expecting simplicity and instant results. That is what you are buying into. Are you prepared to persevere with a trial and error period post purchase.
  • Comfort ~ In the case of clothing, bedding, linens etc. A bed you lie on in the store for ten minutes may not turn out so great after sleeping in it all night. Or, a smiling, attractive woman modelling the latest comfort bra doesn’t prove it is comfortable or that it was easy to get into.
  • Multiple applications ~ Will you have enough uses for it to justify its purchase. It may be more economical to buy preprepared or hire someone for the task.
  • Clean up ~ Does it take longer to clean than the time it saves. Kitchen gadget are a prime example of this. Cleaning by hand can be a real pain and even having a dishwasher isn’t always the solution. That is because the item may still be dirty in the dishwasher the next time you want to use it.
  • Effectiveness ~ Eg. Beware of cleaning demonstrations. Applied dirt & marks are easier to remove than those ground in and set.
  • Readiness ~ Does its assembly or state of use take too much time. Eg. I bought a super soak-up sponge once but when not in use it dried hard so took five minutes to get malleable enough to use. In a spill situation tit was useless.
  • Money saving ~ Eg. A $1300 coffee machine might make nice coffee but how many years of warranty does it have verses how many years of lattes or cappuccinos could you enjoy at your local coffee shop for $1300. Also you often get told the price per cup which often only takes into account the coffee grounds or pods not the milk, sugar, electricity, the descaling solution, the water usage, and the initial layout for the machine. Not to mention you would probably have them more often because the machine is right there to use.

Give these kinds of purchases good consideration before taking the plunge. As I said before, it is easy to be wooed by a clever demonstration. Ask questions, do the math, take a cool off period, look up product reviews online, ask around…

Now I ask again. Do you have such a product loitering in your home. Now would be a good time to seek it out and let it go. Don’t let guilt cause you to hold on to it when it isn’t being used.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter or rearrange something that you don’t use because it is too difficult to get at when you need it so you achieve the task some other way.

Eco Tip for the Day

If family members shower immediately after one another you would save water by not needed the heat up time.

For a full list of my eco tips so far click here

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. This is such a good post Colleen. We have several things I think go in this category. Now to convince Mom to get rid of them. She really wanted a juicer so I finally found a great deal on one. Like everyone has been saying they are a pain to get clean. She has gone back to using a hand juicer. Most things like this we have decluttered by now but we do have several left. I’m glad Mom no longer does much shopping and we don’t watch TV. It keeps her from getting reeled in by the demos and things.

    • Hi Deb J, thank you, I am glad you enjoyed the post. Staying away from demos and shops sure does help resist temptation. The funny thing about this post is that I have just ordered a gadget online. It is one of those magnetic window cleaners that clean both sides at once. Being in an apartment building means I can’t get so some of my windows on the outside and my glass railed balcony is a challenge to clean also. The gadget only cost me $20 so it was an inexpensive attempt to make a job possible and easier. I expect to require a little practice at getting it right but I have read lots of reviews and most people seem to think they are quite effective and useable.

  2. Back to that pots and pans post! I was terrified of getting rid of some of my kitchen stuff. But I haven’t missed it at all. I use a hand juicer for citrus fruits (I made 2 pints of orange juice with a box of bruised oranges and I am sure that the time it took for me to juice AND wash the juicer than it would have done to auto juice and wash the electric juicer!) Having said that I have kept the vegetable juicer as my daughters are avid veg juice drinkers and I have yet to work out how to juice a carrot!

    I had a friend who sold Pampered Chef stuff and I thought it was the bees knees. I got rid of almost everything except for a stone pizza dish ages and ages ago. Last year I was invited to a Jamie Oliver party. I didn’t really want to go but I did feel I should support my friend. There was nothing at all I wanted. It was all stuff I either had (ie basics) or knicky knacky stuff or gadgets I didn’t need.

    I don’t even own a garlic press any more 🙂

    • Hi Gillie, I imagine if you juices a lot then an electric juicer would be great, especially if you have a dishwasher safe one. 20+ years ago I bought a crepe making pan and still use it so it won’t be going anyway and a couple of years ago I picked up a panini press at the thrift shop for $5 and use it all the time. I enjoy the challenge of discovering all sorts of things that I can make on it. Tomorrow I am having some ladies over for lunch and I will be making pikelets on it. However like you I no longer have a garlic press, a knife does that job quite will and is easy to clean.

  3. Good post – I have been sucked in so many times over the years. Now my rule of thumb is that I want some particular (usually kitchen gatget) I have to have made it five times by hand before any specialised tool is bought. That is usually the right length of time for us to have lost the initial excitement of the dish or someone in the family to pipe up and say they don’t like it, or I figure out a resourceful variation on the theme.

    • Good rule Moni. I see so many gadgets coming through the thrift shop where I work. Particularly donut makers, yoghurt makers, muffin makers (who makes three muffins at a time?)

  4. Totally agree Colleen! Especially about the coffee/latte machines. My daughter has asked me many times to buy whatever espresso/latte/steamer/iced tea brewing machine is new on the market. Except for a simple teapot and a regular electric coffee pot, I won’t buy any of those things. I don’t think they would ever get used enough to justify the expense or clutter potential. I would much rather go down to one of the local coffee shops, and enjoy a relaxing beverage with my husband, one of my children, or a friend, while supporting a local business. I always try and remember that the people in those demos or ads don’t really care about me or making my life easier, they are just trying to sell a product.

    • Hi Megan V, my mother actually bought me one of those coffee pod machines a couple of months back. I would probably never have bought myself one because of the plastic pods but I must admit I love it. Mind you it only cost her $50 so it wasn’t a big outlay. The eco person in me still isn’t happy about the pods though.

      You are so right about the sales person not caring about your needs but simply trying to sell a product.

  5. I finally learned this lesson when I bought a “magic” broom at the state fair…didn’t pick up pet hair at home like it did when demo-ed!!!
    I also have to be careful at food demos in stores like Costco. Sometimes I am hungry and think I like a product, buy the large quantity (on sale!), get home and realize we don’t like it all that well or not at all!

    • Hi Connie, I know what you mean about those Costco food demos. I used to love those when I lived in the US. The large quantities of food stuffs did not appeal to me so I really never bought much in the way of groceries there. I mostly bought printer cartridges, photo paper and batteries, when I was an avid scrapbooker.

  6. I have just bought a kitchen gadget from a consultant. It sits on on my bench top. It was expensive. Some of My family were not happy that I had made this purchase. It promises to do so many things. It replaces so many items in the kitchen; grater, saucepans,scales, blender, mixer, steamer etc. It is easy to clean. It is easy to use. It is a better cook than me.
    The seven points Colleen made are a great guideline. Sometimes we can’t honestly answer them until we have the product. I think the best idea is not to let anyone tell you what you need or don’t need , decide for yourself.
    PS Guess which members of the family are enjoying what this gadget makes???

  7. I think most of the best cooks use fewer gadgets. We have a blender–two speed–why would we need more? My hubby does use the garlic press daily but we don’t need a fancy-shmancy garlic chopper/celery chopper/carrot cutter to do what a knife and cutting board will do.
    What about a salad spinner? My girls think I need one because we eat huge salads at least twice a day and have to dry off the lettuce after we wash it. Any one have experience with salad spinners?

    • We have a salad spinner and use it every time we wash lettuce for salad, which is about every three days. We eat a green salad almost every day for lunch. Ours was inexpensive, our second time buying one as the first had a pull cord which finally broke. This one works by just turning the top and works just as well. After use, it gets a quick rinse and dries in the drainage tray.

    • Yes Willow, I had a salad spinner once when my husband was taking salad everyday for work. Then he stopped eating the salads and the spinner sat unused. Now with just the two of us at home a quick jiggle in a strainer is enough to get the water off and that is good enough for me. The strainer gets used for so many other things as well.

      I am with Sabine, if you do get one don’t get one with a string. Mine had a string but no way to pull the lid apart to clean it properly. Didn’t seem quite right to me.

  8. I love my salad spinner which I only bought last year after much thought. I can wash the salad really well & know I can get it dry properly in the spinner. Wendy F – I’ve had one of those for several years and it’s the best kitchen gadget I’ve ever bought. It’s got me back to cooking again, & I got rid of a lot of other gadgets that it replaced.

    • Glad to hear what you are saying Katy! It is exactly how I feel about my gadget 🙂
      A salad spinner can double as a salad server and storer and of course it comes from Ikea 😉

  9. Another negative about the coffee makers that use the little cups is the garbage they produce! The plastic bottoms are marked recyclable, but they are not accepted by recyclers, at least in our country.

    • Guilty as charged Jo H. Given how green I am with everything else I can’t believe I actually use my pod machine. I make up for it in so many other ways though. Hypocrite that I am.

      • It’s all good … I believe in trade-offs, too 🙂

        Actually the rant was more for the people who thought up the idea, the manufacturers and the retailers who are making money from the idea, and the consumers who not only own this item but always have to have the latest and greatest regardless of the hit to the environment – and I know you are not any of those, Colleen!

      • You might want to research and get some refillable pods.

  10. What is the mysterious gadget???
    My son works in the “pod” industry so I am a bit biased about them because they support his family……selfish personal interests, as they say. Some companies have switched to paper pods and I buy San Francisco coffee from Costco this way. It is delicious and environmentally friendly. Though guilty of buying plastic pods also. I think other companies will be switching soon. I hope.