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Updated on May 22, 2010

"'Just pay processing' really means 'just actually pay for it.'" 

TV informercials and the shorter 60 second ads complete with often times loud-speaking, high-strung, excited pitchmen are nothing new. Nowadays Billy Mays would readily come to mind. Before he passed away in 2009 he had literally become a household name, and was associated with myriad products and gadgets that, by his proclamation, were sure to make life just a little bit more fun, and a lot more easy. Lately that ShamWow guy, Vince Schlomi has been becoming fairly well-known on the airwaves, also selling the popular Slap Chop, and delivering lines like "You're gonna love my nuts." And who can ever forget Ron Popeil's hair in a can, and especially his Showtime Rottiserie, which he is probably most well known for selling?

Ever since the television set was invented, and personalities hit the airwaves, there was a pitchman trying to sell something to the watching consumer. Direct marketing, which is what most of the abovementioned things are a part of, has been around for ages. I'm not sure that Sears was the first, but certainly the Sears catalog became a very popular hit for many years after the then, R.W. Sears Watch Co., released it's first direct mail order catalog in 1888 featuring mainly watches and jewelry. After the company became Sears, Roebuck & Company around 1893, the catalogs were expanded to include saddles, bicycles, clothing, baby carriages, and firearms among other popular items of the period. The main catalog ceased publication in 1993, but slowly the company has been releasing newer, more concise, product oriented catalogs, especially for its highly popular Craftsman brand of tools, and certainly the company has long been embracing the power of the Internet as online shopping becomes more and more popular among consumers.

But I'm not here to talk about the history of this industry. The fact is, I am not a historian, though I will readily admit that looking into the history of direct marketing, or anything business for that matter, is highly fascinating to me. It's definitely worth taking a closer look on your own if that so suits your fancy.

What I am here to talk about is one simple phrase that has become all too common in current direct marketing ads. It just grates on me terribly. Every time I hear it I absolutely want to jump out of my chair and grab the pitchman right out of my TV screen and pull him up by his lapels, and even slap him around a few times.

Yes. I kid you not. There are definitely certain things in life that have a sort of an effect on me. I'll open the door right here and now, so go ahead come on through and call me a nut job. You may not be too far off-base by any account, or though my wife has suggested that to me a time or two in one of my frequent, fruitless rants directed at the TV, which mostly tend to materialize while watching political commentary.

This seems to increase in verocity and intensity when I'm listening to democrats. Imagine that.

"Why are you yelling?" my wife often asks, perplexed, and with a scolding look on her face.

"Because it just makes me mad, that's why."

"You know they can't hear you," she reminds me, a little too matter-of-factly for my liking.

"I know. But it makes me feel good," I explain back.

Still, I'm certain that my explanation serves no real good whatsoever in belaying her thought that I may, at times, be a little bit too engaged with the TV people that are quite real, but not real in my living room. Although a time or two I've sworn to have seen a slight wince from a commenter or two on my screen, and saw them reach up for their ear piece.

Oh. Yes, yes. On to the phrase. It's when the pitchman tells me I can have something for free when I buy whatever it is they are trying to sell me. They say "Just pay processing."

That's it. Just pay processing.

It grates me because it used to be that back in the day when someone gave you something for free, it was exactly that. Free. If I ordered something via direct mail or ordered it off of the TV, something I rarely if ever do by the way, and a free item came along with that, I didn't have to pay anything for it. I could order a wonderful set of ultra-sharp knives for just $19.95. I'd get a chopping block for free with my order. Still just $19.95. Then I might also get a beautifully crafted wooden knife block and my total would still be just $19.95. They may also have thrown in a couple extra knives to add to my collection, and of course, get me into that zone where a good deal just keeps better and better and increasingly irresistible. Perhaps I might get a fancy paring knife, a filet knife, a meat cleaver to make even Jason from the Friday the 13th movies grin a little bit and reconsider it over his more preferred machete.

At the end of the whole pitch it would be "all this for just $19.95," and then "plus shipping and handling."

I fully expect that part. Of course everyone knows that there are going to be costs tacked on by the shipper to put all the goods in a box and get it all promptly shipped off to the customer. But somewhere along the line something changed. Suddenly, now those "free" items all come at an additional price. Each free item. And processing is no cheap thing. It's also not for the shipping cost.

On average processing fees are around $6-$10. The more free items they "give" you, the higher the price becomes that you eventually pay. "Get this free paring knife, just pay processing, and this free filet knife, just pay processing, and this free chopping block..."

Yeah, just pay processing.

By the time all is said and done you might wind up spending $50 for all that free stuff. Okay, perhaps that a little bit exaggerated, but perhaps not nearly as exaggerated as you might think. Once you get on the phone with them they'll have tons more "free" stuff to offer you, and programs and gimmicks and saver's clubs.

Don't ever think it will be a quick call.

So I yell at my TV. I yell at those pitchmen who can't hear me. I spit fire when I hear the term "just pay processing."

But I'm not just mad at them. I'm mad at you. I'm mad at the ever faithful and willing consumer. I'm mad because we've let this happen. We are allowing them to make us pay for stuff that is supposed to be free. It's our fault.

The old saying in business is "charge what the consumer is willing to bear." If we're willing to let them charge us for all the free goodies they want to throw in they'll just go right on doing it. And the more profitable selling free stuff becomes, you can bet the more free stuff we'll wind up just paying processing for.

We've got to wise up. Not be so willing to part with our hard-earned money. We have to start acting like customers again and demand more from these companies for every dollar we spend on them. Right now the companies who sell us stuff think they are in charge. Until we say "no," they are in charge.


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    • Springboard profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Wisconsin

      So true. "Not sold in stores" doesn't really apply anymore. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a great comment. :)

    • Artisina profile image


      8 years ago from Sacramento

      I agree with everything you said. One thing that no one seems to get is, if you really want that T.V. product, just wait awhile. It will be for sale all over the place, usually for a cheaper price and you don't pay for shipping, handling, or the ugly processing fee.

      Springboard, you rock!! ( I scream at the T.V. too! )

    • Springboard profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Wisconsin

      Suny, you might have something there. :)

      Billy, that's the key thing here. You have to want to be fleeced. It's the same group of people who allow themselves to be fleeced by these folks on TV that allow themselves to be fleeced in most consumer related situations—the ones who won't try a generic item, for example, because they ASSUME its an inferior product to the brand name.

      What's the old saying, "A fool and his money will soon be parted." It's as true today as the day it was first written, and marketers KNOW there are fools galore to be had all over the place. ;)

      Reddog, calling politicians used car salesmen may actually be an insult to used car salesmen. lol

    • Springboard profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Wisconsin

      Tammy, very true. My wife works at Walgreens, and they have an entire shelf devoted to "As Seen on TV," and the best part is as an employee she also gets 15% off.

    • Springboard profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Wisconsin

      Hello, especially considering the price. There's no cleaner worth $19.95, I don't care HOW many bottles you throw in the mix. :)

      Duchess, you are definitely in the right place then. I LOVE ranting. lol

      Maita, I look forward to that.

    • reddog1027 profile image


      8 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Springboard, you hit one of my pet peeves right on the head. These ads make people forget the old saying "there's no such thing as a free lunch"

      Oh and just so you know those darn republicans don't listen to me either. Politicians, just a bunch of used car salesmen.

    • billyaustindillon profile image


      8 years ago

      Spring board great reading - it seems these infomercials just come up with new ways to fleece you but tat the end of the day you have to allow yourself to be fleeced. Whatever you pay for something is what you pay. VEry simply don't buy informercials - odds are it is junk if not you missed the one out of 100 (or more) bargain.

    • suny51 profile image


      8 years ago

      wish some one invents some thing like 'auto mute'and i won't mind the ad and its cost.

    • profile image

      Tammy Lochmann 

      8 years ago

      Great rant...Totally agree...I guess a lot of people still fall for that...You can buy most of that stuff in the drug store or Wally World handling fee.

    • prettydarkhorse profile image


      8 years ago from US

      there aint free no more hehe, if I am infornt of you while you heaing those words again "Please pay prcessing", I will distract you by saying -- Lets have a party hehe, Maita

    • profile image

      Duchess OBlunt 

      8 years ago

      I love to read the ranting of other hubbers - especially when I agree with them! Couldn't have said it better myself!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      I think everybody hates the commercials apart from TV stations and newspapers. I myself can't belief that people would run out and buy this cleaning product or that toothpaste only because it said on the TV. Thank you for a great hub.

    • Springboard profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Wisconsin

      I currently have a DVR, and I will say this much...I could not live without it. Absolutely indispensible. :)

      Yes, the Billy Mays death really irked me. Watched the reality show he did and he turned out to be a really good least that was the impression I got. Too many bad people never die, and the good ones die young.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Springboard, Thank goodness for TIVO and i also use the mute button as necessary. Those ads infuriate me. I think it is a shame Billy Mays died of a drug overdoes but I do not miss his commercials. Good hub.

    • Springboard profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Wisconsin

      Quality was a good business model back in the day. Anymore, building quality is unprofitable. In the days when a Curtis Mathes TV was a piece of furniture, and lasted 100 years, the company could only sell 1 per household. Maybe two in a lifetime. Companies had to shorten product life spans so that consumers would have to replace them often.

      As for value? A lot of hype and not a lot of substance.

      What irks me as well is the old "this is what its worth" claim. "A $60 value!" they shout. Yet it has never been sold outside of the commercial. And it was probably made for about 50 cents. And if you put it on the shelf at even Macy's no one would ever pay $60 for it...

      Where's the FTC on that one? It's clearly false advertisement.

    • sheila b. profile image

      sheila b. 

      8 years ago

      Even the shipping charges are most often inflated. Some of the commercials I actually enjoy - they're just like the guy on the boardwalk - isn't that how Ed McMahon began? But I learned not to buy from them either, because what they sold was inferior to their demonstration model. So I just enjoyed the show and moved on.

    • Springboard profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Wisconsin

      Sunflower, I believe you said it best. :)

    • Springboard profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Wisconsin

      Tom. It's very lucrative indeed. And a complete scam. Sadly, it's a big scam most people seem to be okay with. Business is booming. :)

      Tina, I hate them too. Especially the ones that make outrageous claims. Oh wait. That's all of them. lol

      Drbj, exactly. 90% of these products are made for pennies on the dollar overseas. If you pay $6.95 for handling, you're paying for it. It's that simple. Can I just say Duh! lol. Someone will probably scold me for that.

      Harlan, yes. The difference is that today consumers really have been dumbed down. No one fights for anything anymore when it comes to their products. I remember when I bought my lawnmower from Sears, and the kid kept pushing the stupid warranty for another $50. Finally he asked, "What are you going to do if it breaks?"

      I told him, "I'll bring it back, and you'll fix it or else."

      People need to get smarter and not be so willing to part with their money. Especially now. The ONLY reason we have to pay is because we don't argue the point. The business will charge whatever the customer is willing to bear.

      Great to hear from you Harlan.

    • Springboard profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Wisconsin

      Suny, thank you. Yes, this is the part that irks me. Consumers nowadays seemed to have been "bred" to pay. Even at Walmart the other day, after purchasing a CD I was asked if I wanted to pay $1 for a replacement warranty on it. I couldn't believe it. Yet, still, I wouldn't be surprised if a whole generation has been conditioned to see value in paying for a warranty vs. having been taught, "If it breaks, you stand your ground and they back their product up."

      We've lost so much. And the saying "There's no such thing as a free lunch" is more telling than ever before. :)

      Thanks for stopping by.

    • sunflowerbucky profile image


      8 years ago from Small Town, USA

      I believe Dave Ramsey would call this "paying the stupid tax". You are right on, this crap happens because idiotic Americans let it. Great hub, Springboard, I gave it a useful, funny and awesome!

    • Harlan Colt profile image

      Harlan Colt 

      8 years ago from the Rocky Mountains

      I have always viewed marketing much like a fishing net. The company casts out its net and see's how many fish it can catch. The marketing is the net and product is the bait or a combination of the two vice-versa. I too hate 'em. They drive me nuts, but again... I also tend to feel like the people who buy thier junk - deserve what they get. A piece of junk that ends up in a yard sale a few years down the road, and less money.

      Great Hub, I voted up!

      - Harlan

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Consumers buy the "processing" pitch because they think they are getting something for nothing when the product is advertised as "free." It's a basic desire - greed.

      What they fail to realize, as you pointed out so well, is that the profit to the seller comes from the "processing" fee.

      Excellent hub, sp.

    • TinaMarieTad profile image


      8 years ago from Michigan

      I hate commercials period!

      The art of the is all about deception in my opinion. Sad but true. Sales and marketing are a science now. It amazes me how many people fall for the pitch.

      Good Hub Springboard!

    • Tom Whitworth profile image

      Tom Whitworth 

      8 years ago from Moundsville, WV


      Very important discovery that processing is very expensive!!!!!!!!!!

      Maybe we should start a processing business and we could make a killing!!!!!!!!!!!

    • suny51 profile image


      8 years ago

      they take customer for granted,lying down,just waiting for the garbage they may push in,great hub,thats why you are my 1st.

    • Springboard profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Wisconsin

      Neither can I. :)

    • Putz Ballard profile image

      Putz Ballard 

      8 years ago

      Good hub can't click my remote fast enough to get away from this garbage.


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