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party poker

Build a super system that will turn friends green with envy.

The direct marketing corporation “Direct Marketing Enterprises” was a multi-million dollar business that sold crappy products to people who had lost the will to live. You’ve probably seen print ads (beginning in 1982) sold under one of their 40+ company names (most likely: “RBM Ltd”; least likely: “Cheeselovers International, Ltd”) in such prestigious periodicals as Parade Magazine, TV Guide, The New York Post, American Legion, and The National Enquirer. Surely you remember “the world’s ‘comfyest’ [sic] cat carrier”? Five bucks. The “indoor TV dish antenna” that was “legal in all 50 states”? Eight bucks. Does this phrase sound familiar: “Why Are We Giving Away Our Nationally Advertised [product] for only [$5-$20]”? You know a 30-piece magnetized screwdriver set is going to kick major ass when it sets you back only five clams. My favorite advertisement was for an “electric train set” and it’s vitally important for me to extract the best lines of ad copy – I’m pretty sure whoever wrote this keeled over dead from laughter after finishing. While you’re reading this, imagine you’re looking at a picture of the train set, which is very iconic in form - that is to say, the level of detail is such that if it were any less, it would no longer be a train. Oh, and: five bucks (plus two dollars shipping). I’ve fallen in love with the self-referential first quote:

“These are the same famous nationally advertised GFX ‘GOLDEN EAGLE’ electric train sets featured in leading media throughout America.”

“Also included are 8 sections of modular tracks and a dual position lever-switch that shunts the entire train from track to track and from curve to straightaway. You also get colorful cardboard cut-out figures of passengers, a uniformed trainman, a period style railroad station, phone booth, trainmaster’s office, even signal posts, stop signs and yard posts!”

“The total track area circumscribes an impressive 240 square inches in area.”

“Is it any surprise that this is the fastest-selling set of electric trains ever sold by the multi-million dollar company.”

“These electric train sets will not be sold at this price by the company in any store. There is a limit of two (2) sets per address at this price. But if your request is mailed early enough (before Dec. 17) you may order up to 7 – enough to build a ‘super system’ that will turn friends green with envy.”

Around the time this ad ran (1986), RBM et al were taking in 25,000 to 70,000 orders a day (an approximate total of gross sales for three years came to over five hundred million dollars). The multi-million dollar business wasn’t good enough for ’em, so they got into the lucrative “deceptive sweepstakes” market and eventually got hit up for ten grand in fines by the FTC in 1996. The company finally collapsed and died in 2001.

I use the “green with envy” bit to praise substandard merchandise, and also in all of my Ebay auctions.

Jeff Stendec (June 11, 2002)

Tags: ad | print

Wall O’ Shame: GFX 100 Indoor TV “Dish” Antenna