Still hunting for that perfect holiday present? Not sure whether an ad you saw on TV or the item you saw at the store is worth it?

Today’s “Does It Work?” examines 16 of these highly advertised products.

As the Beacon Journal’s consumer and home writers, we looked mainly for items that often market themselves as “Seen on TV” to judge if they live up to the hype. These are not scientific tests, just two people trying out some products.

This year, we brought some additional testers to help us. Testers for our kid products were members of the Schelien family of Stow — Janice and Ryan and their eight kids.

Our verdicts might save you money by telling you to “Skip It.” Or we’ll find a great product and tell you to “Snap It Up.” Sometimes we neither love nor dislike it or can see the value for some consumers, and the rating will be “It Depends.”

Mary Beth and I have become a tough duo to impress since we’ve seen and tested a lot of these types of products over the years. You’ll also see we don’t always even agree with each other. We also have some reader feedback on the products.

All the items were purchased locally at big-box retailers, such as Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond and CVS, except for one, which we had to order directly from a store since it was only available online. But we didn’t buy any from the As Seen on TV websites, which tend to charge higher shipping and handling fees.

These reviews and videos, plus previous “Does It Work?” columns, are available online at

More reviews will appear this week in Wednesday’s Food section and Saturday’s Life features section.

Zippy Sack

With eight kids, Janice Schelien is a pro. The kindergarten teacher had already worked out how to fairly parse out the testers and products. Five-year-old Khloe got to try out the Zippy Sack, a fleece blanket/sleeping bag that fits over a fitted sheet and takes the place of a top sheet and blanket.

The appealing part to kids is that the animal-themed sack zips, so you can make your bed with ease.

Janice Schelien said normally, the kids are supposed to make their own beds.

When we went to put the Zippy Sack, which cost $29.99, on Khloe’s bed, she had changed her mind about wanting it. We did our best to coax her.

“Ooh, this is soft. Feel this,” her mom said, rubbing the fleece against Khloe’s cheek.

Betty was concerned about the thinness of the fleece blanket, wondering whether it would be heavy enough to keep a child warm at night. Putting more blankets on top would take away the ease of zipping the sack to make the bed.

While Khloe was in bed, she couldn’t easily reach all the way down the bed to zip up the sack, but she scooted down and managed.

Luke, 4, found a pocket on one side. “Mommy, you can hide stuff.” Khloe put her Shopkins toys in the pocket.

She had trouble with the concept of putting her pillow under the dog’s head. And the sheet once got caught in the zipper, so she couldn’t zip it.

After a few weeks of testing, Janice reported that the sack got moved to 4-year-old Luke’s bed since Khloe got too hot. But Luke was cold.

“Luke LOVES having it on his bed. It makes making the bed more fun and easier,” said Janice, who said as a parent, she wished the pockets were on both sides because they ended up being against the wall the way Luke’s bed was turned.

“I have NOT yet washed it, so would be interested as to how it holds up,” Janice said.

She also wished it would cover the entire mattress and that it could be designed a little better.

But still, the family gave it a thumbs up.


Betty: It Depends.

Mary Beth: It Depends.

Schelien family: Snap It Up

Hamper Hoops

This over-the-doorway basketball hoop connected to a small laundry basket is supposed to entice kids to keep their dirty laundry off the floor.

Liam, 6, and Luke, 4, tried it out in their room.

“This room normally has clothes all over it,” Janice said. “It’ll be good to know if this keeps their clothes.”

Janice thought the bag was too small to hold many clothes. The Hamper Hoops, $19.88, has a small zipper on the bottom so you can dump out the clothes when it’s full.

Liam and Mason tossed clothes into the basket. Most of the time, the clothes got snagged on the rim.

Luke sank a shirt, turned and grinned.

Janice said, “I think if the rim were made of metal, the clothes would slide through.”

After a few weeks of testing, Janice reported that “the boys really don’t like it and quite honestly, don’t use it,” she said. They also threw clean clothes in to try to get the dirty ones in, she said.

“When my kids saw that commercial, all but three of them said they REALLY wanted it. However, the commercial makes it appear to be easy to use.”

Janice also said the hoop also ruins the wall behind the door.


Betty: Skip It.

Mary Beth: Skip It.

Schelien family: Skip It.

Magic Pens

We were able to use the most Schelien kids to test this one. Seven of the eight kids — Ryleigh, 13; Mason, 9; Kacie, 8; Liam, 6; Khloe, 5; Luke, 4 and Avery, 2 — gathered around the kitchen table to check out the Magic Pens, which promises to be amazing color-changing markers. Jack, 11, was nearby doing other things.

Luke, 4, drew purple scribble and then went over it with a white pen. It turned the ink pink.

We had trouble figuring out which was the eraser pen. Liam, 6, straightened us out by showing us the one he’d seen on TV.

Luke started scribbling hard with a white pen when it was no longer having an effect.

“I think the color coding is complicated for us, so I think it would be really, really complex for kids,” remarked Mary Beth.

Kacie, 8, liked that the colors changed.

Luke discovered the lines he had drawn were turning color. “It’s green and purple!”

But the kids couldn’t get the magic blow pen to function.

Mason, 9, blew and blew to create just a small ink-spattered area.

It “ends up being a germy picture,” she said, noting that if kids were playing together, they would all want to try the blow pen and would share germs.

We were afraid the markers wouldn’t clean off some surfaces after we read the fine print. She later reported it washed off a shirt and the tablecloth.

The older kids experimented more with the Magic Pens, which cost us $9.88. Mom said the younger kids would probably be happier with regular markers.

After a few weeks, Janice reported that the family never did get the blow pen to work well. The markers had not yet dried out.


Betty: It Depends.

Mary Beth: It Depends.

Schelien family: It Depends.

Purse Pouch

The Purse Pouch is marketed as “the perfect place for your purse.” We paid $9.99. It’s a mesh holder that is designed to rest at the back of the center console, so if you don’t have one, this won’t work.

Mary Beth liked it and I didn’t.

It was easy to install.

Mary Beth said the pocket was too small to hold her big purse, but she didn’t think she’d use it that way.

“It seems like it would be a little difficult to get a purse into the pocket, so I would probably stop using it after awhile.”

Instead, she installed it horizontally and used it as a hammock to set her purse on. “It kept my purse in easy reach but out of my way, she said.

I felt like this was an unnecessary gimmick. I called it my car seat for my purse. I don’t need a car seat for my purse.

While the commercial shows it as a life-saver for moms with kids, I remember always reaching to the back seat to give things to the kids or get things from them when they were still small, so I would think this would be in the way.


Betty: Skip It.

Mary Beth: Snap It Up.

Big Vision

The Big Vision, $14.88, look like big safety goggles. But they’re marketed for people to use to see things big and clear.

They have a bigger field of vision than most reading glasses.

“These might be good for computer work, since they have a wide field of vision. I have to tilt my head back to see out of the bottom of my bifocals,” said Mary Beth.

I thought it made everything look blurry, but I wear contacts and don’t yet need to wear bifocals or cheater glasses.

The instructions say you’re supposed to put them on the tip of your nose, but that’s not the way they’re shown being worn on the packages.

While they aren’t exactly fashionable, if you or a loved one wants more viewing area, these are definitely bigger than cheaters.


Betty: It Depends.

Mary Beth: It Depends.

Have you seen an advertised product and wondered if it really lives up to its claims? You can suggest items to be reviewed by Mary Beth Breckenridge and Betty Lin-Fisher by sending email to or, or calling 330-996-3756 or 330-996-3724.