The Beacon Journal’s popular “Does It Work?” feature is back, reviewing a mix of 12 highly advertised products promising to be things you just can’t live without.
As the Beacon Journal’s consumer and home writers, we looked 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.
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 hate the product or can see the value for some consumers and the rating will be “It Depends.”
We also have asked for reader feedback on the products we tested to let your fellow readers give you their opinions on the products. In some cases, their verdicts are different than ours, which is OK. It gives you more opinions to make your own decision.
All of the items were purchased locally at big-box retailers, such as Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Walgreens. That means we don’t pay exorbitant shipping and handling fees.
These reviews and videos, plus previous “Does It Work?” columns, are available online at www.ohio.com/doesitwork.
More reviews will appear this week — in Wednesday’s Beacon Journal Food section and Saturday’s Beacon Journal features section.
So, without further ado:
Spirooli Spiral Slicer
This product, which promises to slice, shred and cut fruits, vegetables and more, gave Betty visions of making those street-fair, spiral-cut potato chips at home.
That’s not what we got.
The Spirooli, which we bought for $24.99, is like a big apple peeler.
The instructions were really scant, so that left us to figure it out on our own. There are three different blades, which can only be inserted one way.
“It’s dummy proof. That’s good,” Betty said. We also liked that the unit had built-in shelves to hold the blades when not in use.
In order to work the Spirooli, you basically impale the food to be cut onto a small post. Then you use one hand to push a handle for some force while you turn the crank with your other hand.
The design is for right-handed people, but we still found it awkward to push the handle with the left hand while spinning the handle with the right. Betty found that if she used her left hand’s index finger to brace the machine for added torque, it helped. But we think the machine would be very difficult for left-handers to use.
Because you impale the food item, the post will also leave a hole in each piece when you’re done.
“So when it makes potato chips, it makes potato chips with holes in the middle,” Mary Beth said.
We found that the Spirooli cuts everything thin. That was good for potato chips, but not so good for curly fries. And it was a far cry from the street-fair, spiral cut potato chips envisioned by Betty.
We successfully cut potatoes with various blades, though it slices everything thin and thinner than we would have wanted for potatoes and an onion. The onion sliced nicely and without tears.
We ran into trouble with a cabbage and tomato, though, as pictured on the box.
Betty had trouble getting the cabbage seated in the Spirooli. It kept slipping as she turned the blade, shreds fell out behind the blade and eventually the cabbage got stuck and wouldn’t turn anymore.
“I could have had that cabbage sliced up [with a knife] in no time at all,” Mary Beth said.
We were curious about how the tomato would slice, and it wasn’t neat.
It squished everywhere.
Overall, we weren’t impressed with the product for its versatility.
“I was disappointed. I had higher hopes,” Betty said.
Betty: Skip It
Mary Beth: Skip It
The Trusty Cane bills itself as a sturdy, folding cane with built-in lights with an extra-wide pivoting head. The cane, which we bought for $29.88, says it stands on its own and is “the cane you can trust.”
We didn’t quite understand the benefit of a pivoting base, thinking that would make a person who needed stability from a cane uncomfortable. We did like that the cane was compact and foldable.
“It’s collapsible, but it’s not like you could put it in your purse,” Betty said. It would fit into a tote bag, though.
We liked the built-in light, but had difficulty replacing the screw on the battery compartment after we inserted the batteries, so the screw still stuck out a bit, which could be annoying on the handle.
But since neither of us are regular users of canes, Betty took it to church one Sunday and solicited a few opinions from some senior citizens who use canes.
Only one of the three, a gentleman, liked it. He liked that it had a quad-like base (it’s actually a circular base with three suction cups and not as wide or big as a typical quad base) and he liked the swivel part of the cane, saying it would help him with stability.
“It’s light and its convenient,” he said.
The two ladies who tried the Trusty Cane did not care for the swivel part, saying that would make them feel even more unsteady.
“I don’t think I like that it wobbles,” one woman said. “I like it to be steady.”
“I think it would throw you off guard,” the other said.
They all were tickled, however, when shown that the cane had a built-in light.
But that wasn’t enough to sway the two ladies from their assessment.
Based on their opinions, we think whether someone likes this product will really be personal preference on the pivoting part.
Betty: It Depends
Mary Beth: It Depends
Little Big Shot?Super Nozzle
This nozzle, which we bought for $9.99, is the garden hose equivalent of a water-saving shower head. It creates pressure by restricting the water flow.
We were able to change the stream from a tiny pinpoint to a stream similar to what comes out of a hose without a nozzle, but with a little more pressure. Depending on how it was adjusted, the stream could reach quite far — from Betty’s front porch almost to the street, about 30 feet. That could make it useful, if you’re trying to water something further away.
We liked that it was made of brass, not plastic.
Unlike a similar nozzle that we tried, this one does not promise to approximate a power sprayer. And indeed, it would not live up to such a claim. It also lacks a shower setting for gentle plant watering, so it’s somewhat limited in functionality.
It’s inexpensive, however, and appears to be well-made.
Betty: It Depends
Mary Beth: Snap It Up
Prices vary. Online or TV orders may incur extra charges for delivery.
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 e-mail to mbrecken@ thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3756, or blinfisher@ thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3724. Follow us on Twitter @MBBreckABJ and @blinfisherABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MBBreckABJ and www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ.