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TV Shopping

Are The TV Shopping Channels A Rip-Off?

By Susan Reynolds, Executive Editor, GRAND Magazine

I’m embarrassed to admit that I watch the TV shopping channels. I mostly watch because I like background noise, make jewelry as a hobby, and like knowing about jewelry and fashion trends. I buy little to nothing from them, and here’s why: I feel they are taking advantage of lonely older women.

Who’s buying all those handbags?

Take for instance their product focus. In the last few years, they have sold a boatload of $300-$400 handbags (mostly the same brand). They’re so good at salesmanship ladies across the country are obviously buying far more and way-too-expensive handbags than they could possibly use. Ditto for expensive shoes, clothing, and jewelry. Almost all are overpriced and their idea of a “special” or “clearance sale” is about 10% off. One does offer 40-60% off, but only a few times a year, and they’re also selling millions and millions of $60 stretch jeans that I wouldn’t pay more than $15 for at Marshall’s.

And those ridiculous T-shirts?

Lately one of the channels has been selling thin cotton “designer” T-shirts, with dipping sides and chiffon ruffles (that will soon go out of fashion). The thing is they’re $50+ a pop, and a lot of the designs are something that don’t even look good on the tall, thin models (which should be a huge clue). Every time I see them being pitched as “hot, hot, hot,” I think, “please, ladies, don’t buy those clothes,” but clearly a gaggle of ladies are, and I’ll bet the majority are women over age 60 and not particularly flush.

And can they afford it?

shopping networks

Occasionally callers reveal that they’re recuperating from a long illness, or joke that their purchases are spiraling them deeply into debt. The hosts politely cluck, or make what appears to be an insincere instructive to “only buy what you can afford.”

Business is business and you can’t fault these channels for pushing the products that sell and sell and sell, but I worry about all the aging grandmothers and great-grandmothers on limited incomes who could find better quality goods elsewhere, for a lot less. The last thing they need is a friendly, attractive face encouraging them to buy their tenth $300 handbag or tenth $50 T-shirt. Maybe it’s time for someone to start a channel that isn’t so focused on raking in money that they don’t mind steamrolling over grannies. Or maybe bus trips to Macy’s “one day sales” (which seem to happen weekly) are in order.

Please share your thoughts

How do you feel about the TV shopping channels? We’d love to know clothing resources we could tout for our readers, so please drop me a line.

TV ShoppingAbout Susan Reynolds

Susan Reynolds is a journalist and a magazine editor who has authored or edited more than thirty-five nonfiction books, including Train Your Brain to Get Happy and Meditation for Moms. Ms. Reynolds was the creator and editor of Adams Media¹s My Hero anthology series (Mother, Father, Teacher, Dog) and Woodstock Revisited. She founded Literary Cottage, through which she offers writing and editing services, and serves as a judge for Writer’s Digest Magazine Writing Contests.


Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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