Whenever I think of kitchen knives that are advertised as being the best I think of the Ginsu. If you don’t recall the Ginsu knife, you may remember the TV commercials that were all over the place in the 70s and 80s.
One part of the ad had a guy using the Ginsu to saw a piece of wood, then taking that same knife and using it to cut a tomato— to showcase how durable the blade was.
I never understood why cutting a piece of wood for a few seconds would make the knife unable to cut a soft, liquidy vegetable, but that’s another story altogether.
The company that made the Ginsu popularized the concept of the infomercial, and completely changed the way a lot of new products are being pitched nowadays, namely utensils and household appliances.
One of the people who benefited from the idea of the infomercial is Ron Popeil, an inventor and TV personality that seems to be pitching a new product each week. And for the past few years he’s been advertising the Ronco Six Star 25 Piece Knife Set, that you can get on the company’s website for about $60.
Some would say the obvious question is--do you really need 25 knives if you’re not a full-time chef or if you’re not someone who really loves to cook?
Many of us have purchased sets of knives, dishware and other items that we thought would make life easier, but it turned out we hardly ever used them. And what was once something new and exciting to use, eventually became mere holders of dust particles on some far-off cabinet shelf.
For a lot of us it seems the only knives we use on a daily basis are just a few steak knives, a healthy amount of butter knives and that big sharp knife that resembles the one Glenn Close used on Michael Douglas in "Fatal Attraction."
Other than that, a lot of consumers really don't use a big knife set all that much.
However, a large amount of people do enjoy cooking and for a good portion of consumers the kitchen is just as comfortable as the living room. For them, a knife set is needed since a decent collection of blades could make preparing meals easier and less time consuming.
As far as Ronco knives, they seem to be a lot like the Ginsus in terms of being marketed as all-purpose and being able to trump any knife you currently own.
Take the company’s Showtime knife for example, that’s supposed to never get dull. The set also has the Chop ‘n Serve knife that allows you to cut, scoop, and drop whatever your cutting into a receptacle.
Other knives in the 25-piece set include a carving knife, a saw knife, a bread and bagel knife, a sportsman knife and a blade for every imaginable kitchen task one can think of.
There’s also an all-purpose chef knife, which makes me wonder why you would need the other knives in the set if one knife is supposed to be all purpose. But hey, free enterprise right? People have to sell something.
But the company isn’t selling the Ronco knives as much as it’s selling the idea that you’ll be lost if you don’t purchase a set.
Good for a lifetime
The knives are impact-resistant, made of stainless steel and are supposed to last an entire lifetime, says the company. The infomercial also suggests the blades can cut through foods better than any knives on the market, including the electric ones.
The pitch people in the commercial also do Ginsu’ish things by using the knife to cut through leather and showing how effortless it is to slice through hard-surfaced foods like a pineapple.
In short, Ronco knives are said to be the highest quality and shouldn’t provide any problems in the area of becoming dull or failing to cut foods perfectly.
But this wasn’t the case for Douglass—one of our readers from Canada—who recently posted this:
“Unfortunately, I purchased two sets of these Ronco knives and they are the worst I have ever used,” he wrote in his posting. “The knives are dull and cannot be sharpened using their or any sharpener and they rust after washing. The knives that do not require sharpening could not cut through water let alone a tomato or bread.”
“The cheese knife sticks to cheese better than any knife I own and yet they state the knife will not stick,” Douglas added. “I just want to warn as many people as possible not to make the same mistake or be embarrassed by buying a set for family or friends, because they will be embarrassed. The Ronco owners should be ashamed and stopped from making these false adverts.”
Other readers left comments about how flimsy the knives were and how dull some of the blades were upon arrival, but a good portion of consumers also wrote in about various kinds of billing issues with Ronco, whether it was having a hard time trying to return the knives or receiving a hefty shipping charge they weren’t expecting.
“I ordered online two sets of knives as offered on television in December 2011,” wrote Deborah of Pennsylvania. “Now, the last days, I am being badgered with 6-7 phones a day from Ronco requesting I pay two more payments. I never received a bill, just these phone calls in April. It is ridiculous that this company misrepresents itself and that the caller wouldn’t even give me an amount owed.”
“I want to send these two sets of knives back to Ronco and have the amount that was debited from my account returned to me,” she added. “The knives are dull, will not cut or chop and they are covered with rust spots that cannot be removed.”
In addition, many readers noticed much too late that the shipping charges were more expensive than the knives themselves.
On Ronco’s website the price breakdown for the knife set is $13.33 for the actual item and $43.40 for the shipping, which says two things: One, $43 for shipping is way too pricey for something that’s supposed to be a bargain, and two, the knives can’t be that high-end if they only cost $13 to purchase. I mean, the entire set must have been made for $2.50 in order for the company to turn a decent profit.
We reached out to Ronco to see if the company wanted to provide any statements or at the very least some advice on what dissatisfied customers should do.
After first calling the 800-number on the company’s website and explaining some of the problems readers had with the knives, I was told to call the manufacturer, which is always a sign of less than stellar customer service. Companies that make consumers do all of the legwork to resolve a problem appear to be indifferent.
Apparently, if you have an issue with the product itself, as opposed to having an issue with billing, you should call the manufacturer directly at 1-800-769-3322. We were advised by a Ronco manager that our request for a statement would be forwarded to upper management, and we’re still waiting for a response.
So are the Ronco knives really such a great buy? Well, maybe they would be if only you find a way to get them without paying the shipping charge.
Sure, the infomercials are memorable, well put together and even a little entertaining--but the quality of a TV ad doesn't have much to do with the quality of the product being pitched.
Just look at how good the Ginsu commercials were and ask yourself when you last saw someone using a Ginsu knife.