Skepticism

Buy ShamWows! Now!

I’d like to talk to you about a man whom I’ve dubbed “Headset Vince”. He’s the guy from the ShamWow commercials. He wears a headset for reasons no one other than Vince can understand… maybe he’s expecting a phone call? From his agent offering him a better gig? Maybe his mom is calling to tell him that Stella from Bingo saw him on the teevee? I don’t know. What I do know is that this guy is someone who I, until now, felt the need to mock at any and every conceivable opportunity.

2711616881_94fc5bc67eTurns out, Headset Vince is actually one of the good guys, a hero. We need to stop mocking him and start celebrating him. And we need to buy his towels and nut choppers and his DVDs.

Headset Vince is actually a guy named Vince Offer. It sounds like he should be a cartoon bear-dog hybrid drawn onto the corners of coupons you get in the mail, but he is not a cartoon. In real life, Vince was an aspiring filmmaker – not a very good one, but his lack of filmwriting, directing, and acting skills were not about to hold him back from a career making talkies for the big screen. And yet, you notice I’m using the past tense. He was an aspiring filmmaker… but now he wears a headset in TV commercials and makes you feel like a dick for not already owning German-made spongetowels. So what happened?

The Church of Scientology happened.

Vince is the writer/producer/director/star of the film Underground Comedy Movie. When he began making the movie, he was a relatively new convert to the Scientology. He used his connections within the CoS’s “Celebrity Center International”, a group within the church for artist networking, to cast his film. He managed to muscle up some big A-list names like Slash from Guns n Roses, Ant, a couple of budding soft-core porn stars and Joey Buttafucco. (Being new, I guess he didn’t have access to the Xenu VIP Casting Suite where Travolta and Cruise hang out.)

The movie was intended to be hilarious and offensive. Unfortunately for Vince, the CoS (along with pretty much everyone who’s ever logged on to RottenTomatoes.com) only found it to be the latter. The CoS was so embarrassed that one of their members made a movie so offensive (and awful), they went all 8th-grade popular girl on his ass – shaming, embarrassing and shunning him out of the cool clique of Scientology.

In a normal church your pastor or minister might pull you aside and say, “I think we need to talk about the content of your film. I’m a little concerned it’s not in line with the teachings of our faith. I fear you’re violating [our religion]ism’s doctrine with some of the language and imagery in your film.” And you may decide to chat about it or you may decide to spit in your pastor’s face and head downstairs for pancakes. Either way, the church is expected to act with some amount of grown-up non-dickery.

In the Church of Scientology, the MO is passive-aggression, threats and coersion. Instead of taking the time to talk to Vince, and telling him that perhaps he needs to make a decision between the church and his terrible movie, they chose to push him out by turning the CoS community against him.

Vince says CoS officials stole clips from unedited film footage, added their own sass and passed it around the community as the first act in an elaborate smear campaign against him. They then coerced statements from other members of the church, threatening to “fair game” anyone who refused, declaring them them to be SPs (Suppressive Person, an apostate and enemy of the CoS) for not cooperating.517571w90gl_sl500_aa240_

Statements and evidence were “collected” and the CoS charged Vince with 23 crimes against Scientology, and he was forced to stand trial in Scientology Court. Which is kind of like Night Court, but without the hilarious bailiff, sexual innuendo, and the ability to walk away without fearing for your life… oh yeah, and at least one of the judges is still in junior high.  Vince was found guilty on all charges without being able to mount a defense, mostly because he was never told what the charges were.

After being found guilty, Vince was considered a criminal. He was still “welcome” to be a member of the church – in the same way that you’re still “welcome” to have cake at your best friend’s wedding after you just mentioned in your drunken toast that you nailed the bride the night before they got engaged.

Unfortunately for Vince, as is the case with cults, by this time he had left behind his entire life for Scientology. Everyone in his life was a part of the Church. He was still in the process of making his movie, and he was funding it through a business he started – a business that relied on his Scientology connections. He had dozens of sales reps working for him, all of them Scientologists. His clients – Scientologists. His friends were Scientologists. He had nothing left.

He appealed his conviction, and CoS overturned it. They admitted that the entire case against him was nothing more than a smear campaign and that it was unfair he was never informed of the charges against him. But it was too late. The damage was done, and while the conviction was overturned, he never received an apology or reparations. In other words, they said, “Oh that conviction shouldn’t have happened. We totally lied about everything, used fake evidence against you and generally ran the proceedings in a manner that was the complete opposite of ethical. But we didn’t do anything wrong. We’re not sorry. And it’s not up to us to make amends to you. Quit crying and go take some vitamins or something.”

Vince’s business was still bust. His friends were still gone. His network was destroyed. He was still an outcast in his Church (though I have a feeling he wasn’t interetested in returning at this point). He was on his own and completely broke. He finally f0und a job, not a great one, but a job nonetheless. He started selling vegetable choppers.

Turns out, he’s really good at selling vegetable choppers. He got promoted and started selling them at flea markets. He grew a sales team underneath him, and he eventually made enough money to finish his movie and put together an infomercial for it, released it on basic cable and DVD, selling over 100,000 copies.

And his unique sales style landed him Billy Mays’ job.

The next Deniro he’s not, but he’s certainly managed to turn things around for himself. If only other cult refugees could do as well.

But Vince isn’t just accepting that this is what the universe had planned for him. He’s not just moving on and leaving the whole CoS ugliness behind him. He’s fighting them. In fact, fighting the Church of Scientology is his new life’s mission.

He filed suit against them in 2004 for ruining his movie, his life, his business, and being dickholes. I couldn’t find any information on the outcome of this lawsuit, but according to ESPN, Vince is still fighting the good fight. And he is using every dime he makes from selling ShamWows and SlapChop as well as all the proceeds from Underground Comedy to fight them.

Taking on Scientology is one of the bravest things a former member can do. The Church doesn’t take kindly to dissent. Though they claim that fair game is no longer a Scientologist policy, there are plenty of stories to indicate that fair game is still alive and well, if technically “unofficial”.

My guess is that this probably is the last we’ll ever hear of Headset Vince’s fight against Scientology. But if I can drop $20 on towels that could save me and my shag carpet in the event of a Fresca tsunami, and at the same time help fund one guy’s shot at taking down the bad guys, it’s worth it.

So go, right now, and buy your ShamWows. Get your SlapChop. Buy what is arguably the worst movie ever made. Do it for the good guys. Do it for the little guys. Do it for skepticism. Do it for Vince.

Elyse

Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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107 Comments

  1. Hmmm…I can see new uses for the ShamWow already! Thanks for sharing. If nothing else, he has guts for taking them on. That is serious business. From what I hear, the COS’s “fair play” rule is alive and ruining lives all over the world.

    Can you really sue someone for being a dickhole? If so, I can think of several people that should be living in fear… :-D

  2. Sham-how, Sham-wow.

    It might interest you to know that a couple of “cracker shock jocks”, in the LA/LBC area LOVE the sham-wow and hardly ever stop talking about it.

    They’re eighth in the ratings (as far as their jobs are concerned that’s really third, it’s a shame but the way it is…) So, Sham-wows should get a considerable sales bump from that.

    Now that I know the whole story, I may run out and buy a couple myself.

    Nut chopper? I haven’t seen that one. If it’ll make peanut butter, I’m in. (Hey, it’s fun to make and tastes better, to me…)

    rod

  3. I checked out YouTube to find out what I was missing. Not much. I have rarely missed television less.

    It did lead to an entertaining daydream about a psycho who decides to go on a killing spree with a SlapChop, but after only racking up a few minor scratches sets off for Lilliput where is reign of terror can truly begin.

  4. @Elyse: I know – let’s get him a dating reality show! Twelve hot anti-Scientologist chicks battle it out for Vince’s affections. The final episode will reveal which one of them gets to wear the headset.

  5. @Joshua (can’t do automated replies on my phone sorry):

    Anonymous already has quite the love affair with Vince (just look for ShamWow on the always-NSFW EncyclopaediaDramatica). I imagine it might lead to a bunch of protestors just imitating his sales pitch, though…that’s ONE way to run off the Xenoids.

  6. @DMS:

    Remember, not everyone is born “knowing better”. Lots of people are easily seduced by the claims of Scientology and other cults. And the Scientologists are better salesmen than Vince could ever dream of being. I’m annoyed that the CoS exists, but I can’t be unsympathetic to people who get sucked in.

  7. “in the same way that you’re still ‘welcome’ to have cake at your best friend’s wedding after you just mentioned in your drunken toast that you nailed the bride the night before they got engaged.”

    Should I not have stayed?

  8. Heh, I always thought that guy was funny. I keep imagining his next commercial:

    “Hey, why aren’t you buying these friggin’ towels? What’d I ever do to you? Did I run over your cat? No, I don’t think so. So where’s the damn phone call? Come over here, and buy some friggin’ towels.”

    Maybe he never became annoying to me because I hardly ever see commercials anymore. And I try save my irritation for the real hucksters; people like Vince and Billy Mays and the Orec guy seem to be hawking products that more or less operate as advertised.

  9. The movie wasn’t *that* bad. Definitely more offensive than hilarious, but not completely devoid of humour. And knowing the backstory, I’ll now consider the $5 or whatever I paid to see it back in high school money well spent.

  10. The ShamWow is still just a knockoff SuperShammy. I’ve been a fan of the SuperShammy demos at state fairs, car shows, and mall kiosks for 12 years now. I was very disappointed when I first saw Vince doing the SupperShammy demo on TV and it wasn’t the SuperShammy. Then, he cautions us to beware of imitators. Sad. But now I’m all conflicty. Maybe the guy who invented the SuperShammy spends his free time throwing pies at televangelists or something. I need to do some research.

  11. No, no, no! You’re doin’ it wrong!

    You can’t be just all “this guys against Scientology, he’s one of us, go buy his towels.” You’ve got to get one person to buy the towels, try them out, make sure they work as advertised, and then go “hey, these towels work great! and the guy floggin’ them is suing Scientology, so, hey, even better!”

    What if he was selling homeopathic sleeping pills? What if he was selling overpriced speaker cables that improve audio? What if he was selling ionized copper bracelets that cure arthritis? If all the money from that quackery went into a lawsuit against a cult, would that make the initial BS OK?

    Check his wares out first before we make a hero out of him and offer unsolicited endorsements. Somebody let me know if the towels actually work before I go spending money on crap that I see in an infomercial.

  12. @Peregrine: Um, it’s pretty well known that these towels are based on other towels/materials and … it works pretty much as advertised. Sure, it’s not as WOW! as Vince would like us to believe, but they do work.

    Also, googling “shamwow review” would have saved you the trouble of typing 3 paragraphs just to … find shamow reviews.

  13. @marilove:
    Sure, if I wanted to buy the towel, of course I would have Googled it. But I’m not the least bit interested in buying towels right now. And that’s beside the point.

    The towels work? fine. But I don’t recall any mention of that in the initial post.

  14. i own the underground comedy movie. its not that bad. and admittedly, it makes me not hate headset vince quite as much, even after his gaping assumption that the germans always make good stuff. however, i still reserve the right to be mad at shamwow. that coke on the rug demonstration just isn’t in realtime, no matter what vince says…

  15. I always wondered where Scientology “drew the line”. Evidently, it is somewhere between denying treatment to the mentally ill, and videos of”supermodels” pooping.

    I think the CoS’s real problem with this person was that he challenged their dogma that there is no such thing as mental illness.

  16. I met him a few years ago at the Minnesota State Fair. He was sneaking anti-Scientology pamphlets into the bags of Sham-Wows that just fly out the gates there every summer. I blame the thrall of deep friend Snickers bars and Twinkies.
    If I remember correctly he wears the standard issue fairground seller set because he hates the clip on mikes and loves the slightly robotic tone the headset mikes add to his voice. Needless to say he was a big fan of the Terminator movies.

  17. @Elyse: And I’m sure you just didn’t think that people reading this blogs were too lazy/stupid to actually research a product on their own … even if they don’t actually intend to actually buy it … but they still want you to tell them that it WORKS!

  18. I didn’t think that I’d see a skeptical community endorsing a product out of an infomercial without even a mention as to whether or not the product works.

    You endorse products because you use them and you know they work, and because you’re comfortable putting your name behind it, or because you’re being sponsored by the manufacturer. Or some combination of the two. Not because the guy in the commercial has a beef with Scientology. I’ve got a beef with Scientology too. Can I interest you in a slightly used bridge in Brooklyn?

    I also didn’t think pointing that out would earn me an ad hominem attack from someone who’s completely missing the point. Yeah. I sit around all day Googling things that I have no intention of buying. I have that much time on my hands.

    But anyway, I’ve said what I wanted to say, and I notice that I’m a little more worked up about it than I really should be. I’m sorry. Maybe I’m just in a bad mood. I’ll come back tomorrow.

  19. @Elyse and marilove: Whoa, I think we all need to chill out a little. I don’t think Peregrine was looking for a product review. I think the point he (she?) was making was: We shouldn’t buy something just because of the person selling it. That seems related to a logical fallacy that I can’t seem to remember the name of (anyone?). It’s a good point to make within the general topic. Elyse, I know you weren’t, like, seriously advocating that we all buy towels right the heck now.

  20. @Kimbo Jones & @Peregrine:

    I was trying to be silly about the title. I apologize if I came across as bitchy.

    @Peregrine:

    My point was not that the guy hates Scientology, my point was the the money he earns from his ShamWow/SlapChop gig all goes towards his fight against Scientology.

    Like when you buy those crappy candy bars from the kid down the block because the money is being used to send the school band to DC to play at the Obama inauguration.

    And there is a big difference between telling people to buy a homeopathic cancer cure and telling people to buy a towel.

  21. You know now that I think about it, he could really help himself out with the not being able to do this all day, folks, thing by simply prerecording his commercial and re-airing it. I should email him with this radical idea.

  22. After reading for a long time I can’t believe my first post will be concerning towels….actually, I can. Sigh. But I had to say, I bought the towels (well I bought German engineered Magic Cloth! but it’s the same thing) on a lark after seeing a demo. I felt bad for the woman and purchased them….and I really like them. I haven’t sopped up a whole bottle of Sprite yet, but I’m sure at my next party when the whiskey bottle tips I can use my Magic Cloth! to sop it up and squeeze it right back in that bottle for some magicky goodness! Though I prefer to think of it as Science Cloth.

  23. Grrr I can’t believe a skeptical website is endorsing a towel! Who says towels are better? Have there been double blind studies trying other substitutes? What about sucking it up with a straw? What about kitty litter? Where’s the skepticism here? GRRR angry.

    Um…or it’s cool article about OK director, who made shitty movie and belonged to a stupid cult and is now selling a neat towel and suing the cult. Good work Skepchick First Class Elyse.

  24. Dman. I turned on the tv for the first time in weeks last night and saw this commercial. I laughed so hard I had to write about it on my LJ:
    I have the TV on for the first time in a while. Some guy selling the Slap Chop just said “You’re going to love my nuts”.
    I could write a long post about the flaws of the product but nothing would live up to them saying “You’re going to love my nuts”.
    Did I mention that he said “You’re going to love my nuts”?

    Now I had to go post a follow-up because it turns out I do love his nuts.

    Remember yesterdays post about how we will love his nuts? I take it back. All of it. I was going through my normal data intake today and Skepchick has a story about how this guys balls are freaking huge. So huge he has filed suit against the Cult of Scientology.

    I love his nuts.

    I hate it when that happens.

  25. I think it was Kevin Pereira from G4’s Attack of the Show who said that just about everything Vince says sounds like it should be followed by “you douchebag!”

    Been a fan of his since the first time I saw the ShamWow commercial (“The germans always make good stuff!”) and am even more of a fan now.

    Gonna go buy me some ShamWows. After all, they can’t keep this up all day…

  26. @QuestionAuthority: Going farther (further?) off-topic here, but I love Douglas Adams’s story as to why he chose towels. It’s in the book version of the Radio Scripts as one of his annotations.

    If I remember it right, he was on vacation, and was getting ready to head to the beach but could not, for the life of him, find his towel. He decided right then and there that anyone who was really with it — really together — would be someone who would know where their towel is.

  27. And best of all, the Shamwow actually works really well. My wife and I saw a demonstration in a local store, which we attended mostly for the ridiculous fun of it, and they gave out free samples. I still use the damned things. So there you go, you can not only like Vince, you can apparently trust him too!

  28. Awesome article. I knew there was a reason I liked this guy! Now to order my shams.

    Oh and the headset is a tool that salesmen use when giving their demonstrations at fleamarkets and trade shows. There’s always a sound system under the table they demo on to project their voice to the crowd. So he’s doing the commercial just as if you’re standing at his booth in the county fair. :P

  29. That was the best laugh I’ve had in a long time ~ your style is very witty. I too used to make fun of poor Vince but no more. Now, if you’ll excuse me, my husband and I are off to find ourselves a SlapChop and ShamWow……

  30. OMG. I just googled Slapchop…and found I actually used to own one. It came for free, if I recall, with a double-sided pancake pan ordered from an infomercial. (Shut up.) It didn’t work at all.

    I’ve never seen one of this dude’s infomercials, but go Vince! I wish you were selling a functional product, but we can’t have it all.

  31. Careful! They (CoS) are mad-sue-happy freaks!

    I have a friend who’s an expert on cults and what not but he’s not nationally known or anything. He and his associate went into a Scientology book store one time, didn’t leave their names or fill out anything (or buy anything – WAY expensive for Dianetics!!). The next day they got a call from a local CoS rep asking if they found everything ok. Did I mention that same CoS rep follows him to all of his presentations to make sure he says everything about CoS correctly? creepy people…

    Also, if you’re going to base a religion off of a book, at last pic a good book!!! Harry Potter would be a way better religion.

  32. @noise:

    I have a general distrust of the information on celebrity Myspace page.

    I actually have a general distrust of any information on Myspace.

    The page you linked to has already been deleted… probably another hoaxer. You know what vince says:

    Beware of imitators!

  33. At Elyse :

    Damn, 100,000 is strong.

    Could be something to do with the fact that if you google “Vince Shamwow” this page is high up and one of the few talking about him with any intelligence. He also has some following on youtube. I think i have spent far too much time on the net clicking Vince…

    This article has also been Dugg on Digg.com if you didn’t already realise.

  34. @noise:

    Not to be all pedantic, but Google ratings are based on incoming links. So while we’re on the first page of Google, it’s because of all the other traffic.

    I can’t believe people are this interested in Headset Vince. All our talk about boobs and sex and abortion and politics never brought in traffic like Twilight and ShamWow!

  35. @ Elise

    Google is based on all sorts of Algorithms, as well as the obvious incoming and outgoing links and keywords.

    It is interesting the subject of Headset boy is bringing in the interest, looks like the ingredients of an oddly compelling salesman on TV and the distasteful subject of $cientology is a compelling one.

    Boobs, sex, abortion and politics are old hat now huh? :p

  36. @noise:

    Yeah, I meant that it’s one of the top results on Google because of the traffic, not the other way around. In fact, I don’t think Google has gotten us more than 100 or so hits.

    Old hat to say the least! These days you can get boobs anywhere on the internet and free abortions at Krispy Kreme.

  37. I like how he always says in the informercial (no matter what, “Call now, because you know we can’t be doing this all day.”

    Thanks for the post, as I always wondered about that guy. (I wonder if Stacey will watch his movie with me. Hmmm.)

    Anyway, is there any truth to the rumor that CoS made Travolta hook up with his wife because he was on the verge of coming out of the closet and they didn’t like his gayness?

  38. Anyway, is there any truth to the rumor that CoS made Travolta hook up with his wife because he was on the verge of coming out of the closet and they didn’t like his gayness?

    No, but that is why he had to hook-up with Tom Cruise.

  39. I heard on the radio that the reason he wears the head set is because he started out selling things at conventions and stuff and that was a way of going over the intercom thing and so he wears it now so that he feels more in his element.

  40. I saw him and the sound was down, I tohught he was SELLING the headset – imagine hw disappointed I was when three towels and nut cutter arrived in the mail…they’re good for soaking up blood though..(had I little early learning problem with the cutter)

  41. I saw this article on Reddit.com, then when i went to comment it was gone..hmm… N E ways, If this is all true about vince shamwow guy then someone like Quentin Tarantino well it would be nice if QT would put him in one of his movies… to right this awful wrong if this is all verifiable then the ones in hollywood that ARE NOT COS’s should give vince a break, pay it forward so to speak….

  42. I just saw his commercial for the SlapChop and during it he says “your going to love my nuts.” F’ing awesome line. Has me wanting a ShamWow every time I watch it, great sales man imo. Scientology though? South Park is where I stand on that issue.

  43. you know, I wanted a sham wow the moment that guy told me he didn’t have all day. But to be honest I was going to go the online auction way. But now, hearing his story of trials and tribulations, I’ll order direct. Just my way of saying FU to CoS

  44. The reason Vince wears that headset is…
    While he was going through all that turmoil with the Scientologists, he had a stroke. One side of his face is still partially paralyzed and the microphone hides some of this. Look closely at his eye and the corner of his mouth on the side he wears the mic.

  45. Whenever I see this commercial, I think-“No one buying this has cats. ‘Cause cat owners who have to pick up hairballs never wants to have to rinse them out of some non-disposable towel. They want to be able to pick them up and throw them away without ever having to see/feel/touch/sense them ever again.”

    But I’m glad to know Headset Vince is giving it to CoS. They deserve to have a truckload of hairballs dumped on their front lawn.

  46. This whole thing is completely BS. He was NEVER a member of the church. This means he never watched the intro video and never got a little card saying he was a Scientologist. There is no proof any of this did or did not happen.

    If all of you think that Scientology is really so bad how about you go into an org one day and asking them all the questions you want. They will answer them all for you.

    Scientology is a good thing.

  47. @noise: I am shocked by your comment. I can’t believe the poor taste you are showing. It’s just wrong. You shouldn’t taunt the brainwashed. They have lost all critical thinking ability and are willing to believe anything they are told.

  48. @ToriTori:

    Really? This is the first I’ve heard that he wasn’t a member. People tend to keep me up-to-the-minute on everything Vince Offer related. Nowhere have I seen a single denouncement from the CoS regarding Vince’s status.

    Given that the lawsuit papers are now public, I don’t think there is any doubt that he was a member or that “this whole thing is BS”.

    I do love, however, that you are required to watch a video to become a member. Scientology- it’s just like becoming a greeter at Walmart!

  49. There are a couple of points here that are worth mentioning.

    1) You’re clearly taking Vince Shlomi’s (Offer was his retarded legal name change) word at face value. I’m not disputing that scientologists, like the rest of humanity, are perfectly capable of being asshats when they feel like it. I’m just saying the truth is nearly always somewhere in the middle. Not to mention, there are a lot of religious factions that will excommunicate members (note that even this article acknowledges he wasn’t actually excommunicated) for a large number of reasons. Again, logically assuming the answer lies in middle ground, I suspect more was involved here than the scientologist community lashing out at a movie they didn’t like.

    2) He talks like a damn solid used car salesman, but he ISN’T SELLING ANYTHING NEW. The Shamwow was marketed as Zorbeez by Billy Mays years prior. Both of them were ripping off the Chamois, which has been around forever. The Slap Chop is by the same token not a new gadget. I’m 26 – I remember watching my mom use an identical product by The Pampered Chef when I was a kid. Google it, it’s easy enough to find.

    Perpetuating the notion that this guy is some crusader against the forces evil is at best laughable, at worst a slap in the face to those who are actually making a difference in the world. Everyone, please stop giving this article (and any like it, god forbid) unearned validity by repeating it.

  50. Hey, lighten up!

    The guy sells on personality… this has been a celebration of that. He is compulsive enough, like him or not… and some do, even if it’s based around irony.

    No one is selling anything new. The latest BMW has four wheels and an engine.

    No one said he is single handed facing the army of darkness, fact is it is pretty hard to get away from $cientology – it’s a cult, and a strong one. Anyone that can get the hell out is worth noting and some will respect that.

    I suggest you switch your irony-O-meter on, and flick the self righteous button to off.

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