Saturday, July 22, 2006

There's a Sucker Born Every Minute

Texas is hot in the summer.
A visiting Canadian friend once referred to it as "India hot," and she was correct.
Yeah, yeah, with global warming it's hotter everywhere, but Texas has gone from hot to fucking crazy Satanic hot in the summer.
As I was watching television late one night last week, I spied an infomercial-type ad for a product called, "AutoCool."
AutoCool is a solar powered gizmo one hooks over a car window. The solar panel generates power from the sweltering sun and activates an exhaust fan, sucking all the hot air out of the parked car and leaving it a cool temperature somewhere in the 70's.
I was seduced by the prospect (not to mention delirious from a long day of sweltering heat) and called the 1-800 number immediately.
I was so excited.
For $14.99 plus about $7 shipping and handling, I was on my way to cool, parked car comfort. So excited was I, I nearly ordered discounted extras for my siblings.
They also tried to "give me" a spongy container that fits in a cup holder and organizes cell phones, note pads, pens and loose change.
I declined.
First, I don't have a cup holder in my car, and second I didn't think the glorified Koozie was worth the extra six bucks they wanted for S&H.

I started waiting with delicious anticipation for the thing to arrive.

Then last night, Eyewitness News in San Antonio did a consumer affairs segment where they tested the Auto Cool.
The teasers before the report were neutral, so I waited impatiently to see if I'd been rooked. My friends Elaine and Susan were there, already giving me the business before the results were even reported.

They parked two similar cars next to each other in a treeless, asphalt parking lot.
Both held giant thermometers on the passenger seat, each reading 90 degrees at the start of the test.
Only one car had the AutoCool installed in the window.
After four hours, the car without the AutoCool device registered a roasty, toasty 126 degrees.
Holy shit! I had no idea cars got that hot in Texas summers.
By then, I would have been happy if the AutoCooled car chilled the other car to only 100 degrees.
Then they showed the thermometer in the AutoCooled car.
It registered 130 fucking degrees (or 54 Celsius).
In short, I've been screwed.
I've no idea if the packaging will contain any return options, but somehow I doubt it.

But the good news is, if I ever decide to speak to my middle sister's obnoxious partner again, I'll have the perfect Christmas gift for her.


BigSis said...

wow, I almost ordered that product too. I saw the commercial real late at night, my guard was down and it looked like such a great product. It must be a familial weakness because I actually ordered a cheap religious item once from Jim and Tammy Fay Baker. It was 3am, I was exhausted from studying and everything seemed believable. I also recall a certain older brother once ordering a couple of food dehydraters on late late night tv too. Making his own jerky seemed like the perfect idea at that late hour, hmmm.

cynicalgirl said...

Well, crap. My mother thought she was doing me a favor and ordered one from me through a catalog (so the foam rubber organizing thingie came with it anyway--I'm not impressed as it will take up valuable frozen mocha-holding space). It came today, so I'll have to see if it lasts an entire day on the sun-baked parking lot at work.

Somehow, I suspect I'll be seeing lots of these on the dime table at a garage sale near me in about a year. said...

At the Mall Of America down in the Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul) they have a store filled to the rafters with that inda stuff..."As Seen On TV" I think is the name.

It should be called "Future Yard Sale Fodder"

Doug Wildmon said...

One question. Were the thermometers in direct sunlight? I ask this question because there is no way that the temperature inside the car can reach 130 degrees when the outside temperature is only 90 degrees. I suspect the TV guys screwed up. But this is par for the course. said...


on a hot summer day, temperatures in the middle of highly concentrated downtown areas of larger cities can and do register significantly higher temperatures than areas just outside them. One only needs to spend a week in NYC around mid-August to test that theory.

Now, apply that same logic to a smaller space, such as the cabin of a car, where the heat is intensified...kind of like a convection oven.

Karen Zipdrive said...

I know for a fact cars can get that hot. Why? I live in Texas.
Get a load of another ABC affiliate's test results:

Can the Auto Cool Chill Your Car?Nydia Han puts some car cooling products to the test
July 17, 2006 - Your car can feel like an oven during the hot summer months. But a product called Auto Cool claims to keep your vehicle cool no matter how long it's left in the sun.

Getting into your car after it's been baking in the sun can be downright painful.
"It's pretty hot.. Pretty excruciating.. Very uncomfortable."
So to keep you out of the hot seat, we decided to put two products to the test. Many people use sun shields but do they really work? We'll find out.
And we came across called Auto Cool. It claims to keep your car cool no matter how long it's left in the sun.

"I would love to have it, yes."
Loree Bain/Northeast Philadelphia: "I guess I find it hard to believe."
But the makers of Auto Cool say it's ingenius solar powered system really works!
Auto Cool Commercial: "Sunlight captured by the solar panel powers a powerful micro ventilation system, pulling the stifling heat out and keeping the inside cool. Get the Auto Cool - a forty-dollar value for only 14.99."
That's exactly what Action News did.
We ran the air conditioning in three cars to get their interior temperatures below 80-degrees. Then we parked them in the sun and put the Auto Cool in one and a sun shield in another and left a third with no cooling device.

Here's what we found after about an hour.

Our sunscreen car read 98 degrees. And the car where the Auto Cool was installed? It read a blistering 100 degrees! But the car with nothing read a sweltering 111 degrees. So it appeared the devices were doing something. But when we check back about five hours later, there was no measurable difference in temperature! The mercury in all three thermostats is as high as it will go - past 120 degrees!

Frank Johnson/East Falls: "It's too good to be true, that's exactly what it is."
We decided to give Auto Cool another try Monday. We installed it and gave it a little more than 3 hours to take effects. But again, even with the Auto Cool, it's so hot in the car, the thermometer is pegging as far as it can - over 120-degrees!
Auto Cool never responded to our calls for comment.

Doug Wildmon said...

Well, dog-neato, I don't live in Texas now but I used to live there. I discovered that if the front windows are rolled down about one half of an inch, and a windshield sun screen is used, the car interior will remain at or near the outside temperature. Both windows must be rolled down for this to work. If only one window is rolled down there cannot be any cross ventilation and the effect is the same as if no windows were rolled down. If a windshield screen is not used the temperature in the car exceeds the ambient temperature, but not as much as when the windows are rolled up. This experience leads me to believe that the Auto-Cool should work.

By the way, the heat in Texas never bothered me. I could always find a place, a shady swimming hole, a lake , or a cool bar and a cool beer where I could be comfortable. I miss it.

Karen Zipdrive said...

I figured out AutoCool's scam.
They already know their product is a piece of crap but they apparently offer a money back guarantee---LESS POSTAGE AND HANDLING.
So, basically they are sending out the same couple of AutoCools over and over and pocketing $7 S&H.
Since the little piece of crap is probably only worth $1, they profit $6, less about a buck on true shipping costs.

cynicalgirl said...

So far, it's been even less successful at keeping my car at a reasonable summer temperature than using the sunshield and keeping my windows open a bit. (By "reasonable," I mean being able to touch my steering wheel without the use of hot pads borrowed from the kitchen.) I think I saw the little fan inside the AutoCool run once, and honestly, I can't believe it's enough to move around a feather, let alone a car full of hot air.

Moral: sometimes, Mother doesn't know best. Especially when she gets her information from the Carol Wright catalog.

Maerlowe said...

We were sad to watch that news report, too. We'd had high hopes for our black leather interiors.