As far as infomercials go, this one was truly incredible. In less than a minute, it managed to convince people to wear a plastic contraption on their heads and attach velcro to their trusty wired telephone, promising a completely hands-free experience. It may sound strange, but this tweet about an infomercial has gone viral, with over 100,000 retweets and 380,000 likes. Quite impressive for a device that had its heyday in the early ’90s.
A newspaper ad for Phone Relief, circa 1994.
The allure of Phone Relief lies in its ability to make anyone using it look like a total goober. As the founder of a blog about Tedium, I couldn’t resist getting my hands on this device. After some hunting, I found a company selling it on eBay. And let me tell you, it is certainly a device that should not exist, yet it does. Here’s a quick review of the Phone Relief:
The packaging. The packaging leaves a lot to be desired. The drab cardboard box, adorned with a large address label, lacks the charm of an unboxing video. Opening it reveals that the care put into this product was far from loving. The joy that the Phone Relief promised did not translate into a box that could stand alongside the likes of Unbox Therapy.
The fit and finish. It’s highly likely that this object is new old stock, produced decades ago. The holder was incredibly difficult to move, as if it had been glued in place. After some effort, I managed to loosen it, only to discover that it wasn’t on a track like a headphone typically would be, but rather held in by old, sticky glue. The kind of glue that makes your hands feel uncomfortable and slightly burn your skin. The build quality was nowhere near the level of my daily driver, the Sennheiser PXC 550. However, I must admit that the inclusion of two pieces of velcro—one for beige phones and one for black phones—showed some consideration for style.
The author tests the device.
The look and feel. When I tried wearing the Phone Relief with an old rotary phone headset I had lying around, it fit fairly snugly. It didn’t cut off circulation to my brain (which was already in jeopardy after spending money on this thing). I also tried it on my smartphone in front of my wife, and she questioned her dedication to me. She asked, “Why would you do this to yourself?” Honestly, this product feels like a self-inflicted embarrassment, but I knew that going in. But if I hadn’t bought it, the internet wouldn’t know what it was missing and what made that commercial so compelling back then.
Should you buy it? If you have $16 burning a hole in your pocket and are considering purchasing one of these devices on eBay, I’d suggest using that money for something more worthwhile, like a roll of quarters for a trip to the nearest arcade. Even if you own a car, it’s worth wasting your money and time on something fun rather than this peculiar headset.
I might even wear this out to a coffee shop one day, just to see if people ask me if I’m okay.