15 Things You Might Not Know About QVC

QVC
QVC

Developed by Franklin Mint founder Joe Segel in 1986 as an alternative to the Home Shopping Network, QVC (which stands for Quality, Value, and Convenience) has taken the notion of “theatrical retailing” and turned it into a business that earned $14.1 billion in revenue in 2018 alone. (Cementing their dominance, they purchased HSN in 2017 for $2.1 billion.) Hosts work 24 hours a day to beam live product demonstrations to consumers, chirp greetings to callers, and find new ways to extol the benefits of leaf blowers.

But behind the porcelain-veneer smiles churns a relentless machine that works very hard to make everything seem very casual. Take a look at some of the channel’s top selling points.

1. QVC re-invented home shopping. 

The concept of home shopping was popularized by Bud Paxson, an AM radio station owner who settled a debt with an advertiser by accepting 118 can openers that he sold over the dial to listeners. Paxson brought the idea to television in the form of HSN; Segel thought the presentations were tacky. In starting rival QVC, Segal hired more polished hosts—and more importantly, gave cable providers a percentage of sales. In return, QVC would get a higher channel assignment and more eyeballs.

2. QVC launched with a shower radio. 

QVC went live on November 24, 1986, with host John Eastman presenting a Windsor Shower Companion for $11.49. Sensing Eastman would probably hit a ceiling on how he could demonstrate such an item without rolling out a tub, the production also offered a live drawing that resembled a Power Ball segment: customers that had a credit card matching the four-digit number were entered into a $25,000 sweepstakes. The channel took $7,400 worth of orders that day. Fifteen years later, on December 2, 2001, the number was $80 million.

3. On QVC, every gesture counts. 

If you think a host is taking a bite of a brownie or twirling a ring in a spontaneous way, think again. Because QVC’s control room sees sales statistics in real time, they can correlate host and guest behaviors with spikes in sales and advise them (via earpiece) to repeat the action, phrase, or wardrobe. When Joe Sugarman was on air pushing BluBlocker sunglasses, he learned wearing a loud tie helped him move more product; Ron Popeil would jump in the air knowing it led to an increase in profits. Currently, QVC breakout host David Venable can bump his numbers up when he does his “happy dance.”

4. Mike Rowe got hired on QVC for selling a pencil. 

Rowe, who has developed a cult following for his Ford commercials, Dirty Jobs, and overall rugged manliness, had an infamous run as a late-night host for the channel in the early 1990s. To get the gig, he was asked to explain the virtues of a number-two pencil to a QVC exec. For eight minutes. Rowe talked about the “vibrant yellow” of the instrument, its “real wood” feel, and how Einstein and Picasso had made history with such a utensil. When his time was up, the interviewer wrote “You’re Hired” on a piece of paper. (He was later fired, then re-hired, with the channel apparently unable to make up its collective mind on whether Rowe's droll delivery was a good fit for the operation.)    

5. QVC hosts have it rough.

There may be no more vastly under-appreciated job than that of home-shopping host: in addition to finding fresh ways to peddle jewelry, salespeople have to interact with callers, come to the broadcast armed with product knowledge (some even take tours of manufacturing facilities), and monitor production directions via an earpiece, all without cue cards or teleprompters. If all this sounds difficult, it is: hosts are nominally given six months of training. But the really hard part is getting hired. Of the 3,000 people who came to an open audition in 2007—including actors, journalists, and former guests—only three made it on air.  

6. But QVC hosts can also find it very rewarding.

YouTube

Hosts who can successfully juggle the demands of home-shopping traffic control and endear themselves to viewers are rewarded. While QVC maintains hosts receive no commissions, popular personalities can earn upwards of $500,000 a year for being well-versed in cookware.

7. Marlon Brando wanted a job on QVC.

According to Brando’s secretary, Alice Marchak, the actor was in dire financial straits in 2001 and was looking for any opportunity to become solvent again. He began suggesting that he appear on QVC, though his ideas—like an earthquake-proof house—weren’t practical for the channel. Instead, Marchak told him to consider selling a DVD instructional on acting. Brando took to the idea and invested $50,000 in filming his (increasingly bizarre) seminars on the craft. The footage was so unwieldy that Brando never wound up on QVC. He died in 2004.

8. The QVC sales pitch is really a "backyard fence" chat. 

YouTube

Unlike HSN’s aggressive personalities, Segel wanted QVC to take a more tempered approach to sales. Hosts and guests are given educations in “backyard fence” conversation, making the viewer feel like they’re simply listening to two friends talk rather than getting drilled by a sales pitch. (When callers stray too far off-message, they're corralled back into discussing the product.)

9. QVC has outlet stores. 

Ever wonder what happens to unsold merchandise? It’s all gotta go! The company maintains a small number of retail outlet stores, including two outside the Philadelphia area, where customers can browse in person. Fans can also take a studio tour of the company's facilities in West Chester, Penn.  

10. QVC once got scammed. 

According to NBC, QVC’s web presence got taken for over 1,800 items in 2005 thanks to a glitch in their programming. A Greensboro, North Carolina woman named Quantina Moore-Perry discovered she could order items from the site, request a refund, and still get her shipment. She pled guilty to wire fraud and forfeited the profits from her deed, which totaled over $400,000.  

11. This QVC host is the same guy from Evil Dead II.

YouTube (L), Lionsgate (R)

Rick Domeier got his QVC hosting gig by pretending to be his own agent, telling executives that “this Domeier guy” was talented. He’s still with the channel, 21 years later. While QVC’s audience has gotten used to him, horror fans probably do double-takes: an experienced actor, Domeier portrayed Ed Gotley, a hapless victim of the Deadite curse in 1987’s Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn. Groovy. 

12. QVC guests need to take a class. 

While hosts do much of the heavy lifting, QVC’s guests—the inventors, owners, or experts that appear alongside them—don’t necessarily have broadcast experience. To make sure they don’t come off as overly stiff, the channel sends them to a kind of broadcast boot camp: guests are asked to discuss a product, chat conversationally into the camera, and not melt into a sweaty mess on live television. If a vendor can’t accomplish that, some services offer on-air talent for hire.

13. QVC hosts released a Christmas album.

Further proving that QVC hosts have developed a familial relationship with viewers, the company released a holiday album with recordings from several on-air personalities. Holiday Favorites from the QVC Family featured popular hosts like David Venable and Lisa Robertson covering hits like “Silent Night.” It might be the channel’s concession to skipping just one day of programming a year: Christmas is the only day nothing airs live.

14. Fainting won't stop QVC hosts from selling. 

Host Cassie Slane was pushing the FunTab Pro tablet in October 2012 when she began feeling light-headed. As she keeled over, co-host Dan Hughes continued to discuss the product, seemingly oblivious to Slane’s sudden lack of vertical ability. (Slane, said to be victimized by low blood sugar, insisted she was fine the following day.)

15. QVC has their own talk show.

After decades on the air, the network might be looking to offer more conventional cable programming. In August 2019, they launched an unscripted talk show, Kim Gravel Now, with former Miss Georgia beauty pageant winner Kim Gravel as host. The Saturday-night series offers Gravel's take on social and style issues and features sales plugs, though not for Gravel's own line of beauty products.

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7 Top-Rated Portable Air Conditioners You Can Buy Right Now

Black + Decker/Amazon
Black + Decker/Amazon

The warmest months of the year are just around the corner (in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway), and things are about to get hot. To make indoor life feel a little more bearable, we’ve rounded up a list of some of the top-rated portable air conditioners you can buy online right now.

1. SereneLife 3-in-1 Portable Air Conditioner; $290

SereneLife air conditioner on Amazon.
SereneLife/Amazon

This device—currently the best-selling portable air conditioner on Amazon—is multifunctional, cooling the air while also working as a dehumidifier. Reviewers on Amazon praised this model for how easy it is to set up, but cautioned that it's not meant for large spaces. According to the manufacturer, it's designed to cool down rooms up to 225 square feet, and the most positive reviews came from people using it in their bedroom.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Black + Decker 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner and Heater; $417

Black + Decker portable air conditioner
Black+Decker/Amazon

Black + Decker estimates that this combination portable air conditioner and heater can accommodate rooms up to 350 square feet, and it even comes with a convenient timer so you never have to worry about forgetting to turn it off before you leave the house. The setup is easy—the attached exhaust hose fits into most standard windows, and everything you need for installation is included. This model sits around four stars on Amazon, and it was also picked by Wirecutter as one of the best values on the market.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Mikikin Portable Air Conditioner Fan; $45

Desk air conditioner on Amazon
Mikikin/Amazon

This miniature portable conditioner, which is Amazon's top-selling new portable air conditioner release, is perfect to put on a desk or end table as you work or watch TV during those sweltering dog days. It's currently at a four-star rating on Amazon, and reviewers recommend filling the water tank with a combination of cool water and ice cubes for the best experience.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Juscool Portable Air Conditioner Fan; $56

Juscool portable air conditioner.
Juscool/Amazon

This tiny air conditioner fan, which touts a 4.6-star rating, is unique because it plugs in with a USB cable, so you can hook it up to a laptop or a wall outlet converter to try out any of its three fan speeds. This won't chill a living room, but it does fit on a nightstand or desk to help cool you down in stuffy rooms or makeshift home offices that weren't designed with summer in mind.

Buy it: Amazon

5. SHINCO 8000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner; $320

Shinco portable air conditioner
SHINCO/Amazon

This four-star-rated portable air conditioner is meant for rooms of up to 200 square feet, so think of it for a home office or bedroom. It has two fan speeds, and the included air filter can be rinsed out quickly underneath a faucet. There's also a remote control that lets you adjust the temperature from across the room. This is another one where you'll need a window nearby, but the installation kit and instructions are all included so you won't have to sweat too much over setting it up.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Honeywell MN Series Portable Air Conditioner and Dehumidifier; $400

Honeywell air conditioner on Walmart.
Honeywell/Walmart

Like the other units on this list, Honeywell's portable air conditioner also acts as a dehumidifier or a standard fan when you just want some air to circulate. You can cool a 350-square-foot room with this four-star model, and there are four wheels at the bottom that make moving it from place to place even easier. This one is available on Amazon, too, but Walmart has the lowest price right now.

Buy it: Walmart

7. LG 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner; $699

LG Portable Air Conditioner.
LG/Home Depot

This one won't come cheap, but it packs the acclaim to back it up. It topped Wirecutter's list of best portable air conditioners and currently has a 4.5-star rating on Home Depot's website, with many of the reviews praising how quiet it is while it's running. It's one of the only models you'll find compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant, and it can cool rooms up to 500 square feet. There's also the built-in timer, so you can program it to go on and off whenever you want.

Buy it: Home Depot

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10 Fierce Facts About Bella Abzug

Bella Abzug in the 1970s.
Bella Abzug in the 1970s.
Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

“Larger than life” sums up Bella Abzug, the New York-based Democratic congresswoman who gained notoriety in the 1970s with her big hats and bold feminist voice. Abzug, who died in 1998 at age 77, was recently portrayed by Margo Martindale in the Hulu/FX miniseries Mrs. America (2020), featuring Cate Blanchett as anti-Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) crusader Phyllis Schlafly. Here are some facts about “Battling Bella.”

1. In her youth, Bella Abzug defied the expectations of her Orthodox Jewish upbringing.

Abzug was born in the Bronx on July 24, 1920. The daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants lost her father when she was 13. Flouting Orthodox tradition, she recited prayers for his soul—normally a son’s duty—at their synagogue.

2. Bella Abzug defended a Black man accused of raping a white woman.

Abzug studied labor law at Columbia University, where she edited the Columbia Law Review. While later working for the Civil Rights Congress, she represented Willie McGee, who was charged with raping a housewife in Laurel, Mississippi, in 1945. During three trials with all-white juries, the facts remained unclear. Luminaries like Josephine Baker and Albert Einstein petitioned for clemency. Abzug handled McGee’s final appeal, which fell short, and the truck driver was executed in 1951. Though the appeal failed, a white woman defending a Black man in the Deep South at that time was remarkable in itself.

3. At age 50, Bella Abzug mounted her successful first run for Congress.

Abzug celebrating the 60th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.
Abzug celebrating the 60th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.
Equality Now, Flickr // Public Domain

“This woman’s place is in the House ... the House of Representatives.” That slogan propelled Abzug to victory in a Manhattan congressional district in 1970. She served three terms and co-founded the National Women’s Political Caucus with Gloria Steinem and Shirley Chisholm. Abzug also fought for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which remains unratified today.

4. Bella Abzug lobbied to get the U.S. out of the Vietnam War.

On her first day in Congress in 1971, Abzug proposed a resolution to pull U.S. troops out of Vietnam. Later that year, the longtime peace activist pressured Richard Nixon’s administration to release the entire classified Pentagon Papers about the Vietnam War. Before the war ended in 1975, she visited the region with colleagues and argued against continued U.S. military aid.

5. Bella Abzug appeared on Richard Nixon’s “enemies list.”

When Abzug first met Nixon at a White House reception, she slammed his Vietnam policy, saying, “Your predecessors didn’t do very well, but you’re doing worse.” Chuck Colson, Nixon’s special counsel, put her on an “enemies list” with nearly 600 names. After Watergate, the Republican president was impeached and resigned in 1974.

6. Bella Abzug had a fierce rivalry with fellow Democrat Ed Koch.

Mayor Ed Koch of New York, Congresswoman Bella Abzug (Dem-NY) and President Jimmy Carter during a meeting in 1978.
Koch, Abzug, and President Jimmy Carter during a meeting in 1978.
Schumacher, Karl H.,White House Photographer, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Abzug and Ed Koch co-sponsored the first federal gay rights bill in 1974, but Koch admitted: “Bella and I just disliked one another intensely.” They clashed about Koch’s endorsement of Bess Myerson over Abzug in a 1976 Senate race. In 1977, Koch beat out Abzug to become New York’s mayor.

7. Bella Abzug spearheaded a law enabling married women to get credit cards in their own names.

After Abzug discovered she couldn’t obtain an American Express card unless it bore her husband Martin’s name, she took action. In 1974, a new law banned discrimination against women seeking consumer credit or business loans.

8. In 1977, Bella Abzug chaired the first National Women’s Conference.

Jimmy Carter appointed Abzug to run the landmark conference in Houston, Texas. Vigorously opposed by Phyllis Schlafly, it attracted more than 20,000 delegates from across America, including Maya Angelou, Billie Jean King, and three First Ladies. Sessions focused on the ERA, domestic violence, and education reform, among other issues.

9. After leaving office, Bella Abzug advocated for women’s rights worldwide.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Abzug agitated for reproductive rights and environmental conservation at United Nations conferences from Nairobi to Rio. The co-founder of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) spoke at the 1995 World Conference on Women in Beijing, where Hillary Clinton stated, “Women’s rights are human rights.”

10. From the stage to the screen, Bella Abzug’s legacy is celebrated today.

Beyond Mrs. America, options abound. Harvey Fierstein performed a one-person off-Broadway show called Bella Bella in 2019. Bette Midler played Abzug in the 2020 film The Glorias. Jeff L. Lieberman’s documentary Bella!, including interviews with Barbra Streisand and Nancy Pelosi, will premiere in either 2020 or 2021.