the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

The Infomercial in the Donut Shop


Near my home is a little independent donut shop. I’ve never seen one person inside other than the owner — a petitie, middle-aged, Korean woman. I was driving by today and decided I was in the mood for a donut. I went in, ordered a jelly donut and cup of coffee, and sat down at the bright orange, plastic, uncomfortable, table/chair thingamajig that’s bolted to the floor. The donut and coffee were truly the worst coffee and donut I’ve ever tasted. As I sat eating my disgusting donut, the owner watched some infomercial on a 13″ TV sitting on the counter.

The infomercial was one of those get-rich-quick schemes:

“Use my stock market technique, and within two weeks, your two thousand will be two hundred thousand!”

As one “success story” after another gave his testimony, I could see the eyes of the donut woman widen. She was totally enraptured by what was being said.

I began to feel bad for this woman. She clearly had no talent in making either donuts or coffee. She was probably losing all her money in this awful donut shop. This type of infomercial preys on a woman like this — someone who may be uneducated or part of an immigrant community. It is these innocent people who don’t realize that it is all a scam.

“I put two thousand dollars into the stock market, and soon I was able to quit my job,” said some overly-eager male voice on the television. “Now I don’t spend time behind a desk, but behind the wheel of my new yacht!”

I felt anger at this scam artist on TV, with this modern era three-card Monte swindle. I was so furious that I squeezed my donut with my hand, shooting some jelly onto my shirt.

What was I to do? I had to warn her. I saw her writing some information on a piece of paper. Was she actually going to call these crooks?

I knew this really wasn’t my business, but I felt it was my duty to speak up. As an American citizen. As a Good Jew. I walked over to the counter. She pointed at the pile of donuts.

“Donut?” she asked.

“No, thank you,” I said. “I just wanted to tell you to be careful with these types of TV shows. They might look like real shows, but they are commercials. Don’t believe everything they tell you. You weren’t thinking of calling them up, were you?”

“Donut?” she asked again, being that it was the only English word she knew.

(photo by roadsidepictures via flickr)


  1. Hilly

    Well, you tried your donutty best, my friend.

    I have to admit that I am drawn to infomercials when I have insomnia…..not that I ever believe them but something about them entrances me and I watch 30 minutes of people telling me that I can be skinny and own a yacht, if i just send them three monthly installments of $49.95!

  2. Elisabeth

    Great story, Neil. Lots to think about, as far as language acquisition is concerned, for someone like me who is a language teacher. Immersion does not always seem to work, I guess.

    I seldom watch infomercials, and the ones that hail “get rich quickly” scams particularly irk me. But, even though I know that they are for a scam product too, I am fascinated by those Lipozene commercials.

  3. Edgy Mama

    Another reason we don’t have TV!

    So how to people who make horrible donuts and coffee and watch informercials all day stay in business?

    Now I’m all worried about this sweet Korean woman. Damn you, Neil.

  4. Alison

    You’re a good guy. Now tell us you’re NOT going to go back to check on the donut lady every once in a while.

  5. Caitlinator

    I hate that informercial. Even I, knowing it is a scam, feel myself drawn to the possibilities of easy money. You are a good soul.

  6. Daisy Mae

    Oh you evil man, posting about donuts. And posting about JELLY DONUTS! I would give my husbands … well you know…. for a jelly donut, even a bad one. And God help me if I ever saw an infomercial that lured people in with jelly donuts, I would be hooked! Ummm….. donuts…..

  7. Bill

    That wasn’t the Donald Trump infomercial was it? I saw bits of that when I was down east, probably about 3 in the morning in the hotel room. Watching them is kind of like looking on a roadside disaster. You’re fascinated and horrified at the same time.

  8. Alexandra

    Its the thought that counts, and Yom Kippur isn’t over until tomororow night so if God was waffling a bit on whether or not to inscribe your name into the book of life again, maybe this tipped his decision!

  9. cruisin-mom

    Yuck Neil…how could you waste your calories on a jelly donut? Glazed…next time go for the glazed.

  10. Tara

    Mmmmmm, donut.

    I refuse to watch infomercials. If I wanted to waste my time having someone lie to me, I’d watch Fox news.

  11. Serena

    Places like that make me sad.

  12. Danny

    I recently appeared on an infomercial, to my shame and horror. It was for an anti-cholesterol supplement which I think was effective since I kept forgetting to take it and my cholesterol still went down. But you have to keep taking it for life so I stopped. Anyway, it was for a friend and I got $75. I look like a complete idiot on the show.

    Did you actually finish that bad jelly donut? That was the scariest part of this post for me, I wonder when that woman last changed her oil. Yuck. May I suggest the superb Bob’s Donuts at Farmers Market?

  13. Rhea

    Very funny story. I don’t about Californians’ habits, but lottery tix are king here in Massachusetts. Talk about throwing out money when you can’t really afford it. It’s criminal.

  14. Nance

    I call donuts (and their relatives, the doughnuts)”gutbombs.” Those things stay in my stomach/intestinal tract for what feels like weeks. Haven’t had one now for probably at least a year or more. Hideous things. Why did you keep eating it if it was “disgusting?” Have some nice jellytoast instead. Wholegrain jellytoast, like a good boy.

  15. Karla

    I bet she spoke English just fine, she just didn’t want to talk to you. Her response was the shorthand version of “Yeah, yeah, White Boy. Buy a donut or get the hell out of my shop.”

  16. elle

    So on the West Coast you have REAL donuts… unlike the pretentious, exagerrated dough balls that dare don the same name here on the East Coast, eh?

  17. Eileen

    Won’t you feel silly when she cruises past you on her yaht?

  18. Dagny

    Three-card Monte? I always thought them as being some variation of a Ponzi (sp?) scheme. I really should stop reading so many mysteries.

  19. Sweet

    Nice gesture. I respect people who look out for the well being of strangers, despite the fact if the advice was wanted or not, you did the right thing.

  20. Miss Golondon

    was that in echo park by the way? it looks like one that i popped into for a coffee. an utterly horrible coffee. but wait, generic DONUT sign, mountains in background, end of strip mall…oh , i guess it could be anywhere within a 50 mile radius of LA, nevermind

  21. kapgar

    Everyday I debate calling the number accompanying the declaration that, as a Real Estate Apprentice, I can make $20,000 a week. So tempting that handwritten sign sticking in the ground at the street corner. Hmmm…

  22. othurme

    You said “Do not believe everything they tell you.”

    What she heard was “Donut. Believe everything they tell you.”

    I think you better go back and correct the situation. It may be all your fault she loses $2000.

  23. deannie

    What Karla said! bwahahaha – Dunkin’ Donuts next time for you!

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