I've used Fredi-Ups. I agree that you won't find a more natural looking TT at that price. However, they're horrible for things like bill switches. The textured rubber interior will "grab" anything you put in it.
The "soft" Vernet is the best all around TT and won't cost you $40. It has a slight rubbery feel, is more opaque than the hard plastic ones, and works well even for money tricks.
I didn't like the Fredi-Up for bill switches, either. But someone suggested I try something that worked!! I went to the Home Depot and purchased a roll of "Metal FX" contact paper. It looks like brushed stainless steel but is contact paper. It was five bucks for the roll and I'll have enough to last me the life of the TT. Cut a small strip - about a half an inch thick and an inch or so long - off the roll; enough to cover the center area along the area inside the TT on the fingerprint side of the apparatus. The contact paper adhesive, along with the grip of the inside of the TT will prevent the contact paper from sliding around, but is very easy to remove if you need to remove it. More importantly, it provides a slick enough surface that allows for a smooth bill switch. With the added realistic look of the Fredi-Up and due to the fact that it's quieter than a standard TT, it actually ends up being a good TT for the bill switch with just that little, temporary and inexpensive adjustment.
And for the money, you're right. The Vernet Soft is a very versatile TT that I am extremely comfortable with. But for smaller fingers and those with lighter skin, it may not fit into their comfort level.