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Consumer Reports At 75

75 years of Consumer Reports. We’ll talk to the editor-in-chief, and take your questions.

A shopper looks through his Consumer Reports magazine while shopping for a digital camera at Best Buy on Black Friday, Nov. 27, 2009, in South Portland , Maine. (AP)

A shopper looks through his Consumer Reports magazine while shopping for a digital camera at Best Buy on Black Friday, Nov. 27, 2009, in South Portland , Maine. (AP)

Pop singer Madonna said it straight up.  We are living in a material world, and she was a material girl.  Despite crash and recession, the U.S. is still described as a consumer-led economy.  For many, recession has meant paying even more attention to what they buy, how well it will work, how long it will last.

For 75 years, the bible of those careful shoppers has been Consumer Reports.  They test and weigh and poke and prod the washing machines and dryers and smart phones and cars that keep us rolling.

Up next, On Point:  Consumer Reports at 75.  Your questions, please.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Kimberly Kleman, editor-in-chief of Consumer Reports.

C Segment: Cut Consumerism

Dave Gardner, producer, director, and writer of the film: “Growthbusters: Hooked on Growth.”

From Tom’s Reading List

New York Times “BORN in 1936, Consumer Reports had a very happy 75th birthday this year. Its business has never been better. ”

Bloomberg Businessweek “Two decades ago, when Consumer Reports started evaluating treadmills, it built a test machine it called the Johnny Walker. A drum-like steel cylinder studded with green rubber balls, the Johnny Walker spins above the rolling belts of its victims, pummeling them with blows meant to simulate the footsteps of a 170-lb. runner. In the early days, after a few hours of insistent pounding, some treadmills caught fire.”

Wall Street Journal “On a recent Monday morning, inside an unremarkable, low-slung building in Yonkers, N.Y., blue-coated technicians conducted lab work. Among their calibrated tools: Cheez Whiz, pig’s blood and Maine coon cat hair.”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    It would be interesting to hear Kimberly’s take on the iPhone 4 and “antennagate.” What was it like to be on the “wrong side” of Steve Jobs.

    The iPhone 4 has sold amazingly well worldwide in spite of CR’s review; I’m wondering if that review marginalized CR in the eyes of iPhone-crazed consumers.

    By the way, I had an iPhone 4 (now have a 4S) and while I can make signal strength go down a bar with the way I grip the phone, I can also do same on a Droid. 3G antennas are sensitive to grip for sure, on all phones.

  • Terry Tree Tree

    What better advocate for the Consumer, has there been than Consumer Reports?   No advertisements, No corporate support, buying the products that they test, and other rules, help keep the testing honest. 

  • Tina

    QUESTION:  Is it accurate to say that Consumer Reports only passes judgment on products that fall in the Middle of the Road?  That is to say, do they avoid evaluating really Excellent Products when those products cost above a certain amount of money judged Average for the Product Category?  Thanks!

  • Katharine

    QUESTION: What does Consumer Reports consider it’s strongest category for reviews? I’ve used it mainly for appliances and cars but with so many categories and so many review sites out there, I tend to rely on other sites for tech reviews.

    • TFRX

      Other sites will follow the monthly (if not weekly) changes of tech devices. The lead time of printing a magazine sort of gets in the way of that.

      My guess is that they 3600 products a year. They could easily test that many just for TVs, digital cameras, smartphones, laptops, tablets and desktops, and barely scratch the surface. And who knows how long model Z iteration X was on the market afterwards.

  • BHA in Vermont

    CR is a great resource. Where else can you easily get unbiased feature comparisons? I may not always go with their ‘top rated’ or ‘best buy’ choices but know that I have made an informed choice based on my priorities and needs.

    • nj

      [[ Where else can you easily get unbiased feature comparisons? ]]
      Huh? There are all kinds of online sites that review all kinds of products.

      • Terry Tree Tree

        Unbiased?  Do they meet or exceed the standards of Consumer Reports?

      • BHA in Vermont

        I check out online sites as well, after I have selected a few good ‘candidates’ to get more details about them.
        But:
        1) I trust that CR has no agenda. Not true of ANY online site I know.
        2) CR covers a lot more brands
        3) CR has consumer based reliability numbers

  • Anonymous

    Do they ban “underwriting” too?

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been watching the quality of consumer goods fall for the past 20 years. For example I bought a moderately priced fruit tree sprayer which used plain steel spring in a check valve which caused a failure due to rust in only two years. When I diagnosed the failure I was furious. Last year I purchased a beautiful stainless steel crock pot for composting. No more than three weeks after I put it into service it was rusting inside and out. My post on the vendors page was removed by them! It was not stainless steel. My Refridgerator and Washer from 2002 were replaced in 2008. It seems today that POC = Product of China = Piece of Crap. But… corporate America is to blame as well: what is going on in America with quality? What are you hearing in communications with corporation that you have dialogues with regarding their pathetic quality record these days? Is there any hope?

    • BHA in Vermont

      That is for sure. I would HAPPILY pay twice as much for something that lasts a least twice as long. But, not available; all things POC.

      Our first microwave lasted 15 years. Then next 3 years. The next 13 months. The next – not purchased; we have more counter space instead.

      • Ellen Dibble

        LOL.  I had a microwave oven once, back around 1990; it lasted a year or so.  Then I took it to a repair place, where they charged me something like $50 to evaluate it, and dispose of it.  After that, forget it. (I reheat things by putting them on top of the radiator.)

  • Jdander

    Awesome show: an advertisement for a magazine.  How much did Consumer Reports pay you to feature them on the show? 

    When will you cover Vaclav Havel ?

    Americans need more shows about building and restoring a healthy democracy not shows about consumerism; we know how to buy products (where is Consumer Report articles about what is a good politician to buy or not to buy? Guess they don’t cover certain products).  

    Thanks, Tom. But struck out twice today.  Also, where is your show on PROTECT IP legislation…? More rigor, please.

  • Sarah

    QUESTION: Consumer Reports has always been my go-to source for reliable info before I make a purchase. Now it’s time for me to buy a new water heater, and CR doesn’t review water heaters. Not only that, but the bulk of their information about what to look for is from 2008. What gives?

  • Ellen Dibble

    Mostly I look at Consumer Reports for what I’m hoping OTHER people will buy.  I’m looking for information about just what the caller is asking about:  high efficiency windows.   How would people hoping to wire their homes into the grid bilaterally go about it?  Where is the best location for geothermal housing?  Where are the water supplies best protected?  In terms of vehicles, I look for the kind of vehicle that goes less than 30 mph, and for that I first look for cities that are making sure you can recharge your car at the parking meter.  So far, so bad.  Mostly they are telling about things I don’t buy, and if others buy them, hey, feel free.

    • nj

      ??????

      Wiring homes bilaterally?

      Don’t all vehicles go less than 30 mph?

      Ms. Dibble is more inscrutable than usual today.

    • Terry Tree Tree

      Ellen, wiring homes, and anything else, for that matter, is controlled under the National Electrical Code, and whatever state, county, municipal, or other codes that apply to your particular location.   The NEC, for sure.  A person in Alabama cannot answer to a person in Mass., because the codes may NOT be the same.  Therefore the information, right for Al., may NOT be right for Mass.
          Unless you are a qualified electrician, in your area, you need one.  There are so many easy ways to mess this up and make it dangerous!

  • Daya

    CR is great rescourse.Although,sometimes, I have  got burned (literally burned) on couple of purchases for instance a iron,but nonetheless great rescource

  • Terry Tree Tree

    I always thought it would be a fun and interesting job to test for Consumer Reports.  I never had much cutting-edge tech, only ONE new vehicle, in over 40 years of driving, so wasn’t confident of my credentials, and I don’t want to move elsewhere, to make a living.
       My envy to CR employees that get paid to do this!

  • Denisefinneran

    SLOW COOKERS! PLEASE DO A REVIEW ON SLOW COOKERS! I am on my second one in three years. Help!!!!!

    • TFRX

      I kid you not: Go to a tag sale and look for one in Harvest Gold or Avocado. This seems to be one of the kitchen devices which they don’t make like they used to.

      • DF

        Thanks. I think I need to do this. The new ones are just not so great.

  • Michael from Newton, MA

    I am a devoted subscriber and don’t make a medium or large purchase without Consumer Reports. I’d be really interested to see a comparison of different gasoline brands, from the more expensive to the cheaper known brands, as well as the nameless brand at that station around the corner. Am I being kind to my car or not?!

    • BHA in Vermont

      Good question. As far as I know, it really doesn’t matter which brand you buy, they are all the ‘same’. And if you get it from a ‘no name’ station, it is still ‘name brand’ gas, they take the ‘extra’.

  • Ellen Dibble

    More questions I haven’t seen:  What are the most efficient train routes?  Do they have web access?  How much faster are they point to point than air travel?  Than driving yourself (listening to NPR all the way)?  Are there bus routes that are efficient, and have bus stations that are friendly and safe?
        I know these are not questions that would favor the Great Oil Lobby, but it would help the planet.

  • Dsomerv

    I’ve subscribed to CR since 1962 and online for the past few years.

    Question:
     Why not make all of your test data available on line for those willing to poke around and download files ?
     
    It’s frustrating to see that the data you publish must only be a subset of all the testing that you do…  a lot of interesting data goes to waste.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Oh, banks.  I’d love to see an evaluation of that!  Or retirement funds.  Maybe they’ve done that, but I have been deflected by all the evaluations of shampoo and coffee makers, etc.

  • Marie

    To Consumer Reports – we have subscribed to the magazine and the online service and have in the past always used it before a major purchase > $200.  However, we have become very disollutioned and may drop it.  We have bought “Best Buy” products that are recommended by CR and dumb stuff falls apart and makes them unuseable.  - example Microwave – the door handle and the rotater both broke within 3 years.  Door would not close, and therefor would not run unless held closed. That’s not acceptable.  How do you give CR this kind of feedback?

    • BHA in Vermont

      My last one only lasted 1 month past the warranty – 12 months.  NOT HAPPY

  • Reginald Coombe

    Would CR please review radios, especially for reception in areas distant from the nearest NPR station transmitter?
    In addition, what about reception for HD radio?
    Thanks, Reg Coombe

    • TFRX

      Speaking of “they don’t make ‘em like that any more”: AM and FM reception (sensitivity, selectivity, capture effect, etc, for fringe stations especially) simply doesn’t seem to be a priority for audio systems in the age of MP3 players.

      • TFRX

        (I don’t mean a priority for CR-sorts, but for manufacturers.)

  • Eric

    Biggest problem with CR I’ve seen is going to the store only to find the model number is no longer available (even the same month the report came out) and the retailer has no new follow-on model number. Very frustrating as I have run into this at least three times with kitchen appliances…fridge, microwave and oven.

  • Sheena

    Do they have women testing the vacuum cleaners? preferably someone elderly like me who needs a truly light-and preferably cordless vacuum! I have wasted so much money on buying top ones and never liked any of them!

    • BHA in Vermont

      I don’t know about cordless but we just bought a Miele canister. Unbelievable until you pick it up but only 14 pounds! And REALLY quiet with 8 power choices instead of opening a slot on the handle to reduce suction. It was the only one with a true hepafilter which was important to us.

      A miss by CR is that they are available for MUCH less than the one they tested. Since we have no carpets, they have one for $300. Still a lot of money but a LOT less than the one CR reported. I know the Miele’s don’t have the best repair record (back to that hepafilter thing for why we bought it anyway) but they have a warranty which I believe is several years longer than other brands. 7-year suction motor; 7-year casing; 1-year all non-wearing components.

      • Denisefinneran

        I love my Miele vacuum cleaner.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I think about 20 years ago things were designed to be surpassed.  For obsolescence.  How does an evaluator deal with that?  This cell phone will last until we have something better to offer you?  And when will that be?  I think the same pertains to many purchases.  Not:  These jeans will last ten years worn every single day.  Instead:  These jeans will LOOK AS IF you had worn them every single day — very retro, that idea.

  • Sara

    CFLs just break to easily and then there’s the mercury.

    • nj

      Mercury concern is likely over-hyped. About as much mercury in a CFL bulb as in a can or two of tuna fish.

      If one’s electricity is generated by goal, one is putting a lot more mercury into the world than by using CFLs.

      • Terry Tree Tree

        electricity generated by Coal, or goal?

        • TFRX

          Coal. Those Pele-style bicycle kicks are energy hogs.

          • nj

            I am a partner in a group that’s developing a project to harness announcer Andrés Cantor. Preliminary studies show we should be able to power a small city during soccer season.

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZkIGO2UA-u8

          • TFRX

            So you’re the one behind the recent spike of free kicks and penalty kicks awarded in the Mexican League?

          • nj

            Dang! I’ve been outed!

  • Ruth

    Hi – unfortunately I can’t get through on the phone. I bought a stacking washer/dryer 10 years ago because it was rated #1 in Consumer Reports. It was a brand new item/model. It turns out to not have been a good purchase, and Consumer Reports changed its mind about it in later years, reporting various major problems that we experienced first hand. In fact eventually there was a class action suit to address the issues.

    Can your guest address the issues around reviewing a product that is new. Most things work well enough when they are new.
    Thanks.

  • Ed

    I am a CR Online subscriber and have relied upon them for quite some time.  While this is the case, it is often difficult to find the exact models that are rated in CR – especially appliances.
    Thanks CR!

  • Doug

    How can you not be talking about LED lights? They ARE the future, without Hg, drawing TINY wattage, and last FOREVER!!!

    • Anonymous

      What?  Man, LED?  Come on!

      This is precisely the kind of communism/socialism that the Light Bulb Party was founded to combat.  Hundie Watts and Modavations, two American heroes, one young and full of hype, the other old, cranky, and lurking around every corner, teaming up to say LIGHTS OUT to CFLs, LEDs, jars full of lightning bugs, the moon, and any of these other wack pretend light sources.

      Americans INVENTED the dang lightbulb, and what does that make someone who tells you it’s not good enough?  That’s right, a socialist muslim wack hater (Cough! Obama! Cough!).

      LBP, that’s Light Bulb Party, taking the country by storm and gathering up the true sons of freedom.  Grab ya bulbs and sign up!

  • Charlotte

    On windows, have you — or wil you test — repairing old windows against neew replacements? As a preservationist, Ihave learned  that the old wood inwindow  frames are far better than those made with new products, especially vinyl.

  • BHA in Vermont

    I would love CR to review LED lights. Besides the much higher cost per ‘bulb’, the number of lumens per ‘bulb’ are much lower.
    How much of this cost is due to the fact that EACH bulb must  transform 110V to 12V? I hope the future of lighting design includes LED lighting that goes to a common 12V panel.

    • Anonymous

      Well, maybe you should Google “LED Cancer” and see if you get any hits – I guarantee that you will.  That should tell you everything you need to know.

      You need to get down with LBP (Light Bulb Party, google that while you’re at it).  Hundie Watts, Modavations, we shinin’ while they whinin”

      • BHA in Vermont

        OK, I did and all I find is how they are using LEDs to treat cancer. What is your point?

        • Anonymous

          Man, they changed up the internet on me.  I KNOW that bad stuff about LEDs and cancer is out there, because I PERSONALLY made a bunch of sites to get the word out.

          • BHA in Vermont

            Sorry, but you are starting to sound like a whacko with a mission! Were these sites based on:
            - UNBIASED FACTS?
            - COMPREHENSIVE STUDIES and TRIALS?

            Stuffing the ‘LEDs cause cancer’  ballot box isn’t a fair ‘election’.

          • Anonymous

            Typical!  Yeah, you can hide behind your “unbiassed facts,” but my facts aren’t about to fall for that.  My facts are SMART and powered by such powerful HYPE that they’ll jump right over your facts and GETCHA!

            Then you’ll have to face my facts – LEDs cause cancer.  Everyone knows this.  Have you ever stared into an LED flashlight?  That light is just wrong, and gives you eye cancer.

          • TFRX

            Staring into a lightbulb?

            I’ll ask you again: Is this a deadpan parody of whacked-out ignorance?

          • Terry Tree Tree

            YES!!

          • nj

            Oh, dear. Looks like April 1 has come early for parts of Vermont.

          • Terry Tree Tree

            BHA, you have to read Hundie in context!  Can take a bit to get.

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            You know what does cause cancer and all sorts of other health problems?

            Burning coal, and oil, and natural gas.

            Look up “coal fly ash” and look for the stunningly huge fly ash “spill” they had in Tennessee and the more recent one near Milwaukee.

            Look up “mountaintop removal” and see how this kills many people, and ruins the environment.

            Look up oil spills.

            Look up pipeline ruptures.

            Look up hydraulic fracking.

            Look up black lung.

            Look up smog.

            Look up mercury pollution.

            Look up acid rain.

            Look up phosphorus and nitrogen runoff from farm land.

            Would you rather live next to a coal power plant smoke stack, or and wind farm, or a solar array, or a nuclear power plant, or a coal mine, or a gas field, or an oil refinery?

            Neil

          • Modavations

            Patrick the guys bnot on the level..As for your thoughts,America is the cleanest country in the world,in my opinion.The life span is now 80(78 for men and 82 for women).

          • Modavations

            sorry,meant Neil

          • nj

            Another is the ongoing catalog of self-parodying,  Moda-troll Amusements…correcting only one of many errors, usually the most trivial one.

            To illustrate that the U.S. is the “cleanest” country (whatever the f*** that means), he invokes life expectancy (using inaccurate data), when the U.S. ranks 50th in life expectancy.

          • Terry Tree Tree

            Moda at his best!

  • Okitaris

    Yes we have a problem with consumption which is an archaic name for tuberculosis.     The U.S. consumes 50% of the worlds resources most spent on the forced consumption of the military.      An other look at consumer report is that the magazine promotes consumption by helping consumers around the buyer beware principle of capitalism.     We need to move to a conserver society now if not sooner.    Consumer report should take a much wider scope to help avoid the up coming ecological/social disaster. 

  • Ellen Dibble

    They did an evaluation of health insurance recently, both before age 65 and after 65; nice try.  I think they could go a LOT farther with that. I’ve given my insurer something like a million dollars over the last 15 years, and what I’ve paid for transportation in that span comes in under one grand.  So I think they should keep at it.

  • BHA in Vermont

    Regarding vehicle headlights. Besides the ‘brighter white’ lights that can be hard on oncoming drivers, how about the fact that there is no standardize headlight height to match those on cars? Standard or ‘brighter white’, headlights on a full size SUV or truck are at car drivers’ eye level. That is dangerous.
     Then look at bumpers. A LOT of money on repairs and medical bills (and therefore insurance costs) could be saved if ALL vehicles on the road were required to have bumpers at the SAME height as is mandated for cars.

  • David

    I think it’s very important for CR to test expensive items that are bought infrequently so represent a high risk for the consumer, like cars and appliances.

    But I don’t think CR should waste time testing consumables that represent a low financial risk, are bought frequently, and that consumers can easily test for themselves. Things like paper towels, for example.

    Please comment.

    • Terry Tree Tree

      Why NOT?  Consumables are bought on a frequent basis, and they can be expensive, when buying the inferior brand, for the same, or higher price

  • Judyk1818

    Yet another light bulb question, this  one about the “public good:”    CFL’s are supposed to be disposed of in some special way because of the mercury they contain.   Do you do any education about this?  Any advocacy to make their proper disposal easier for the consumer?
    –Judy in Roslindale, MA

    • Anonymous

      CFLs should be disposed of in whatever way is easiest and fastest, so you can be rid of their wackness.  Don’t let concerns about mercury stay your hand; even if you were to put the bulb in a landfill, the net mercury introduced into the environment would be considerably less than that produced by a conventional incandescent, assuming average lifespan.

      The best thing for the public good is to destroy all of the CFLs you can, due to the aforementioned wackness.  Wackness is the real danger.

      • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

        You are not correct — most of the mercury that is poisoning our environment and building up in the fish that we eat (and everywhere else) comes from burning coal, which generates a bit less than half of our electricity on average, here in the USA.

        Using less electricity saves putting as much of that mercury into the air and water.  The damage of this is huge, and we cannot in good conscience keep using coal to generate electricity.  Also, the “old” carbon released by burning coal and oil and gas is what is causing global climate change.

        Are you for polluting all the environment and melting all the ice and causing the extinction of thousands of species and causing the ocean level to rise and the acidification of the ocean — and all  the other myriad of changes we have wrought on our environment — OR are you a true conservative, who wants to conserve our environment for the generations of all life to come?

        We simply must stop burning coal and oil and natural gas.  We have already used up way more than our share, and way more than the environment THAT WE ALL DEPEND ON can sustain.

        This is deadly serious , and we all are responsible.  Let’s not be snide or condescending or holier than thou…

        Neil

        • Terry Tree Tree

          Neil, please READ Hundie, especially after one of Moda’s rants about prying his incandescent from  his cold dead hand?

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            Thank you for correcting my misinterpretation of Hundie_Watts posts.  I geddit now…Neil

          • Terry Tree Tree

            Righteous!  As is your exposure of ‘conservatives’ NOT being conservative!

    • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

      My local Aubuchon Hardware store will recycle any and all fluorescent bulbs, and I believe that other stores do the same.  The old-style fluorescent 4′ tubes that have been around for 50-60 years (?) have about 20X as much mercury in them as do the CFL’s.  nobody has been complaining about them for all these years!  I wonder why folks are so worked up about CFL’s now…?

      CFL’s save more than enough electricity to reduce the coal-generated mercury by more than they contain.  So, even if you did dump them after they stop working, we will come out ahead.  But of course, you should recycle them, so the same mercury can be used again in another CFL bulb.

      Neil

  • Ellen Dibble

    I wonder what Consumer Reports was doing post World War II.  As I recall, all the magazines then were addressing how to buy LESS, how to avoid purchasing this, that, or the other.  That’s one thing.  Basically, the social purchases (clean water, functioning connectivity) are more important, and we need guidance on how to sound off at town meetings, council meetings.   The important purchases are purchased by a lot of people.  And do you want the lobbyists on town council to make all those decisions?

  • John

    I’ve only purchased two (car stero and electric shaver) consumer reports top-recommended products and both time I was very disappointed. It seems that every test has very subjective componate to it. An online review from consumers that have used a product in real-life situations are much more valuable than anything CR might offer.

  • Travis Tarpy

    Headed over to CR to buy a subscription.
    Thanks Tom.

  • Jackie

    Are there any plans to start testing items such as WHEELCHAIRS, or other medical products??

  • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

    I wish there was some thoughts about planned obsolescence — aka “designing for the dump”.  We simply cannot continue to buy replacement *things*.

    I want to know about appliances and devices that will last a lifetime.  I think that CR needs to take the long view.

    Neil

    • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

      I am very glad to hear about the Growth Busters film!  Thank you On Point.

      This ties into a steady state economy: http://steadystate.org/

      And what Paul Gilding is talking about in his book “The Great Disruption”.

      Neil

      • Dave Gardner

        Neil, thanks. I’m a huge fan of CASSE and of Paul Gilding (both of whom are fans of GrowthBusters, too)!

      • nj

        Maybe someday, we’ll get our On Point program on Steady State. Maybe if we shill it as much as Dave shills for Ron Paul.

    • BHA in Vermont

      Yep. My Kenmore dryer is 29 years old. Still works fine. The washer lasted 25 years. Replaced only the pump and a circuit board in all those years.

      A friend who sells large appliances at a major retailer told me they are now expected to last ~8 years. I find this DISGUSTING.

      • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

        We just replaced a Kenmore dryer after ~18 years, which is not long enough, as far as I can see.  It was the belt drive and bearings that failed.  We just got an LG direct drive front loading washing machine that eliminates the weak point on washing machines (the agitator) — and so I asked about a direct drive dryer.  Apparently LG makes one but not for sale here in the USA, and the sales person said he had never heard of them.

        And yes, they said the same thing: all dryers are meant to last 7-10 years, which is just stoopid…  For one thing paying $650 every 7-10 years is way too much money, and the embedded energy to make each dryer and then the waste of materials to grind it up and recycle it is unsustainable.

        Dryers should be insulated to hold in the heat (duh!) and the heat should be put into the house (in the winter time) and certainly, the drive system should be direct drive, or gears, or a sealed chain, so it can last 50-100 years.  Is this too hard?

        And we should all use the new-fangled solar powered clothes dryer they have invented, called the “clothesline” whenever possible!  (I keed, I keed…)

        This goes for ALL things that we currently buy — cars, houses, appliances, computers, etc.  We need to eliminate any plastic items that is for temporary use, especially packaging, and for throwing away garbage in.  The plastic blister pack that contains some little thingy will outlive the thingy and us — in fact it will last forever.

        Talk about screwed up priorities…

        Neil

    • nj

      As usual, Europe leads the way in dealing holistically with environmental issues around product materials and use.

      http://files.instrument.com.cn/FilesCenter/20070831/52572.pdf

      The burden of the eventual fate of materials and products must be shifted to the manufacturer, and the cost of these incorporated into the product.

      At the end of a product’s useful life, it should either easily biodegrade, be easily recyclable, or the manufacturer should take it back to be disassembled and recycled.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I would say Consumer Reports is MORE important now than say 30 years ago, because there are so many more advances, so quick, from all over the globe.  And you can go on the internet and get all sorts of information.  Some things there we really don’t have all the answers yet.  I can see that on line; we’re just inventing this wheel or that.
        But where something IS determinable, please let us know.

  • Jamesorleans

    We have found yet another way to eliminate more manufacturing from the US with this federal CF light bulb mandate. Not a single compact flourescent bulb that I have found is actually manufactured in this country. There are maunufactureres of incandescent bulbs here, but they cannot compete with the cost of manufacture of CF bulbs abroad. Now their USA made products will no longer be sellable here. Please comment on this. James

    • nj

      A descendent of Emily Litella, as one of the founding members of the Incandescent Party, i cannot agree more. We will not stop until this Socialist law depriving us of our beloved bulbs is repealed! Mandating CF bulbs is just a step on the treacherous road to Communism! We must protest! We must march on Washington! Vote for Ron Paul, he will save us!

      Wait, there is no CF bulb “mandate”? Really?! Just efficiency standards?!

      …never mind…

      • Modavations

        you’re sweating son

        • nj

          You’re drooling, pops.

          • Anonymous

            Snippity SNAP!  Modo, you need to take the mike and rhyme this stepper down – either that, or offer him an LBP officership

          • Modavations

            I bow to the Master!!!!

          • Modavations

            your sweating son

          • TFRX

            When you address people as “son” or “kid”, all I can imagine is the voice of Foghorn Leghorn.

            It’s
            a good thing, then, that you aren’t an ignorant blowhard in love with
            the sound of your own voice and given to repeating the same snippets of
            inanity, no matter the situation, in what passes for “conversation”.

        • TFRX

          When you address people as “son” or “kid”, all I can imagine is the voice of Foghorn Leghorn.

          It’s a good thing, then, that you aren’t an ignorant blowhard in love with the sound of your own voice and given to repeating the same snippets of inanity, no matter the situation, in what passes for “conversation”.

          • Terry Tree Tree

            Right On!  RIGHT ON!!

  • Anonymous

    Yes you can… You can review the design of a product for simple design flaws… My washer, which I loved for 11 months past its 4 year warranty failed when the bearing support frame. It rotted out due to cathodic corrosion due to dissimilar metals being in contact. Doh!… Can you not have your engineers give these MAJOR purchases the once over?

  • David C. Holzman

    When I was a kid in the ’60s, my parents relied on Consumer Reports for big ticket items. I was a GM fan, and Consumer Reports consistently rated Chrysler automobiles as being much better than GM. I suffered from cognitive dissonance, because at some level, I knew CR’s methodology was sound. Here’s my story about how I lost my fanhood and learned to love cars on the merits, in which CR figures big:
    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/11/beating-the-one-brand-blues-circa-1960/ 

  • Marie

    Our uncle still uses the toaster that he got for a wedding present 65 years ago.  We have probably gone through 15 (maybe 20?) toasters since then because that have cheap plastic parts that break.  I think products are getting less durable, and more throw away which is disappointing.  I’m going to donate Tommy’s toaster to the Smithsonian when he passes…  But thankfully he’s 90 and still going strong!

    • Lilianna

      Yes, it couldn’t be more obvious that products are engineered to break within a few years. Everything from fancy cell phones to $1,000 Mac computers are engineered  to fail so the “consumer” has to go back and buy more.

      I believe 100 years ago, calling someone a “consumer” in  this country was offensive.

      • Michael Dodge

        I agree with Lill about Apple. Everytime I’ve bought a Mac product it has become obsolete in 2-3 years and upgrades to their latest OS or whatever are no longer available. There is nothing wrong with my 5 year old pre-Intel IMac, so now it has to be thrown away!!! This is forced obsolescence and is disgusting. 

        • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

          I have a number of three year old Macs running Lion just fine but I agree it won’t run on a 5 year old Mac. Can you name another computer/OS where a 5 year old model can run the latest operating system?

          And, who says you must have the latest OS? You never have to throw a computer away, use it as long as it lasts. I have a 128K Mac from 1984 that still boots but I don’t expect it to do the things my current computer can do.

  • Stierman-in-Boise

    RE: Growth Busters, The consumer driven  economy is something James Burk touched on in his late 70′s 1980-ish BBC series Connections. He also questioned the sustainability of what we are doing then.

    • Dave Gardner

      Thanks. The notion that we are on the wrong track has been around quite awhile, but now we are in emergency mode. I hope we are finally ready to have this conversation. Clearly the planet has had enough and will not allow continued growth. The only question now is whether we go down fighting or scale back to a more elegant solution.

  • Lilianna

    Consumer reports should work on marketing to the younger crowd (ages 18-30). People in their 20s don’t use consumer reports and have high disposable incomes due to being “spoiled” by baby boomer relatives.

  • Anonymous

    I’ll comment on this – I think it’s exactly what the Light Bulb Party’s been saying, and speaking for myself and Modavations, we feel a little dissed not getting some props.

    Still, my brother from another, the point is clear.  The US invented the incandescent light bulb.  That’s our bulb!  There’s no way we could learn how to make CFLs or LEDs – not that we’d want to, because those bulbs frankly suck.

    • Anonymous

      Oops, the above was addressed to Jamesorleans – disqus is also wack

      • nj

        Disqus is part of the conspiracy against us Incandescents! Long live the filament! 

    • TFRX

      This isn’t a schtick? It sounds so convincing as parody.

      • Anonymous

        I deeply resent the insinuation that my enthusiasm for incandescent light bulbs is feigned in any way. Incandescent light bulbs are dope, all others are wack, Modavations and I are a united front, and that’s the end of it.

        You sound like an LED-bag.

        • TFRX

          You gotta do something to not sound so parodic. Maybe if you weren’t the only person in the known universe using street lingo for your particular cause.

          “Word,” I think the word is, “doesn’t apply here.”

          • Terry Tree Tree

            Just enjoy Hundie, TFRX, you’ll ‘get’ him soon!

  • Frank

    I am another long-time avid reader of CR but it is a love-hate relationship. CR is a sort of celebration of free-market competition–it improves the market for everyone, even folks who don’t read it. That said, in nearly every issue, there is an editor comment supporting increased regulation. In particular, CR is a regular promoter of single-payer healthcare, which is a call for a monopoly–monopolies are very anti-consumer. Isn’t that a contradiction?

    • nj

      Publicly provided services do not comprise a “monopoly.” By definition, monopolies only apply to private businesses. Any society has the prerogative to determine what services it will provide for itself.

      • Modavations

         public schools are failures because they don’t compete

        • notafeminista

          Despite overwhelming consumer demand for said competition.

          (Guess who just watched Waiting for Superman…ha!)

          • Modavations

            Is it worth seeing.Just saw the Clooney movie in Hawaii.Sad but good.3 stars no sweat

          • TFRX

            Let me guess: Someone who’s a sucker for companies treating schoolkids like walking, talking little burlap bags with (tax money) dollar signs printed on them.

          • notafeminista

            Interesting moment in that movie.  It notes quite correctly that American student test scores are abysmal.  But when polled about how they felt they performed on the tests, the students scored #1 in confidence.   I’d rather have a kid who can read and write rather a kid who has no idea what failure is. 

            Thanks Lefties. 

    • TFRX

      Regulated monopolies, as the phone company used to be, are not anti-consumer.

      In the face of the modern oligarchy: Defacto cartels want to close markets to new competition but without the imprimatur or “monopoly” or “cartel”. All the flavor of having the market to one or three companies, none of the calories of being regulated like we used to do in this country with natural monopolies.

      And the profit motive behind many segments of healthcare is for crap.

    • Ellen Dibble

      Do you consider Medicare single-payer?  I think so.  It is a kind of pre-paid version of the mandate that no hospital turn anyone away from the emergency room.  We mandate care for all, but only in the least thrifty way.  Medicare turns out to be anything BUT single-payer.  I pay the Medicare people in St. Louis; I pay my same insurer I’ve had all my life for some things  Medicare doesn’t cover; I pay someplace out west to cover pharmaceuticals; and I pay for plenty of things I know I need that are not covered at all, but prevent me falling into the clutches of that set of providers, “single-payer” that it is.  It seems to me to be four payers, this single-payer thing I’ve aged into.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nora-Zablow/1806886714 Nora Zablow

    I have been a big fan or CR many years and always consult before purchasing “large” (over $150 for me) items and have usually gotten great advice.  Except for 2 instances.  I am a low income intelligent person and environmentally conscious, so I purchased a Toyota Corolla in my late 50s assuming it would last the rest of my driving life, based on CR reports, and be economical to run (hybrid out of p rice range).  It is a 2008 purchased in 2007 at a great price, but it has had 3 recalls so far, a number of problems that have not been diagnosed and gets terrible mileage, compared to m y old Mazda.  I hope it will be going way down on you list, thought it is too l ate for me,

    I alos got a glass top electric range ( a high rated kenmore)  and I wish you had recommended buying a service  contract on this, as a burner went a couple of months after warranty over and I found out the hard way it would cost over $200 to replace (local trusted repair man charged 62 for service call) and now I will be living with only 1 front burner until the whole thing goes and I have no choice but to replace it.  I h ope  next time you rate these you will note the high cost and consider recommending a service contract.

    • TFRX

      I haven’t gone thru the fine print for large appliances in many years, thanks to CR, actually, but doesn’t CR geek out over repair frequency (by brand) and the need (or waste) of service contracts already?

  • Michael Dodge

    I followed CR’s recommendation for a lawn tractor. I couldn’t afford their #1 (a Kubota at $4000.00+) so I went with their 2nd a Craftsman. It’s a peice of junk!!! It replaced a 30 year-old John Deere lawnmore that died of exhaustion. There is no way this Craftsman will last 30 years. It has a 25 HP, twin cylinder engine that produces less raw power than the 16HP JD! I called Sears about having someone work on it and I was told that I would have to wait 7 weeks for a serviceman to come out–in the middle of summer when my grass was growing at it’s most vigorous. So I took it to a local guy and he had to order a part. That took 5 weeks to arrive!!! Never again will I believe Consumer Reports or buy any Craftsman prdocut!

  • Modavations

    To my poets,there is no party called the LBP.We’re called Wolverines

    • Anonymous

      Another blazin’ bright fact about CFLs – when they’re on, they’re off half the time.  They flash on and off at imperceptibly fast speeds (almost as fast as my rhymes – recognize game), which means that the Illuminati and al Qaeda sleeper cells can use them to broadcast sinister subversive subliminal messages at your dome.

  • Mrgus4

    Although I appreciate CR, all other magazines I subscribe to give me access to their web site ie Time. CR is the only one that doesn’t. What kind of value is that?

  • Modavations

    Just more Elites telling us what to buy.

    • Anonymous

      Modo T-Baggins, my man!  LBP represent!

      • Lilianna

        whats LBP?

        • Anonymous

          The LBP is the Light Bulb Party, a grassroots organization started by Modavations and myself, dedicated to hyping old-school incandescent light bulbs and disparaging CFLs, LEDs, OLEDs, and anything resembling advanced technology.

          We also don’t believe in candles, oil lamps, the moon, jars of lightning bugs, deck prisms, or gas lights, because those are backwards and needlessly retro.

          Our message is simply that Edison got it right, and any supposedly “better” bulbs are mere curiosities, without any merit.  As the Qianlong Emperor supposedly said to Sir Joseph McCarthy in the sixteenth century,”I set no value on objects strange or ingenious.”

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            ~2% efficiency is horrible.  You can keep your incandescent bulbs.

            Neil

          • nj

            Efficiency pales against intrusive government. The warm, orange glow reminds me of our hard-fought freedom every time i switch a light on. The sacrifices of our brave troops should not have been in vain!

            Vote Incandescent!

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            You are free to choose incandescent, halogen, CFL, fluorescent tubes, LED, candles, crank flashlight, solar charged lantern, or go to sleep at dark — whatever you want?

            The government over the top in several important areas; but lightbulbs don’t even come close.  I think you are tilting at windmills…

            The government is very much involved in energy policy, as it should be.

            Neil

          • Terry Tree Tree

            Neil, most are yanking your chain, and Moda’s.  Moda has this crusade against a ficticious ban of incancescent light bulbs-the requirements for llight bulb efficiency that you have pointed out!

          • Terry Tree Tree

            Go! Hundie, GO!!

          • Modavations

            Let me get this straight.You can’t fight your own battles,so now you’re reduced to cheerleading

        • Modavations

          What’s Hundie-Watts?

    • Lilianna

      Yup

    • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

      Please define “elites” in this context?

      Neil

      • Modavations

        Politboro types who wish to decide for their proleteriat.

        • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

          “Politburo (Russian: Политбюро Politbyuro, abbreviation of Политическое Бюро Politicheskoye Byuro), literally “Political Bureau [of the Central Committee],” is the executive committee for a number of communist political parties.”

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politburo

          “The proletariat (from Latin proletarius, a citizen of the lowest class) is a term used to identify a lower social class, usually the working class; a member of such a class is proletarian. Originally it was identified as those people who had no wealth other than their children.”

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proletariat

          So, you are calling the people who publish Consumer Reports a Communist executive committee?  And the readers of CR lower class?

          You can always ignore Consumer Reports if you want to.  Nobody is forcing you to read it.

          Neil

          • Modavations

            I’m saying that as theRussian  Politiboro decides for the workers,so does the American Left.IE.,Political Correctness,ban on smoking,no salt in NYC,banned lt bulbs,and on and on and on

          • Modavations

            I’m saying that as theRussian  Politiboro decides for the workers,so does the American Left.IE.,Political Correctness,ban on smoking,no salt in NYC,banned lt bulbs,and on and on and on

  • Modavations

    When I want to buy a car,I call my pals that sell cars,or service them.These guys probably get kick backs for favorable plugs

    • Anonymous

      Heck yes.  Witness the wrath of the LBP, we’ve got white-hot knowledge at the tough of a button, or the flip of a switch.  I’ma flip my switch into rymin’ mode right… effin… NOW

      One two one two… mic check…

      Hmmm… I’ve got nothing.  Rabbit fail

      • Modavations

        Dude,I don’t know you,nor do I care for an affiliation.All you need to be on my side is respect for the individual,as opposed to the state.Furthermore you must believe in laissez faire economics as opposed to Socialism-communism.The Lt.Bulb is not the point,it’s busy body Statists, telling me what to do, that irks.These same people say,don’t tell me how to behave in my bedroom,but have no problem choosing my light bulbs.As for your poetry,I find it lame

        • Anonymous

          Oh man, Modo, you’re hilarious.  “The Lt.Bulb is not the point;” ROTFLMAO!  It’s absolutely about the light bulb!

          I know it’s frustrating sometimes, but I think we’re making some real progress; I can only speak for myself, but I’m getting more and more convinced all the time that incandescents are the one and only way to go, so I can only assume that everyone else is feelin’ it too.

          Why do you want to bring the government into it?  All of this philosophy and ideology; my brother, down that path lies only stress and rigidity.

          Why does the light bulb need to be a symbol of anything other than down-home American genius?  The only reason to get upset about not having incandescent light bulbs is because they are DOPE AS HEEZY; otherwise who gives an eff?  I don’t get upset when the government says I can’t smoke reefer on my porch, ’cause that was a period in my life that’s behind me and all that.  I’m not all like “boo, government, no, let me get my smoke on.”

          I mean, unless you don’t think that the government should prohibit anything, but that’s crazy as hell… and I say this knowing that I’m talking to one of the craziest, illest cats on the premises. 

          • Modavations

            Just speak plainly.Your poetry,is in my opinion,incomprehensible.The only thing the govt.should do is defend the borders and act as referee.Privatise everything,including wanna be poets.Whose lamer,Angela Mayu(?),or Mr.Hundie

  • Matthew Hall

    Does anyone know if any of the CF lights that were discussed on today’s show are manufactured in North America?  If not (which I have heard), how much energy is actually saved if they are manufactured off-shore and then have to be shipped here?

    • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

      Incandescent bulbs are probably made right next to compact fluorescent bulbs.

      Here’s a fact: incandescent bulbs are about 2% efficient at making light.  So 98% of the energy they consume becomes heat.  That is horrible.

      A higher wattage incandescent bulb (200W) is a bit more efficient — about 2.7% efficient.  In my Quaker Meeting, we replaced four fixtures that used a 200W incandescent in each, with a fixture that uses three 13W CFL’s each.  The new lights are brighter and the color balance is virtually identical.

      So, we went from 800w to light the room to 156W total; with more light.

      What’s not to like?

      Neil

      • Modavations

        They only work efficiently when left on for long periods of time.If, like normal people, you turn your lights off and on,they lose any edge.

        • nj

          Moda-troll makes sh*t up again. The start-up surge for a CFL lasts about .1 second and uses as much electricity as about 5 seconds of “normal” operation.

          Too-frequent cycling does shorten the life of the bulb, so they’re best used in applications where they’ll likely be left on for at least 20 minutes at a time.

          • Modavations

            You are now the last lefty who uses the word Troll.

        • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

          This is not correct — CFL’s are 3-4 times more efficient, and they typically last 8-15 times longer.  So, you are consuming far more energy as you use incandescent bulbs all the time, and you have to buy a lot more bulbs over a given period of time.

          Claiming that incandescent bulbs don’t use more power is ignoring the facts.  We simply have to be more energy efficient, and George Bush put this policy into law because CFL’s are the best solution at the moment.  LED’s are quickly coming to be viable alternatives, as well.  They cost more than CFL’s, but their lifespan is typically even longer.

          Neil

          • Modavations

            Unless of course,you turn them off and on.

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            Like a strobe?  That stresses incandescent bulbs, too.

            Use incandescent where you will have them one for less than 10 minutes.  Use more efficient bulbs everywhere else.

            I use my old incandescent bulbs in the winter since they are really 98% efficient *heaters* that happen to give off some light.

            Neil

          • Modavations

            Mind your own business and stop dictating your preferred lifestyle

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            You make no s… squirrel!!

            Neil

          • Modavations

            I remember Angela Merkel telling the story about when she dropped her keys.She complained the lights  take forever to reach the peak and she was on her hands and knees fedeeling for her dropped keys.A girl friend in London said the light WAS LIfeless.They flicker 50,000 times a second.Nice if you trying to set the timing of your car.They cost a fortune and if you turn them off and on they blow up.Maine said call a Hazmat team if one breaks.Some genius told me I’d save $100.00 a year(one nights partying).Half the old sockets,won’t accept the new bulbs,you can’t use them with dimmers,they cost ten times more to manafacture,there is no energy shortage,there is no manmade global warming.Canada just quit Kyoto

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            Streamofconsciousnesseverythoughtthatcomesintoyourheadmuch?

  • Ben Millstein

    I’ve been wishing CR would cover news media. Measures such as bias,
    accuracy, diversity in subject, relevance, the list could go on.  What
    more important “product” than the news we use to make “informed”
    decisions about our democracy?

    • Modavations

      Read the editorial page of the NYT,then the WSJ,then decide

  • Patrick

    Thank you for the point about over-complicated automobile controls.  It’s impossible to get into a car, now, without needing to spend 15-20 minutes figuring out how to adjust the seat, mirrors, temperature, etc., to say nothing about stereos and nav systems.

    My 2006 Scion xB has some of the most minimal controls and console around, and I couldn’t be happier with it – it makes it easier to watch the road.

    • Modavations

      Remember the Air France flight that went down between Rio and Paris.I believe it failed because the jet was  just too complicated.Wozniak said he thought the problem the Toyota gas peddle. was a soft ware glitch.I’m with you,keep it simple.

      • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

        Who’s peddling gas?  My car has an accelerator pedal.

        Neil

        • Modavations

          I was refering to Wozniak’s thought that the car was overly complicated and thus the peddle sticking problem

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            I agree that many cars are too complicated, but the sticking pedal problem is not related to that.

            The sticking pedal problem was a design and /or an execution issue.

            Please realize that it is spelled “pedal”.  To “peddle” as you are writing is to sell something.

            Neil

          • Terry Tree Tree

            He’s peddling!

          • Modavations

            I’m refering to a converstaion Mr Woz had on Wash.Journal.He said he thought it a soft-ware problemDidn’t I already say this?

          • Modavations

            Sorry guys.Talking to folks like Terence Tree tree has temporarily lowered my IQ.I get it now.Not cut the cute stuff and reply to my comments about Woz?

        • Terry Tree Tree

          Moda NEVER lies?  Moda is NEVER wrong?

          • Modavations

            You go on and on about lies,but can never quite explain on what a prevaricate.Please proceed.

  • Modavations

    Please guys,Mr. Hundie is why most folks think the Left is ridiculous.Furthermore,I’ll eat my hat if he’s black!!!

  • Monte

    Why did they rate Southwest Airlines so low because they don’t let you choose a seat? Southwest does not charge for luggage. They don’t charge to change a reservation. If you want to choose your seat, $10 seems pretty reasonable to me.

  • Meiguil

    I love consumer reports and use it all the time – I wish they would include stand mixers with larger motors than the wimpy kitchen aid when reporting on stand mixers. What about Bosch mixers? 

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  • Jen Drouin

    I have found that some product seem to be created to get an initial good review from Consumer Reports but they don’t hold up or work as they are supposed to over  the long term. I wish that Consumer Reports would issue some kind of update to remove the recommendation of a product and recommend another that was initially included in their test. As an example, I give you Whisk Deep Clean liquid detergent. I encouraged my roommate to purchase this product as I did based on Consumer Reports recommendation, after about six months we started to notice that within a few hours of wearing our clothing they really started to smell of body odor. We shower once to twice daily, wear our clothing once and wash all our clothing once a week, so it was not a lack of hygiene on our part. We determined that the Wisk Deep clean detergent was not removing body oils and body grime properly from the clothing. We switched back to using plain old Tide liquid and have not had a problem with the same clothing.

  • Jen Drouin

    I think it is unacceptable that washing machines, dryers,ranges, refrigerators, dishwashers,microwaves, toasters, vacuum cleaners are no longer durable goods built to last 25+ years but only built to last 1 to 7 years at the most. This is increasingly frustrating yet manufactures are getting away with it. Why? I know customers are boiling mad about these issues. The impact on the environment must be staggering. It seems as though all the manufactures got together and decided to sign a pact to create products that only last 7 years at most. Did they? Why are we allowing them to get away with this? We can’t we pass a federal law that requires manufactures of such products to meet quality and durability standards of the past. We know they can build them to last so why are we letting them get away with building this disposable crap? It seems that it should be basic common sense that above mentioned products should be built to last 25+ years by law with no repairs. Why can’t we have a 25 year lifetime warranty covering every single bit of the machine on above mentioned products? This would prevent companies from building crap. We have all this talk and push for environmental concerns but how environmental is it to throw products away?

    Why is Consumer Reports not raising the alarm loud and wide?

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