Consumer Reports Practices What It Preaches

Consumer Reports Practices What It Preaches

Consumer Reports is demonstrating that the title puts its money where its mouth is, when it comes to admitting a goof and making good on it. Instead of sticking its head in the proverbial sand and dealing with complaints as they arose, CR did an all-out product recall after a recent test of a new premium for its longstanding #11 control package resulted in numerous consumer safety complaints.

As tracked by (an online direct mail and email promotion-tracking service offered by ParadyszMatera), current versions of the control use a soft offer of $20 for 10 issues (one risk-free) AND promote two order premiums: CR’s “Annual Buying Guide” and one of two books – “How to Clean Practically Anything” or “Money Tips & Strategies.” The test package retained the soft-offer price and buying guide but presented a new, second gift (on order) for a “Glove Compartment Organizer” that includes a flashlight, tire-pressure gauge, pocket knife, pen and pad of paper.

The glove-compartment premium continued CR’s tradition of offering appealingly useful gifts, and also sought to capitalize on high affinity to CR’s most popular and influential April car issue (which was out on newsstands concurrently).

But after sending out the thank-you gift to some 15,000 new subscribers, CR received several complaints about the new premium – specifically, that the flashlight had a tendency to overheat and that the tire-pressure gauge gave inaccurate readings, which could lead to improperly inflated tires. CR’s own, subsequent testing of the two products came to the same conclusion. The publisher has since written to all recipients of the kits about the potential problems, has posted a recall notice (in conjunction with the Consumer Product Safety Commission) on its Web site, and is also running the notice in its July issue.

Moreover, as a replacement for the kits, CR is sending each respondent the two standard premium books used in the controls. CR is also offering an incentive to encourage safe disposal of the flashlight and tire-pressure gauge: an extended subscription of six additional issues of CR. The extension is granted to subscribers who send back either the products (using CR’s postage-paid-mailing label) or CR’s postage-paid form letter confirming that they have safely discarded the products.

CR has even gone so far as to remind new subscribers who responded to the new-premium offer of their option to cancel their subscriptions. (The full recall notice can be found at A memo to members announcing the defective premium can be found at

“Obviously, we won’t be using this premium again, even though it yielded a net increase in response of 20 percent,” says Consumers Union CD Simon Aronin. “Our first concern is the well-being and satisfaction of our customers.”

One industry consultant observed: “Obviously, CR has much at stake in maintaining its credibility and core value as the primary source of objective, research-based information on all kinds of products. My guess would be that Consumers Union’s unusually extensive efforts to right an understandable mistake will ultimately work to their advantage, by dramatizing just how seriously they take their mission.”

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