The Fall of Consumer Reports

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities
Gill
Posts: 5865
Joined: Sun Mar 04, 2007 8:38 pm
Location: Florida

Re: Consumer Reports ?

Post by Gill » Tue Aug 21, 2018 9:13 am

Taylor Larimore wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 8:48 pm
windaar:

I have subscribed to Consumer Reports for may years. In my opinion, it remains, by far, the best independent source of consumer information.

Best wishes
Taylor
I agree,Taylor. I have subscribed for at least 50 years and it has saved me countless thousands of dollars and aggravation. I find I don't read it as thoroughly as I once did, but that's likely because I don't buy as much as I once did :happy .
Gill
Cost basis is redundant. One has a basis in an investment | One advises and gives advice | One should follow the principle of investing one's principal

missingdonut
Posts: 104
Joined: Thu Jun 23, 2016 9:37 am
Location: Donutville, WI

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by missingdonut » Tue Aug 21, 2018 9:41 am

My father was a subscriber for years, and I eventually decided to get a subscription a couple years ago.

What turned me off of resubscribing was that the useful information that I expected to see in the magazine was now behind a paywall, and that I started receiving mailings nonstop. I figured that with the money they spent on mailers, they could have instead given me the online access to what I really wanted to read.

It's too bad.

JackoC
Posts: 1009
Joined: Sun Aug 12, 2018 11:14 am

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by JackoC » Tue Aug 21, 2018 10:54 am

We dropped our print subscription some years ago but still have an online on, for now. The way they structure it now it's almost like they want to close down the print version, seems.

On value of it I agree with previous comment that on appliances, home electronics etc. non-car tangible goods with a model number: the proliferation of model numbers reduces the usefulness of CR. It's almost never the same one at the store as CR reviewed. To the extent one brand shows up consistently better, that's somewhat useful I guess. Also the pattern of price changes since I read my parents' subscription as a kid decades ago is that tangible goods have generally gotten relatively cheaper. And I don't agree with the opinion that stuff now is junkier either. It's generally better, so CR is not providing as much real value telling you to avoid for example the inferior TV set. Buying a TV set just isn't as big a deal as it was 40 yrs ago, and getting a really crummy one without CR's guidance isn't as likely.

That also applies in part to CR's big mainstay of cars: there just aren't as many atrocious cars on the US market now as say the 1970's. Recently we bought a Honda CR-V for our daughter. I checked out CR, but in reality it just wouldn't have made a difference if we bought a Toyota RAV or Subaru Forester for the same deal. Even the vehicles further down CR's list are for the most part probably fine. Also CR has always had a particular take on what represents value in a car. Some long term subscribers might be dismayed they've gradually over the years recognized stuff like 'it's fun' to some limited degree. But it's still a pretty stodgy view for many people's car purchases, including some of our other car purchases in recent years.

It's definitely not though that online user reviews have really replaced CR on a quality level.

SuperGrafx
Posts: 242
Joined: Sat Apr 05, 2014 11:36 pm

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by SuperGrafx » Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:07 am

tydas wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 6:11 am
CR liberal stances on certain issues has pissed off a lot of their readers
Agreed 100% there.

Their reviews are pretty lackluster and basic as well.

User avatar
tcassette
Posts: 169
Joined: Wed Aug 12, 2015 12:20 pm
Location: Southeast Tennessee

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by tcassette » Tue Aug 21, 2018 3:13 pm

missingdonut wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 9:41 am
My father was a subscriber for years, and I eventually decided to get a subscription a couple years ago.

What turned me off of resubscribing was that the useful information that I expected to see in the magazine was now behind a paywall, and that I started receiving mailings nonstop. I figured that with the money they spent on mailers, they could have instead given me the online access to what I really wanted to read.

It's too bad.
This is one of the reasons I unsubscribed after many years. Another reason is the focus on expensive, high end appliances and vehicles. I feel that the amount of money they have spent of buying samples of products that probably only the top 1% would buy could have been put to better use, such as giving print subscribers free access to the online information. Also, for the last year or two I subscribed, the amount of white space or pictures in the print version overwhelmed the text information, resulting in the useable information in the already reduced page count to be practically nil.

MichCPA
Posts: 856
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2018 9:06 pm

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by MichCPA » Tue Aug 21, 2018 3:37 pm

They tend to fall in love with certain brands (Subaru, Honda, Tesla) and causes. They also tend to throw fits about things that have easy fixes for publicity (Apple) or use past products to to judge current products that have been improved (Microsoft Surface products, GM and Ford autos). I mean Subaru forgot to freaking weld the roof onto the Ascent and Impreza correctly and they are still recommended.

They are still worth looking at for a car purchase because many other reviewers skew toward the boy racer variety, but they aren't a one stop shop with unimpeachable integrity.

vencat
Posts: 234
Joined: Thu Sep 10, 2009 6:30 pm

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by vencat » Tue Aug 21, 2018 7:20 pm

Why subscribe when you can have free online access through library? Seems I do. Should remember to use it before next major purchase......

Northern Flicker
Posts: 5070
Joined: Fri Apr 10, 2015 12:29 am

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by Northern Flicker » Tue Aug 21, 2018 8:15 pm

Resistance to change, OTOH, is closely linked with highly flawed human decision-making. I remain unconvinced that those born in the BD era can easily overcome this. 
I'd guess a minimum of 90% of AD technology was invented by people who were already adults during the BD era.
Index fund investor since 1987.

PhilosophyAndrew
Posts: 642
Joined: Sat Aug 13, 2016 10:06 am

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by PhilosophyAndrew » Tue Aug 21, 2018 10:20 pm

nisiprius wrote:
Sun Aug 19, 2018 10:14 am
The great mystery to me is that Wikipedia is highly reliable. A study in 2005 on science articles in Wikipedia found it to be about on a par with the Encyclopædia Britannica in accuracy and in number of "serious errors." I think Wikipedia has improved since then. Something about its rules and governance works well. I keep wondering if there is anything identifiable about it that could be applied to other online information sources. It's not obvious why it works. The odd thing is that much of its structure and governance was designed by Larry Sanger in its pre-Wiki days as peer-reviewed, authority-written Nupedia... and that Sanger's effort to found an improved Wikipedia, Citizendium, has gone nowhere. I think it's gone nowhere.
This brings back memories — Larry Sanger recrutrdnme to be a subject editor on Nupedia, and I remember the email conversation when Jimmy Wales mentioned the concept of wikis.

I thought the idea of Wikipedia was ridiculous and predicted that it would go nowhere because of lack of quality control. Predicting the future is hard, and it is easy to dismiss good ideas that conflict one’s own dogmas, as the idea of Wikipedia did to me when I was so invested in the academic hierarchy embedded in Nupedia.

Andy.

User avatar
bertilak
Posts: 7021
Joined: Tue Aug 02, 2011 5:23 pm
Location: East of the Pecos, West of the Mississippi

Re: Consumer Reports ?

Post by bertilak » Wed Aug 22, 2018 10:45 am

GmanJeff wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 11:57 am
The magazine seems to increasingly focus heavily on advocating for what it characterizes as as pro-consumer regulatory activity by the government, implicitly or explicitly exhorting subscribers to engage in corresponding political activity. I used to enjoy the magazine when it simply conducted reasonably in-depth product evaluations.
You've hit on what caused me to drop CR way back in the '70s!

Their review of lawnmowers focused entirely on one safety feature: automatic shut-off when your hand let the handle. Any mower without this then-new feature was immediately dismissed as "unacceptable" with no further review of things like power, drive mechanisms, durability or reliability. CR had embraced the beginnings of the "nanny state." I started to notice that there were other things subtly (or not?) advocating political positions.

Bye Bye CR. Objectivity had dissolved into the bathwater. Has the condition metastasized over 45 years?
May neither drought nor rain nor blizzard disturb the joy juice in your gizzard. -- Squire Omar Barker (aka S.O.B.), the Cowboy Poet

Finridge
Posts: 677
Joined: Mon May 16, 2011 7:27 pm

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by Finridge » Wed Aug 22, 2018 10:04 pm

I don't find CR as useful as I used to. But does the value of what I still learn from it more than make up for the subscription price, adn the time I spend looking through it?

Absolutely. It is still a good investment.

krafty81
Posts: 251
Joined: Thu Jul 05, 2018 2:01 pm
Location: San Diego, CA

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by krafty81 » Thu Aug 23, 2018 12:15 am

Interesting discussion and I am dismayed at how many people have lost faith in CR. One of the most useful early publications from CR I used was The Money Book, I think it was called. Best advice around back then. I have migrated to online CR but I still do not make a major purchase without consulting the website. I do look at Amazon and study any source I can find, but I usually go with CR. Except for the crappy icemaker on my Samsung fridge, they have never let me down. I would never buy a non CR recommended used car.

User avatar
Mursili
Posts: 103
Joined: Tue May 15, 2012 8:32 pm

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by Mursili » Fri Aug 24, 2018 8:56 am

krafty81 wrote:
Thu Aug 23, 2018 12:15 am
Except for the crappy icemaker on my Samsung fridge, they have never let me down. I would never buy a non CR recommended used car.
We recently re-subscribed to CR after quite a few years without. Our house is getting to the point where we will need to be replacing various things and I thought it would be a good investment. I am still trying to understand if it has been a good investment.

We probably bought the same refrigerator as you. Our ice maker does not work...

(I guess I could point out that CR has some fine print in there that says that things like ice makers are much less reliable than the refrigerator itself. Still, my family really likes to use the ice maker.)
When it comes to havoc, no one wreaks like me! - Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz

jehovasfitness
Posts: 553
Joined: Mon Jan 22, 2018 2:26 pm

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by jehovasfitness » Fri Aug 24, 2018 9:26 am

Do people under 40 use it?

None of the people I know do. Just the people at work that are 60+

kind of like newspapers really

User avatar
DanMahowny
Posts: 994
Joined: Sun Aug 06, 2017 8:25 pm

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by DanMahowny » Fri Aug 24, 2018 9:41 am

Yep. It's an "old people" rag.
Funding secured

Trism
Posts: 590
Joined: Mon Jul 18, 2016 6:34 pm

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by Trism » Fri Aug 24, 2018 10:34 am

phisher4 wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 7:55 pm
I lost all respect for CR after they laid off the staff of the consumerist, an amazing (but now defunct) milennial-run consumer-focused website.

I do believe they're toast. I'd give it another 10 years, at most, unless they get rid of Maria Tellado, the CEO, and make some other wholesale changes.
For a while after stumbling upon Consumerist I stopped by daily for occasionally-useful information delivered in an entertaining way.

After a few months I realized that all they were doing was alternating between stories about listeria outbreaks and updates on the Takata airbag fiasco. It got so annoying I stopped reading entirely.

The number of grammar and spelling errors in their stories was atrocious.

lazydavid
Posts: 2647
Joined: Wed Apr 06, 2016 1:37 pm

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by lazydavid » Fri Aug 24, 2018 10:54 am

MichCPA wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 3:37 pm
I mean Subaru forgot to freaking weld the roof onto the Ascent and Impreza correctly and they are still recommended.
At the risk of derailing the thread, Subaru sold nine Ascents with missing welds that have to be recalled, and the first report of it was last week. Hardly a systemic issue that taints an entire brand. I have not seen any reports of roofs not being welded onto the Impreza, can you share please?

Broken Man 1999
Posts: 3774
Joined: Wed Apr 08, 2015 11:31 am

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by Broken Man 1999 » Fri Aug 24, 2018 11:10 am

I just received the bill for my subscription and two gift subscriptions. But, I am not renewing. The items reviewed (especially in appliances) aren't the ones I see in the places I shop.

If I were in the market for a used vehicle, I might find the thousands of reported issues by CR members on their particular vehicle useful. Wife and I have had only two used vehicles in our entire driving life. So, interesting reading, but no real value to us.

Not much in the magazine that I find useful, at this point in my life.

And, there is more than just a whiff of nanny-ism and activism in the current content of the magazine. There always has been some, but it seems there is much more. Same reason I didn't like AARP after a couple of years and dropped them.

Broken Man 1999
“If I cannot drink Bourbon and smoke cigars in Heaven than I shall not go. " -Mark Twain

TBillT
Posts: 818
Joined: Sat Sep 17, 2011 1:43 pm

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by TBillT » Fri Aug 24, 2018 12:12 pm

I still get CR but in certain areas they take political correct side of argument/green cars etc get blind support sometimes.

bhsince87
Posts: 2642
Joined: Thu Oct 03, 2013 1:08 pm

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by bhsince87 » Fri Aug 24, 2018 3:00 pm

xb7 wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 9:22 pm
Like Nisiprius and Dratkinson, I go to the 'databases' portion of my county library system to search for CR reviews.

Somewhat off track here, but FWIW more recently I've started to, well I guess you would say "subscribe" to a service called Texture. You pay $10 per month --- yes, another of those dreaded monthly expenses that FIRE aspirants eschew, and what you get is sort of Netflix for magazines. Something like 200 magazines in digital format, with quite a few back issues available for each, and Consumer Reports is included. Couple that with buying a 10" Amazon tablet on Prime day or other sale, optionally throw in a pair of drugstore reading glasses, and I find this to be a fine magazine-reading experience. I don't touch magazines in the doctor's office anymore, or the dentist's (who needs to pick up second-hand germs that way), and really ditto the local library. Nor do I want physical magazines cluttering up my house.

But when traveling, browsing through a variety of magazines works for me, it's something I can easily interrupt. I just took a train trip and had a good time with these going both directions. And sometimes at home it's nice to skim through magazines without the same sort of mental commitment that a novel can entail.

I just very recently signed up, however, so maybe I'm still in the honeymoon period and the thrill will wear off.

What I would really like would be if they carried "The Economist", but they don't. Fortune, Forbes, Money, Bloomberg Businessweek, Bloomberg Markets are all in there, however. Ditto I'd love to see Scientific American, but their only related magazine is "Popular Science". Still, a lot of content, and they do carry "Wired", which I enjoy.

Kinda funny, but I first signed up for AOL back in the day because they offered a similar service! The money I saved from cancelling magazine subscriptions more than covered the cost of AOL.
"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace." Samuel Adams

randomguy
Posts: 8531
Joined: Wed Sep 17, 2014 9:00 am

Re: Consumer Reports ?

Post by randomguy » Fri Aug 24, 2018 3:54 pm

Taylor Larimore wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 8:48 pm
windaar:

I have subscribed to Consumer Reports for may years. In my opinion, it remains, by far, the best independent source of consumer information.

Best wishes
Taylor
I agree it is the best. The question is being the best good enough to be useful. I have drifted toward the nope end of the spectrum. For most items you can google around and get a half dozen independant reviews, read them all and draw your own informed opinion. Personally Ihit the library before I buy a car and that is about it.

xb7
Posts: 177
Joined: Sat Jun 09, 2018 6:13 pm
Location: WA State, USA

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by xb7 » Fri Aug 24, 2018 4:41 pm

"For most items you can google around and get a half dozen independant reviews, read them all and draw your own informed opinion."
Part of the issue for me is "how independent is independent?". I tend to shop for things on Amazon, and for anything I really care about I look at both https://reviewmeta.com/ and https://www.fakespot.com/ to gauge the quality of the reviews. Too often the particular brand and model of item that seems optimal in other ways has mostly bogus reviews, so it can actually make the shopping experience harder and occasionally frustrating ... but. Better to know!

I bought a freezer for my daughter recently and used the online product data from CR via my public library. The typical CR experience for me is that I find a particular brand and model that seems best, then I go out looking to buy that model and either it's not the current one for sale, or is more expensive than it should be (because it's not the current model being sold anymore). So I maybe buy what seems to me to be a "most similar" model in hopes that the review goodness applies equally well. The other experience is that CR often seems to channel me to just a couple of brands; for freezers it seemed like I was only seeing models from Kenmore and Frigidaire that looked good via the CR ratings. One always does wonder if this results from a truly objective test of a wide range of products.

Still. For bigger ticket items especially, "more is better" when it comes to review data, one just tries to calibrate the quality of reviews insofar as is possible. I think that in terms of doing that with CR, we're all of us a little like the group of blind guys approaching an elephant from different vectors.

Ninnie
Posts: 390
Joined: Mon Oct 05, 2015 12:17 pm

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by Ninnie » Sat Aug 25, 2018 9:33 am

drk wrote:
Sat Aug 18, 2018 2:52 pm
I'm a Millennial and have never used Consumer Reports. The few times I would have, I ran into a paywall and went elsewhere. In the zeitgeist, it's like Reader's Digest or Life magazine.
This. I'm Gen X and agree 100%.

I actually have free access through work and on the occasions that I've thought to check their reviews I've found them pretty useless and far less helpful than other online sites.

User avatar
TheGreyingDuke
Posts: 1658
Joined: Fri Sep 02, 2011 10:34 am

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by TheGreyingDuke » Sun Aug 26, 2018 8:28 am

xb7 wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 9:22 pm
Like Nisiprius and Dratkinson, I go to the 'databases' portion of my county library system to search for CR reviews.

Somewhat off track here, but FWIW more recently I've started to, well I guess you would say "subscribe" to a service called Texture. You pay $10 per month --- yes, another of those dreaded monthly expenses that FIRE aspirants eschew, and what you get is sort of Netflix for magazines. Something like 200 magazines in digital format, with quite a few back issues available for each, and Consumer Reports is included. Couple that with buying a 10" Amazon tablet on Prime day or other sale, optionally throw in a pair of drugstore reading glasses, and I find this to be a fine magazine-reading experience. I don't touch magazines in the doctor's office anymore, or the dentist's (who needs to pick up second-hand germs that way), and really ditto the local library. Nor do I want physical magazines cluttering up my house.

But when traveling, browsing through a variety of magazines works for me, it's something I can easily interrupt. I just took a train trip and had a good time with these going both directions. And sometimes at home it's nice to skim through magazines without the same sort of mental commitment that a novel can entail.

I just very recently signed up, however, so maybe I'm still in the honeymoon period and the thrill will wear off.

What I would really like would be if they carried "The Economist", but they don't. Fortune, Forbes, Money, Bloomberg Businessweek, Bloomberg Markets are all in there, however. Ditto I'd love to see Scientific American, but their only related magazine is "Popular Science". Still, a lot of content, and they do carry "Wired", which I enjoy.
My public library uses an app, RBdigital, that gets me The Economist and The New Yorker, that suits my routine magazine needs quite well. No monthly fee.
"Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race." H.G. Wells

startwithtruth
Posts: 69
Joined: Sun Jan 14, 2018 3:35 pm

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by startwithtruth » Sun Aug 26, 2018 9:37 am

SanityCheck wrote:
Sat Aug 18, 2018 4:45 pm
What is interesting is to read the Consumer Reports online reports for a specific product (say a lawnmower) ; and then immediately read some of the CR "User Reviews" for the same product on their website ......quite a lot of "disconnects" where CR loves the item; and real buyers find endless problems with the same item !
This ^. We're shopping for a stove this weekend and the top rated gas, single oven models are universally hated by the buyers commenting on their site (and some other sites). I've used CR for years as I could be sure of the integrity of the reviews, but it seems to happen more often that their top picks turn out to have serious defects a short time later, and not sure why; does increasing complexity mean it's tougher to rate products for reliability?
jehovasfitness wrote:
Fri Aug 24, 2018 9:26 am
Do people under 40 use it?
I know a few - my late 20's daughters who know my CR online password :wink:

sc9182
Posts: 313
Joined: Wed Aug 17, 2016 7:43 pm

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by sc9182 » Sun Aug 26, 2018 10:38 am

startwithtruth wrote:
Sun Aug 26, 2018 9:37 am
SanityCheck wrote:
Sat Aug 18, 2018 4:45 pm
What is interesting is to read the Consumer Reports online reports for a specific product (say a lawnmower) ; and then immediately read some of the CR "User Reviews" for the same product on their website ......quite a lot of "disconnects" where CR loves the item; and real buyers find endless problems with the same item !
This ^. We're shopping for a stove this weekend and the top rated gas, single oven models are universally hated by the buyers commenting on their site (and some other sites). I've used CR for years as I could be sure of the integrity of the reviews, but it seems to happen more often that their top picks turn out to have serious defects a short time later, and not sure why; does increasing complexity mean it's tougher to rate products for reliability?
Sorry - there are two types of bias bakes in here 1) People with negative feelings/experiences talk/post/complain a lot/loud, especially with negative reviews 2) You most likely to see reviews (positive/negative) mostly on items which are in the ratings/recommended list, the ones which are NOT on their list or towards bottom of the list - won't get to talk about much there (or likely not worth talking much about)

Just a grain of salt.

Like we said - check CR for major purchases (don't lose sleep on smaller budget appliances/items). At the same time cross-check other online sites/reviews and sift thru for additional clues. If its a risk-prone item you still want/need it, (such as: oft breaking/error-prone in-the-door icemakers on refrigerators) then consider getting an 4-5 years extended parts+at-home-service warranty from one of those big stores - hopefully, it priced decently). They don't make good ole' Hobart commercial/Pro all-metal-gear, 30+ year lasting, type consumer appliances any longer. Just the way it is!

Wish they have good/latest reviews on home builders, and reviews on good mortgage company (and great rate :-) ! It be lot more fun !
Last edited by sc9182 on Thu Jan 17, 2019 6:48 am, edited 1 time in total.

rgs92
Posts: 2440
Joined: Mon Mar 02, 2009 8:00 pm

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by rgs92 » Sun Aug 26, 2018 10:53 am

Sometimes they come up with things I haven't read anywhere else and are new to me.
Like high levels of mercury in tuna, and exploding sunroofs in Toyotas, Hondas, and others.

So even if I get one bit of important info a year, it may be a really important one, so I keep my subscription.

Ha ha, they still recommend regular old mutual funds with 1% expense ratios. I read those articles for amusement.

moehoward
Posts: 270
Joined: Mon Mar 05, 2018 10:16 am

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by moehoward » Sun Aug 26, 2018 12:08 pm

drk wrote:
Sat Aug 18, 2018 2:52 pm
I'm a Millennial and have never used Consumer Reports. The few times I would have, I ran into a paywall and went elsewhere. In the zeitgeist, it's like Reader's Digest or Life magazine.
I'm a baby boomer and I have to agree with your assessment. CR depends on a subscription model which just won't work in today's market. I suspect many people like myself went down to the library to review CR products and never paid a penny for a subscription.

mariezzz
Posts: 847
Joined: Mon Oct 02, 2017 11:02 pm

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by mariezzz » Sun Aug 26, 2018 3:14 pm

lightheir wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 8:39 pm
It just got swamped by the speed and volume of online review like Amazon.

It also has become too easy to game cr reviews - if your small appliance gets bad reviews, you just change the name and its too hard to correlate. Happened every time to me when I pulled up stuff to buy - all the poorly reviewed one's were rebranded with new names.
Agree with the comments here about model proliferation being part of the reason why CR lost ground.
Also agree with the comments here about online reviews not at all the equivalent of what CR used to provide. It's far too easy to game the system & generate massive fake reviews.

One example:
Just recently, I was looking at earbuds on Amazon. When you look at the reviews, first of all, note that Amazon's default ordering is best on top. There's no way to permanently change this order in your account. With the earbuds, I started looking at the reviews of the ones getting the highest reviews. Without even putting much effort in, I found at least 6 items where the item had gotten virtually all 5-star reviews, usually in a matter of days, or at most, a few weeks. On one or two, others had even made comments in the review section that these can't be legitimate reviews.

How hard would it be for Amazon to write code that caught such blatantly false reviews? Not difficult at all. So why doesn't Amazon do this?

randomguy
Posts: 8531
Joined: Wed Sep 17, 2014 9:00 am

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by randomguy » Sun Aug 26, 2018 3:29 pm

mariezzz wrote:
Sun Aug 26, 2018 3:14 pm
lightheir wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 8:39 pm
It just got swamped by the speed and volume of online review like Amazon.

It also has become too easy to game cr reviews - if your small appliance gets bad reviews, you just change the name and its too hard to correlate. Happened every time to me when I pulled up stuff to buy - all the poorly reviewed one's were rebranded with new names.
Agree with the comments here about model proliferation being part of the reason why CR lost ground.
Also agree with the comments here about online reviews not at all the equivalent of what CR used to provide. It's far too easy to game the system & generate massive fake reviews.

One example:
Just recently, I was looking at earbuds on Amazon. When you look at the reviews, first of all, note that Amazon's default ordering is best on top. There's no way to permanently change this order in your account. With the earbuds, I started looking at the reviews of the ones getting the highest reviews. Without even putting much effort in, I found at least 6 items where the item had gotten virtually all 5-star reviews, usually in a matter of days, or at most, a few weeks. On one or two, others had even made comments in the review section that these can't be legitimate reviews.

How hard would it be for Amazon to write code that caught such blatantly false reviews? Not difficult at all. So why doesn't Amazon do this?
User reviews have limited value. You have no clue if the person reviewing standard is some 10k reference headphones or the .10 headphones that came with their phone. But most product categories have a half dozen quasi pro reviewers who can give comparisions.

michaeljc70
Posts: 6073
Joined: Thu Oct 15, 2015 3:53 pm

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by michaeljc70 » Sun Aug 26, 2018 4:54 pm

randomguy wrote:
Sun Aug 26, 2018 3:29 pm
mariezzz wrote:
Sun Aug 26, 2018 3:14 pm
lightheir wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 8:39 pm
It just got swamped by the speed and volume of online review like Amazon.

It also has become too easy to game cr reviews - if your small appliance gets bad reviews, you just change the name and its too hard to correlate. Happened every time to me when I pulled up stuff to buy - all the poorly reviewed one's were rebranded with new names.
Agree with the comments here about model proliferation being part of the reason why CR lost ground.
Also agree with the comments here about online reviews not at all the equivalent of what CR used to provide. It's far too easy to game the system & generate massive fake reviews.

One example:
Just recently, I was looking at earbuds on Amazon. When you look at the reviews, first of all, note that Amazon's default ordering is best on top. There's no way to permanently change this order in your account. With the earbuds, I started looking at the reviews of the ones getting the highest reviews. Without even putting much effort in, I found at least 6 items where the item had gotten virtually all 5-star reviews, usually in a matter of days, or at most, a few weeks. On one or two, others had even made comments in the review section that these can't be legitimate reviews.

How hard would it be for Amazon to write code that caught such blatantly false reviews? Not difficult at all. So why doesn't Amazon do this?
User reviews have limited value. You have no clue if the person reviewing standard is some 10k reference headphones or the .10 headphones that came with their phone. But most product categories have a half dozen quasi pro reviewers who can give comparisions.
I think on a site like Amazon reading the worst review (lowest ratings) tells you more than reading the highest ratings. I also like to look at the distribution of ratings.

Case59
Posts: 147
Joined: Fri Dec 30, 2011 12:31 pm

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by Case59 » Sun Aug 26, 2018 6:37 pm

I use online reviews a lot, particularly those of Amazon and Tripadvisor. Sure, you have to be aware of biases and gamers, but when a few hundred to several thousand people comment on a product or a service, you can get a pretty good picture. I think the reviews, properly read and used, provide way more consumer information than existed in the pre-Internet age. Tripadvisor by itself pretty much revolutionized international travel. (And yes, I'm aware that a hoaxer in England gamed a non-existent restaurant into being the top-rated restaurant in London.)

YMMV.
"Most quotations on the internet are incorrect."-Mark Twain

stvyreb
Posts: 93
Joined: Sat Nov 05, 2016 8:57 pm

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by stvyreb » Mon Aug 27, 2018 2:44 am

windaar wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 7:49 pm
For my Dad CU was the gold standard. And for much of my adult life it was for me too. It has been sad to see its slow decline which has mystified me, given the rep it had. A few years ago I was sent these cheesy "raffle tickets" from them that I had to opt-out of. Then they suddenly switched their venerable car buying info service to TrueCar, causing me to be repeatedly called by every dealer in my area. In the mean time, their print edition reviews needed to be supplemented by their for-pay online services. Now I get an e-mail that they settled a class-action lawsuit for violating the Michigan privacy laws. They were selling my personal info to 3rd parties without my consent. I can't imagine why they drove a sure thing into the ground.
to me anecdotes are of little worth. one should look at what the OP is premise, is CR "falling" ? or what proof is there of that, .....then, can argue why it is or isn't .

and probably never get to the bottom of it.

is it any surprise at all that your "personal info was being sold" ?

are they being driven "into the ground" ?

on the 1st point, that seem SOP nowadays, despite what the companies might tell you, on the latter, seems to be more a personal dislike of their marketing attempts :)

xb7
Posts: 177
Joined: Sat Jun 09, 2018 6:13 pm
Location: WA State, USA

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by xb7 » Sun Sep 02, 2018 11:25 am

TheGreyingDuke said:
"My public library uses an app, RBdigital, that gets me The Economist and The New Yorker, that suits my routine magazine needs quite well. No monthly fee."
Thanks for that! I had tried Zinio some time back and concluded that it was more trouble than it's worth. With the change to RBDigital it seems better. I might or might not keep the texture thing (monthly fee ...), but for any who might be interested, a hasty comparison to suggest why some might want to pay for Texture.

Texture is much easier to use. With RBDigital I have to go and explicitly "check out" a magazine, and then later return it. With Texture I just download anything I want, the whole process is faster and easier.

At first I thought that only Texture offered back-issues, but looking again I see that I can get them via RBDigital too.

The RBDigital approach is that one "checks out" a magazine, so I was at first wondering if I might find that I couldn't check out a particular issue --- that's certainly the case with eBooks. But for everything I tried just now I was able to check out the magazine. Also, I was surprised to find that there's no deadline. With eBooks I have 3 weeks to read the digital book. With RBDigital magazines, the FAQ says that there is no return-by deadline. Surprising, but nice.

Texture claims to include 200-some magazines, but a quick look suggests that RBDigital offers a few MORE than that (at least via my county library system), and indeed including some that Texture doesn't include --- for me, foremost here is the Economist (yay!), but also quilting magazines that my wife might like, Kiplinger's, Discover, New Scientist, Archaeology. OTOH, Texture certainly includes some that RBDigital doesn't. Including, btw, Consumer Reports, but also Bloomberg Businessweek, History, Cnet, ID, Forbes. Both include Wired, which I enjoy.

The reading experience using the respective apps seems similar, and both offer an Amazon-specific version of the app. For me this is significant as the cheapest way to get a 10" tablet (a big tablet is key to a successful magazine-reading experience IMO) is having a decent sized tablet.

I'll try using both for a month or two, and if the slower, more tedious RBDigital interface doesn't bug me too much I'll certainly drop the Texture subscription.

So again, thanks! I had written off the library digital approach after my first attempt seemed to be too much of a PITA.

Trism
Posts: 590
Joined: Mon Jul 18, 2016 6:34 pm

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by Trism » Sun Sep 02, 2018 11:47 am

missingdonut wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 9:41 am
My father was a subscriber for years, and I eventually decided to get a subscription a couple years ago.

What turned me off of resubscribing was that the useful information that I expected to see in the magazine was now behind a paywall, and that I started receiving mailings nonstop. I figured that with the money they spent on mailers, they could have instead given me the online access to what I really wanted to read.

It's too bad.
You probably figured wrong.

A decent ad campaign should bring in significantly more revenue than the cost of the advertising itself. For a lot of businesses, no advertising means limited/no growth.

If a company like Honda temporarily increases its ad spending, the cars don't go down in quality until the ad spending slows again.

missingdonut
Posts: 104
Joined: Thu Jun 23, 2016 9:37 am
Location: Donutville, WI

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by missingdonut » Tue Sep 04, 2018 3:58 pm

Trism wrote:
Sun Sep 02, 2018 11:47 am
A decent ad campaign should bring in significantly more revenue than the cost of the advertising itself. For a lot of businesses, no advertising means limited/no growth.
A decent ad campaign, absolutely. Is spending more mailing advertisements to me than I pay for subscription a decent ad campaign?

Trism
Posts: 590
Joined: Mon Jul 18, 2016 6:34 pm

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by Trism » Thu Sep 06, 2018 7:44 pm

missingdonut wrote:
Tue Sep 04, 2018 3:58 pm
Trism wrote:
Sun Sep 02, 2018 11:47 am
A decent ad campaign should bring in significantly more revenue than the cost of the advertising itself. For a lot of businesses, no advertising means limited/no growth.
A decent ad campaign, absolutely. Is spending more mailing advertisements to me than I pay for subscription a decent ad campaign?
Exactly much did they spend mailing you advertisements?

Castanea_d.
Posts: 191
Joined: Fri Dec 05, 2014 9:14 pm

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by Castanea_d. » Fri Sep 07, 2018 12:54 pm

I continue to read and mostly enjoy the print version of CR. For context, I am definitely in the "old as dirt" category (as someone here described it).

Having said that, I am not interested in most of the things they review. It seems like every second or third issue talks about flat-screen TVs. We do not have and will never again have a television. High-end appliances? We live in an apartment and the landlord supplies low-end appliances whether we like them or not. Lawn mowers? Grills? Forget it.

Cars? I enjoy the auto issue very much, but my wife and I have cars that will probably last for the remainder of our driving days, so the info is not that useful. Then again, we turned to CR when we bought the cars we now have and used their recommendations as a starting point.

[Edit to add: the medical info is increasingly relevant as we get older. I have learned a lot, and been alerted to a lot of things, such as arsenic in rice - of which we eat a lot.]

One thing for which I remain grateful to the "old" CR - when we first started investing a long time ago, I was being pushed toward tech stocks by a "friend," and it was CR who first alerted me to the fact that (a) individual stocks (tech stocks at that!) are a crapshoot, and (b) a mutual fund with a 5% front-end load, 12b-1 fees, expense ratios in the 2% range (such as the can't-miss tech fund my friend recommended) was maybe not as good of a choice as some of the low-expense Vanguard funds that regularly topped their mutual fund reviews. We ended up putting our precious first $3000 into Vg Equity Income and it proved to be a very good choice, and even more so, it started us off on a good path. Thank you, CR.

mouses
Posts: 3941
Joined: Sat Oct 24, 2015 12:24 am

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by mouses » Fri Sep 07, 2018 1:37 pm

nisiprius wrote:
Sun Aug 19, 2018 10:14 am
Indeed. I knew something had changed when I was talking to a language companion in Spain, who mentioned that she never read newspapers or watched TV news. I asked her how she gets her news and she said "Facebook."
Until facebook did away with its news runner in its top right corner. Now it's pretty much a zero for news.

The only news source I have any confidence in now is the BBC. I used to pay actual money for the nytimes, but I encountered too many unbelievably biased articles in the last few years. They've become like a horrible example for 8th grade civics class. Their public editor used to hold up examples, then she left and they hired someone else, then they did away with the position. I wonder why (isn't there a sarcasm emoticon somewhere...)

Finridge
Posts: 677
Joined: Mon May 16, 2011 7:27 pm

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by Finridge » Fri Sep 07, 2018 7:52 pm

mouses wrote:
Fri Sep 07, 2018 1:37 pm
nisiprius wrote:
Sun Aug 19, 2018 10:14 am
Indeed. I knew something had changed when I was talking to a language companion in Spain, who mentioned that she never read newspapers or watched TV news. I asked her how she gets her news and she said "Facebook."
Until facebook did away with its news runner in its top right corner. Now it's pretty much a zero for news.

It's even worse than that. Many (most?) people's source of news is links and "memes" that their friends post on FB. Many of these are low quality, and even fraudulent.

Actionable item: We need to seek out our own sources of quality news. Myself, I prefer a range of several different sources that cover the range of the political spectrum and other different perspectives (for example the Atlantic provides a very different perspective from the WSJ, and we can benefit from reading both.) I think the NY Times is one of the best sources in the country, and do not regret the time I spend reading it, but I would never depend on any one news source. Regarding CR, I still read CR, and find it to be useful.

killeenwizard
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Feb 15, 2019 2:03 pm

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by killeenwizard » Sun Feb 17, 2019 2:55 pm

My thoughts on CR, reviews, and ratings.

I wish more sites offered pay-per-page, such as via https://contributor.google.com. I'd actually read some sites more than I do now (I stop when the ad-supported freebie views run out, or I switch to incognito mode or a different browser), and I might even find myself paying more than I'd pay for a lump sum subscription.

Another option would be YouTube, and monetizing from the YouTube ads, or YouTube Red (which I subscribed to just once, so far, to watch a YouTube-only show).

As others have mentioned, a big issue is that it's so easy to create variations of a base model, including custom variations for a mom-and-pop website ("guaranteed cheapest of this model or we'll refund twice the purchase price!").

As for reviews themselves, modern products take so many things into account that's its hard to pick which is the best out of a wide range of models, each with a critical variation. And that's when the reviewer is picking for themselves; it veers into impossibility when you try look at what individual people want. Before the internet, you had a handful of models available for everything, and you could find them all at or through your nearest Sears, which used to have the thickest book (catalog) most people ever saw. Now you have all models worldwide available. The only reason people still speak (mostly)- positively about CRs car ratings is because there are only so many models which are street-legal; they can literally compare every base model, including significant variations, and the minor variations are usually add-ons, not a separate model.

You can't really say anything meaningful when you have thousands of vendors all selling the same (open-sourced?) identical design; if you praise one, you're implicitly dissing the others which are exactly identical for all practical purposes, which means your review is biased.

Personally, I like the sites which let you filter items in detail, and I don't mean relatively trivial stuff like color (I'm sorry, but if you want your COMPUTER (not a laptop or tablet), which will probably be hidden in a cabinet, to be a particular color, just get a can of spray paint. Or did you know you can just buy your own case?). Even the specialty areas/sites are sometimes maintained by people who clearly don't know what they're talking about; they don't seem to know that these two terms refer to the same thing, and those other two terms aren't even related, and this filter list here frankly doesn't provide enough info without researching each item individually.

Many many sites have ratings but no statistics. An item with a rating of 5 from a single person is far less interesting to me than a rating of 4.5 from 184748 people.

I prefer ratings which are itemized; usability, value, would you buy it again, etc. The one-number-fits-all rating is often too vague.

Reviews:
* professional reviewers -- look at everything whether it interests them or not.
* user ratings -- only look at things which interest them (which relates to good advertising); things like price can affect whether they even look at the product itself.

Personal and enterprise use have different requirements. With enterprise use, you'll have people who'll use the laptop as a hammer, etc., so you don't want flimsy junk.

"Independent" is worthless when you have an agenda.

Some manufacturers offer a short warranty or charge a lot for an extended warranty, which makes me ask "if you don't have faith in your own product, why should I??"

Does it say anything that almost no-one tells you about return statistics? If lots of people return something, I'd consider that highly suspect.

User avatar
munemaker
Posts: 4147
Joined: Sat Jan 18, 2014 6:14 pm

Re: Consumer Reports ?

Post by munemaker » Sun Feb 17, 2019 4:12 pm

Taylor Larimore wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 8:48 pm
windaar:

I have subscribed to Consumer Reports for may years. In my opinion, it remains, by far, the best independent source of consumer information.

Best wishes
Taylor
I have never subscribed, but I always buy the annual auto issue in the spring, even when I am not in the market for a new car. In my opinion, it is the only solid source for vehicle reliability.

In the old days, when I had a problem, I would think I just had bad luck. Once I started following CR recommendations, I found how reliable a car can be. Car problems are not just bad luck; it is due to the design and manufacturing of the vehicle. Usually if you have a problem, thousands of others have the same problem.

badger42
Posts: 504
Joined: Thu Apr 09, 2015 9:01 am

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by badger42 » Sun Feb 17, 2019 4:18 pm

Northern Flicker wrote:
Sat Aug 18, 2018 7:31 pm
It's not surprising to me that older individuals are clinging to dinosaur media (of all sorts). A great deal of the world's population did not grow up in a time with this degree of agency as a result of an unprecedented access to information and power. In this new AD era, we are living in a time of unprecedented possibility. One can choose to take advantage of it or not.
I call this new AD era the “Age of Misinformation” given the high rate of inaccurate, misleading, or flat out dead wrong information published online.
Not really - as a member of the xennial cohort, Consumer Reports is something my parents had a lot of trust in for no apparent reason. Even before digital, their reviews mostly touched surface features and missed the big picture.

For anything where I have any sort of domain expertise, their reviews are basically a joke.

And no, I have never subscribed to them, nor do I intend to. For things where I don't have expertise, Costco's buyers have a better hit rate than CR's reviews.

andypanda
Posts: 390
Joined: Sun Nov 12, 2017 9:11 pm
Location: Richmond, Virginia

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by andypanda » Sun Feb 17, 2019 6:02 pm

"Resistance to change, OTOH, is closely linked with highly flawed human decision-making. I remain unconvinced that those born in the BD era can easily overcome this."

Do you have facts to support your opinion that all of us old people are hopelessly stuck in the past and unable to change? For the past 40 years or more I've been told that old people invented computers and then the internet.

Rus In Urbe
Posts: 533
Joined: Sat Dec 09, 2017 2:12 pm

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by Rus In Urbe » Sun Feb 17, 2019 6:33 pm

Gill » Tue Aug 21, 2018 9:13 am
Taylor Larimore wrote: ↑Fri Aug 17, 2018 8:48 pm
windaar: I have subscribed to Consumer Reports for may years. In my opinion, it remains, by far, the best independent source of consumer information.
Best wishes Taylor

I agree,Taylor. I have subscribed for at least 50 years and it has saved me countless thousands of dollars and aggravation. I find I don't read it as thoroughly as I once did, but that's likely because I don't buy as much as I once did :happy .
Gill
+1

I've been a CR subscriber for many years. In addition, I contribute to the nonprofit organization that publishes the magazine, which does not take advertising and which spends a lot on independent testing of products ($25 million in 2016, for instance). Some corporations have a history of cutting costs or creating unsafe products, as long as it does not catch up to them and affect their bottom line. CR has a long history of being an important advocate for the consumer (a stance unpopular in some circles). It has saved us a lot of money over the years, as well as introducing us to consumer issues that have benefitted us. While we don't buy a lot of things, when we do, we want the best quality and we do our research through CR.

Online reviews? I don't trust them one whit. Companies have hirelings fill those public review spaces with positive reviews about their products, and negative ones about their competitors. Perfectly legal practice and widespread. Corporations dangle incentives for positive reviews and product placements; there are conflicts-of-interest baked into reviews found on store/distributor sites.

These days it seems no one is willing to pay for quality (unbiased, fact-based, independent) information. And nature, as we know, loves a void . . .
I'd like to live as a poor man with lots of money. ~Pablo Picasso

Atilla
Posts: 1401
Joined: Tue Feb 09, 2010 7:44 pm

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by Atilla » Sun Feb 17, 2019 6:39 pm

Consumer Reports made it clear many years ago that their biases on what is important didn't match mine. Fair enough, they made their choice and I made mine. I wrote them off so long ago I can't remember when it was.
Moderator Warning-Free Since 2017.

Broken Man 1999
Posts: 3774
Joined: Wed Apr 08, 2015 11:31 am

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by Broken Man 1999 » Sun Feb 17, 2019 7:27 pm

I let three print subscriptions expire last year, and last week took my online CR auto-renew off. So I won't have an CR at all after March-April time frame.

Broken Man 1999
“If I cannot drink Bourbon and smoke cigars in Heaven than I shall not go. " -Mark Twain

go_mets
Posts: 439
Joined: Wed Oct 21, 2015 11:49 am

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by go_mets » Sun Feb 17, 2019 8:16 pm

Atilla wrote:
Sun Feb 17, 2019 6:39 pm
Consumer Reports made it clear many years ago that their biases on what is important didn't match mine. Fair enough, they made their choice and I made mine. I wrote them off so long ago I can't remember when it was.
What have you replaced them with?

With companies paying for good reviews I don't trust much except maybe the aggregate reviews on Amazon.
Even then I am not I trust those reviews 100%.

SrGrumpy
Posts: 1193
Joined: Wed Aug 05, 2015 3:21 pm

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by SrGrumpy » Sun Feb 17, 2019 8:26 pm

Rus In Urbe wrote:
Sun Feb 17, 2019 6:33 pm
Online reviews? I don't trust them one whit.
I admire your skepticism. But if 20 people at different sites say a CR-approved item is a piece of junk, I would be inclined to go with them - especially if they have pix, video, full sentences. The fatal flaw with CR is that they review stuff out of the box; but how is that vacuum cleaner working after 6 months? 12 months? (I mention vacuum cleaner because I once bought CR's top pick and it is now a white elephant.)

User avatar
Time2Quit
Posts: 244
Joined: Thu Nov 01, 2018 9:47 am
Location: Fridgid State

Re: The Fall of Consumer Reports

Post by Time2Quit » Sun Feb 17, 2019 8:33 pm

Atilla wrote:
Sun Feb 17, 2019 6:39 pm
Consumer Reports made it clear many years ago that their biases on what is important didn't match mine. Fair enough, they made their choice and I made mine. I wrote them off so long ago I can't remember when it was.
+1
"It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor." --Seneca

Post Reply