Apr 21, 2009

Bad report on Consumer Reports

I need to buy a dishwasher and want to pick a good one. Amazon reviews are OK as far as they go, but it’s easy for people to post bogus reports, so I thought I’d check ConsumerReports.org. All the good stuff is available to subscribers only. I don’t have a problem with that and I’d been thinking about responding to an offer I’d got in the mail anyway. I didn’t feel ready to spend a couple of hundred dollars right then—I was in no hurry. So I dropped the easy postcard in the mail. It was cheaper than the subscription offer on the website.

After awhile I got my first issue and the “Consumer Reports recommends..” book, plus “How to clean anything.” Separately, I got my invoice, which said you could pay online. I tried.

First, it was hard to find the payment section of the website. You’d think it would be a good business practice to make that the easiest thing to find. Eventually I found it and filled out all the information. Guess what? “Submit” didn’t work. (Don’t you like the way applications always order you to submit to their commands? Once we become submissive, can they push us around?) I tried refreshing and reentering and no luck.

I was annoyed enough that I went to the “contact” page and shared my criticism of the website’s usability. As a consumer, I said, I was giving them a negative report. I didn't expect anything more than the automated "thanks" response email, and didn't get any more than that either.

OK. I used my online bank to send a payment with my subscriber number. I received a couple more invoices, but my check was cashed. Another invoice or two and they stopped. Cross-referencing their billing and payment databases is still in the dark ages. Do they still use tape drives, I wonder?

Some time has passed since then because I was feeling poor, but I recently got a check for an editing job and decided I could stimulate the economy. Plus, I’m getting sick of dishes that come out of the dishwasher with more food on them than when I put them in. I will make sure to buy a U.S.-made one.

Cool – now I’m entitled to use the full Consumer Reports online recommendations. Aaah, the website is just as hard to use as before. It gives me ten ways to subscribe, but I can’t find out how to log in as a subscriber. OK – let’s check the “help.” No surprise now, I can’t find a link labeled “help.” I check “my account.” By entering my name and subscription number from the label on an issue of the print magazine, I learn there that I do indeed have a paid subscription through January 2010.

Back to the website, still baffled. I go to “Customer Service” where they advise me to use the FAQs. For “problems logging in to the website” I find several useless pieces of advice, then finally – Being a subscriber to the magazine DOES NOT give you a subscription to the services on the website. That’s another $19. There’s an explanation about the cost of a nonprofit maintaining a website like theirs.

Should I send them an invoice for the waste of my time?
Copyright @ 2005-2014 by Karen Wilhelm