Is Consumer Reports Truly Unbiased?

Consumer Reports — a magazine published by Consumers Union, a non-profit organization which strives to advocate products and services recommended for the consumer and “whose mission is to work for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves” — listed Delta Air Lines as one of the worst of greater than 100 companies on their annual “Naughty or Nice” list.

The reason they cite is as follows:

“This bold pitch from Delta was impossible to overlook. When our reporter booked a domestic economy flight (the restricted fares most people choose) via the carrier’s website, Delta offered him the chance to “add convenience and peace of mind.” “Flex this fare for just $737,” the offer shouted, as if you’d be crazy not to jump at the deal. Trouble is, our reporter’s super-saver fare was just $248, so Delta was tripling the price to make it refundable. Gee thanks.”

While I agree that paying three times the amount to convert an airfare to a refundable one can certainly be considered excessive, Delta Air Lines was straightforward with its attempt to convince the consumer to pay more for the airfare — and the consumer can clearly choose not to accept the offer. I do not fault Delta Air Lines for attempting to increase revenue — as long as it is not shady and underhanded about it, which to me is not the case in this instance.

Delta Air Lines is not exactly known to FlyerTalk members as being straightforward about changes in its policies, as numerous examples in the Delta SkyMiles forum such as this one can attest. However, FlyerTalk members believe that the credibility of Consumer Reports has been reduced as a result of this report.

I agree.

I remember when Consumer Reports was the de facto standard in terms of protecting the consumer. I was a subscriber to their magazine for many years, but allowed my subscription to lapse when it recommended a particular dishwasher — I forget at the moment whether or not it was considered a “Best Buy”, which is their highest standard of recommendation — only to have the control panel of the dishwasher start to smoke one day several years after I purchased it, with that awful electrical burning smell permeating my home. Not that I would advocate leaving certain appliances unattended while they are operating, but I am convinced my home would have burned down if the wash cycle was left to continue uninterrupted.

I will not mention that the brand name of the dishwasher is Whirlpool, nor will I comment on the satisfaction record of their dishwashers — but I digress.

Some FlyerTalk members suggest that someone employed by Consumer Reports had “a bone to pick” with Delta Air Lines. I am not sure that I would go that far, but I do agree with FlyerTalk member roknroll, who posts that “a reputable magazine should assign people to a story who actually know something about the industry.

Does this mean that the claim of Consumer Reports being unbiased is not true?

I really have nothing against Consumer Reports, but I have found their advice — especially in areas where I have professional or expert knowledge, such as travel, photography and anything to do with the graphic arts — less than reliable and knowledgeable in recent years. It is a real shame, as I used to rely on their advice for many of my purchasing decisions.

Nevertheless, Consumer Reports is not completely wrong with its “Naughty or Nice” list. Consider its mention of Spirit Airlines, which is an airline claiming to have amongst the lowest airfares but offsetting the savings with ridiculous fees — such as charging up to $100.00 on a one-way flight to stow a carry-on bag in the overhead compartment. I agree with Consumer Reports wholeheartedly on this one.

Consumer Reports should concentrate more on protecting the consumer where it really affects his or her finances — such as investigating faulty exterior siding or interior plumbing in homes and advocating in the legal system for better protection from policies and defects currently hidden from the consumer where the consumer has no recourse and can cost thousands of hard-earned dollars — not chastise Delta Air Lines for being up-front about an unpopular policy, in my opinion.

One more thing, Consumer Reports — the official name of the company is Delta Air Lines, not Delta Airlines. How can I expect you to be careful about protecting me as a consumer if you cannot even take the extra minute to research and be careful in using the proper name of the company you are criticizing?

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Comments (Showing 1 of 1)

  • silver6054 at 8:45pm November 27, 2012

    >especially in areas where I have professional or expert knowledge, such as travel, >photography and anything to do with the graphic arts — less than reliable and >knowledgeable in recent years.

    I suspect that has always been true. Many years ago I remember reading on some board something like “As an computer expert, I always laugh at CRs reviews of PCs, they get so much wrong. But I read their reviews of power saws very seriously. Then I realized that somewhere, a carpenter is doing the exact opposite.”

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