Dear Consumer Reports: an Open Letter

I have trusted Consumer Reports since I was a child for product ratings. Your policy of no advertising and no commercial use has been admirable and useful, and I’ve always been happy to pay for the service.

Now your website has a shopping section. The explanatory paragraph says that it’s intended to provide a safe, unbiased environment for shopping, and that you’ve surveyed us customers and found just the right places to shop. It also says that it’s “powered by”

So this means that you’ve cut a deal with Pricegrabber to send your members to their service. Pricegrabber is not a charity and anyone in the business knows how these things work. You have taken your very valuable membership as a commodity and rented us to an outside commercial service.

Your noncommercial use policy says: ” We are not beholden to any commercial interest. Our income is derived from the sale of Consumer Reports®,®, and our other publications and information products, services, fees, and noncommercial contributions and grants.”

What are the terms of your deal with Pricegrabber, exactly? What exactly are the criteria by which you or Pricegrabber choose vendors and products for the shopping site?

Consumer Reports is not Neither are you AAA, or any of the other “organizations” that sell your membership to affiliates.

How much money will it cost you to dump this shopping nonsense, and when will you do it?

There’s no way to maintain the fiction that you’re following a noncommercial use policy at the same time that you’re selling your customers to a generic Internet shopping portal.

Thanks in advance for your reply.

Note: This was also sent via their website as a Letter to the Editor

dogmatic statement

A restaurant, the name of which is formed by making a possessive out of a noun not traditionally used as a given name, but which is descriptive or evocative of the restaurant’s food or entertainment or the ethnic group which produces said food, will be a bad restaurant. Examples: Chili’s, TGI Friday’s, Taquito’s. Corollary: A restaurant named similarly but with a plural instead of a possessive will be more expensive and marginally better, but rarely worth it. Examples: Plums, Scallions, Tapas. Second corollary: Any business named in the former naming category is sure to be an unpleasant franchise and should be avoided. Example: Tire’s Warehouse.

Fish list: what happened?

The Fish List is gone. Or at least its home page is, and points back to the Seafood Choices site. The list itself remains, but I don’t know when it was last updated.

This is weird and sort of disturbing. The Fish List was a project among the various organizations who had been keeping lists of environmentally less stupid fish to buy and eat. The Monterey Bay Aquarium, a couple of environmental groups, and a seafood industry group had managed to cooperate enough to make a good list of which fish were more reasonable to eat and healthier. I can only assume the alliance collapsed for some reason. So now we have competing fish lists. The ones I’d seen recommended as pretty authoritative before have differing objectives.

For now I’d recommend the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch which has lots of good info and also little downloadable cards in .pdf so that you can know what you’re doing when buying and eating.

I am a consumer whore…

…and how! I have Space Invaders Shoes now. They are invading your space. Please note the sole, which imprints an invader and “One Point” as I walk.

I found these after my original quest for the limited edition Space Invaders Vans shoes ended in failure; they were apparently a Japan only very limited thing.

Space Invader Shoes: Sole

Space Invader Shoes.

aquarius order!

I’m a fanboy for a record store! I just realized this. That hasn’t been true for me since Rhino Records Westwood in about 1986, so this is new and fun. I’ve been shopping at Aquarius online and in person for years now. Yes, I ordered a Jack Palance record, a pipe organ record, and tibetan monks. Also a re-release of a 1981 compilation of crazy-ass artpunk music, which makes more sense for me.

You ordered:
1 cd V/A Keats Rides A Harley
1 cd MONTALBA, GEORGES Pipe Organ Favorites / Fantasy In Pipe Organ And Percussion
1 cd PALANCE, JACK s/t
1 2cd V/A Tibetan Buddhist Rites From The Monasteries Of Bhutan Vol. 1

comments: Hey! If you by any chance have the new Jello/Melvins record “Sieg Howdy”, could you add it to this order and let me know? if you haven’t seen it yet. If not, I’ll either get it from A.T. or wait until you get it.

Also, you guys are so amazing that I want to move to San Francisco. Actually, I want to move to San Francisco and live right near your store and then just go there and hang around all the time. You better hope I don’t win the lottery because that’s what I’ll do. That, and two chicks at once.

Today’s CPSC Recall: The Not a Walking Stick

You will see, Watson, that this is no ordinary walking stick. Note the pouch full of darts and the fiendishly clever bamboo gunsight! I wrote a monograph on this particular piece of South Seas devilry…

Name of Product: African Blow Dart Guns

Description: The blow dart gun is a 51-inch long decorative wooden tube with an attached pouch containing five darts. The brown, bamboo-shaped gun has a black, small barrel-like container attached to the top.

Hazard: Consumers may have mistakenly purchased the dart guns thinking it was a decorative walking stick, posing the risk of injury if someone used the gun for its intended purpose.

I just want to see under the sink

I’ve been shopping online for flashlights today, and found what I needed. In the process I temporarily had to enter the insane world of flashlight geeks.

Because the flashlight is a phallic symbol, and because shining a light in someone’s face is a dominance display, flashlight geeks are primarily male. They live in a Tom Clancy world of military fantasy in which the guy with the best gear wins. Let’s read this description of the SureFire E2D Executive Defender:

An advanced technology Xenon lamp that produces a spot-free beam so intense it can momentarily blind an attacker (four times more lighting power than a standard two D-cell flashlight), and its crenellated Strike Bezel™ allows it to be used as a last-ditch impact weapon. Constructed from aerospace-grade aluminum coated in a super rugged military-specification finish, the pocket-size E2D Defender also features an optically-coated Pyrex® lens; high-energy, ten-year shelf-life lithium batteries; a steel pocket clip, and law enforcement-style click-on/off momentary switching for blinding flashes or emergency signaling. A patented lock-out tailcap allows the light to be locked in the off position to eliminate accidental activation when stowed away

And here it is:



Even better is the M3 Turbo Combatlight, a “Special Operations Flashlight”:

The SureFire M3T is a specialized illumination tool designed to project a tightly focused beam of intense white light at greater ranges than the standard M3 CombatLight . Featuring a 2.5-inch TurboHead reflector to tightly concentrate the beam for longer-range applications, the M3T is CNC machined from aerospace-grade aluminum and coated in a military specification Type III hard-anodized finish that is so tough the knurled handle of the M3T can be used to saw through the aluminum of lesser flashlights. Powered by three lithium batteries (10-year shelf life), the M3T CombatLight™ produces 125 lumens of light for over an hour, or 225 lumens for 20 minutes with the included ultra high output lamp (that’s 15 times the output of a typical 2 D-cell alkaline flashlight). Like all lights in SureFire’s Special Operations Series, the M3T features a shock-isolated bezel/lamp assembly that can withstand the repeated recoil of a large caliber weapon. The M3T also features unique switching originally developed for law enforcement- twist for constant on, or depress the tailcap button for momentary illumination or emergency signaling.


$330. I really like the detail that it can saw through “lesser flashlights” in case an actual flashlight dicksize war occurs.

Don’t get me wrong. I like flashlights! I enjoy bright things, and technology, and geekery. And I need flashlights, because I’m always looking behind a computer to see where the damn cable went, or opening my front door when the porch light is blown out, or some other task. So I ordered a new keychain flashlight, because mine broke. It wasn’t $105, and I believe its aluminum is below aerospace grade and not coated with military spec flashlight coating from the special military flashlight coating plant. It is a lesser flashlight.

I hope I never have to have a flashlight fight with someone who’s geared up with the best of the best, though. I’d totally lose.