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” Pricegrabber.com.

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®, ConsumerReports.org®, 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 BizRate.com. 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

Two bizarre events which require explanation

  1. A few weeks ago, I reported a software bug to Bank of America. Their alert system was properly notifying me when my credit card was used overseas, but the amounts in the alert email were multiplied by 100. This caused a seizure the first time, but after I got it, I called them. A nice smart person said she’d forward it to Engineering. Last week the bug was fixed.
  2. Today, my T-Mobile Sidekick decided it was a brick instead of a phone, and refused either to see my SIM card or to see the network. I called up T-Mobile. “Joe” answered on the second ring and told me I needed Sidekick Tech Support. I punched in my phone number and hung up. Five minutes later they called, and the nice smart tech walked me through resetting my radio firmware. In a total of 15 minutes the phone was totally fixed.

DEAR LAZYWEB

  1. What phone headset should I get? I do not yet have bluetooth. My phones, both cordless on landline and wireless, have 1.5mm plugs. Previous headsets have been flimsy and had such bad sound quality that everyone insisted I stop using them. Suggestions?
  2. I may need to dump my Sidekick and get a new PDA. My needs are: a terminal program that does ssh; a web browser, however small; a decent email program. I’m looking at Blackbery and Treo and some other smart phones but would be interested in hearing about what you think.
  3. I know the blood runs hot when defending technologies, so don’t flame each other or I’ll give you such a PINCH.

It’s. A. Shoe. Store? (Hello, Jeanketeers!)

So, I was trying to find a cheapass pair of cheapass flip flops to replace my worn-out cheapass flip flops. And of course, I end up at the excellent zappos.com. Not finding what I need, and realizing for other reasons that I am way poorer than I thought this week, I gave up buying anything. And then I sorted the flip flops by price seeing “highest first” just to see how nutty that was. It was about this nutty. ” Rejuvenate your warm-weather-wardrobe with these high fashion thong sandals” indeed, at $240. But that wasn’t the good part! The good part is the random customer testimonial that Zappos chose to put on that page, which I quote in full below.

Dearest Zappos Customer Loyalty Team — Zappos is like nothing I have ever encountered in a store, online or otherwise. The promptness of service, total ease of return (you guys really know how finicky shoe freaks are!), constant inquiry as to how you may serve us better, and your customer evaluations (which have helped me tremendously in evaluating a particular brand/type of shoe) all create the “perfect” shopping experience! I have even told total strangers (who I perceived were frustrated in shoe-shopping) about you; and, have shared your .com address with everyone I meet who evidences any inkling of being crazy about shoes (the latest was the admitting clerk at Palestine Regional Hospital!). It is really refreshing and comforting to encounter the spiritual-material balance in your concept of merchandizing. This is difficult to explain; but, Zappos takes away some of the “guilt” I feel in buying more-and-more shoes instead of sending more money to Hope International or Heifer International or Catholic Medical Missions…or any of the multifarious, marvelous organizations “out there” who are helping create a healthier world. Because you reveal the people behind the product, you bring home the truth that by our high standard of living (which includes having more than two pairs of shoes: Sunday-go-to-meeting and every-day), we are able to provide the income for numerous folks who will, in turn, contribute to all sorts of worthwhile social programs to renew our Mother Earth! Yes, I do realize that there may be a fine line between Imelda Marcos and one who appreciates comfortable footwear; however, as I try to stay on the “good” side of the line, I certainly appreciate Zappos.com! (Have you ever considered contributing a percentage of every shoe purchased to Hope International or Mother Theresa’s Missions or some such worthy cause?) God hold you all close, “in the very hollow of His hand” (an old Gaelic blessing)! Sincerely, Di M

~ Di M, June 05 2006

dell.

I’m getting a dualcore pentium desktop box from them. Nice fast processor, 2 gig of ram, lotta disk. About a grand and no interest on the loan. It’s a good deal, especially since I’m replacing a nine year old computer with one that’s likely to be overpowered for my needs as a headless linux box for the next nine years. No monitor, no speakers, no “productivity software” or anything like that.

The things you can’t opt out of are funny. Everything is a part number, even if it’s just a marketing bullet point, probably because their computer system was set up to demand that, so my order included the following

Order Group Quantity Item Description
1 1 420-5769 Internet Search and Portal
1 1 420-3224 Broadband Icon for Inspiron
1 1 983-2207 Thank You for buying Dell

are this how i am buying computer machine

Dear Lazyweb:

I may need to buy/build a new linux box soon, for home server use. So, I probably need to get an x86 box because I don’t want the new hobby of making PPCLinux replace the iggy box on the blue G3. Therefore, I need either to buy a prebuilt system or all the parts in a sack so I can screw them together.

I don’t need:

great graphics
sound
gamer anything
windows anything

I do need:

hardware that plays nice with recent linux
a decent processor, preferably dualcore
lots of RAM
good I/O so I’m not always horking because the disk is running
good cooling features
expandibility for drives and cards
ports ports, ports, ports

I might end up just doing a Dell BYO box because I have credit with them and I’d never pay interest on their plan, it’s no interest for 18 months. I’m sure I’d be paying extra because brand name, but I also get 6% off and no shipping cost there because of a corporate deal. It won’t be perfect and it’ll be about $1800 for what I want to do, but it will be on payment and done.

But If someone has a preferred vendor for this kind of thing or a suggestion of how to do this way better for way cheaper, I’d be delighted. What I don’t want is to go to Fry’s, or spend six weeks nerdinating learning all about exactly the best combination to get 0.05% more efficiency. I’m going to upgrade from a 300MHz Gateway Pentium II box from 1997 that’s been doing good service for years, so I don’t need my edge to cut much less bleed.