Are the folks at Consumer Reports a bunch of idiots?

48" I meant.

I don’t doubt that this happens with certain items, but the list of cameras I gave is their current list of top-rateds (, and the magazine version I have open in front of me says “Most models available through September 2006” which, as shown above, is BS. For most of the listings in my previous post, it’s not a question of the store saying “sorry, out of stock”, it’s a question of the itme not even being listed in the catalog. Most of the cameras are not given the treatment of current items by the companies who manufacture them. IOW, Consumer Reports is recomending cameras that have not been widely available in months, to say the least. They are woefully behind the curve.

As I said, what I was outlining was another problem. I wasn’t trying to suggest your problem wasn’t also real.

You are however being a little unfair. Firstly, you say their top five picks are “unavailable” when three out of five that you list clearly are available to at least some degree. Secondly, it’s not CR’s fault if things aren’t available till when the information given them (no doubt by manufacturers) says. Thirdly, for a camera model (which would typically be on sale for quite some time) to be out of stock three months early is not that long. It is entirely possible that the lack of availability now (instead of from September) is because the sales and stock estimates weren’t made on the assumption that the camera concerned would be listed in CR’s top five. Thirdly, your information is from websites, so it is fluid. Once a model is sold out, they aren’t going to list it but say “sold out” they’re just not going to list it.

No so fast there Bup read Balance’s story and then hear mine.
Back in the 1980’s Volvo built two different series of cars that were imported to the US and reviewed by Consumer Reports. The 240 and the 740. The non-turbo 740 had the exact same engine and transmission as the 240. The engines and transmissions were built in the same factories. The cars were assembled in the same factories.
Yet CR rated one of them as above average in reliability for engine and trans, and the other below average for the same. :confused: WTF?

Second bitch about CR they are the kings of apples to avocadoes comparisons. Back in the early 1970s I worked in the tire department of a Montgomery Ward store. I had several people tell me they would not by Ward’s tires because they rated so poorly in a CR test. I finally got one guy to bring in a copy of the issue. CR had compared the top of the line Sears/Michelin radial tire to the cheapest nylon bias ply tire Wards sold. They compared a $10 tire to a $60 dollar tire.
It did not surprise me at all that the Sears tire did better. :wally

Third bitch. They do things like compare peanut butter to say which one tastes best. Sorry boys but taste is an individual thing. The one you like the best, might not be the one I like the best. That does not make me wrong our you right. It just means we like different things.

It’s simple- if it’s made by Toyota or Hoinda, it gets the highest rating. Even if it’s a brand new model. :rolleyes: Next, the reliability ratings aren’t objective- they are entirely by subscriber vote.

I have ranted about this before. One huge problem is that CR uses completely unrealistic car prices to compare- they use list prices! (Note, they don’t always use list prices, sometimes for other products they list a normal discount price). Let us take two cars- a Toyota and a Ford. Assume very similar autos, same niche and everything. The Toyota will have a price a couple thou over the Ford, and for that price is a better car. But the list prices has very littel to do with the real price of cars. Financing is a huge profit item for Toyota, while Ford often has a 0% financing sales campaign. That saves around $3000. Frod is more eager to deal than Toyota- that can easily save $2000. Trade in- Toyota will lowball you there too, so that’s another $1000. So, while indeed the Toyota is a good deal at only $2000 more than the Ford- it’s a crap deal at **$8000 ** more! And CR knows Toyota dealers are bad- they *used to * run a poll “satisfation with the deal”. But somehow, after years of showing Toyota about the worst, and Saturn the best- CR decided to stop printing that important peice of info. Someone told me that CR doesn’t print info about good deals as they want you to pay for their deal service. :mad:

We dropped the CR subscription a couple of years back, but I’d noticed some of these same problems, especially tested models that weren’t available anywhere.

The other big thing that bothered me about them is that, even when testing supposedly inexpensive products, the products they tested were priced well above what I saw in the stores and in the ads. You’d never know, reading CR, that you can get a pretty good vacuum cleaner for $50 at WallyWorld, or a pretty good desktop computer for $300 at a bunch of places if you read the Sunday ads for a couple of weeks.

Since I do a fair amount of bottom-feeding in my appliance shopping, I got tired of this disconnect between what was in CR and what I was considering buying, and stopped subscribing.

There are a number of things that aren’t CR’s fault…except for deciding to publish rated lists of items that by now they should know have nothing to do with what the consumer will find in the store or at Amazon.

It’s a result of the fast turnaround cycle and bizarre (to me) profit structure of tech companies. In the early 1990s I temped as an equipment technician for the marketing AV department at the Bose factory. Right about then they were gearing up for inside sales of the Acoustimass system (the original two little tweeters plus hidden bass box setup). There they were, strategizing about how they could play up its strengths, minimize its weaknesses, etc.

Meanwhile, every exec had the Acoustimass MkII, which fixed all the flaws and had better sound overall, sitting on their desk. R&D and manufacturing on it was all done, but because some genius in accounting had Acoustimass I as some separate line item than Acoustimass II, millions were going to be spent rolling out version I, when, IMO, they could have sold II at a higher price to make up for the R&D on I. Version I was expensive enough that most people who would have bought one would not have immediately turned around and bought II when it came out, in my estimation. So they were going to sell less of II in order to spend more money trying to sell as many of I as they could. Doesn’t make sense to me.

But, then again, Bose is still in business*, so what do I know?

I have had similar experiences with software developers.
*Opinion was in my department at the timethat if Bose hadn’t managed to garner a big reputation for itself to the point that they could charge an arm and a leg for their stuff, they would have gone under years ago.

OK, time for another of my Sears stories :slight_smile: . A lady approached me with what I could tell was a page printed off a website, and says, “I’m looking for a garage door opener, and my son says to buy this one.” I take the sheet, and, sure enough, it’s printed off of the CR website for the screw drive GDO that they have given a “best buy” rating for. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but I maybe know something she doesn’t. I say, “Sure, that’s a great opener; but do you mind me asking a few questions before you make your decision?” She agrees, and I quiz her about where she lives (Snowmass), if her garage is attached to the house (by a breezeway, not an interior wall), and if it is heated in the winter (no). I also ask where her son lives (Florida).

Well, I had seen the complete hell my manager had been through the previous winter, when a fellow who lived up in the mountains had found he had to manually open his door during the coldest part of winter because the grease in his screw drive opener had congealed to the point where it would no longer operate in his unheated, detatched garage.

I recommended that she buy a chain drive opener, and why. She left the store, and I’m sure she called her son. She came back in and bought the chain drive, and was pleasantly surprised that it cost less than the model she had originally come in for.

The problem with items not being available in stores is not the fault of Consumers Reports.

Especially in electronics & technical products, the big chain stores like Best Buy, Circuit City, etc. order their own models from the manufacturers, with their own model numbers on them. Often just one of the manufacturers standard models, but with a few slight cosmetic changes, but a different model number. And their contract specifies that they can’t sell to anyone else with that model number.

This is specifically done to prevent consumers from doing comparisons – they can’t go across the street to the competitor and compare prices on the same item. And their models are not the same model number as those tested by CR, so their sales clerks can argue that the problems reported in CR don’t apply to this model.

There have also been cases where manufacturers have taken advantage of this, too. If a model is given a very bad rating, they may change the model number on all the new ones coming out of the factory, to try to escape that bad rating.

And if a model gets a good rating, manufacturers will continue using that same model number on a new, cheaper version of the product. This has been going on for years in cars, where a good model name will go from mid-sized to compact to sub-compact over the years, but still keeping the same model name.

Also, given the fast pace of model introductions in electronic items, it’s not surprising that the reviews are months after the item is introduced. They have to buy the item, spend time testing it, write the article and then wait for a 2-3 month production schedule before the magazine is delivered to your house. CR buys actual products from a store.

Their reviews could be earlier if they accepted pre-intro ‘beta’ samples from the manufacturer, like many of the electronic magazines do. But it’s quite likely that such ‘reviewer samples’ are carefully checked & tuned by the manufacturer before being sent out, unlike the ones a customer would find in a store.

I actually owned one of the Dodge Omnis (actually, it was a Plymouth Horizon, but they were identical), so read the report carefully.

You may have overstated it a little, but not much. As I recall, the test was their standard accident avoidance manuver, where the wheel was suddenly jerked to the side, as if to avoid something in your lane, but not to the lock. After that, the wheel was released, not turned to the opposite lock, and the car was supposed to straighten out. The Omni/Horizons overcorrected, and came close to rolling over, and probably would have without the outriggers they used.

I nicknamed the car “the rollover deathtrap”, and continued to drive it from 1978 until 1994. I figured if you thought letting go of the wheel after an accident avoidance was a good idea, you ought to die.

Not a bad car all in all, I paid $3706 for it, brand new, and drove it for close to 120,000 miles, and this was in upstate New York, where the road is heavily salted from November through April.

My 1985 Omni was a neat little car. 2.2 liter engine, 5-speed, went like stink. The upholstery (a kind of corduroy) wore like iron. Drove it for 236000 miles.

Amazingly, being expensive and difficult to repair is an inherently good trait to some people. Look at BMWs.

We buy tons of stuff for no other reason than it’s expensive. Look at diamonds, expensive cosmetics, etc. They’ve done studies where people won’t but a product at one price, but will buy it at a price several times higher.

In any case, the true market for SubZero fridges and the like is not the truly rich (who couldn’t care less what their cooks keep the food in), but rather the insecure middle class that is eager to do the things they perceive as being something a rich person does. This market seriously would not buy the same thing if it were cheaper.

OK, the “predicted reliability” rating is based on reader feedback from those who send back the survey form. So you WILL have cases of products with identical important components (e.g. engines) getting widely divergent results on reliability if CR did not classify them as “twins” – for instance, what if it happens that relatively more owners of model “B” are disgruntled, maybe because it’s the upline model and they’re pissed that it’s really no better than the economy model.

With anything subject to Moore’s Law (technology) they ARE too slow to get the report to press – I figured that out long ago, that most of the list will be either superceded by new models or will be going for a much lower price. I look to those articles mostly for the satisfaction/frequency-of-repairs statistic, keeping in mind the self-reporting phenomenon.

Third, I do notice they’ve kind of “de-contented” some of the ratings, such as for instance the questions on the car purchase deal. And they’ve kind of muted down what used to be every year a major, huge push for learning to haggle down the price on cars (in which I recall, they often DID point out that Honda and Toyota were less likely to play around). Now it’s briefer and less insistent than I used to recall it; either they feel the job is done or they gave up, I’m not sure.

Overall I’ve found their product evals, when compared with my real-world experience, to be a decent overall guide, though it should not be the sole source. I remind myself that anything that scores within one standard dev of the top rated or “best buy” product will be equivalent for most practical purposes.

And sorry, guys but I sent my questionnaire the other day and I still gave my old excitement-proofed Toyota Camry boremobile pretty decent marks. (I also gave good marks to my Frigidaire and my GE range – those are still American, aren’t they?).

Yes but CR claims to deal in facts not perceptions.
Perception != reality

Never worked in political campaigns, huh? :wink:

I wonder if anyone’s ever tried to sue CU for deceptive advertising about their ratings, as opposed to for specific product disparagement or testing method.
Actually, having taken many CU surveys, the usual format of the question is for you to identify the make and model of the car/fridge/whatever and answer a series of “ecstatic/satisfied/unsatisfied/pissed” alternatives about various aspects of the product, and/or a series of questions to the effect of “in the past year did you have a mjor failure or unexpected repair of [the product; or, of this list of components, check those that apply]”, with sometimes an added q. about how much it cost. They tell you they mean significant expense, damage, hassle or downtime but kinda leave it up to you to be on the honor system to not be a whiner about every last imperfection.

So it’s a “fact” that they got a survey result that indicates a Honda Civic is more reliable transportation than a Dodge Neon. But it’s up to us to be aware that certain items in the reports are arrived at through the methods of social sciences, not physical sciences. Maybe CR needs to be more modest about that but it doesn’t bother me. (I’m unhappier with the change in the way the CU board is elected, now by slates rather than individually)
BTW, I’ve noticed that folks unsatisfied with CR tend to be quite vehement about it, for some reason.

I bought a Toshiba HDTV they recommended and it has been great, FWIW.

In my book, Consumer Reports has ZERO credibility.

In the early to mid 90’s we bought a new Dodge Caravan after having read a good review, including quality ratings, etc.

Our transmission went out at 10,000miles and again at 20,000 and again at 30,000, each time replaced under warranty. The mechanic at the last dealership (a friend of my wife) took us aside and told us to sell this car before the 36,000 mile warranty ends because it’s a huge problem with these cars that it is not going to get fixed.

So I did some research and found the following:
The transmission had been a known problem and used in various models since 1988.
There was incredible pressure from consumer groups (Ralph Nader) and class action lawsuits for Chrysler to fix the problem.
For Consumer Reports to miss or ignore this information basically indicated to me they are either:
Paid by manufacturers to list products and not say too much negative
Not very good at researching and determining quality of products.

Well, the CR Annual Report shows that consumers gave the Dodge Caravan a black mark for “transmission” in every year from 1997-2000. Maybe more in earlier years; only the last 8 years are shown.

And the CR list of “Used cars to avoid” lists Dodge Caravan or Grand Caravan 6 times, covering pretty much all the years from 1997 thru 2004.

So it seems like CR is pretty clear in saying that lots of consumers reported problems with Dodge Caravan transmissions (and brakes were even worse).

Unfortunately that was about 4 years too late for a tranmission that was a known problem for 5 years prior to my purchase of the car.

Their “Selling It” column is usually entertaining. And the original essays in the book version were very entertaining.