Consumer Reports, the product testing magazine from Consumers Union is famous for separating the great products and services from the lousy ones. They are decidedly pro-consumer and so I created a little experiment to put their own customer service to the test.
Last year I received an offer in the mail from Consumer Reports. It was basically a flyer with some tips from past issues and a “no-obligation free trial” of the magazine. According to the offer, I would receive a sample issue of the magazine plus two free books, How to Clean Practically Anything and the 2009 Buying Guide.
The offer said that my free books were truly FREE and that “You will never be asked to pay a penny for them and are under no obligation to subscribe when you accept them.” If I simply wrote ‘cancel’ on the invoice I’d owe nothing and keep the complimentary issue and books for free.
I have to admit, I saw this as a opportunity for a great blog post titled “Consumer Reports Fails at Consumer Service.” My reasoning was that I had tried such offers with other magazines before. I’d write cancel on the invoice and continue to receive the magazine and ever more threatening invoices labeled second, third, final notice, etc. I had no reason to believe that Consumer Reports would be any different. And so I set my plan in motion to expose the hypocrisy of Consumer Reports, fully expecting that they too would bombard me with repeated notices for payment. Friends of consumers, yeah right. I’d have my data and could write a scathing blog entry, ha ha ha!
Within a few days of sending in my offer, my complementary issue arrived. A few weeks later, I received my books. Then, a second issue and finally my invoice. I suspected that they had fallen for my trap. Since they had already sent a second issue, and the offer only entitled me to one, I figured they’d argue that I hadn’t canceled in time and owed them for the annual subscription rate. I promptly wrote cancel on the invoice and sent it off. Then the waiting for my additional invoices began.
A few days went by without any new invoices. Then weeks passed. Still nothing. Now it’s been many months and I still haven’t received even one single piece of mail soliciting payment, reconsidering a subscription, or anything like that. I did receive one offer from a third party that I thought might have been generated from their mailing list, but even that could have come as a result of my being a subscriber during the trial period.
I must say that I was rooting for Consumer Reports to fail my simple test. They couldn’t really be as consumer friendly as they seem, right? Wrong. Consumer Reports gave me everything they promised (and more, i.e. two free issue vs one) and handled my cancellation flawlessly as well. My confidence in Consumer Reports was already fairly high, but this experiment raised it even higher. So rest assured that they have your best interest in mind and read their magazine regularly. You can find Consumer Reports at most libraries, or subscribe if you prefer. In addition to great content, you’ll know that if you change your mind, your cancellation will be handled in as consumer-friendly a way as you would expect from the champions of the consumer.
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