Consumer Reports Releases Annual ‘Naughty & Nice’ List

Discussion
Nov 20, 2012

It turns out that Santa isn’t the only one keeping a list. Heading into the Thanksgiving Day weekend, Consumer Reports (CR) has published a list of 20 companies that have particular policies that it sees as being either consumer friendly (nice) or unfriendly (naughty).

Among retailers making CR’s nice list are:

  • Kohl’s – The chain offers a "No Questions Asked – Hassle Free" return policy without a time limit on all purchases.
  • Nordstrom – Free shipping on all online purchases and returns.
  • Publix – The supermarket chain has put its policy of giving consumers products for free if there is a scanning error in writing.
  • Safeway – The grocery store operator backs up its promise of "fresh and delicious" produce with a refund or replacement if its shoppers are not happy with their purchase.

Among those making CR’s naughty list are:

  • Abe’s of Maine – The consumer electronics retailer’s fine print on returns pretty much negates its "30-day money back guarantee."
  • Forever 21 – The apparel chain has different rules for returns of items purchased in its stores and on its website.
  • Tiger Direct – Restocking fees run amok.
  • CompUSA – The site adds items to consumers’ shopping carts that need to be unchecked to avoid later being billed for the "purchase." (CompUSA is to be consolidated under the Tiger Direct brand by parent company Systemax, Inc. at the end of the year.)

 

Are there particular retailer policies that you would put on your personal “naughty & nice” list?

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19 Comments on "Consumer Reports Releases Annual ‘Naughty & Nice’ List"

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J. Peter Deeb
BrainTrust

To me the biggest “naughty” policy is the one that requires the consumer to sign up and use the store-only credit card as the only way to get savings. Many department stores and specialty chains utilize this tactic to save card fees and to make a customer “loyal.” This requires a customer to carry a wallet full of cards to take advantage of every store’s program.

To me, loyalty should be rewarded by the frequency and size of purchases that can be measured through an integrated POS system. More credit cards are not the way to keep customers. Good quality, at good value, tied to retailer record keeping is better.

Max Goldberg
BrainTrust

I would add Costco and Trader Joe’s to the Nice list. Both excel at customer service.

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

Unfortunately too many companies don’t get the meaning of user experience and lean towards the naughty (if not nasty) list.

I stopped being a customer long ago, but last time I wanted to return a $15 item to Best Buy, they demanded to see a driver’s license. Onerous return policies and the employees that arrogantly enforce them make for a bad user experience and top the list for ways to lose customers quickly.

Hassle free returns and free return shipping (a staple of the Internet of the future) top my nice list.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

Home Depot’s absolutely no hassle returns policy is clearly on the “nice” list.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
4 years 11 months ago

I don’t return much, but the frequent long lines at the customer service desks of Costco and Home Depot would annoy me if I did. I also don’t think much of having to have your receipt checked at Costco to prove you didn’t steal anything. But I understand it’s the world in which we live. Publix is terrific about handling any minor problem that crops up, which does not happen often anyway.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
BrainTrust

It is not surprising that four of the ten on the naughty list are either airlines, cable or phone service providers. Apparently these former regulated utilities still act like the government is the customer, rather than the consumer.

I would add two items to the ‘nice’ list: 1. Every return desk, physical or viral, would have signage or declarations that ‘the problem is ours, not yours’. In other words treat the customer with dignity and respect from the outset of the return process. 2. When the customer needs to return something because of a defect or seller error, provide some form of compensation (doesn’t have to necessarily be money) for failing to live up to promise made by the seller and the expectations of the buyer.

Kurt Seemar
Guest
Kurt Seemar
4 years 11 months ago

One of my personal pet peeves, and I don’t think I am alone here, needs to make the naughty list. It is the 16 year old sales associate trying to make me feel it’s a mistake to not pay a significantly additional amount for an extended warranty. When I say ‘no’ the conversation should stop, not go on for another 5 minutes on why I should buy it.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

Naughty list candidates include retailers who don’t staff up during the holidays, and who don’t carry gift boxes, or make it onerous to get them. You know who you are….

Carol Spieckerman
BrainTrust

On the naughty list: Any retailer that allows their employees to respond to “thank you” with “no problem.”

Bill Hanifin
BrainTrust

Top of the naughty list should be any service or product that is positioned in the shopping cart and must be “opted-out” by the consumer to avoid charge. In today’s consumer driven marketing world, this is an inexcusable practice and invites consumer backlash.

Next are the range of return policies that add fees, cost the consumer time, and create confusion. Why would any retailer execute these policies when the keyboard is just a few inches away from a potentially angry consumer?

On the nice list, service, service, service will top them all.

Phil Rubin
BrainTrust
4 years 11 months ago

My first reaction to the naughty list was surprise that a few of these companies (I’ll be “nice” and not mention them by name!) are actually still in business.

Sadly, Nice is such a basic concept. While the definition varies, it’s increasingly defined as transparency, no-questions-asked related to customer satisfaction and solving customer problems, and overall fairness. There are a lot of good examples in the discussion.

One “Naughty” that would be nice if it disappeared: consistent omni-channel pricing. It is offensive when a merchant offers a better price online then in-store. Again, I’ll spare examples πŸ™‚

Happy Holiday Shopping!

Liz Crawford
BrainTrust

Using access to shoppers’ personal information is a privilege, which shouldn’t be abused. In the best case, there is a clear opt-in/opt-out button. In the worst case,the seller acts like an “officious intermeddler.” That business school term describes the CompUSA practice of placing items in the shopping cart, without the consent of the buyer. Respecting buyers’ boundaries digitally will be an important part of gaining and maintaining trust as we become more digitally enabled.

Jonathan Marek
Guest

It is interesting that so many brick-and-mortar retailers are getting called out on the Nice list, especially around returns. Brick-and-mortar retailers have often siloed their online groups in the past, but the industry seems to be breaking through that. In standardizing return policies and encouraging return to store, they leverage an advantage that pure-play online retailers don’t have. I look forward to seeing more cross-channel integration tests in the years ahead, as the online-offline walls within retailers fall further.

Stan Barrett
Guest
Stan Barrett
4 years 11 months ago

C’mon, no one speaking up for Wegmans yet? Even this Sunday a.m. when I thought the store seemed a little off their game (still multiple light years ahead of local Safeway and Giant) they began opening up additional check out lines to get things moving right along! Keep in mind — they were only 2 at the most 3 deep when thought it was a personal crisis!

Tom Redd
Guest

Warning, these are very subjective but can either make or break my day…

Nice list:
One very convenient service on the ‘nice list’ is the ability to do price check on any item in the store (works great when you have multiple promos being applied).
100% Hassle Free returns.
Treating customers with respect and sincerity. (After all without them you would go out of business).
Finding a helpful store associate when you need one.

Naughty list:
Receipt checking when leaving the store (assumes everyone steals) and you stand in one more line after standing in line at the checkout.
Long lines at understaffed return desks during the holidays (can also process faster if they had a ‘no hassle’ returns policy).
Online retailers with no way of tracking my order once I place it.
Online retailers with variable and surprising shipment fees that you discover before the “submit order” button.
Finding holes on the shelf for products being promoted at the store.
Retailers that claim to know me online and have no clue who I am when I interact with them at the store.
Store associates selling products (e.g., electronics) without adequate product knowledge.

Kate Blake
Guest
Kate Blake
4 years 11 months ago

Forever 21 requires you to buy something else instead of getting your money back. Quality is so poor that I had an associate who was a fan return an item six times, each subsequent item had new flaws, but because of their policy she couldn’t avoid the endless cycle. She is probably still there at the mall today, two years later, trying to find something she can keep!

David Slavick
Guest
David Slavick
4 years 11 months ago

Home Depot without a doubt is the friendliest when it comes to returns/exchanges. Having a standalone register right by the front door is winner. The staff float between service and returns and are great listeners and quick on the register. The system works well on the return — scan, enter code, get credit. Or today, get a store credit and then go shop and use the gift card for the purchase.

My former employer, American Eagle Outfitters is outstanding when it comes to personal service and easy returns. The customer is “always right.” It fosters a friendly culture, keeps the checkout line moving and brings them back for more.

Exclusions on coupon offers — the “mice” type that rides along with many retailer offers is maddening. Why bother making an offer if all regularly priced goods are excluded and so are this brand, that partner service, etc.?

Mike Osorio
Guest
Mike Osorio
4 years 11 months ago

Generally the trend is to ‘nicer’ as the surviving retailers tend to be those who actually make decision based on the customer vs. short term financial results. Unfortunately too many retailers are still run that way and they will likely eventually suffer the fate of others that have perished.

The Nordstroms, Trader Joe’s, Kohl’s, and others will be the survivors long term.

justin tyme
Guest
4 years 11 months ago

Home Depot is the king of customer service and their no hassle return policy is the best in the industry.

If you are a contractor PRO, then you reap additional perks such as an associate with a tablet helping you with purchases, scanning the items as you shop, then downloading the order at the register where you settle the bill, and the associate even helps you cart and load your purchases. Sweet deal!!!

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