Last weekend at the wedding I attended, I spoke for some time with Matt from Consumer Reports. He works in the auto division, and he filled me in on how Consumer Reports does its research.
When CR evaluates products, employees approach the companies as typical consumers. For example, rather than the companies sending CR souped-up “review models,” like they do for other consumer review outfits, CR employees will go to a dealership “under cover,” haggle with the salesman, and purchase a car. This way, they’re getting the same deal and the same car everyone else gets.
This is how the non-profit organization operates for all of its products. From their mission statement:
To maintain our independence and impartiality, CU accepts no outside advertising, no free test samples, and has no agenda other than the interests of consumers… We buy all the products we use as test samples. We receive no special treatment. We accept no free samples. If a manufacturer sends us a free product, we return it.
Tomorrow I’ll post a quick blurb from their latest issue about what their undercover consumers discovered about “data brokers” like ChoicePoint — companies that sell your personal information without allowing you complete access.