November 23, 2009
Consumer Reports has unveiled its latest public-education campaign that takes aim at pushy holiday-season retail practices. The campaigns centerpiece is a full-page ad in USA Today that will run on November 24, 2009 that highlights three of the top holiday-shopping annoyances as determined by a nationally-representative survey of Americans by the Consumer Reports National Research Center.

The list of holiday annoyances that Americans were asked about was generated by the readers of Consumerist.com, a member of the Consumer Reports family.

The ad takes the form of a Dear Shopper letter highlighting pushy holiday-season practices and the percentage of Americans that find them annoying:

• 52 percent said pushing store credit cards at the register;

• 58 percent said cashiers that ask for phone number or other personal information; and

• 62 percent said being hounded with the extended warranty sales pitch.

The ad goes on to highlight closed checkout lanes as 72 percent of consumers were annoyed by stores that never open all of the checkout lanes.

This ad holds up a mirror to the American public, letting them know that they are not alone this holiday-shopping season, said Jim Guest, president and CEO of Consumer Reports. Consumers have told us that they just want a hassle-free and convenient shopping experience. We really hope this list of holiday annoyances is a wake-up call for the retail industry.

Previous Consumer Reports public education campaigns during the holiday period have focused on gift cards, extended warranties and consumer debt.

In 2007, the organization took on the retail sector and the ubiquitous gift card with a full-page ad in the New York Times, which advised consumers that $8 billion in gift cards go unused and wind up back in the pockets of retailers. The campaign called on retailers and the National Retail Federation to eliminate expiration dates and service fees.

In 2006, Consumer Reports took out a full-page ad in USA Today advising consumers to skip the extended warranty. That ad was rebutted by a full-page ad one week later from the Service Contract Industry Council. Following this campaign, the Consumer Electronics Association reported consumer interest in purchasing extended warranties fell 20 percent.

As part of the public-education campaign, Consumer Reports will also launch a holiday shopping hub at www.ConsumerReports.org that will reveal the full list of complaints and offer consumers advice on how to be prepared this shopping season.