Despite weak labor markets and a still-tough economy, most Americans will spend as much or more than they spent last holiday season, according to a poll released yesterday by the Credit Union National Association and Consumer Federation of America. But before most shoppers hit the stores or book their last-minute holiday travel, they might want to consult a new “Naughty and Nice” list out from Consumer Reports.
The informal list—part of the publication’s holiday educational campaign—evaluates how customer friendly (and wallet friendly) various company policies are based on the input of Consumer Reports staff who cover shopping, travel, hospitality, telecommunications and other areas.
"Our goal isn't to laud one company or put down another, but to call out specific policies that we think put consumers first or put them behind the eight ball," said Tod Marks, senior editor and resident shopping expert at Consumer Reports, in a statement.
So who are the ‘naughtiest’ offenders? Near the top of the list is budget air carrier Spirit Airlines, for charging its passengers $30 to check a bag or $45 to stow it in an overhead bin at the gate. By contrast, Southwest Airlines, which ranks first on the ‘nice’ list, allows passengers free carry-on luggage and two pieces of checked luggage free of charge.
In the wireless world, the lists pit Verizon Wireless against U.S. Cellular, deeming the latter the kinder of the two for alerting customers when they’re about to use up their minutes so they can avoid overage charges. The list classifies Verizon as ‘naughty’ for recently doubling its early cancellation fee to $350 for subscribers who quit their contract after 30 days.
As for electronics, the lists single out computer superstore CompUSA and Best Buy for harsh customer policies—CompUSA for transferring a returned-item restocking fee of up to 25% of the original price, and Best Buy for giving customers a narrow 14-day window to return many products including computers, monitors, camcorders, and digital cameras. According to the list, a ‘nice’ alternative is electronics superstore J&R, which has a more straightforward return policy and offers customers price adjustments on purchases or orders should they find a lower price within 30 days.
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