For the past two years, Consumer Reports has compiled what it dubs an annual Naughty & Nice List of company policies and practices that cover a gamut of industries, including automotive (BMW, Honda) apparel (Kohl's, Nordstrom, Forever 21) and even hospitality (Drury Hotels).
This year, the third time the group compiled such a list, I believe truckers can gain some good insights from the “naughty” and “nice” policies highlighted by Consumer Reports – particularly where the list touches on the concepts of adding fees and whether or not “extras” should be included in the base price for services.
Tod Marks, senior editor and resident shopping expert at Consumer Reports (and the dude in the video above), cautioned that the annual “Naughty & Nice” list should not be viewed as an overall rating for a particular company; rather it is designed to provide a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" on a specific policy or practice.
He also added that overly long “on hold” telephone waits and other such poor customer service traits aren’t enough to get added to this list. Rather, it’s an effort to really shine a light on specific company policies that can either improve or worsen a customer’s experience.
This list, by the way, is compiled based on input from Consumer Reports' reporters and editors who cover shopping, travel, hospitality, and telecommunications – as well from comments posted to the group’s Facebook page.
OK, so here are a few of the “naughty” and “nice” company policies and practices highlighted by Consumer Reports for 2012”
- Ticketmaster: The king of sports, music, and entertainment tickets charges customers $2.50 per order to print out their own tickets? That’s especially hard to justify since Ticketmaster will ship tickets for free via snail mail. But the company’s got that angle covered, too. If you choose to have your tickets mailed for free, Ticketmaster says they’ll ship within a leisurely 10 to 14 days of purchase, insufficient lead time for some events. Thus, you’re forced to trade up to expedited shipping (starting at $14.50) or choose to print then yourself. Gotcha!
- CompUSA: We have a pet peeve about so-called “freebies” automatically added to orders that force consumers to unclick the item so it’s not added to the shopping cart. When we shopped for a toaster on CompUSA’s website and went to checkout, a “free” download for computer antivirus software appeared on the invoice. The freebie, it says, lasts for six months. Afterward, you’ll get a bill for $49.99, according to a customer representative we phoned, unless you cancel before the subscription period ends.
- Time Warner Cable: The Internet biggie joins a list of other providers to charge a monthly fee (in this case $3.95) to lease a cable modem.
- BMW: Getting stuck with a flat tire isn't the best way to find out your car didn't come with a spare tire or jack, but BMW owners may experience just that. The carmaker's models now come with run-flat tires or a Mobility Kit, which can get you to help after a minor puncture. The disappearing-spare syndrome has been spreading to include even economy models from Hyundai, Chevrolet and others.
- PNC Bank: In Consumer Reports' survey of 10 banking giants, PNC was the only one to offer a free basic checking account. What's more, the institution doesn't require customers to maintain a minimum balance to keep this freebie.
- Red Wing Shoe Co.: Here’s a promise you won’t encounter every day: The Red Wing Shoe Co., which still manufactures some of its work boots in the U.S., has an unconditional 30-day comfort guarantee. If you find your shoes uncomfortable for any reason, you can obtain a refund or exchange them for another pair, no questions asked.
- Safeway supermarkets: Most people might be hesitant, even embarrassed, to return a mushy melon or bland banana. But the nearly 1,700-unit Pleasanton, Calif.-based grocer promises “fresh and delicious” produce every time and backs it up with a refund or replacement pledge.
Drury Hotels: There’s a reason why Drury, a chain of more than130 properties in 20 states, ranks at the top of Consumer Reports’ Ratings of moderately priced hotels. The company lives up to its motto, “the extras aren’t extra.” Included in the price of a room: hot breakfast (eggs, waffles, cereal, sausage, etc.); hot food every evening (chicken strips, soups, baked potatoes, mac and cheese); soft drinks and popcorn in the lobby; wireless high-speed internet everywhere; 60 minutes worth of local and long distance calls a day; swimming pool and fitness center; 24-hour business center with free incoming and outgoing domestic faxes; HBO; and, coming soon, flat-screen TVs in every room.
Home Depot: Sometimes the worst part about getting a new appliance is the difficulty or expense associated with disposing of the old one. Companies that offer to “remove” the old product may simply lug it curbside; anything else costs extra. Home Depot will haul that old refrigerator or dishwasher off your property without charge. The delivery crew will also uncrate, set up, level, and test the new product.
- Honda: The trouble with new safety features is that they can be costly add-ons or available only on high-end models before they become mainstream. Honda has taken a big step to enhance driver visibility and, hence, safety by equipping more than 94% of its 2013 models—including all of its trucks and SUVs—with rearview cameras as standard equipment. The cameras are now also standard on Accord and Civic, two of the automaker’s top sellers.
For truckers, I think one of the biggest takeaways from this list should be the very important role providing a little something “extra” in everyday service plays in winning – and keeping – a customer’s business. That’s an area that offers plenty of room carriers and drivers alike to work together upon.