The Checkout

Don't Hold Back

Blogs are all about feedback, right? So, today, I thought I'd ask for some.

Each day, I post a rather book-reportish entry on a particular subject that catches my fancy or is in the news--sometimes to the exclusion of other consumer stories that might be circulating that day. There usually isn't enough consumer news to have a daily roundup of links, but at least once a week, I'm going to start posting one. That way, good stories -- and, more importantly, useful info -- doesn't get lost in the media shuffle. I encourage you all to tell me whether these are helpful or not.

A sample roundup would go something like this:

College tuition still rising faster than inflation; male cellphone users' sperm count heading in the opposite direction; the King and the Colonel join Wendy in trying to kick trans fat; pink ribbons look good, but are they doing any good?

(If this looks suspiciously like what my husband and Liz Kelly post on their blogs first thing in the morning, I plead guilty to a lack of imagination.)

Now for today's post:

In case you missed it over the weekend, Damon Darlin in Saturday's New York Times took on the issue of the effectiveness of product recalls.

The gist of the story is that recalls are big news the day they happen and then fade away, leaving many consumers clueless. Manufacturers that really hate having to broadcast the word "recall" often do the bare minimum required by law. While others who make an effort still can't get consumers to respond and resort to trying to bribe them with gift cards and coupons.

When I talked to him last month, Alan Korn, director of public policy for the nonprofit group National Safe Kids, raised the issue of recall effectiveness when Hasbro Hasbro recalled its Playskool Team Talkin' Tool Bench. The easy part was recalling the toy from retail shelves, Korn said. The harder task was getting the word out to consumers who had bought the recalled product long ago. Most of the time companies don't have a way of getting in touch with customers.

As usual, all this means more homework for consumers. You can find the latest recalls and search for past recalls at http://www.recalls.gov/.

Got something to say about roundups or recalls? Do you have any suggestions of other features you'd like to find in this blog? Don't hold back.

By Annys Shin |  October 31, 2006; 6:45 AM ET Help Me Help You
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Comments

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I hate trying to muddle through a bunch of unrelated links in the same paragraph. I like the idea of a roundup, but maybe you could do a bulleted list instead?

Posted by: C | October 31, 2006 8:22 AM

I would suggest more shopping type links (the title of your blog is "The Checkout") with an explanation of how you use them and why. This keeps it more personal.

For example if you choose Grocery stories tell how to find the circular for the local chains on the web (including smaller regions like Magruder's and MOM), including the dates their circulars are updated, and then a short how your or X person leverages them to save money. Same could go for travel sites (Kayak.com), or Consumer Reports online for large purchases....

(I guess with your title I think more of shopping then general consumer or social issues.)

Posted by: Iolaire McFadden | October 31, 2006 9:19 AM

Yknow, I really don't like those roundup posts. Too much going on. I prefer the longer post with thought.

On the topic of recalls: I bought my ancient Jetta used from some guy I found in the newspaper or something, yet VW has found me and mails me recall notices. It's pretty impressive. (But I'm guessing car recalls are different from regular product recalls.)

Posted by: h3 | October 31, 2006 11:52 AM

Regarding Annys' post about recalls, many manufacturers include some sort of postcard-type "registration" to complete and send back to them. The problem is (at least in my view and my friedns and family) is that we don't trust the companies to hold our information for the limited purpose of notifying us of a recall. We assume that any information on the card will put us onto more junk mailing lists, catalog lists, credit card offers and maybe even yet more telemarketing lists. After all, why do you need to know my income, what magazines I subscribe to and what sports I play to notify me of a recall. The fact is, you don't. However your marketing gurus find information like that to be a gold mine to target things (read...junk) to my door that they think I mught actually buy. Consequently, I NEVER fill those ridiculous cards out.

If companies actually had a system where you could simply fill in address, item purchased, model number, etc. and nothing more. I would probably fill them out, thereby making it much easier for me to get recall information, and easier for the company to contact me about any recalls. However, that's not what companies are really interested in is it?

Posted by: Josh | October 31, 2006 12:32 PM

Argh - don't do roundups. I can get those from DCist, Fark, Slashdot, Digg, and a host of other sites. Do what the Post does best - report, dig, investigate.

Posted by: John | October 31, 2006 2:12 PM

On the subject of recall notifications:

go to the web site: http://www.cpsc.gov/cpsclist.asp

and subscribe to the Consummer Product Safety Commission email notification list.

I get a email message for every recall, including the Hasbro Talk Tool Bench - actually I received the recall email on that one two days before it was reported in the Post.

Posted by: Glad 2 Help | November 1, 2006 11:42 AM

Maybe you've covered this subject before, but if you haven't, I think the biggest scam perpetrated on the American public, is the rebate offer on electronic consumer products, computers, printers, monitors,etc. You overpay for the product with the promise of receiving a rebate. In effect you are giving the retailer and/or the manufacturer an interest-free loan, then you have to jump through many hoops to get your rebate. If you're lucky you'll finally get your money back, but there's a good chance that the manufacturer never received the rebate request, that you filled out the forms incorrectly, the rebate expired, etc.But there's a good chance you never will receive the rebate.

Posted by: D. Zap | November 23, 2006 6:32 PM

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