Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: Consumer Reports lifts warning for Lexus SUV


lexus1Check out Consumer Reports lifting its ‘Don’t Buy: Safety Risk’ designation for Toyota’s 2010 Lexus GX 460 sport utility vehicle.

The well-known consumer magazine said it was changing the rating for that SUV after recall work corrected the problem it displayed in one of its emergency handling tests.

Last month, Toyota recalled nearly 10,000 of the Lexus SUVs, which had only been on sale for a few months, after its engineers replicated the Consumer Reports test.  Two weeks later, Toyota, which has seen its reputation for quality tarnished in a series of recalls and incidents, resumed selling the SUV.

In a test called “lift-off oversteer,” as a vehicle is driven through a turn, the driver quickly lifts his foot off the accelerator pedal to see how the vehicle reacts. Consumer Reports said it found that the Lexus SUV’s rear end slid out until the vehicle was almost sideways, raising concerns of an accident including a rollover.

Check Out Line: Duke wins, but there’s another bracket to fill


duke1Check out a different kind of tournament bracket still underway.

The Duke Blue Devils may have won yet another college basketball title Monday night, but consumers can still make their “Sweet 16″ picks in’s annual “Worst Company in America”  tournament, which runs through April 26.

In its fifth year, the website, owned by Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports, lets consumers vote for their least favorite companies in matchups much like the NCAA tournament. Starting with 32 “teams,” the tournament pairs companies in votes in which the “winner” (think about it, in a worst company vote you want to lose) advances to face the next competitor.

Check Out Line: Holiday tips to take hit


haircut1Check out the probable lower level of tips for service providers during the holidays.Chalk up tips for cleaning people, school teachers, barbers, mail carriers and others as another probable victim of the weak U.S. economy, according to a new poll conducted by Consumer Reports magazine.  The magazine polled Americans about their tipping habits during the 2008 holidays and again in October and found 26 percent of Americans who usually tip or give a gift to a service provider said they would spend less this holiday season. Just 6 percent planed to spend more.”Families are looking for ways to balance their financial concerns with the need to thank people who have helped them during the year,” Tobie Stanger, senior editor at Consumer Reports, said in a statement. “This year, tipping is more of a challenge than ever, but CR’s survey shows that people are still trying to do it, for the most part.”The average value of tips (i.e. some were gifts instead of cash or gift cards) varied by occupation, with a cleaning person at $50, a child’s teacher and a hairdresser at $20, and a manicurist at $10, according to Consumer Reports.Some readers told the magazine they plan to still say thanks with a card or homemade gift.Also in the basket:Food the focus as Wal-Mart starts holiday givingKraft quarterly results could make a case to CadburyADM profit soars past Wall Street estimatesPolo 2nd-qtr profit tops Street viewWalgreen October sales up a bit more than expectedEnergizer quarterly profit falls(Reuters photo)

Check Out Line: What goes around comes around


snowmanCheck out what’s coming around again this holiday season.

It’s that gift you gave someone last year.

According to a holiday shopping poll conducted by Consumer Reports in October, 36 percent of Americans say they have “recycled” a holiday gift. That’s up from 31 percent in 2008 and 24 percent in 2007.

Those more likely to re-gift include women, adults under 55 years old, residents of the U.S. West and people with children under the age of 12.

Check Out Line: Tastes great, less costly!


shop1Check out Consumer Reports’ latest taste test.

The magazine found that 23 store-brand foods tasted as good as or better than their big national brand competitors in blind tests of 29 food products.  The store-brand foods tested cost an average of 27 percent less than their big-name counterparts, allowing consumers to trim their shopping bills. 

“Our tests should erase any lingering doubts that store-brand packaged goods aren’t at least worth a try. In many cases, you’ll save money without compromising on quality,” Tod Marks, senior project editor for Consumer Reports Shopping, said in a statement.

What’s on your toilet paper roll?


tp1Consumer Reports is watching your behind.

The magazine, which rates everything from televisions to coffee, has taken on toilet paper and found that shoppers could save up to $130 a year by switching brands.

Consumer Reports rated Georgia-Pacific’s Quilted Northern Ultra Plush, which costs 29 cents per 100 sheets, best for strength and softness, but said that store brands Kirkland Signature (Costco) and White Cloud (Wal-Mart) offer the most performance for the price of 12 to 15 cents per 100 sheets.