Consumer Reports calls out things consumers hate about retailers -- ouch!

In a full-page “Dear Shopper” ad that ran in the Nov. 24 edition of USA Today, Consumer Reports put the spotlight on things consumers hate most about retailers and what CR calls "pushy holiday-season practices." SNEWS has some ideas about how outdoor and fitness specialty retailers can stand out when consumers seem to be expecting the worst.

In a full-page “Dear Shopper” ad that ran in the Nov. 24 edition of USA Today, Consumer Reports put the spotlight on things consumers hate most about retailers and what CR calls "pushy holiday-season practices."

Using a thumbs-down icon (see image taken from the ad), the ad highlighted three things consumers told CR in its recent poll that they find most annoying about retailers during the holiday shopping season:

  • 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 also revealed that closed checkout lanes caused 72 percent of consumers to become very annoyed with a retailer.

On its website (click here to read the full news release on Consumer Reports), Consumer Reports revealed the top consumer gripes:

  • Stores that don't open all the checkout lanes – 72 percent

  • Fake sales. If something is always 20 percent off, it's not on sale – 68 percent

  • Coupons that exclude almost everything in the store – 67 percent

  • Being hounded with the extended warranty sales pitch – 62 percent

  • Cashiers that ask for your phone number or other personal information – 58 percent

  • In-store prices that do not match the same company's online prices – 56 percent

  • Employees required to up-sell you at the register – 53 percent

  • Pushing store credit cards at the register – 52 percent

  • Mail-in rebates – 50 percent

  • Stores that require loyalty cards to get discounts – 48 percent

  • Stores that have a minimum purchase requirement for credit cards – 43 percent

  • People who check receipts (e.g. at store exits) – 26 percent

The survey was conducted as part of Consumer Reports’ annual "Dear Shopper" campaign that highlights things consumers need to watch out for during the holiday shopping season. This year, Consumer Reports had an assist from its sister website, Consumerist.

Naturally, this news got the SNEWS® team thinking that it’s a good time for retailers to shine in the face of such news. As consumers are expecting to be annoyed, specialty retailers have an opportunity to stand out, and make a clear statement that consumers are special and appreciated, even during the busy shopping season.

To that end, we have a few thoughts:

  • Make sure that every member of the sales team and, frankly, every member of your retail staff, knows he or she needs to make every customer feel welcomed to your store. Now more than ever, consumers need to know you are happy they have chosen to come through your doors to shop, or even just to look around.

  • Understand every customer’s needs and wants by listening to him or her carefully before you even start to launch into recommendations of product.

  • This is a perfect season to have snacks like holiday cookies or fruit and perhaps hot drinks like cider or tea to serve to customers while they are in your store.

  • Make your store fun to be in, and that includes any time spent waiting at the checkout line for a cashier. We’ve been in long lines where the retail staff was entertaining and funny and kept everyone in the line engaged and laughing. Time flies when you are having fun.

  • Demonstrate that you are thankful for every one of your customers and prove it with thank-you cards, follow-up calls and emails that are meaningful. As shoppers, members of the SNEWS team also dislike being asked for their phone numbers or emails by a staff person who is obviously only doing it to add names to a database somewhere. We don’t mind doing this, though, when we are asked for the information in a manner that makes us realize we are becoming part of a family that cares about our needs, and will only call us or email us or send us promotional invitations that are sincere and valued.

  • No matter how busy your store is, prove to every one of your customers at all times that your employees are able to work with more than one customer at a time and still make each customer feel as if they are being served well. Yes, this is a skill that must be trained, but it is one that makes customers realize just how special a store is when you show you are good at it.

  • And, above all, realize that you will not be your customer’s only retailer, especially in this economy and with the blurred lines of distribution and product channels. However, in realizing that, do all you can to ensure you are your customers’ favorite retailer and not one among many who simply annoys them.

--Michael Hodgson


Brands reach out to customers, consumers, dealers with contests

Contests that help brands reach out to their customers -- be that consumers, retailers, clubs and dealers -- may not be new but as the economy changes, they can help a brand establish a bond and create loyalty. Cybex, SportsArt and Vision are in the middle of or just completed more

Merchandising Know-How: In or out, it's all about consumer-driven trends

Is there anything worse than being out of touch, behind the eight ball, out in left field or just plain old fashioned? Your teenager can tell you exactly how in the know you are, and it's usually not good news. The trendy magazines publish those in and out lists to remind us how more

logo.png gives retailers exposure through consumer cash-back rewards

Anyone with a cash back rewards credit card knows the concept: Go through your credit card’s website to your favorite store’s website, buy something and get a certain percentage of cash back added to your cash back rewards. Kevin McInerney, founder of, said he more

Consumer Reports picks fitness equipment Best Buys, calls Icon products "lemons"

This year taking on both treadmills and ellipticals in it annual fitness equipment rating, Consumer Reports magazine picked four treadmills as "Best Buys" -- one each from Horizon, Vision, Life Fitness and Schwinn -- and one elliptical as a "Best Buy" from Schwinn. In fact, the more


Rethinking Retail: Sunshine Fitness offers a smorgasbord of all things active

Think of Sunshine Fitness as a smorgasbord for those hooked on all things active, indoor or out. Customers who walk through the doors of the Anchorage, Alaska, store can buy scuba gear, mountain bikes, swim suits and all matter of fitness equipment from treadmills to rowers to more

Consumer Reports, Consumer Guide and Consumers Digest: Magazine differences explained

Whenever a piece of equipment, accessory or other product is reviewed in a consumer magazine, manufacturers sit up and take notice: What company earned kudos? How was the review done? Will it affect sales? Wait, why didn't our product win acclaim? Hey, how come our equipment more


New Consumer Reports fitness equipment reviews will inevitably spark lively debate

Nothing says "Happy New Year" more than the arrival of fitness equipment reviews in the venerable Consumer Reports magazine -- and the ensuing vibrant debate about the pros and cons of the reviews. Of course, Consumer Reports (CR) isn't the only source of reviews that consumers more

Internet retailing clicks with outdoor consumers

In the world of pop music, substance has replaced pure style. Goodbye, Britney. Hello, Avril Lavigne. The same might be said for Internet commerce. Even though the bubble burst for flashy dot-coms, web sales are up for veteran outdoor retailers that have a solid foundation. more

Nautilus launches ads to direct consumers to retailers, clubs

In a move with a multi-million-dollar price tag, Nautilus has launched the beginnings of a multimedia advertising campaign that will direct consumers directly to clubs and specialty retailers who are Nautilus customers. "This is a play to showcase the people who are partners of more