Find out which companies are naughty or nice
Published Monday, December 5, 2011 1:40PM PST
It's not just children on Santa's naughty or nice list this year.
Consumer Reports has published its annual report card for businesses, putting retailers on the hot seat for things like fine print conditions and befuddling fees. They were also given bonus points for good behavior.
"Our list was put together with input from reporters and editors at Consumer Reports, along with our Facebook fans and our sister site, the Consumerist," Tod Marks said.
Not surprisingly, return policies factor in heavily.
This year's list includes high profile companies from a variety of fields including: air travel, electronics, apparel retailing, credit-card lending and concert ticketing.
Consumer Reports checked each policy either by direct contact or reading through the details on the company's website. And praise or blame for a specific policy doesn't mean the company gives a thumbs up or down for everything else that company does or the way it treats customers.
- Live Nation. The world's largest live-entertainment promoter, ticket distributor, and artist-management firm gives fans three days to cancel their ticket order and get a refund at participating venues (typically until one week before the event). Live Nation also lets customers exchange seats for better ones that become available after a purchase.
- American Express. The company offers peace of mind at no extra cost. If a cardholder buys a covered item with his or her Amex card and unsuccessfully tries to return it to the merchant within 90 days, American Express can refund the full purchase price, up to $300 ($1,000 per account per year).
- Costco. The chain has a generous return policy and provides free tech support for many electronics products. Less known is that it automatically extends the manufacturer's original warranty on TVs and computers to two years from the date of purchase.
- Microsoft. If someone buys and installs software on his or her computer, most retailers won't give out a refund, no matter how much the customer hates it. Not so with Microsoft. Consumers dissatisfied with a Microsoft software or hardware purchase from any retailer can send it back to the company within 45 days for a refund and reimbursement of shipping costs up to $7.
- RadioShack. The company acknowledges that it sometimes charges different prices for the same item. When a reader shopped for an HDMI audio-video cable, the store price was nearly twice the online price. Asked why, a customer-service supervisor said he couldn't do anything about the discrepancy, and directed the reader to the fine print on RadioShack's website.
- American Apparel. On the plus side, the Los Angeles-based company still makes clothes in the United States. However, it has two different return policies. Online customers have 45 days to return an item for a full refund or credit; store customers have 30 days and receive a merchandise credit.
- SiriusXM satellite radio. If a subscriber wants to receive a bill in the mail and pay by check (the old-fashioned way), he or she will get socked with a $2 surcharge every month. The penalty can be avoided if the customer gives Sirius credit-card information and elects to be billed electronically on a recurring basis.
- GameStop. A Fortune 500 company with more than 6,500 stores worldwide, this video game software and hardware merchant has a laundry list of conditions governing returns and exchanges. And in the end, GameStop proclaims, "We reserve the right to refuse any return."