Library users want to be able to make informed decisions on major purchases. They often ask for objective evaluations of products and ratings of specific features, such as safety or fuel efficiency.
Consumer magazines, indexes to consumer magazines, and consumer buying guides are the best sources of evaluations. Most libraries will want to have immediately available to patrons, one or more consumer magazines such as CONSUMER REPORTS, CONSUMER RESEARCH MAGAZINE, CONSUMER GUIDE or CONSUMERS DIGEST. CONSUMER REPORTS is probably the best-known and most extensive publisher of product evaluations. Their December issue indexes the articles that have appeared during the last five years and reprints some of these product comparisons. The December issue can be purchased separately as a BUYING GUIDE ISSUE. Comparisons may also be found in periodicals that cater to a specific interest group, for example, evaluations of vans are frequently published in CAR & DRIVER.
There are not published evaluations of all products. When no printed comparisons of a product can be found, information on what to look for in purchasing the product and ratings of specific features, if they are available, may be helpful to the patron. Contact an appropriate trade association for brochures on purchasing considerations. Ratings of energy efficiency, safety, and other features may be available from governmental agencies like the Environmental Pollution Agency, or from associations such as the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. The ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ASSOCIATIONS is useful in locating addresses and phone numbers for these groups.
Patrons may want information about a company's reputation. Does it deliver what it promises? Have complaints been lodged about the company?
They may want to locate the owners of a company that has gone out of business so that they can find out if they can collect on a warranty or to locate repair manuals or spare parts to fix a product they bought from a company.
It's possible to check to see if articles have appeared in newspapers or magazines about the company, but the majority of firms are not written about. It is better to call the Better Business Bureau or the Chamber of Commerce in the city that the company is based. Phone numbers for Better Business Bureaus are listed in the CONSUMER'S RESOURCE HANDBOOK, a free publication of the federal government. This HANDBOOK has many other useful numbers for patrons who want to make their complaints known. The Better Business Bureaus and Chambers can only tell you whether there are any outstanding, formal complaints about a company. If there is no information about the company, it does not mean that the company is reputable; it just means that there are no unsettled, written complaints about the company to date.
Begin the address search by backtracking through older company information sources. If the state that the company had its headquarters can be found, the Secretary of State there can be contacted for a search of their incorporation records. Even companies that have gone out of business will remain in the records, along with the addresses of the last owners.
When the patron needs spare parts or repair manuals from a company, find out in advance what the item is that needs fixing and how old the item is. Also ask about any markings on it in addition to the company name, such as place of manufacture or patent number.
CONSUMER REPORTS BUYING GUIDE is published annually as the December issue Of Consumer Reports magazine, but it can also be purchased separately.
This one volume source includes major test reports, ratings for brands and models, and general buying information for selected products from the last several years of Consumer Reports. Articles taken from past years of the magazine have been revised when necessary. About 75 categories of products are covered.
A great deal of information Is given in each article-hopefully enough to satisfy most patrons. However, it is important to note that each article Is a condensed version of the original article appearing In the Consumer Reports magazine. This fact Is stated at the beginning of each article, along with the citation for the original article, which should be consulted for detailed background and technical Information.
The index covers this volume (entries in bold face type), and the past five years of the magazine. This can be frustrating for patrons who are expecting to find all indexed articles in this volume but it also makes it a good resource for identifying articles to interlibrary loan.
One more caution: many patrons think that Consumer Reports reviews all products. Of course, this is not true. Refer to the section "How to Use the Buying Guide Issue", for an explanation of how products are selected for review. And refer to the section on consumer information in the Reference Services section of the Manual for more resources which can be consulted.
Complete the Consumer Reports Buying Guide Practice Questions.
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