Consumer Reports recently unveiled its third annual Naughty & Nice List of company policies and practices. The companies cover a gamut of industries, including automotive (BMW, Honda), apparel (Kohl's, Nordstrom, Forever 21) and even hospitality (Drury Hotels).
The annual Naughty & Nice list is not a rating on an overall company; rather, it's a thumbs- up or thumbs-down on a specific policy or practice. Consumer Reports acknowledges that companies excluded from the list may have similar policies.
This year, Consumer Reports is asking everyone to join in on the conversation by submitting their own Naughty & Nice nominees via Facebook and Twitter (#CRNaughtyNice). The Naughty & Nice Holiday List is based on input from CR's reporters and editors, who cover shopping, travel, hospitality and telecommunications, as well as from visitors to the Consumer Reports Facebook page.
The following highlights some of the companies from the Naughty and the Nice sides of the 2012 list:
•Ticketmaster. The king of tickets will mail your tickets to you for free if you have 10 to 14 days to wait for them, but if you need them any sooner you'll have to pay for expedited shipping. You'll even have to fork over $2.50 per order just to print them yourself. Gotcha!
•Time Warner Cable. The broadband and cable giant recently announced it will begin charging customers $3.95 per month to lease a cable modem. Time Warner joins a list of other Internet biggies to do so, including Cox, Comcast and Bright House. Although Time Warner and other companies allow customers to purchase and install their own modem outright, less tech-savvy folks might be reluctant, assuring the companies a steady stream of extra revenue.
•BMW. Getting stuck with a flat tire isn't the best way to find out your car didn't come with a spare tire or jack, but BMW owners may experience just that. The carmaker's models now come with run-flat tires or a Mobility Kit, which can get you to help after a minor puncture. The “disappearing spare” syndrome has been spreading to economy models from Hyundai, Chevrolet and others.
•Forever 21. The apparel merchant has different policies for online and in-store returns. If you return an online order to a retail location, you can only exchange the item or obtain store credit. If you mail it back, you can get an actual refund.
•Home Depot. Buy a new appliance from the home improvement giant, and it'll haul your old one off your property without charge. The delivery crew will also uncrate, set up, level and test your new one.
•Oxo. The innovative housewares manufacturer backs every product it sells with a no-exceptions pledge: If for any reason you are not satisfied, return it for replacement or refund.
•PNC Bank. In Consumer Reports' survey of 10 banking giants, PNC was the only one to offer a free basic checking account. What's more, the institution doesn't require customers to maintain a minimum balance to keep this freebie.
•Kohl's. Some high-end retailers are known for their particularly generous return policies. But that largesse doesn't always translate to more middle-of-the-road merchants. Kohl's is an exception. The company has a “No Questions Asked — Hassle Free” return policy for all purchases – without any time limit.
•Nordstrom. Free shipping, free returns on orders of any size.