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Why. Buyer beware. The past and present by word of the bewildered consumer shoppers in the modern marketplace look for the Best Buy the safest product and find a perplexing jumble of goods. The consumer's choice is the story behind this program series. Buyer beware.
Is a consumer. How does a consumer behave. Some of the answers to the consumer's dilemma are found in his own words. God is doing 90 percent of everything you get they are stored. They will put you in your weight 30 years earlier. A box of cereal was only a half hour when I first opened it. Thank you there to see you know I cannot do this just because it doesn't have these additional powers of imposing sanctions for violating it's a toothless tiger. There I was at 60 miles an hour and the brakes wouldn't work. A lot of the you know the changes which of us we have on cars are. Reasonably trivial sops to the. Sops to Ralph Nader and people who are concerned about cars with horrible flame from a bird just flew up my arm and my whole glass practically exploded. These are the problems of the consumer today. Complaints and queries run
from food to housing and from clothing to insurance policies. Answers are hard to find and dishonest merchants are ready to take advantage of this ignorance. But there is a defense. The informed consumer. And with this series of programs we'll try to indicate how today's shopper may learn the answers he needs. But first the basic question what is a consumer. Smart. Cards just. Class. Colors just perfect you know for the big weekend at the club. Where. What will be a bit heavy for meno speak to just the price. Almost Oh that was a good price but you'd have to get matching shoes wouldn't you. At your formal shoes Pete wouldn't cost much you know. Sure.
They have to show you my new car park next to the bookstore. Well George it certainly is a great looking car. Where'd you get it. Stevenson got a good deal on it too. It's got air conditioning power brakes and steering even an FM tuner. Would you believe it's only $50 a month. No kidding. What they actually quote for the price to remember when is the monthly cost that counts. And I'm really tickled with the way those bucket seats look really. The power. Is the consumer. Why do these consumers look at their purchases as they do. Let's consider their remarks and their presumptions. All consumers have an income and usually a fixed one. They must meet their needs within the limits of this income.
Shoppers cannot buy all that they want or see they must choose. Consumers hope to get the most for each dollar they spend but the question is the most of what I consider a woman shopping for a refrigerator. I was wondering if you could help me choose a refrigerator. Certainly ma'am. Now here are the newest models over here. To replace an older refrigerator or for a new home. Well our old refrigerator quit and the repairman can't fix it so I'm stuck. I have to have a refrigerator because I have such a huge fan. The first decision that this consumer has made is that she needs a refrigerator. It is an essential item that cannot wait. Well we have several models available now they range in cost from Margie Lux model with the no frost feature at eight hundred twenty dollars to our standard 12 cubic foot model and two hundred fifty dollars.
Well we can't afford to go above 350 so perhaps I could look at a less expensive model. I'd also like to have one with a larger freezer because I never seem to have enough space for freezing our garden produce and I really live here Mrs. consumer has indicated to further decisions in the shopping process she has determined the maximum cost for her purchased and listed important physical characteristics for the item. This model is such a pretty color and I like the wood trim too. Oh yes that's one of our more popular models. People do like that. That ship will now come as one of the most essential decisions in the sales game. This shopper does not need a refrigerator with wood trim initiated avocado. But these features have an emotional appeal. Why do they seem attractive. A friend may own a similar model advertisements may have provided a lure. Salesman may assert gentle pressure. In any case she chooses an
item partly for its emotional attractions. Well I'll take this one. Oh I'm sorry ma'am. Now this is a floor model where we can order one for you. Oh no I have to have it now my other one hold out another day. Well we have one in the basement just like it but it has a ice maker attachment. Now that'll add to the cost by $50 bill. Oh I just can't wait any longer for you. So she does take the substitute because the final factor affecting the decision of the consumer is availability. If it isn't on hand when needed it can't be considered in this ultimate decision. The decision to buy. An important part of this search for the best value is the process of comparison shopping. A consumer must look at products available at a store and
compare cost versus features offered. Also comparison between stores must be made on a regular basis before a shopper may find the best value. The limits of transportation and time may decrease the amount of comparison shopping possible. But efforts to find a good bargain depend on shopping around even within the confines of one shelf at the grocery store. A shopper can compare prices and features how many brands of laundry detergent are available. How many types of strawberry jam but this comparison may not always be easy. Mrs Helen Ewing Nelson of the Illinois Federation of consumers explains how impractical comparisons may be to the packages are still so confusing in the various fractions and quantities that it's not at all possible to compare prices of common everyday items we buy in the grocery store.
So. We women go to the supermarket and buy our groceries without really being able to compare prices. It's just ordinary everyday things like tuna fish and peanut butter. And it's a pretty miserable situation when you've got rising food prices and the tight family budget. Mrs. Nelson speaks from a background of practical experience. She arranged two shopping trips for five college educated women shoppers and instructed them to buy 14 specified items at the cheapest price per unit. This involved a total of 70 items to buy. On the average each trip. Housewives chose in error half the time. What's more these tests were run in 1962 and in 1968. The second shopping trip was after the truth and packaging Bill had taken effect. This is indicative of the continuing confusion in the shoppers mind. And here is the weak point of the modern consumer. Lack of information.
Federal officials are well aware of this problem. Charles a Miller assistant chief inspector of criminal investigations at the Post Office Department explains the crux of the issue. The thing that a kind of an INS man all rests one layer. Is most concerned about is the is the informed consumer. The consumer who best to Gates before he invests. A consumer who will questions maybe not to the point of being making himself a pest but one who looks behind the printed word and really thinks about this solicitation whatever it may be it may be for insurance. It may be for a hard to find product. It may be a solicitation he receives by mail from an alleged charity or charitable organization.
And there are sources of information and the Better Business Bureau's can provide background on anybody who operates from that city. If one receives a. Solicitation for will say a charitable organization based in Milwaukee Wisconsin. If the addressee is tempted to respond and and contribute it it's only going to cost 6 cents to mail a letter to the Better Business Bureau Milwaukee or the Chamber of Commerce of Milwaukee. I have this solicitation What do you know about how long have these people been in business. Is it a bona fide charitable organization or is it not. Not only does the Post Office Department offer information to wary consumers. Another governmental department supplies facts on topics ranging from fresh apples to house foundations. Ted Crane of the Office of Information at the
United States Department of Agriculture outlines this role the Department of Agriculture likes to say it is the people's Department. Sure you've heard me talking with anyone here and in a real sense consumer programmes of interest. Take in most of the activities that are part and I hope I'm not stretching the truth what I mean of course is basic consumer program is farm production in the sense that food supplies today are our most important consumer service that we could well say. But to narrow it down somewhat to the key food in nutrition and food assistance programs and education programs. I was say that there are four or five broad areas of interest to the consumer most interest to the consumer. There are of course to being with our food nutrition studies the nutritive value of the various foods and their make up. Another area of direct important to consumers or at least direct through their leaders and so forth with the
household consumption surveys food to let us know as they did last year for instance that rich or poor we are all apt to be lacking in calcium are vitamin C or vitamin A which are deficiencies that show up at every income level. Perhaps one of the most. The best known of our activities is by the general public is the work of our extension service and by our Of course I hasten to add that it's a cooperative effort. The federal extension service and the cooperative state and county extension activities and this gets into the basic general home economics information on food and household care and clothing and so forth and also the programs for you. The fame for each programs and we have they have most recently a program of special concern an effort to reach the poorest of the poor in an educational information effort to go beyond the groups
that we ordinarily reach with newspapers and the other mass media by door to door person to person contact using nutrition aides who are drawn from the communities concerned and who go out and really make a person to person contact. One of the best known federal agencies which helps the consumer is the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC investigates complaints about deceptive practices in a variety of fields from Home Improvement frauds to imitation furs. Lesley Dix assistant to the director for the Bureau of deceptive practices outlines the consumer pressures which have reached the FTC. It's part of a whole. Consumer revolution really I mean the environmental quest for a better environment the quest for a better quality of life generally this is all caught up in that whole public feeling. And so we find the politician has discovered the consumer the consumers discover himself he has found that it pays to complain to his government
and consequently we're in the middle of all of this as the overseers you might say of the regulatory function in the marketplace are very much exposed to all these cross currents of interests and drys seeking for a better market. Besides the federal agencies Mr. Dicks includes another source of aid for the irate consumer. There certainly is a role for the states in this traditional balance of federal state relations there is also an increasingly identifiable area of urban interests. The city ordinance the city hall is FACE THE CONSUMER lives there. He knocks on the city doors while he's right at the mare's table. There's a car. Plantation there in the not need neither the state or the federal government has so there is a role for all three levels of government in consumer protection. Still many consumers look to the federal government for assistance. In particular the services of the special assistant to the president for consumer affairs are suited to the delimiters of the shopper. Joe Dawson assistant
to Mrs. Virginia now or in this office is keenly aware of such problems. He describes some which have recently crossed his desk. We've heard about a plot to do card and when to block. And it stopped. It so happened it was on a Friday late Friday afternoon and he walked the two blocks back of me in a place very far from him on the south end to class in the AM something like 300 hours to get a new car working properly. We said women are to him for the murder and we heard from one store owner. I plan to do it. Completed by October and he bought his a refrigerator in a stove by catalog
and specifically requested that the stove in the fridge or be delivered by October so that he could move in ever all the appliances working and the houses built but the refrigerator in the stove wasn't delivered actually a month later and all the time he was living in the house it didn't apply to carry out the materials to the wife and family. Joe Dawson offers some reasons for such a growing list of complaints. There are a number of basic problems to begin with or just human nature itself. You have human danger go ahead human failures and wherever you're going to. Are you going to have something mechanical you have mechanical failures and the problem with your eyes. And in the manner of the where because of the arm
bigness if the number of operations we find that men. And they don't need to make the decision. And I had enough and I got to come sooner as recommend. Many items are jamming in the rain in their own consumer unit. The company an ad for. For me should we find it worth it when you found it. We're determined to reorganize it. Summary service such awareness of problems is also matched by many state and local governments. Some states have set up special branches to investigate consumer fraud and deception in the state of Illinois for example the office of the attorney general handles violations. George M. SCHIEFFER
assistant attorney general describes the basic law which provides ammunition for prosecution of those who deceive consumers. Basically it provides that any withholding of a material fact and a whole nation and a misrepresentation any misleading of any kind regarding the sale or the advertisement of merchandise or services as an unlawful business practice and gives us jurisdiction over which we can file suits in court for the protection of the consumer. We can ask the courts award injunctions against people who are perpetrating an unlawful business practice upon the public. We can also ask that the court award monetary damages so that the money that is gained from an unlawful business practice be returned to the consumer. It is a very general long. It is I guess fraudulent sales and fraudulent advertising. It actually covers no
specific field such as one industry are one particular type service. It covers all fields of the sales or advertisement of merchandise or services and as you can see that as a very very broad protective umbrella. Even cities may have a special commission set up to help consumers in New York City. Bess Meyerson Grant is devoted to serving the consumer investigators for her office have uncovered adulterated meat price discrepancies and other shoddy practices with a weapon of public safety. They have forced the cessation of such tricks upon some consumers. Private citizens also have joined in protest of deceptive practices and have organized a means of protection for themselves and others. Groups such as consumers research and Consumers Union have gathered and printed information about products
available to consumers. They have tested items rated them according to price safety and special features and publish this information in magazines. Walker sat back executive director of Consumer's Union has observed a steady growth in support of his organization. Consumers Union and Consumer Reports has made over one million 600000. Another organization which has been finding increased support is the Consumer Federation of America. This parent body has helped individual states form their own consumer groups and has provided a national focus for consumer protest. And it's president executive director explains how this all started. I want to start back in talking to 1963 in April because I'm sure that's about where everybody has to start when they start talking about consumer affairs.
When President Kennedy delivered the first consumer message that any president had ever delivered to Congress and in the message he set forth the consumer rights that are still considered the floor they see consumers rights the right to be informed the right to choose the right to safety and the right to be heard. If you have had an opportunity to read the President Nixon's message that he sent to Congress on Thursday you will find that he used the same right but turned them a bit differently and called them buyer's rights and he reworded them a bit. But still he still selected the same four which John Kennedy enunciated in 1963. It was also John Kennedy who named the first consumer advisory council in the executive office.
This missy to hear isn't the reason people go back to it is that he was the one who got consumers surance in a self-awareness about consumers and because he did this. Groups like yours started in groups like started this was the message that stimulated consumers to get going and it's the message that still keeps consumers stimulated to keep going. Many other groups serve the desires of organized and concerned consumers F3 Dickerson a professor of law at Indiana University has studied these agencies and relates their role in the current awareness of consumerism. Actually we need all sorts of agencies to. Help out government agencies of course we know about. There are lots we haven't heard of and heard. At least most of us. Thought that among leading.
Private agencies the best known are some of the. Magazine services like Good Housekeeping which performs a useful service service up to a point. Of course we know about Consumer Reports published by Consumers Union consumers research and so on. Those have been very very that evil in a sense. Those are commercial. Well they are they're commercial operations but they seem to be genuinely. Consumer oriented industry. As I recall was responsible for setting up the Better Business Bureau so it just kind of an indirect way of self policing he says. And yes what we have such things as the National Safety Council and a number of Standards Association professor Dickerson assesses the success of these offices. Well I think they protected largely by disseminating information and
fostering standards. The trouble is I think that. They if not industry control directly they are to a certain extent industry oriented which means that. They don't take an uncompromising do in favor of the consumer so that some disadvantage from the. Consumer standpoint they're not very good at policing because as you know we have the problem of the anti-trust laws. And. So this is an inherent difficulty in any form of self regulation. How do you keep the keep everybody in line because if you can't control the people who won't stand in line then it becomes very difficult competitively for the so-called good guys to do what they think is right. And that's why it's. As wholesome to have. Government agencies. Potentially ready to step down. And also useful to have private agencies to supplement what they end of story itself is doing and
what the government is helping them to do. They are purely consumer. I say fairly consumer I mean organizations that would. Rather spontaneously arise out of a group of consumers getting together organized around the pure. Consumer interest these have not been notably successful because well it. Is something else is lacking there to give them that strong common bond of interest around a specific problem that. Is needed for any kind of successful are Gammick behavior. But perhaps the best known focal point for consumers is one person. Ralph Nader. His personality and insistence upon the rights of the consumer to safe products have captured the interest of shoppers everywhere. He has served as a catalyst in the field of Consumer Affairs and shown many American citizens a clearer view of their rightful position. But in a sense he has merely opened Pandora's box. Those who can least afford to become victims of illegal
deception those who have little time or skill to shop comparatively they still suffer most. The poor the uneducated the old and the nonwhite segments of our population know that they are being cheated now. But there is little that they can do. Some are joining in the search for help from public and private agencies devoted to the needs of the consumer. Buyer beware. Still live by word of the consumer shoppers search for information and protection to buy the best for the least. Our next program will follow these consumers into the grocery store. The staff of life is the next arena for Buyer beware. Remember.
This is the national educational radio network.
Buyer beware
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What Is a Consumer?
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Chicago: “Buyer beware; 1; What Is a Consumer?,” 1971-00-00, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 25, 2024,
MLA: “Buyer beware; 1; What Is a Consumer?.” 1971-00-00. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 25, 2024. <>.
APA: Buyer beware; 1; What Is a Consumer?. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from