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Buyer beware. The past didn't 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 good news. The consumer's choice is the story behind this program serious buyer beware. Does your refrigerator keep food cold. Does your door stick as your child's doll withstand a tug of war. How many miracle cleaners have still not remove the stain from your best dress. What can you expect in terms of quality in today's market. Consumers complain and complain. Johnny started chewing on a squash book and family at home eating a purple I'm the guy.
I've had to replace this belt over and over the power saw just won't handle the load. All I get from using it is cut fingers and I paid $100 for. It sure. I don't know oh. Well. Do you know these people. They're your friends your neighbors and even you. They are dissatisfied with shoddy workmanship and poor standards. Who is responsible manufacturer and consumers share the blame here. The product should be well made and the consumers should demand quality but what is quality. Lack of testing and research techniques may mean minimal information as guidelines. Many facts are not known. For example the relative ability of different fabrics or the long term behavior of metals under stress. But
even if the manufacturer does no such facts the consumer may not so shoddy products persists. Oh. One solution to this problem is greater communication between consumer and producer. If manufacturers have a clear idea of the expectations of buyers they may be able to implement changes more successfully. If mothers refuse to buy toddlers slacks because they are not color fast. Manufacturers may not realize that this is the reason for declining sales. They may change the trim or advertising tactics instead. Only consumers can explain their dissatisfaction and use economic pressure to enforce their opinions. Such attitudes are the result of information gleaned by the consumer. Shoppers develop practical and arbitrary standards for their purchases. These
criteria may be cost availability. Size color ability or any number of other features. Stop and think of all the purchases you have made this past month. How did you choose these items. Which brand of butter Did you buy. Why. Which type of why. What influenced your choice. In most cases the concept of brand names entered the picture. Consumers are surrounded by hundreds or even thousands of messages each day that remind them of brand names. Sometimes shoppers resort to a general dependence upon a brand name. This may work but sometimes it does not. One brand of infants clothing may be outstanding. Their toys may not be so acceptable top of the line models may differ widely with
bargain styles manufactured by the same company. Who can tell. Can we rely only on brand names. Most consumer advocates depend upon information and descriptive labels some note the Good Housekeeping label and the parents magazine seal of approval. F3 Dickerson professor of law at Indiana University begins his list here. He tallies those desired by consumer advocates. Actually we need all sorts of agencies to. How about government agencies of course we know about. There are lots we haven't even heard of us heard of at least most of us. But Dad Langley. Private agency is the best known are some of the magazine services like Good Housekeeping which performs a useful service a service up to a point. Of course we know about
Consumer Reports published by Consumers Union for its own research and so on. Those have been very very valuable in a sense. Those are commercial. Oh are there commercial operations where they seem to be genuinely. Consumer oriented. As Professor Dickerson noted there are several agencies which serve the needs of the consumer. Among the best known may be consumers research and Consumers Union consumers research had its origin in the White Plains consumers club organized in the 1920s by Frederick shrink an engineer and physicist Mr Schlink outlines the basic techniques of reading goods at consumers research. Great good morning. See with a meaning very very usually Sauerbrey good for most purposes and not recommended. This was our own
invention to be liberating. And it worked out very well for very many years along with the rating we include careful statement of what the difficulty is worth any and we compare one product with another. Of course getting brand name which is something which company agencies don't ordinarily risk doing and when the product is unsafe we make that point fairly clear as to just in what respect. For example it may have a danger for children for example a vaporizer often used in children's bedrooms. Similarly with heating pads which are often used on persons who are critically ill and which can cause serious burns if something goes wrong. Electric blankets have often started
fires and burn to death unfortunately and in general we try to. I'm a consumer of those things which are vital to the story. We're also here to work to economy and impresario Robert could give a lot for the money after the early start of consumers research. Another group broke off from this organization and started testing consumer goods in 1936 Colston war and economics professor at Amherst College founded Consumers Union. This group now publishes Consumer Reports maintains five laboratories and editorial market research and circulation offices. Walker sandbagged has been director of CTU since 1965 and oversees the rating of 70 products a year. Some are rated on an annual basis. Others less often. Both major sellers and some special off brands are
included. Engineers and writers then determine the key points to be judged for the product in question. Mr. sandbagged mentions one of the key criterion is about the products. Which cost a lot of money. That is if you pay two or three or four hundred dollars for refrigerator you don't want to make a mistake. You pay 3000 or 4000 dollars for a car. Again you are very very much concerned about that purchase and therefore you want to find all the information you can so that on big items like that we try to do a yearly testing and yearly reporting so that the consumer can be as up to date as possible. It's hard to pinpoint whether one area or another had more problems right now I think the automobile is the one that most people heard concerned about partly because of the safety implications and partly because of the.
Myriad of defects that seem to be coming out in the new automobiles we find seems we find more defects each year. And when people pay 3000 or 4000 hour for a new car they really expect it and want something that's pretty well finished and ready to go without any problems. Mr. Sand back indicates what Consumer's Union does when it finds a particularly poor product. Most of the time they find the bad news when they open a magazine. The only time when they don't want is if a serious safety factors involved that this is a dangerous if we consider this a dangerous car because of bad brakes or because of a gas tank problem or something like that we then notify the manufacturer immediately and encourage him to make a recall which they did in a couple of cases this last year. The work of Underwriters Laboratories consumers research Consumers Union and other allied agencies is supplemented by testing done on a federal level.
But the problem is often communication. The government does not make public its tests and the results. Recently a Consumer's Union took legal action to get some of this information to its members. Walker sat back explain this tactic in an interview this past year. He also outlined the attitude of Consumers Union has been that the government has a lot of information that would be valuable to the consumer if it were properly interpreted. And up to this time the government has been very reluctant to release this information. We have been suing the Veterans Administration to get them to release their tests on hearing aids because if they do these tests to make the information available to veterans it's taxpayer money that we all pay for. Why should this be available to these who have limited him and who are a frequent users of hearing aids. Frederick Schlink of consumer's research also sees certain merit in using data
obtained in government tests. Thing aspects of it is that the government has this information for many many years. It was promised in 1962 by the late President Kennedy that it would be made available to the public it had not been made available and in one case a very important one of hearing aids it was necessary to enter and to hear the girls wouldn't normally take the information out of the Veterans Administration which was interesting hearing aids for many many years. Twenty eight international tourists gathered. Now it's obvious that if they had tested the age and they knew which was good and which ones were not good that information right to the taxpayer. Who has who has the need for that and many other crimes in the nation. Now the girl standards many. Years ago got into very serious difficulties in testing a commercial product that was meant
to revive batteries because of the bill Barry's situation became so tense that the director of the bureau station fired and only reinstated after public outcry. A shameful position of the secretary of commerce and thought that the marketplace should determine whether products were good or bad. Well you would have thought the poor would have learned from that but it didn't because at the present time they are considering going back into this consumer field which is a dream Lee controversy. And which has political angles as it did in this reality. Cage the capital produced enough to know good battery as you had many friends in Congress and he made life miserable for people in the government services for a long time in fact he was even given permission to sue the government for the inconvenience caused him. So this will happen over here and I'm
sure and it will be tough going for a government agency that think it can release commercially important negative information and not have one continual fight on its hands not only from the manufacturers and from members of Congress who are always quick to defend their constituents. From our. Very day information is determined by the federal government from standards of beef by the United States Department of Agriculture to the amount in an aerosol can by the Federal Trade Commission and the National Bureau of Standards. Actually NBN plays a major role in all work on quality whether in cooperation with industry representatives or in assisting enforcement of mandatory standards. For example the Congress of the United States has
required fabrics to be fire resistant to a certain degree. The National Bureau of Standards has helped to set a standard flammability. The Federal Trade Commission then test suspect fabrics and for bids the marketing of those which do not meet these requirements. However all federal guidelines encountered trouble in one key area enforcement. Consumers who had faith in the standards of cleanliness and sanitation set by the Food and Drug Administration may be startled by Walker's sandbanks comments. With regard to food just recently something one of the top officials at FDA said that they did not have anywhere near adequate money or manpower to adequately protect the consumer. So that here we are suddenly faced with the fact that while most of us thought we were being adequately protected by the FDA and the FDA itself says it's just not true and they are very slow in reaching some of their decisions like the cyclamates where three days before they
banned the use of cyclamates one of the top officials in FDA said there is nothing to worry about with regard to cyclamates. So that obviously the agency is having a great deal of trouble internally and deciding what to do with some of these products which have not been adequately tested. There may be questions about the enforcement of these guidelines. Consumers can be encouraged by their existence. Mandatory standards on refrigerator door closers flammable fabrics and other hazardous substances ensure that any product below these limits may be seized and confiscated. In addition general guidelines assure consumers that the label 100 percent nylon on a garment means the same to all manufacturers. This type of voluntary standard allows a consumer to compare light goods. Actually these voluntary requirements are an essential part of the economy
according to Malcolm Jensen acting deputy director of the Institute for Applied Technology at the National Bureau of Standards for voluntary standards who played a very significant role and tarnation as a matter. And the bureau has been deeply involved in this since of you came into existence 9 1. You can think for example of the great difficulty the automobile or any other hardware industry would have if there were not a standard four screw threads. Bolts and nuts that fit together or they were not standards for color that could harmonize and contract any kind of fitting and that in order for things to be made around the country then assembled at one place there must be standards at that state to dimension of these. We see a voluntary standard as a method of communication and attempt to put into pretty precise language those critical things that are of importance to a buyer and a seller. And it really serves to communicate this information first buyer to the seller and from seller back to
the buyer. There are perhaps 18000 voluntary standards and exists in the United States today published by quite a number of organizations I believe that they would total perhaps 350 or more. Most of them private all private except the effort done by the National Bureau of Standards. The biggest of these are the American Society for testing and materials located in Philadelphia and American National Standards Institute of New York. These are funded by private enterprise and work in the private sector. When one considers the needs of consumers and voluntary standards you enter an entirely new arena because industry has sponsored the development of voluntary standards and standards them selves are largely oriented to solution of industry problems. Consumers do not household consumer do not pay for membership in the organization. So there are relatively few voluntary standards that relate to the hazard or safety of products or to the performance of products or to the Derby
of consumer products. Here is an area of what to me represents very great excitement for the immediate future and I believe the president has recognized this because he included in his message to the Congress and Consumer Affairs a proposal that he would submit a bill and this bill has been submitted that would. Enable the federal government to approve or develop standard test methods for consumer products. Once these test methods had been approved or published by the government and then your facts of the product could advertise that he was making his product according to the tests that were published. I think this is a beginning of what will be a rather tremendous effort both within the public sector by the people paid for by the people and perhaps in response to this in a private sector to develop these lines of communication these things we call standards to cover consumer products and processes. The greatest benefit then may be for the industry itself and not for the consumer. But attempts are being made to serve the consumer as well.
Malcolm Jensen explains. This is what I think our considerable consumer product testing bill might well do. I like to use example of a refrigerator because I can think of things that the average listener the average reader will easily bring his mind to. We buy a refrigerator perhaps once or twice to most three Tansey in our lifetime. When we buy we can look at the advertisement in the newspapers the magazines the television and the radio. We can talk to a neighbor of a neighbor's phone recently or a relative. We ducked a sales clerk who might well be a barber during the daytime and some refrigerator at night. We can't rely on our own experience like we can we buy bread or canned peas or frozen vegetables. We know about what is supposed to do but we don't know yet how it's supposed to do it or what the levels of quality are. I think of these kinds of things for example refrigerator sold today are either normal frosting refrigerators and
ever tell you that or their automatic defroster for educators or there are no defrost refrigerators. The average consumer has no way of knowing what to convenience of the no defrost vs. the automatic before us or what to cost in power usage and what the maintenance probability might be. We know because we're beginning to be concerned about noise noise pollution and its effect on you and me. That refrigerator do make a certain amount of noise but we have no way of measuring it nor do we know that what noise level should be acceptable in our home. In order not to interfere to cause problems we know the refrigerator supposed to freeze things but nobody has told us what is reasonable and how quick it should freeze. How many ice cubes or how many actual pounds are a square foot of area. How quick it should recover once you replace the ice cubes with water. We know they're supposed to keep things cool but nobody has told us about the thermal transmission moving that the cold air from the inside out or the hot air from the outside in each one of these things can be
quantified to use a modern bureaucratic word which means being given numbers by a test. I'm convinced that it will be possible to devise test methods to identify the significant characteristics of the use the hazard level and build it a product. To put numbers of levels and then at the end consumer make a choice and convinced also that it will be thoughtful for the government issued publications that give helpful information on the selection and use of sophisticated high technology products that identifying brand names without using proprietary information. That's simply what you should know about it. One if you're going to select it and two if you're going to use it this type of proposal is particularly supported by Virginia now or assistant to the president for consumer affairs. She is encouraging consideration of a governmental seal indicating the uniform testing procedures for that feature.
Thus the government would not endorse a particular product merely develop standard testing methods which industry might adopt. Any manufacturer using these methods would be allowed to add this government CEO to his products. The complex testing procedures required to determine quality may take some time to develop. But federal employees have already started this task and we'd like to give you a few examples. The contents of an aerosol can and presented quite a challenge at first since the propellant and the can itself could not be considered as part of the consumable weight. It was necessary to weigh the contents by another method. Earl Johnson section head in fair packaging and labeling at the Federal Trade Commission outlines the approach chosen net contents on the outside of the can which is always wait as required. The pressure pressurized
product is that amount of product which you can get out of the can under normal circumstances. In other words the way to know it is people will check the net weight or plain on the outside of the can by saying it can't on their scales first and then reading the directions pressing the button under the normal use until all of the product has come out of a can that will come out by just that normal pressure on the button. Then they will weigh the can again and the net weight on the cans should match the net weight difference between the two measurements they have taken. Another area where standards have become fairly well defined as meat products. The United States Department of Agriculture has an extensive system of inspection and grading meat. Dr. Victor Berry chief of the planning branch of the slaughter Inspection Division at the USDA. Details the initial process of approving meat for human consumption starting with with the animal and post-mortem or on the animal
and the bird. And when I'm speaking. It will be both about poultry and meat. Basically what's required is an animal to inspection or a look at the animal prior to slaughter the wards to determine any abnormalities or evidence of diseases prior to being slaughtered. Following that the animal course goes for slaughter. And at that time. Each animal. And each bird is looked at individually. To determine any disease conditions or abnormalities raining that make the flesh of the animal wholesome. This is the basic in a Mormon post-mortem inspection. Following that of course is the processing or further processing of the meat into what we call meat or meat food items either. From Hey arms two pizzas. This also receives inspection.
For what we call real inspection. The meat is re-inspected all through each step either traveling from one plant to the other or through the processing to see that. Something hasn't happened to it in in the various stages of processing. Also to see that in the meat food items that minimum requirements of meat content. Are. Met. Another representative of the USDA George Grange in the grading service outlines the aspects considered in criteria for different grades of meat fruit eggs and other products. Well they come from the Department of Agriculture and we have what we call a standardization specialist. And here we do not try to get crushed out of a zation really make you have to be a specialist to know this way. And these specialists are continuously in the job of reviewing updating
modifying or developing in some cases new standards for products when there is a request for such standards. You have to know I say and perhaps I oversimplify it but you have to know three things in order to develop a national standard for a product. First you have to know what are the factors of quality. Is it succulence. Is it leanness of meat. Is it tenderness. How much. How important is color. Because we select on the basis of color the consumer may first then have to determine and define all the factors of quality. Secondly you have to find out how you measure gradations of differences in the quality. Do you use a colorimeter that can tell you how bright the orange color is or how
dollar just how do you go about measuring the gradations that occur in a quality that is second and then third. How do you. Develop a consistent and uniform method of being able to tell five thousand people how to apply these gradations in quality and pick the points at which you separate. Let's say a grade A From Grade B or grade C you'll have to determine at what point a normal discriminating person would make a distinction between the various grades. This is only the beginning of the story of quality and the guidelines which may help the consumer choose wisely. But mandatory standards ensure a certain level of protection for shoppers and voluntary standards give the consumer badly needed information in the search for the real bargain.
Buyer beware
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11 Of 26
Quality and Quantity
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Chicago: “Buyer beware; 11 Of 26; Quality and Quantity,” 1971-00-00, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 27, 2022,
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APA: Buyer beware; 11 Of 26; Quality and Quantity. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from