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For holiday shoppers, retailers' approach to fees, returns and other practices can bring praise or anger. And when customers rant or rave, Consumer Reports takes note — and compiles them into its annual "Naughty and Nice" list of companies.
"They're policies and practices that people either felt were consumer-friendly or not," Consumer Reports senior editor Tod Marks tells NPR's Steve Inskeep. He adds that the list isn't related to the ratings his magazine is known for.
The list includes 20 widely known companies — such as grocery stores Publix and Safeway (nice), and airlines Delta and Spirit (naughty).
The "naughty" offenses range from BMW and other carmakers' omission of spare tires in new models, and the clothing chain Forever 21's two separate policies for online and in-store returns.
Of particular note in this holiday season, retailer Abe's of Maine was criticized for the many exceptions to its 30-day money-back guarantee. Marks says that under the policy, the seller of electronics and appliances doesn't include microwaves, watches, TVs, laptops and other items.
"Really, people are just so frustrated," he says. "And they're primarily frustrated because of the inability, or an unwillingness on the part of a lot of companies, to just simply listen to them."
On the "Nice" list, the return policies at Kohl's and Nordstrom came in for praise, as did the all-inclusive pricing of the Drury Hotel chain.
The Red Wing Shoe Co. was commended for allowing no-questions-asked returns of its boots. And PNC Bank won fans for offering a simple, unglamorous product: a free basic checking account, with no minimum balance.
Marks adds that a spot on the "Naughty and Nice" list doesn't necessarily mean a company is making a bad product.
"Oftentimes, we see companies that do very well in our survey, maybe they'll pop up on the naughty list," Marks says. "And conversely, we'll see companies that don't do so well sometimes have a nice policy ... We've got the good, the bad, and the ugly."