I'm a big fan of Consumer Reports. I've been a subscriber to their magazine for as long as I can remember. And in recent years I've been an "All Access" subscriber so I could also peruse their digital information via ConsumerReports.org
But today Consumer Reports screwed up by sending me, and who knows how many other subscribers, a false email message saying that I'd changed my membership from All Access to Digital -- which meant I wouldn't be getting the magazine anymore.
When I read the message (shown above), I was perplexed. I was almost completely sure that I hadn't changed my membership. However, recently I'd visited ConsumerReports.org to check on car reviews, since my wife and I have been trying to decide between buying a 2019 Subaru Forester or 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.
So I thought there was a slim chance that somehow in all of my clicking around on the Consumer Reports web site, my membership had gotten shifted from All Access to Digital.
Thus somewhat stupidly I clicked on the "Reactivate All Access" link, figuring that if I'd inadvertently changed my membership, this would restore it to All Access (print + digital). But what happened was, I ended up on a page that asked me to pay $55 to upgrade to an All Access membership again.
Even more stupidly, in retrospect, of course, I used PayPal to fork over that amount to Consumer Reports. Understand: up until this point I really did believe what Sue Melfi, Director of Member Support, said in the message above: I did value what Consumer Reports offers, including the "reliable services" Melfi mentioned.
Thus the trusting part of my brain figured that my All Access subscription had lapsed, and I needed to pay to get it going again. After doing the PayPal thing, though, a non-trusting part of my brain came to life and I checked the label on an issue of Consumer Reports that had come not long ago.
It said that my subscription was good until May 2021.
That caused me to phone Consumer Reports support. Not surprisingly, I got a message saying that due to heavy call volume I could leave a message asking for a callback within several days. That sounded ominous, since I suspected that as more subscribers read the erroneous email message from Consumer Reports, the call volume would increase even more.
I shifted to the Chat option and reached Emily within a few minutes. She told me that there was a "glitch" with the email message -- which seemed like an overly weak word to use for what really was a totally false message.
At any rate, it took 20 minutes or so for me to describe the problem and for Emily to credit my PayPal account for the unnecessary upgrade to an All Access subscription. At which point a new problem arose: Consumer Reports had opened up a new All Access account in my name, which is what I now was logged into.
Emily had to send me an email with instructions on how to reset my password so I could access my old account that had an All Access subscription ending in 2021. All in all, I spent well over an hour (maybe more) dealing with the Consumer Reports "glitch."
Annoyingly, I haven't gotten any email message from Consumer Reports apologizing for the problem and stating that actually I didn't change my subscription from All Access to Digital.
I haven't lost faith in the ability of Consumer Reports to accurately assess products and services. But I definitely have lost faith in the ability of Consumer Reports to ensure the quality of its own subscription product.