March 14, 2010

Critical Thinking Sunday: Consumer Protection!

Jeff Wagg, Communications Manager for the JREF, is an incredibly engaging guy and did a fun presentation at last year's science and skeptical track of Dragon*Con. He asked the audience what they thought the number one skeptical publication was.

Consumer Reports, baby! When people question the idea of skepticism and critical thinking, you can usually win them over by talking about consumer protection. Nobody likes to be scammed. How better to know what you're getting than to rely on the unbiased reviews of products scientifically tested by the Consumers Union? These guys are the best. I'm not saying that all of their reviews are perfect. Sometimes it's hard to know what and how to test certain things. I don't usually buy what they have to say about digital cameras for instance. But for overall filtering of the wheat from the chaff, Consumer Reports is a great place to start.

While not as comprehensive in scope, I do like ConsumerSearch as well. They're similar to the review aggregator I mentioned last week, metacritic. They scour reviews from all over (including Consumer Reports) and come up with the highest rated products in various categories. Always a good first place to look before buying.

For the geeky tech stuff, I personally tend to lean toward Cnet. But their reviews are also included in ConsumerSearch and unless you like going down the technical spec rabbit hole (and can steel yourself against their "must-have" attitude), then you're probably better off sticking with ConsumerSearch and Consumer Reports.

Don't buy blind. Spend a few minutes benefiting from the advice of the experts.