Survey finds customer service is Americans’ biggest gripe

Americans have many reasons to be annoyed. But what bugs them most are hidden fees and not being able to speak to a human being when they call customer service, according to a nationally representative survey by Consumer Reports.
In a survey conducted in late September 2009, CR asked 1,125 Americans to score 21 gripes on a 1-to-10 scale, 1 meaning an experience “does not annoy you at all” and 10 meaning it “annoys you tremendously.”
Hidden fees (8.9 overall) and the inability to reach a human being (8.6) top the list, but tailgating (8.3), cell-phone use while driving (8.0) and incomprehensible bills (7.8) were also among the more annoying things that rub Americans the wrong way.
Despite all the complaining, one group escaped the worst of the public’s wrath. Americans have far more to be annoyed with than weather forecasters who get it wrong. They scored only a mere 4.3 on CR’s gripe scale.
Respondents who identified themselves as Democrats were more annoyed than Republicans by television or radio shows during which people shout their opinions. Of the respondents who indicated a party affiliation, the mean gripe score for being annoyed at shouters was 6.9 for Democrats to 5.9 for Republicans.
Bad news for man’s best friend or more accurately their scrupulous owners: Unscooped dog poop (7.6) was high on the list, particularly with residents of urban areas.
Women were significantly more irritated than men by 11 of the 21 choices, including speeding drivers, having to remember passwords and PINs, and products that shrank but still cost the same. People older than 50 were more annoyed than younger folks about eight of the choices. Among them: discourteous cell-phone use, e-mail spam and cell-phone use while driving.
Men win in the battle of the sexes
Roam any drugstore and you’ll see products that seem to be twins, except for one thing: One is for women, the other for men. CR discovered that products directed at women — through packaging, description or name — might cost up to 50 percent more than similar products for men.
— Shaving cream. CR found Barbasol Original or Soothing Aloe for men at 15 cents per ounce, Barbasol’s Pure Silk for women at 26 cents per ounce. According to a product manger for Perio, the company behind both, Pure Silk costs about 30 to 40 percent more to manufacturer. The spokesperson added that because 80 percent of women shave in the shower, the company wanted to make a can with an aluminum bottom that wouldn’t rust like the Barbasol container.
— Antiperspirant. Degree men’s and women’s products have the same percentage of the same active ingredient, yet a spokesperson for Degree, says that they are completely different formulations. At the stores where CR shopped, women paid a slight premium: For $3.59, they got 2.6 ounces; men got 2.7 ounces.
— Pain reliever. Each “express gel” of Excedrin Extra Strength and Excedrin Complete Menstrual contains 250 milligrams of aspirin, 250 mg of acetaminophen and 65 mg of caffeine. But Excedrin Menstrual cost 50 cents more at Walgreens. A spokesperson for Novartis Consumer Health, Excedrin’s parent, says it was Walgreens’ decision, noting the suggested retail price for the products was the same.
— Schick Quattro razor blades. The basic blades for both genders are virtually identical in performance and features, a customer service representative and should be priced similarly, said a spokesperson for Energizer, Schick’s parent. Still, CR found a four-pack of replacement blades for women selling at CVS for 50 cents more than the same four-pack of blades for men.
Bottom line. Try ignoring gender labeling and buy the cheaper version. Most of us can’t tell the difference.

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