Which companies are naughty, nice?

If Santa were to rate companies on their customer service policies, which ones would get lumps of coal in their holiday stockings this year?

By Giselle Smith Nov 22, 2011 6:18PM

Consumer Reports released its 2011 Naughty & Nice Holiday List this week, with companies such as Verizon, The Swiss Colony and American Apparel scheduled to look for lumps of coal in their stockings next month.

Taking a cue from Santa Claus, the product-and-service-review publication rated well-known companies on their behavior over the past year, specifically as related to their customer-service policies. The list is based on input from Consumer Reports editors and reporters covering companies offering everything from air travel to apparel, and credit cards to concert tickets. Post continues below.

Introduced in 2010, the list is timed for release during the holiday season -- when shopping and travel are up, and shoppers are at their most vulnerable, Consumer Reports said.


Who's been naughty

Verizon made it onto the "naughty" list for claiming to alert customers before they exceed their monthly allotment of minutes, messages or data -- but sometimes failing to notify customers until after those limits are exceeded (and then trying to sell the customer a more expensive plan). The problem should be fixed soon, however, thanks to an FCC deal with the association representing wireless carriers that will reduce cellphone bill shock by making such alerts mandatory.


American Apparel's inclusion was prompted by the company's two different return policies -- allowing online customers 45 days to return items for a refund or credit, but giving in-store customers only 30 days to make a return, and offering only store credit with no option for a refund.

Also on the "naughty" list is Southwest Airlines, which was criticized for charging its passengers $10 per flight to earn a better place in line for boarding. One Consumer Reports reader expressed surprise at the airlines' inclusion, however, noting that Southwest allows each passenger to check two bags for free. That policy earned the company a spot on the publication's "nice" list in 2010.

The only repeat offender from 2010 was Verizon, which was dinged last year for a $350 early termination fee on smartphone contracts. 

More nice than naughty, however

The list includes 10 "nice" companies, and only nine "naughty" ones, though Tod Marks, senior editor at Consumer Reports, clarified to The New York Times that this ranking is not based on companies' overall performance. "It's a list that's compiled based on specific policies that we thought were particularly customer friendly -- or not," he said.

Some of the good policies included Cablevision's deep discounts on movie tickets, popcorn and soda at participating theaters -- plus free tickets on Tuesdays -- for subscribers who opt for Internet, phone and TV service through the telecom company.

Also lauded was Crutchfield, a Virginia-based consumer-electronics merchant that offers no-extra-charge help with installation, setup, troubleshooting and tech support for the lifetime of purchased products.

Several companies made the list for their return policies, including Costco, REI and South Carolina-based BI-LO supermarkets. And Microsoft was mentioned for taking returns of installed software within 45 days.

Seattle-based Amazon also got a nod -- for taking a stand against poor packaging by encouraging customers to send feedback to manufacturers about their wasteful or frustrating product packaging.

Costco and Orvis both made a second annual appearance on the "nice" list.

View the complete 2011 Naughty & Nice Holiday List here -- then tell us what is missing. What other companies deserve a lump of coal -- or a sleigh full of presents -- this year?

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Nov 23, 2011 11:02AM
How about throwing the Federal Government in the mix. They would win the naughty prize hands down. Worst customer (tax payer) support ever.
Nov 23, 2011 5:53AM
Just an observation that four of the ten nice companies, Costco, REI, Amazon,and Microsoft, are based in the greater Seattle area. Is that a reflection of the region?
Nov 23, 2011 10:59AM
Please add AT&T Wireless to the list of "Naughty" companies.  If you wish to talk with Customer Service Representatives you will discover they lack the ability to be human beings.  This issue is most similar with numerous companies today, downgrade the quality of customer service, this is proportional to an increase in profits, and it's working.  Until, that one day, when corporate America will finally fail.  Does anyone know what the phrase, "Valued Customer since 20XX" really means? 

Keep it up Wall Street, continue to rape retirement accounts, one day in the not too far future, no one will have anything left and you'll finally be without customers, I can't wait.

Nov 23, 2011 12:16PM

Why don't we rate how employees of these companies are treated and we can start with Sprint.  Sprint plays too many games with their emplyees and it's because of the economy.  When the economy is as bad as it is now companies treat their emplyees like crap and thus the emplyees treat customers like crap.  This should not be.  Companies need to wake up, stop taking drugs and take a real goooooood look at their operating the company.  Quit playing golf and get down to business.  NOW!!!

Nov 23, 2011 9:06AM
The WORST company of all time is Dish Network. I had them less than 24 hours and they made me pay over $400.00 to get out of the contract .Customer service sucked! I'm thankful this year for Direct TV. I should have never switched even for less than 24 hours.
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