Santa isn’t the only one who makes a list at this time of year. The editors at Consumer Reports have made theirs, checked it twice and announced which companies made their “Naughty & Nice” lineup for 2013.
Some major national retailers, along with a big airline and a cable TV channel, were among the naughty ones. The nice ones include a major bank, a cellphone company, some popular retailers and an airline.
(Read more: Who has happiest mobile users? Hint: Think small)
“This is an education campaign to remind people that they have choices in the marketplace,” said CR senior editor Tod Marks. “Companies have different policies. Some are customer friendly, some are not.”
Nominations came from staff members and Facebook fans. Before a company compiled the list, the policy or practice in question was verified.
Consumer Reports stresses, however, that this is not a definitive list.
(Read more: Have a problem with a payday loan? Call the feds)
“When we praise or criticize a company, it’s in regard to a specific policy. It doesn’t mean that we give either a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on everything else that company does,” Marks said. “We’ve had instances where a company has done very well one year and gone on the negative list the next year, and vice versa, so it’s about the particular policy—not the company.”
Naughty companies include:
- Amazon.com: It raised the required purchase for free Super Saver shipping by $ 10, to $ 35.
- Best Buy: The electronics chain will now require customers to show a photo ID to make a return, even with the receipt.
- BJ’s Wholesale Club: Members cannot return perishable products such as food and flowers. The competition, Costco and Sam’s Club, will take back any item for any reason.
- Fry’s Electronics: Most electronics stores give customers 15 to 30 days to return most televisions, although there may be more restrictions on big-screen sets. Fry’s will not give refunds on TVs 24 inches and larger.
- QVC: America’s favorite shopping channel was criticized for having 20 different price categories, such as the “QVC Price,” “Today’s Special Value,” the “Event Price,” “While Supplies Last,” “Last Clicks” and “Clearance Price,” just to name a few. “It’s hard to tell whether you’re getting a great deal or a great spiel,” Marks said.
- United Airlines: The carrier no longer offers families with small children the chance to board the plane early. United said the policy change, which was announced this summer, was designed to “simplify the boarding process.”
Here are some of the Nice ones:
- Citibank: The Citi Simplicity credit card is different because there’s never a late fee. With many other cards, it’s $ 15 to $ 35. Though the pass is great if you slip up and miss paying that bill, the bank probably will close the account if that becomes a pattern.
- Consumer Cellular: This wireless company, which has stellar customer satisfaction ratings, plays by a different set of rules: no contracts, no activation fees and no penalties for changing plans. It also offers a 30-day, money-back guarantee. If you don’t like the service you can cancel and get a full refund.
- Hampton Inn & Suites: It promises “friendly service, clean rooms, comfortable surroundings, every time.” And if you’re not completely satisfied, it doesn’t expect you to pay.
- Lands’ End: It still has an unconditional guarantee that lets customers get a refund or exchange on any product, at anytime and for any reason. This policy applies even to personalized items that have been hemmed or monogrammed.
- Southwest Airlines: It scores points for providing greater flexibility than most other airlines when you need to switch flights. The carrier lets you modify your itinerary and pay just the fare difference, without a penalty fee. Other airlines charge big fees for making any change in your flights after a ticket is purchased.
Click here to read Consumer Reports‘ complete 2013 Holiday Report Card.
(Read more: How to complain about your bank)
—By CNBC contributor Herb Weisbaum. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter @TheConsumerman or visit The ConsumerMan website.
Both sides of the publication’s compilation for 2013 feature retailers and airlines.