ShopSmart ;)

The tag reads: "No hype, no ads, just great buys!" If only life were that simple. As someone who keeps her local Chinese restaurants on speed dial, the tips for growing tastier fruits and vegetables didn't register. What did: the bright, clean cover and the allure of consumer control. Also, I'd recommend the article on top hair products -- at bargain prices -- to President Obama. He's retained his lithe figure, but his gray hairs testify to bipartisan stress, late nights and the realization that absolute power corrupts the follicles absolutely.

I haven't addressed the ";)" at the end of ShopSmart for the simple reason I don't get it. Like the box on the IRS form asking if you want to finance the zillion-dollar political campaigns of people owned by special interests. When it comes to determining health care, who wins? The sucker who checked off $3 or the insurance company that bought Sen. Max Baucus' Jacuzzi?

Since we can't control Congress, we need to sustain ourselves -- and that's where ShopSmart, a nifty Consumer Reports shopping guide, comes in. It presents helpful, easy-to-understand information, laid out by an art director who knows how to use his color wheel.

The mag's mission is awesome; it works "for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves." There are 50 test labs and the amount of information produced is impressive. And like a Sondheim lyric, it's pared down to essentials. The buying guide addresses five major categories: Home & Yard, Health & Family, Food, Electronics and Cars.

Some items are major purchases, and it pays to check into a company's best practices. Given the recent BP oil spill and the crash of the NASA balloon, loaded with an invaluable telescope, I wonder: Are these giants doing due diligence, safety-wise? NASA has been shamed by major snafus, while oil slicks -- and this one is advancing on the mighty Mississippi -- give the Sierra Club sleepless nights. Maybe the experts at Consumers Union, which prides itself on independent analysis, should step in. Here are a few current pointers: Those stickers on fruits and veggies are educative. If it starts with a 9, it's organic. An 8 means genetically modified. Caveat: you won't see many 8s because codes aren't mandatory. But if the apple is as big as your head, buyer beware.

On the wrinkle front, those high-priced serums that claim to fight aging -- not so much. They promise a lot -- like my broker pitching a stock -- but they disappoint. According to Dr. Ellen Marmur, a dermatologist, botanicals (plant-based ingredients) can be harsh. "Natural" isn't always good for you, which is worth remembering when someone suggests camping.

The section on food safety was enlightening. Given the risk list, I'm lucky to be alive. And trust your sniffer -- on meat and fish, which interestingly enough, shouldn't smell too fishy. Fresh is crucial in everything, including wit. In fact, be it allergy meds, hair dyes, state-of-the-art TVs or best vehicles, ShopSmart keeps it real. For products that earn a positive mention, it's better than an ad; it's an unsolicited boost. The information is clear and concise; the layout, to quote Keats, "a thing of beauty." This is one pub that lives up to its promise.


Published by: Consumers Union

Frequency: 10 times/year


2 comments about "ShopSmart ;) ".
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  1. John Capone from Whalebone, May 6, 2010 at 2:40 p.m.

    Maybe there was already a Shop Smart without the emoticon? I also am at a loss to explain why they'd willing use that in their name.

  2. Dillon Franks from Relevant ideas...LLC, May 6, 2010 at 3:15 p.m.

    Well put, well said. A concise and understandable review, I'll buy.

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