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- Palate cleansers in between taste samples: usually water or saltines, but if you have fatty foods, you can cleanse your palate with slices of pear or apple and some seltzer. Spicy food can be palate-cleansed with avocado.
- We tested Jell-o
- Maxine, who's in charge of the sensory lab
- Testing packaged fruit cups
- The testers sit on the other side of this rolling door thing, so they don't sit in the kitchen and get influenced by the cooking smells
- A wall of ovens
- Discarded beauty product boxes
- The sink.
- Stuff near the sink
- Longshot of the sensory kitchen testing lab
- Coffee machines and grinders
- Crock pots and coffee machines
- Where the sensory magic happens
- Electric stoves
- Jello, which we tested
- The sensory lab
On Wednesday, we hopped on a bus full of journalists and bloggers and headed up to Yonkers, New York, to attend the ShopSmart Summit—the same place where we asked an FTC attorney why bloggers have to disclose freebies and print editors/writers don't—which was billed as "A Summit on Tips, Scams & Deals from ConsumerReports' Shopping Magazine." More on that later.
As part of the afternoon, we were taken on a behind-the-scenes tour of four testing labs at Consumer Reports headquarters. Now, for anyone who might not be familiar, Consumer Reports is a non-profit that independently buys and tests all the products they feature in their magazines. They never take freebies and they don't even take advertising dollars. Eighty percent of the organization's income is derived from online and print subscriptions and 20% is derived from donations. They're about as impartial as a publication can get. Kudos to that.
We checked out the sensory lab, above—where a panel of testers taste and smell test foods and things like that—the television testing lab, the washing machine testing lab, and the exercise equipment testing lab. We've captioned every photo in every gallery, so have a flick through for our notes. It's a pretty mindblowing place, that Consumer Reports.
The washing machine testing room is like a giant laundry room. One of the machines was in the middle of a—wait for it—two hour washing cycle. Dude, who's waiting two hours for a washing cycle?
- The color spectrum of residue dirt
- Frayed after washing. They actually count how many fibers are in each circle post-wash to determine how frayed something is.
- These days, people think they need colored washing machines
- Washing machines in the machine testing room
- Testers soak fabrics in things like blood and sebum (ewwwww) and then compare the post-wash results.
- Lots of laundry
- Data, farmed.
- Where they test washing machines
Our favorite thing in the TV testing lab was the echo-free, totally soundproofed room. It's insulated with fiberglass, which is, you know, not that great for your lungs and eyeballs and stuff.
- I would like to put my neighbor's over-barky-dog in a soundproof room like this.
- This dummy is used for testing headphones. His ears are detachable. We don't know why it's important for him to be wearing a shirt.
- This machine tests how much wind noise things like microphones and camcorders pick up.
- The TV testing room
- Don't touch it, it's fiberglass
- Underneath the grates, there's more fiberglass insulation
- Connectors in the TV room
- More teevees
- A locker that says "Danger"
- The headphones-testing dummy
- Explaining how things work in an echo-free room
- The floor
- Do not step in yellow area
- Speaker testing in the soundproofed, echo-proof room
- This room cost about $2.5 million to build
- This room is totally sound-proof and echo-proof
- Do not store combustibles above this line in the teevee testing room
The exercise machine testing room-slash-baby-crib room was super-cool—mostly because we liked watching the people-simulators exercise and living vicariously through them. Also, they test infomercial products. Do those ab-thingies really work? One does...
- Torturing a sneaker in the name of science
- A machine that simulates a baby jumping up and down on a bed.
- When they tested this infomercial doo-dad, it didn't do anything for the abs, but did do something to the obliques.
- Stroller graveyard
- A machine that tests variations in elliptical machines' resistance.
- This is the only infomercial machine they've tested recently that works -- "but it's hard." Well, there you go.
- Look at how the foot and the ankle of the simulated man bends as the elliptical trainer moves.
- This is a simulation of an average American male. He is on an elliptical machine.
- Then they tested Skechers Shape-Ups
- Skechers Shape-Ups Testing Thingie
- A room full of ellipticals!
- They also test infomercial exercise equipment
- Consumer Reports has impacted the market in that now, no more drop-side cribs are sold in the USA.
- It's called the textile lab but it's filled with baby things and exercise equipment
Here are some shots from around the Consumer Reports building—the ramp in the front lobby, the things on the walls. For some reason, we thought that since Consumer Reports knows what the best products are in every category, the office would be chock full of all the best things—best lights, best handsoap in the bathroom, best toilet paper, best printers, best snacks...
- Logo window-blockers
- A mission statement greets you when you get halfway up the ramp
- After products, like these grills, are tested, they get auctioned off to employees and friends and family. Who gets the duds? We don't know.
- A hallway lined with grills
- More grills
- The main corridor at Consumer Reports
- Covers from all Consumer Reports' magazine line the walls of the main hall
- Walking up the ramp from the main entrance at Consumer Reports
- Notes on the wall
· Consumer Reports [Official Site]
· ShopSmart [Official Site]
· Why does the FTC mandate bloggers disclose freebies when print writers/editors don't [Racked]