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Behind the Scenes at Consumer Reports and ShopSmart: A Tour

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The Consumer Reports 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?

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.

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...

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...

· Consumer Reports [Official Site]
· ShopSmart [Official Site]
· Why does the FTC mandate bloggers disclose freebies when print writers/editors don't [Racked]