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Countdown: Consumer Product Safety Commission – 2 Minutes, 20 Seconds

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To mark the first week of the launch of the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s new database to report suspect or unsafe products, saferproducts.gov, I decided to try them out for our inaugural “Countdown” column to see how long it would take to get through on its toll-free consumer hotline.

Here’s how the column works: we call a company’s customer service number and see how long it takes for us to get through to a human and what happens in the interim. Alternatively, if you’ve been left hanging on the line, we want to hear from you.

The wait time: 2 minutes, 20 seconds.

The options: I had a choice of English or Spanish, plus the option to leave a voicemail. The CPSC also has an online form that takes between 5 and 10 minutes to complete, depending on how fast you are, so theoretically consumers should have no problem reporting faulty products without delay.

The music: I listened to the third movement of  Clair de Lune or “moonlight” from Suite Bergamasque by the French composer Claude Debussy. It was very relaxing for a Friday afternoon … less so if you were desperate to report a hazardous coffee pot.

The background: Once a member of the public has filed a report to saferproducts.gov website, manufacturers have an initial 10 days to respond, but still have the chance to respond after that. Some manufacturers fear it could contain misleading or unverifiable reports, but the CPSC says it’s been evaluating reports for a long time, and increased transparency empowers consumers. Products like cribs and other household items are under the CPSC’s remit – firearms, automobiles, cosmetics, food and drugs are not.


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  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.