Posts tagged with "Consumer Reports"

Tip sheet: What to give your ‘support team’ this holiday season

December 4, 2018

Of the people who make our lives simpler, cleaner, safer, and easier on the eyes all year-round, a survey by Consumer Reports has found that we are most likely to gift our housekeepers during the holidays—and least likely to tip our trash collectors.

Indeed, fully 60% of us gave gratuities to one or more service providers during the holidays last year, according to the results of the inquiry; which was conducted last spring, in order to ensure that the 2,000-plus respondents remembered what they had given during 2017.

Overall, Americans doled out an average of $45 in tips—up $5 from the prior year. The majority of those fringe benefits were in cash.

“Cash is going to be most prized,” Thomas P. Farley, a New York-based etiquette expert also known as Mister Manners, told the magazine. “Don’t forget, the people we tip may have their own tips they have to give out.”

Housekeepers received the largest gratuities—usually up to one day’s salary—an average of $65. And although just 30% of Americans who used a gardener tipped those service providers, the landscapers who did get tips raked in an average of $50. Hairdressers (52% of whom were gifted) and garbage collectors (14%) were on the lower end of the spectrum, each receiving a median tip of $20.

While it seems as if everyone has a hand out during the holidays, deciding whom to tip doesn’t need to be complicated,  Daniel Post Senning, the great-great-grandson of etiquette maven Emily Post and a spokesperson for the Emily Post Institute, told Consumer Reports.

“To simplify the process, just consider tipping service providers in key areas of your personal life,” he says.

Such people may include those who take care of your family—say, a nanny or health aide—as well as those who take care of your home, like a housekeeper or handyman. Just under half of respondents (41%) made sure to tip their pet-care providers—and the median value was $25.

Where you live can also have a major impact on whom you tip. Senning, who lives in rural Vermont, tips the person who plows his driveway when it snows. For someone in southern Florida, though, the tip may go the person cleaning the swimming pool.

New Yorkers and other urbanites often grapple with how much to tip a doorman, apartment superintendent, or other building worker. There’s no clear answer, but Farley suggests talking to other building residents to get an idea of what’s appropriate. The sum can vary a lot, depending on whether you live in a walk-up row house with a part-time super or in a full-service luxury flat.

You can also consider giving to those who help you look good and stay healthy, such as a stylist, barber, or personal trainer.

Senning pointed out that in some cases it’s inappropriate to tip. “Be careful when it comes to salaried professionals,” he says. “Nurses and doctors, for example, are professionals you shouldn’t tip.”

How about teachers? Consumer Reports’ survey found that 57% of Americans with school-aged children gave teachers a holiday gift. That, however, is not always such a good idea. “You don’t want to create the impression of any tit-for-tat, or that you’re paying someone who is grading your kids,” Senning says.

He advises that you check the gift-giving policy at your child’s school before giving teachers a present. If it’s okay with the school, Senning recommends collecting money for a gift that’s from the entire class. “Make sure it’s clear that the gift comes from everyone, whether they’ve contributed or not,” he says. “The same goes in the office if you’re planning to give a gift to the boss.” 

The sense of obligation can feel stressful and awkward to many people, Senning says.

However, there are ways to ease your jangled nerves. “Rather than looking at tipping as an obligation, we should think of it as an opportunity to honor the people that make our lives better,” Senning says.

gift or prepaid card, placed in a greeting card with a sincere message of thanks, can be a good alternative to the awkwardness of handing over cash. Farley says he prefers bank-based gift cards, like those from Visa or American Express, that aren’t connected to a particular retailer. “I don’t want to presume that the person has a need to download more music on iTunes,” he says.

Senning says that you also can consider sending a gift basket or a tin of cookies. Because those gifts can be shared, they’re especially useful in places where a number of workers provided you with service.

One way of giving to avoid is a peer-to-peer payment through a service such as Apple Pay, Venmo, or Zelle, Farley says. “The act of actually handing someone something, shaking their hand, and thanking them is lost in a P2P transaction,” he notes. “If there were ever a time to give P2P a rest, it would be the holidays, when we’re really looking for the human connection.”

And a few more words of advice from Consumer Reports

  • Be aware that the U.S. Postal Service restricts the gifts that mail carriers can accept. Presents worth up to $20 are fine, but carriers can’t accept cash.
  • Don’t give food unless you’re certain the recipient can eat it. With many people changing to more restrictive diets, your symbol of generosity might end up regiftedor thrown out. Similarly, not every recipient would appreciate wine or spirits as a gift.
  • If you’re giving cash, go to your bank to get nice, crisp bills, which present better and show a bit more effort on your part.
  • If you really can’t afford to buy a gift or give cash—and don’t feel you have the talent or time to bake or make a gift—a heartfelt note of thanks is better than no recognition at all. As Senning points out, money isn’t everything. “We like to say that holiday tipping is really holiday thanking,” he says.

Research contact: @octavionyc

The best protection under the sun

June 26, 2018

It is finally summer—and Americans are leaving their homes in droves to enjoy the balmy temperatures and sunshine in their backyards, parks, pools, and beaches. Most of us feel that moderate exposure to sun improves our health, appearance, and mood. But we also know that too much of a good thing can be dangerous—causing everything from skin rashes to sunburns, to sun poisoning to cancer. So why is it that so few of us use sunscreen when we are out and about?

Indeed, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, fewer than 15% of men and 30% of women report applying sunscreen to their faces and other exposed skin when they leave the house (or the office) for more than an hour. Women are more likely than men to apply sunscreen to their faces, in order to avoid the aging effects of too much sun—–perhaps accounting for their greater usage.

Sunscreen use is particularly low among men, non-Hispanic blacks, people with less sun-sensitive skin, those who do not get the recommended amount of weekly aerobic physical activity, and people with lower incomes (under $60,000), the CDC reports.

Another demographic that is likely to skimp on sunscreen is teenagers. Following a study by William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey, in 2011, lead researcher Corey Basch, an associate professor in the school’s Department of Public Health, commented, “Unfortunately we found a decrease in the overall percentage of teens who reported wearing sunscreen—[down] from 67.7% in 2001 to 56.1% in 2011.

And even when they do look for sunscreen, many Americans don’t know which type really is best for them. According to the Food and Drug Administration , that would be “broad spectrum” brands that protect against both ultraviolet A and B radiation with an SPF of 30 or higher. UVA rays are believed to be responsible for the aging and wrinkling of skin; UVB rays are the culprit that causes cancer.

That seems easy enough, but, the CDC again has some bad news for us: Nearly 40% of sunscreen users were unsure if their sunscreen provided broad-spectrum protection.

Top brands

For those who could use some help with their choices, Consumer Reports ranks commercially available sunscreens each year. According to the researchers at Consumer’s Union, the following products scored 81 or higher overall and were rated excellent or very good for UVA and UVB protection:

  • La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Melt-in Sunscreen Milk SPF 60 ($36, or $7.20 an ounce, score of 100);
  • Equate Sport Lotion SPF 50 ($5, or 63 cents an ounce, score of 99; and
  • BullFrog Land Sport Quik Gel SPF 50 ($8.50, or $1.70 cents an ounce, score of 95).

The magazine also rated the top spray and stick sunscreens—two of which rated highly:

  • Trader Joe’s Spray SPF 50+ ($6, or $1 an ounce, score of 100); and
  • Up & Up (Target) Kids Sunscreen Stick SPF 55 ($8, or $6.67 an ounce, score of 85).

Among natural sunscreens, California Kids #Supersensitive Lotion SPF 30+ scored highest. It received an overall score of 55 and costs $20 a package, or $6.90 an ounce.

The report recommends against using sprays on kids until researchers know more about the dangers of inhaling them. If you do use them, Consumer Reports suggest spraying the solution onto your hand, then rubbing it into your skin.

Application tips

Among the recommendations for applying such products are the following, according to the American Academy of Dermatology:

  • Apply sunscreen generously 15 minutes before going outdoors;
  • Use enough—at least one ounce for an adult (about the amount you can hold in your palm) to fully cover your body;.
  • Remember your neck, face, ears, tops of your feet, and legs;
  • Use a balm with an SPF of at least 15 for your lips; and
  • Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours, or immediately after swimming or sweating.

Finally, using sunscreen should not be your only defense against the sun. For the best protection, the experts  says, stay in the shade and wear protective clothing, a hat with a wide brim, and sunglasses, as well as sunscreen.

Research contact: 1-800-CDC-INFO