Our Picks From 2015: Editors’ Favorite Stories Of The Year

Image courtesy of Lisa

We write thousands of posts every year at Consumerist, and before we hit “publish,” we tell each of them that they’re our favorite. That’s a lie, though: everyone has their favorite projects or tasks at work, and so do we. Whether it’s because of their real-world impact, delicious research, important topics, or strange paths they led us down, we each have our favorites out of our work for the year. Each of our writers chose theirs along with some honorable mentions, and explained precisely why they enjoyed it so much.

Chris Morran

Image courtesy of Seth

The Comcast Seth Trilogy:
New Homeowner Has To Sell House Because Of Comcast’s Incompetence, Lack Of Competition
UPDATE: A Happy Ending For Man Who Almost Had To Sell His House Due To Comcast’s Incompetence
POSTSCRIPT: Even After Embarrassing Story, CenturyLink Still Has No Idea That This House Is Not On Their Network

Why this was my favorite: The story of Seth, who came to the brink of having to sell his newly purchased home because both Comcast and CenturyLink lied to him about being able to provide the much-needed Internet access for his home office, combines so much of the worst of what we write about the cable and broadband industries.

You’ve got clear evidence of lack of competition, the industries’ typical disregard for rural Americans, and systemic incompetence in customer service. Then you throw in the fact that Seth’s county operates a high-speed fiberoptic line that runs very near his house, but is blocked by a ridiculous state law forbidding the county from selling directly to consumers, and you’re talking about the very nightmare scenario that Comcast and other companies claim doesn’t exist.

But Seth’s perseverance, and the county’s willingness to work with him to reach an arrangement that ultimately connected his house while not violating the inane state law, also demonstrated the best of the American consumer. By navigating the bureaucracy and sharing his story with our readers, Seth became a bit of a consumer folk hero for the connected age.

Lawmakers Get Serious About Banning Gag Clauses:
For years, we’ve been writing about so-called non-disparagement (or “gag”) clauses that some companies use to scare customers away from writing honest, negative reviews. From the nation’s biggest banks to online retailers you’ve never heard of, the practice was growing in popularity, even if it often failed in court.

After a failed 2014 attempt to introduce national legislation banning these legally dubious clauses, the idea was resurrected this year. In November, the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing, where multiple Consumerist stories on this topic were introduced to support testimony in favor of a ban.

Then in December, the Senate unanimously passed the bill that will hopefully clear the House in early 2016.

Honorable Mentions:
Wireless & Cable Industries Fight Net Neutrality With Laughably Misleading Op-Eds & Video
Will The FDA Ever Get Around To New Warning Labels For Cigarettes?
Philadelphia Won’t Show Results Of Comcast Customer Survey To Anyone — Except Comcast
Anatomy Of A Comcastrophe: A Look Back At How Comcast Failed To Buy Time Warner Cable For $45B
Philip Morris International Uses Copyright Claims To Quiet Marlboro Critics
Why Is It So Dang Difficult To Get Accurate Information About Broadband Speeds?
Verizon’s New Ads Are Apparently Unfamiliar With Verizon’s Own Business Practices
Comcast Exec Who Failed At Time Warner Cable Merger Gets Boost To Annual Bonus
FDA’s Voluntary Guidance Failing To Curb Antibiotic Overuse In Farm Animals

Mary Beth Quirk

Image courtesy of Scott DeFillippo/Consumerist
We Tried It: 4 Ways To Cook A Burger That’s Safe To Eat But Doesn’t Taste Like Leather

Why this was my favorite: Any time I can combine food and work, I’m a fan (as you can see below by the other stories I picked as my favorites this year). It’s even better when we team up with the Consumer Reports sensory lab team and I get to eat burgers all morning in the name of science. Informing readers about food safety while snacking on perfectly cooked beef? Yes, please.

Honorable Mentions:
There’s A Preservative That Can Give You An Awful, Itchy Rash — And It’s Probably In Your Bathroom
How Did The Hot Dog Get Such A Bad Rap?
That Was Then, This Is Now: How 72 Brands From ‘Mad Men’ Have Changed Since Don Draper Was In Charge
How To Make Pizza At Home That Won’t Be Horrible
Care.com Bans Members Without Investigating Complaints Against Them First

Laura Northrup

Image courtesy of Mentality Cosmetics
If You Sell Nail Polish, Try Not To Destroy Your Customers’ Nails
Why this was my favorite: The Internet has made it much easier to start a small cosmetics business, and there’s a vibrant scene producing some really interesting and beautiful stuff. Yet homemade beauty products can come without safety testing and other safeguards that consumers assume are in place. This can lead to trouble, and that trouble looks like the stained, peeling, and painful nails of customers and models who used some products from popular boutique nail polish brand Mentality Cosmetics.

This story is still ongoing: more testing of the products is coming. Yet the case is an interesting illustration of how a two-person backyard operation that seems much larger can attract legions of fans, and how company representatives’ behavior on social media can come back and destroy their reputation even more than some peeling fingernails..

Honorable Mentions:
Yes, Those Are Real Cars Poking Out Of This Dumpster
Changes To TurboTax Lead To Consumer Revolt, Opportunity For Competitors
Sierra Mist Sweetener Switcharoo Leaves Soda Drinkers Bitter (This is probably not the last sweetener switcharoo we’ll see. Be vigilant if you don’t like sucralose or stevia.)
This Glorious ’80s Time Capsule House Is Real, In Living Primary Colors
eBay Will Send Your Full Name, Location, And Phone Number To Any Auction Bidder Who Asks
(eBay quietly ended this policy a few months later when ABC News asked about it – auto-play video at this link.)
Angry Sephora Customers Invent Mass Returns As A Form Of Consumer Protest
Good News: Loose Tarantula That Freaked Out Petco Shopper Was Just A Shed Exoskeleton
Problems At Snapfish Lead To Pre-Christmas Photo Scramble, Angry Customers

Kate Cox

Image courtesy of Alan Rappa

How Do Video Game Publishers Continue To Get Away With Mistreating Their Customers?
Why this was my favorite: Because gaming is an industry with a weird confluence of opacity and transparency, and because it is such a blatantly crappy situation for consumers… that millions of us voluntarily continue to make worse every year through pre-ordering! Players, as a whole, don’t stop to think about our role in this cycle often enough. And because I care about games, personally, and want the artistic side and the consumer tech product side to keep getting better, not worse.

Honorable mentions:
Whatever Happened to GeoCities, Lycos, Netscape, & Other Giants Of Web 1.0?
It’s True: The Comcast/TWC Merger Is Officially Dead
[Because it was very satisfying to be able to say]
Here Are The Most Ridiculously Long Binge-Watches Available For Anyone With 200+ Hours To Kill
Why Your Cable Company Doesn’t Always Know If Your New Address Gets Service
Why Don’t Huge Privacy Flaws Result In Recalled Smartphones?

Ashlee Kieler

Image courtesy of C x 2
Insurance Loopholes & Master Pricing: How Surprise Medical Bills Knock Consumers Down

Why It’s My Favorite: The issue of surprise medical bills hasn’t always garnered the attention it deserves. Surprise, unaffordable medical bills are a problem that can happen to anyone. While we might want to brush off these unexpected bills as someone just not knowing enough about their insurance coverage, this story highlights how even those who do everything right – research their coverage, talk to their doctors, and plan every aspect of their care – can be blindsided by exorbitant bills they can’t afford.

Honorable mentions:
Corinthian Colleges Completes Collapse, Closes Remaining Campuses Effective Immediately
Countless Consumers Are Paying Off Someone Else’s Debt Because Of Default Judgments
The White Castle Story: The Birth Of Fast Food & The Burger Revolution
Angie Of Angie’s List Defends Policy Of Removing Negative Reviews If Customers Get Refunds

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