Finding values in the Checkbook

One of the most frequently requested resources at the Green Lake Branch of the Seattle Public Library is Consumer Reports. Year after year, regardless what the latest best selling fiction title might happen to be, Consumer Reports shows up to work every day and plays a vital role in the library's ability to provide unbiased consumer information.

When the time comes for Seattleites to buy new refrigerators or determine which features of digital cameras are truly mandatory, the independently published Consumer Reports is the resource of choice for smart shoppers across the city.

The only downfall of Consumer Reports is that it focuses mainly on products rather than services. And of the few services covered, such as Internet access plans, its coverage is generally national in scope and may overlook some fine local providers.

But at long last, the perfect mate for Consumer Reports has come into existence. Published twice a year, the Puget Sound Consumers' Checkbook is a locally oriented publication that rates and ranks local consumer services.

Originally founded in 1974 in the Washington, D.C., region, the fiercely independent Consumers' Checkbook now covers seven major metropolitan areas, including the Puget Sound. Much like Consumer Reports, Consumers' Checkbook does not accept advertising dollars, leaving readers confident that the rankings aren't being skewed by backroom deals.

Each service ranking is accompanied by a five- to eight-page article outlining what consumers should ask of that particular industry's service providers, as well as common pitfalls to avoid.

The rankings of Consumers' Checkbook also provide a "top rating" for businesses that provide outstanding service. In much the same way that a "best buy" rating of a product in Consumer Reports indicates strong performance in price and quality, a Consumers' Checkbook "top rated" business excels in a host of aspects, ranging from reliability to the provision of accurate estimates and neatness of work.

Coupling these two powerhouse publications, Seattle-area residents have an extraordinarily powerful tool for determining how to best spend their hard-earned money.

Nearly every neighborhood branch library has subscriptions to Consumer Reports and Consumers' Checkbook, so if you are wondering whether you should buy a new lawn mower or just hire a lawn service, the Seattle Public Library has you covered either way.

Give me a call at 684-7547, and I'll help you and your wallet get pointed in the right direction.

Mark Pond is a librarian at the Green Lake branch, 7364 E. Green Lake Drive N. He can be reached via e-mail at

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