Friday, November 2, 2018

A Report For Your Consumption

A few months back I received an email from one Ted Bongiovanni at Consumer Reports.  He had noticed that I ride past their headquarters in Yonkers with some frequency.  Given this, and the fact that I too conduct highly scientific testing on consumer products, he thought I might like to come by for a visit, see the facilities, and chat with some of the office bike nerds.

I had no idea Consumer Reports lay right on my regular ride route, nor did I even know much about them.  It was one of those names I just took for granted in the context of safety and integrity, like the American Dental Association or whatever organization gives out those "World's Greatest Grandma" awards.  However, Tom's pitch was intriguing, and as a semi-professional bike blogger who telecommutes from the couch I'm always willing to help people with actual jobs waste time at work.  So I accepted his invitation.

Consumer Reports is indeed under 10 miles due north from my Bronx manse, and it's a straight shot on the South County Trailway, which is a paved rail-trail that runs from the New York City line into Westchester--a convenient ride, but not necessarily a thrilling one.  However, by tacking on a few extra miles and zigzagging a bit you can also get there via the unpaved Old Croton Aqueduct trail, so that's what I did:

This afforded me an opportunity to feed the bloated tires of the Jones some dirt, as well as to admire the brilliant splashes of autumn foliage on the Palisades across the Hudson, which you can barely see due to my lousy photography:

It's a truly glorious time to ride a bicycle along the Hudson, but you'll have to take my word for it.

Anyway, I rolled up at Consumer Reports at exactly the appointed hour:

By which time the weather was positively glorious:

Ted showed me to one of the bike rooms (they've got another one with hooks and stuff elsewhere in the building), where I backed the ample rump of the Jones into the rack:

The tire didn't fit into the wheel slot, so the Jones had to sidle up alongside a cutting-edge-for-its-day Titus complete with fresh Brooks saddle:

As it turned out, the building's unassuming exterior and mundane office park locale belied a bright, airy, and modern workspace that evoked California more than Yonkers:

Then we began my private tour, and I was excited to witness my first product test until my guide politely informed me that it was just someone painting the wall:

"The labs are this way, idiot," my guide was kind enough not to say:

Here's where they test the washing machines:

Oh, sure, this may be a bike blog, but I'm willing to bet there are at least one or two Laundry Freds out there who debate the relative merits of vertical and horizontal drum setups just as passionately as they do those of Shimano and Campagnolo, and who find a fast spin cycle just as seductive as a buttery-smooth hub with ceramic bearings.  And for the weight weenies out there, that black platform next to the machine is a scale so they can measure how much water the machine is using--though as a Laundry Fred myself I don't use the public water supply and instead hook my machine up to a reservoir which I fill with H2O that has been bottled and distilled.

Here are the test fabrics, which get besmirched with various contaminants and bodily fluids and then laundered, and I can think of no job more thrilling than that of Washing Machine Test Pilot:

And this is just the washing machine testing room, mind you.  They have a whole other room where they test the detergents!

I was in Laundry Fred paradise, but reluctantly I moved the helmet testing facility:

You know how I feel about helmets.  That said, I'm not a physicist or a structural engineer or a materials specialist--I'm just a guy who likes riding bikes and who's really into laundry.  So I won't attempt to analyze, interpret, or critique their testing techniques:

All I'll say is helmet goes up, helmet goes down, and there's an accelerometer in the "head" that tells them stuff about what happened:

And here's your's truley gesticulating in the immediate vicinity of the apparatus:

(Photo: Ted Bongiovanni)

There's a long tradition of me visiting workplaces and not knowing what the fuck I'm looking at:

The tag sticking out of my sweater tells you everything you need to know.

By the way, golf really is the new cycling:

Next it was on to where they test the cameras:

The mannequins actually move and fans blow their hair so you can really put the cameras through their paces.  I've even got video, which I'm currently too lazy to upload.  However, it was all rather captivating, and I'd never have imagined such amazing things are happening in Yonkers.

Oh, did I mention they really like to drop things at Consumer Reports?  Here's where they drop the phones:

And here are all the various surfaces upon which you might drop yours:

I didn't see a toilet, but they did have this pressurized container to replicate submerging devices at various depths, so presumably they could analyze what happens when you drop your phone in the shitter there:

Here are all the new iPhones:

And here are like all the other phones from like everybody else:

Usually if you check out new phones you do so at a store that only carries a few models, so it was genuinely fascinating to see so many in one place.

Of course now that smartphones have taken over our lives we're now using them to operate everything else.  Behold--this $8,000 smart fridge!

Picture this: you're at the supermarket wondering whether or not you're running low on broccoli.  No problem, all you do is check your phone and you can actually look at the contents of your fridge!

Now I know I'm supposed to lampoon the laziness of buying an expensive fridge instead of simply, you know, making a shopping list, but as a busy parent of multiple human children here's all I have to say about that:

Fuck shopping lists.

But of course there's another reason to be skeptical, and that's privacy.  What if your fridge starts spying on you?  What if you start getting texts from [insert brewery here] saying, "Why the hell are you drinking that cheap swill in your fridge?  Buy our beer instead!"  Well, now that we live in The Future, a lot of what Consumer Reports does is test these connected products to determine exactly how much of your personal data they may be sharing.  As it is, there's no standard for that, so in this respect they're performing a crucial function.  So presumably if you're in the market for a connected fridge you'll be able to check in with Consumer Reports to find out if it's sharing your shopping habits with General Mills.

From there it was onto the audio equipment testing area, complete with man-tastic tan Speaker Fred velour couch:

I didn't see the vape pens, but you know they're hiding somewhere:

Then, when they're sufficiently vaped up (is that even a thing?), they go into the anechoic chamber:

This room is completely free of ambient noise, and it basically sits suspended inside the Consumer Reports building, totally isolated from all noise and vibrations.  As soon as you walk in you feel like you're in an airplane, because apparently when you don't have soundwaves buffeting your eardrums at all times it's like being under different atmospheric pressure.  Plus, when you talk to others it sounds kind of like being underwater...then there's this trippy wall pattern:


It was like being in a strange combination of solitary confinement and a sensory deprivation tank, and when nobody spoke all I could hear was my tinnitus.

Oh, by the way, this is what professional blogging looks like:

(Photo: Ted Bongiovanni)

In any case, I don't know how long I was in there, but it must have been years, because I finally emerged into a twisted, dystopian future in which Donald Trump was president and Jew-hating was back in style.

Then it was time for lunch!

They've got a pretty swank cafeteria up there at Consumer Reports.  I had the grilled salmon:

Once we'd filled our trays we adjourned to a conference room, where I bloviated for like an hour to an intimate group of people who I didn't worry too much about boring since no doubt they were just looking for an excuse to ditch work:

I enjoyed meeting everybody very much, I was grateful for the invitation, and I headed home with buoyed spirits.  At the same time, as someone who hasn't held a real job for going on like 10 years now I sort of envied the plush accommodations and the camaraderie that comes with working alongside a bunch of people.  (Being a semi-professional bike blogger is like being a squirrel who's constantly foraging for nuts, and you feel especially squirrely when you're among lots of grown-ups who have offices.)  Then again, here I was pedaling home on a dirt trail, while they were all going back to work for the afternoon:



Schisthead said...

"Style" is a funny word for mental illness.

Often appropriate, I suppose, but still odd.

JLRB said...

I will have to go back and read about Consumer Goods Testing, but wanted to share this bit of news from America's swinging stick:

The Florida Supreme Court handed down a 6-1 decision that a motor vehicle can fall under the definition of a "weapon" to increase a manslaughter charge to a first-degree felony. The court said one of its rulings from 1995 was too narrow in establishing that a weapon must be "commonly understood to be an instrument for combat."
The Daily Commercial (Leesburg, Fla.)/News Service of Florida

Duefree said...


HDEB said...

I've not had a full-time, permanent job since I got laid off from a job in the Financial Services industry in November 2008. Tan Tenovo's got it figured out better than I, he rides a bicycle way more than I do, although, I suspect I spend more time on the beach and skiing snowy mountains. The real joke will be on me when I'm forced to work as the peep show janitor at 75 years old.

Yonkers is cool, it feels like Brooklyn twenty years ago : )

Anonymous said...

Nice trail.
Still searching for a proper.

Jonathan said...

You got a Jones hey? I clearly need to drop in here more often.

Chazu said...

I was waylaid by the link to the Brooks blog about your visit to their facility.

Are you still consuming Bovril? More importantly:

Is Eric the Chamferer still getting hipster pussy?

tt said...

I was pleased to see the most boring thing at that place: the Bicycle helmet testing, was given only the cursory coverage it deserved in your reportage, Snobby. I do hope it wasn't the premise upon which you were invited to hang out.

As for the camaraderie; you got us for that!

We look out for each other and I need to express my concern about that grilled salmon they made you eat — that "cafeteria" looks like just another one of their test labs. And what in the name of all things holy does does an aerosol can called "PAM" contain!?!

Are you sure you weren't lured into that facility as an unwitting test-subject?

There might be an episode of Black Mirror based on your visit.

Dooth said...

So nice of you to drop this on us, Tan the Man Tenovo.

Joe from SI said...

The elephantine question in the room is, Why didn't they ask you to test bicycles, for heaven's sake? One would think that's why they invited you in in the first place.

Drock said...

I got an original front loader with no bells and chimes. Old like my bikes, it’s great. Any time in a sound proof room is like being in heaven. Too bad life is so loud.

Pist Off said...

Imagine being able to draw penises on the touchscreen of a ludicrously expensive fridge. Now imagine that fridge is in a busy big box store. Even if you don’t draw penises on them, someone else will. Humanity’s calling card is the penis graffito. Well, besides killing everything.

I guess that’s what I got from your visit with the mild-mannered stalker lab up the road. Seriously, they found you from your regular rides past their offices? I think they just wanted a friend. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Olle Nilsson said...

A Brompton in the bike room? How unusual. I guess I've done that before when I was visiting a different office, but I didn't bother folding it. Locked it up though.

Henry Tenovo said...

You can have any color you want, as long as it's tan.

JLRB said...

this is a banner year for squirreling with all the acorns. But beware the digs

der blaue Reiter said...

Looking trim, Snob! Guess a year of having to run because you never, ever ride the one bike you swore would be your only bike all year is really paying off!

pbateman is babysitting a kitten and lord its cute said...

not many bike bloggers are so well regarded that they are invited to review wash cycles. congrats.

do have some unanswered questions though:

were they able to provide any scientific confirmation of woo-hoo speed?

the proper number of gears to run?

the proper tire size? proper PSI?

is Jerkins the best for jerkin it?

does your mom indeed prefer missionary?

should i wear a halimut while wash cycling?

fine coverage and looking good in the the black non-jort shorting-way

Grump said...

Your comment about Donald Trump was president and Jew-hating being popular again was rather redundant, wasn't it?

Adam said...

Washing machine fred here, top loaders are rubbish they use far too much water.

Matt said...

All in all a great Report from a Consumer of goods. What I want to know is was your grilled salmon free range or farm raised? (and how on earth do they keep them moist buried in dirt while they grow?)

Easiily bored by humor said...

Thank goodness, a post that is interesting!

Low Suds Stephen said...

" vertical and horizontal drum setups "

Top-loading and front-loading, NEWB!

Sweet Lord Lob, do some research before posting!

Like the lunch set-up said...

Way cooler than my work place

John Wares said...

finally, the Bike Snob equivalent of

Anonymous said...

Neil Peart said...

I'm very picky about my drum setups.

Skidmark said...

Tan Tenovo- if you incorporate the business empire you would be: CFO (chief fuck off), Head gesticulator, as well as Master debater and policy disseminator.

leroy said...

Dear Mr. BSNYC -

I hope I'm not revealing company secrets, but Consumer Reports sends work to independent, work-from-home contractors.

I first heard of their program when my dog and his book club buddies were striking watermelons in my living room with a variety of blunt objects for a test commissioned by a well-known prop comedian.

I'm told the pay is good, but my dog isn't sharing details.

Al said...

The real test of a bicycle helment would be if it got run over by a freedom machine with an obese distracted motorist driving while snacking on Cheetos with his/her Teacup dog in their lap at the same time they are browsing Amazon for that man-tastic velour couch. Am I wrong?

Anonymous said...

Hey Snobby, Drivers, it turns out, don't like to share the road with anyone...

bad boy of the south said...

Vote early,vote often!

Anonymous said...

What?!?!? The topic of washing machines comes up and you don't mention Graeme Obree!?!? This used to be a great bike blog.

crankyfred said...

Why do squirrels have such small balls?

Not that many squirrels dance!