Consumer Report’s blind spot re human-powered lawn mowers

April 26, 2009 | By | 4 Replies More

The May 2009 issue of Consumer Reports evaluates more than 80 models of lawn mowers.  Incredibly, the printed magazine version of the article completely omits any mention of human-powered reel lawn mowers.  It doesn’t test any of them and it doesn’t even mention them, despite the fact that non-motorized push mowers are perfect for most people with small to medium sized lots.  We’ve used a push mower for 15 years to cut a lot that is almost ¼ acre.  Millions of people have lots that are this size or smaller.

The question in my mind is why.  Why would a “consumer” magazine refuse to tell (refuse, because this is not an oversight) consumers that there are $100 lawn mowers that would be perfectly good for millions of people.  Is Consumer Reports feeling market pressure to evaluate the $200 – 800 lawn mowers that its readers are used to (tractors cost up to $3,600)?  Shame on them for encouraging needless sales of these noisy exhaust-spewing status symbols.

Or is Consumer Reports disoriented by the paradox of choice, striving to find the perfect mower instead of satisficing (recognizing good-but-not-perfect choices)?   After all, the non-motorized push mowers I’m recommending are only good for people who consider themselves stewards of the planet, people who prefer to use no gasoline, create no noise and create no danger of spewing rocks and sticks that can cause serious injuries.  Why mention that there are $100 mowers that can be sharpened repeatedly with a $15 kit and otherwise require almost no maintenance.

image by Erich Vieth[/caption]

They are capable of slicing through thick zoysia grass?   Is it because those suburban readers might work up a little sweat?  Not much, I assure you—even my 8-year old daughter uses ours.   These person-powered lawn mowers are MUCH lighter than the mowers your grandparents used.   Here are numerous additional reasons to give up on gasoline and electric lawn mowers.

In this month’s lawn mower evaluation article, Consumer Reports completely dropped the ball.

This failure by CR is one of numerous instances where we Americans need to wake up and start doing things differently.  Our world is changing in hundreds of ways and we need to change with it or get left behind.

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Category: Noteworthy, Technology

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (4)

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  1. Dan Klarmann says:

    I gave up on Consumer Reports when I worked in an appliance factory. They rated two machines that came off of the same assembly line with the same parts vastly different. The main differences between them were the paint job (logo, brand) and normal production variance.

    They try to guess at what people want, and then test one (1) sample of each brand to generalize who has the best product. They often compare oranges to apples in feature lists.

    It's better than nothing, but now with online customer opinions easily available, they are losing their original reason for being.

  2. I live in an apartment complex now, but back when I owned a house with a small yard, using my push mower was one of my favorite, most relaxing chores.

    A well-oiled push mower has a pleasant sound and feel. My neighbors would be wrestling with their gas-powered noisemakers or trying not to run over the power cords of their electric mowers while I would be calmly walking up and back in my yard, keeping myself in shape and cleanly cutting, rather than shredding the grass.

    I also left most of the clippings where they were. Whatever clumps were left behind I gathered up and put in a far corner of the yard instead of hermetically sealing them up in plastic trash bags to be driven by a diesel-belching trash truck to our local landfill, there to sit in stasis for 10,000 years.

    Funny, no matter how much grass or hedge clippings I put in the pile over the years it never seemed to grow too large to manage. It would shrink down and become black and rich and loamy. Whenever we wanted to plant something, instead of driving to Lowes or Home Depot for potting soil we'd just scoop a bit of that black earth.

    Lest anyone think I lived in the country this was all happening at a small twin home in Philadelphia. I miss those push mower days!

    Consumer Reports' omission is an embarrassing reminder of how far we as Americans need to go if we truly want to reverse some of our negative impact on our environment.

  3. Erich Vieth says:

    Mike: Amen, Brother!

  4. Erika Price says:

    It seems there is a big oversight in the peddling of these useful tools, too. I don't spend much time hanging around the hardware store or tool section of the department store, but when I do I utterly fail to see push mowers. The big, bombastic gas-drinking varieties sit out in a wide and well-lit display, like so many tiny cars. The shopper feels invited to take a seat on the riding mowers, admire the cupholders (!) and switches and buttons, and imagine themselves growing steadily fat on the immense object. Where are the push mowers for us to admire? Either the stores don't carry them, or they shove them off to some hidden end cap.

    Push mowers make sense on every possible front. They cost less, provide exercise, do not consume fuel, and also importantly, they do not take up a forth of the garage.

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