How Consumer Reports testing actually works

YONKERS, N.Y. - Everyday, we share stories from the nations largest non-profit consumer organization, Consumer Reports. We tell you what products they give a thumbs up and which ones get the thumbs down, plus all of the stuff in between.

If you've ever wondered what goes into their testing and reviews, so did we. That's why Nikki Kimbleton flew to their headquarters in Yonkers, N.Y. to tour nearly all of Consumer Reports' multiple departments, including the sensory kitchen where they do all of the food and taste tests.

Nikki had the chance to see exactly what goes into becoming a sensory panelist. It's not easy.

"It takes years to develop the skills that go into it. It's not really about preference or what you like. You have to be able to objectively evaluate food and minimize any bias." said Amy Keating, a senior project leader at Consumer Reports.

IMAGES:  Inside Consumer Reports labs

Keating showed how they make sure testers are not effected by things like color when it comes to rating products like hot sauce. Testers sit in a small cubicle with red lighting so they can't see the colors of what they're tasting if they think that could influence their rankings.

Nikki was able to see how multiple departments test multiple products. The auto test track in Connecticut, the child safety testing area, major appliances and stoves and ranges. The latter can be a staff favorite.

Sue Perry, the editor of ShopSmart Magazine, said, "When they test grills they test steak, salmon and hamburgers. If you happen to know the right tester, and you're there around lunchtime, you get a great meal."

One place you won't find a lot of people lining up to go, what Nikki described as one one of the creepiest rooms she's ever been in. It's sound proof and it cost more than two million dollars to build.

Jim Langehennig is the Manager of the Electronic Labs and took her through the anechoic chamber.

"Basically it means without echoes," Langehennig explained. "So whatever comes out of tests in here, there's no sound bouncing around. We do that so when we test loud speakers for example, we get a true representation of what they're capable of."

After just a few minutes in the room, it's so quiet, you can really hear your own body fluids. "it was so creepy," Nikki told us.

Cameras, space heaters, drills, light bulbs, strollers, stoves, dishwashers and much more. They're constantly testing multiple products at one time. There are more than 600 people who work for Consumer Reports, but there are no advertisers.

"We're one of the few magazines that doesn't take ads, people are surprised when I tell them that. And we buy every product that we test," Perry said.

"The reason we do this since we started in 1936, we didn't want our readers to think they weren't our first and foremost customer."

What happens to all of the items they buy and test, especially those that get great rankings? They have several auctions every year for employees. They can buy the items, even the cars, at a reduced price.

Copyright 2012 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.