Shopping Angst: Germans Unsettled by Product Defects
Germans worry about negative experiences with consumer products. They have a deep-seated fear of health hazards. Two thirds of consumers suspect that food products contain pesticides. 71 percent of the population are afraid that their children could suffer injuries due to poorly manufactured toys. Another 64 percent are scared of being electrocuted by electrical appliances. All these worries influence the shopping behavior of German consumers. This has been revealed by the consumer study "Product safety in consumer goods". The findings are the result from a survey of a representative sample of 1,000 German citizens over 16 years of age carried out by the GfK market researchers on behalf of the testing company SGS.
For the survey participants the country of origin serves as an important indicator of product safety. Goods made in Germany are considered particularly trustworthy. On a scale from 0 to 10 German products get an average score of 8.2. Consumer goods originating from western and southern Europe also score well, averaging 7.0 on the scale. Products from the US, Asia or Eastern Europe, on the other hand, are considered to be of lower quality. Imports from China score around 4.1 on the scale. With an average rating of 3.3, countries of origin such as India and Bangladesh are at the tail end of customer appreciation.
Many consumers rely on quality marks to make their assessment of product safety. For instance, in the case of electrical appliances 85 percent of buyers look out for appropriate certification symbols. The polled consumers put their greatest trust in the GS mark (Geprüfte Sicherheit - Tested Safety), judging it to be reliable proof of product safety. Certifications from independent testing bodies such as SGS-TÜV Saar or SGS Institut Fresenius also rank highly in their estimation.
Manufacturers who are perceived to supply unsafe or defective goods soon get to feel the consequences. Word of customer dissatisfaction spreads, as every other German citizen will tell friends, acquaintances and colleagues about product defects. Thus looms the threat of a purchasing boycott. After a negative experience, 50 percent of German consumers will not buy further products from that particular manufacturer. The effects of negative customer feedback are also felt by traders whom 48 percent of the respondents consider jointly responsible for ensuring that the products they sell are safe. Therefore, one in seven consumers is in future likely to avoid a trader from whom he has once bought a defective product.