Robert Krughoff: Gathering company data

Consumer’s Checkbook may be based in Washington, D.C., but company founder Robert Krughoff says he had the Bay Area in mind when he created his upstart publication.

The first of its kind when it debuted in 1976, Consumer’s Checkbook compiles data from the opinions and commentary of its 120,000 subscribers, who systematically rate the services of everything in their area from veterinarians to auto mechanics.

The publication now offers localized editions in seven different metropolitan districts. The San Francisco edition launched in 1981, the second-longest tenure of any city besides Krughoff’s home base of Washington, D.C.

“I knew that the Bay Area possessed a strong core of progressive, open-minded and educated group of consumers,” Krughoff said. “There are people in San Francisco who aren’t afraid to upset some businesses with their opinions, which is what tends to happen with Checkbook.”

Consumer’s Checkbook sends out biannual surveys to its subscribers, laden with specific questions aimed at evaluating a series of different industries.

According to Krughoff, a typical survey contains questions pertaining to eight to 10 local businesses, and of Consumer’s Checkbook’s 20,000 subscribers in the Bay Area, 4,000 usually respond back with observations. The large volume of responses, combined with the specificity of the questions, creates an accurate portrayal of the best businesses in their respective fields.

“We ask questions that don’t tend to change with time,” Krughoff said. “If it’s about a dentist, we ask if he performs a thorough exam, if he’s polite with you, if the work done seems correct. We accumulate this data over a series of years and readers can determine for themselves where they want to go based on these results.”

Consumer’s Checkbook publishes the resulting data in four semiannual editions for its subscribers, who pay $34 for a two-year subscription.

The advent of Internet sites with similar content, such as Yelp, has created competition for Consumer’s Checkbook, but Krughoff believes the statistical accuracy of Consumer’s Checkbook (online at www.checkbook.org) will keep its subscribers coming back.

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