Rhoda Karpatkin, a driving pressure at Shopper Studies, dies at 93

Rhoda Karpatkin, who helped tens of millions of patrons store for high quality and worth — whether or not the acquisition was a automobile or a toaster oven — throughout practically three many years as president of the nonprofit group that publishes the journal Shopper Studies, died Aug. 4 at her residence in Manhattan. She was 93.

The trigger was mind most cancers, in keeping with her household.

For generations, ever because it was first revealed in 1936, Shopper Studies has been a go-to supply for consumers in search of an neutral information to the hurly-burly of {the marketplace}.

Some seek the advice of its pages just for main expenditures — the alternative of a fridge or a garden mower, for instance, or the acquisition of a brand new automobile. The annual vehicle subject, revealed in April, is constantly one of many journal’s hottest editions of the yr.

Different readers, the die-hards, seek the advice of Shopper Studies for the extra on a regular basis purchases of such objects as electrical toothbrushes and loo scales, backpacks and cookie sheets, lightbulbs and batteries. Shopper Studies conducts rigorous product evaluations earlier than bestowing the coveted imprimatur of “CR Greatest Purchase.”

Ms. Karpatkin, a lawyer by coaching, spent 16 years as outdoors counsel to Shopper Studies and its writer, then often known as Customers Union, earlier than she was named president in 1974.

“You simply obtained the sensation they couldn’t be purchased, couldn’t be seduced,” she told the New York Times shortly earlier than her retirement in 2001, describing the group as “one of many quintessential do-good organizations.”

Together with activists together with Ralph Nader and Joan Claybrook, Ms. Karpatkin turned a central determine within the shopper motion of the Seventies and past.

Throughout her time as president, Shopper Studies practically doubled its circulation to 4.2 million. Its web site, by the point she left, was one of many largest paid subscription websites on the web, with roughly 475,000 subscribers, in keeping with the journal.

Ms. Karpatkin guided the journal by durations of recession and debt, finally rising its working finances by an element of 10, to $157 million. She oversaw the development of an auto-test monitor and new analysis laboratories. To gauge the sturdiness of samples, Shopper Studies subjected suitcases to a spinning machine and pounded mattresses with bowling balls severed in half to resemble buttocks.

Nader, who argued that public advocacy took primacy over product testing, left the board of Customers Union throughout Ms. Karpatkin’s tenure. She noticed each product testing and advocacy as central to the group’s mission.

In the course of the debate over a health-care overhaul within the Nineties, Ms. Karpatkin, from her place at Customers Union, pushed for a single-payer health-care system as an alternative choice to managed competitors. Medical providers, she famous, are one space through which shoppers usually should not have the luxurious of comparability procuring.

“They can not store for docs,” she informed the Columbus Dispatch in 1993. “They can not store for hospitals, and so they definitely can not try this once they’re calling 911.”

Having grown up through the Melancholy, she insisted that Shopper Studies not evolve into an upscale shopping for information for the upper-middle class. She was deeply attuned to problems with poverty and, outdoors her work with the journal, was a longtime volunteer and board member on the West Facet Marketing campaign In opposition to Starvation in New York.

In her imaginative and prescient, Shopper Studies was obligation sure to characterize the pursuits of patrons who lacked the cash even for essentially the most economical automobile and who washed their garments at laundromats slightly than in family machines that product testers would possibly consider for his or her spin cycles.

“Customers can be in hassle in the event that they couldn’t get sound, impartial info, and that’s our prime duty,” she informed the journal when she stepped down. “We’ve devoted ourselves to testing and journalism of the best high quality, and we have an effect on {the marketplace}.”

“However that’s not sufficient,” she continued. “The place would protections towards unsafe merchandise, fraud, deceptive promoting, and different issues we take without any consideration come from if shopper advocates hadn’t fought for them? We’re not and by no means have been solely about which merchandise to purchase. We’re additionally about serving to to construct the type of society we wish to be shoppers in.”

Rhoda Alayne Hendrick was born in Brooklyn on June 7, 1930. Her mom, a homemaker and bookkeeper, and her father, a salesman, had been each Jewish immigrants from Japanese Europe.

Ms. Karpatkin was a 1951 graduate of Brooklyn Faculty, the place she labored on the varsity newspaper earlier than discarding her plans for profession in journalism. She needed “to do essential issues, not report on them,” she informed the Occasions.

After graduating from Yale Legislation Faculty in 1953, she entered personal follow, specializing in civil rights, civil liberties and training circumstances. In addition to Customers Union, her shoppers included the American Civil Liberties Union and conscientious objectors to the Vietnam Battle.

She served two phrases as president of Customers Worldwide, a membership group for shopper activist teams.

Ms. Karpatkin’s husband, Marvin M. Karpatkin, died in 1975 after 23 years of marriage. Her longtime associate Bruno Aron died in 2009.

Survivors embrace three youngsters, Deborah Karpatkin of Manhattan, Herbert Karpatkin of Brooklyn and Jeremy Karpatkin of Philadelphia; 10 grandchildren; and 4 great-grandchildren.

Ms. Karpatkin cautioned towards the pitfalls of consumerism.

“Increasingly more the ads and business messages we see equate a contented and glad life with proudly owning explicit sorts of merchandise or explicit merchandise,” she informed the Austin American-Statesman in 1999. “And that, to a really massive extent, will change into a false message.”

But when one needed to store, it was greatest to take action in an informed trend, and in her personal outings to shops, Ms. Karpatkin usually carried together with her the related subject of Shopper Studies.

With out realizing who she was, “folks will observe me round, asking to borrow it or watching what I purchase,” she stated. “It’s a beautiful feeling.”

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