Who is Kit Yarrow?

Before starting our lives in education, most of us get our start in health care, and that’s where Kit Yarrow was before starting at Stanford, according to Ball State University, Indiana, where Yarrow is a professor in the department of psychology and the Marshall School of Business. She has held posts at Emory, University of Rochester, Pennsylvania State University, SUNY Buffalo, and UCLA.

While at UCLA, Yarrow co-founded the UCLA Center for Consumer Research, which was chartered to study the role of the market and how consumers learn and participate in the public process.

Yarrow explained that when she saw early data from the Center for Consumer Research, she realized that consumers were confused about how to communicate with companies, and they didn’t know who was paying attention to their complaints.

“You need to first understand how to communicate with companies and the factors behind a complaint. Consumers need to understand how to do that first,” she said.

If the company fails to address the customer’s concern, the consumer should be able to go directly to the company, rather than wait for the company to come to them.

For that reason, Yarrow created her agency called Yarrow Associates in 1992 to take direct responsibility for client communications, and she has been an executive advisor since 1999.

This past year, Yarrow was awarded the 2018 American Psychology-Law Society’s Distinguished Service Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Advancement of Psychology-Law and the American Bar Association’s Ethics and Consumer Protection Section’s Lifetime Service to Consumer Advocacy Award.

She was a co-founder of the Consumer Reports Group of America, a chapter of Consumer Reports. Yarrow said the agency made the following suggestions for understanding consumer complaints:

1. Do some research on the company and ask others to join you in learning more.

2. Go through the company’s complaint file and take time to ask questions about the problem.

3. Work closely with the company to correct the problem.

4. Document your efforts and ask if the company would be interested in hearing from others with similar complaints.

5. The goal is for the company to learn from your experience and make any changes needed to help others in the future.

6. Keep in touch and follow up to see how the company is doing.

“The idea is to see if the company can change its practices and procedures to address future complaints, as opposed to a consumer watchdog to go after them every time something is wrong with the product or service,” said Yarrow.

Yarrow added that the Consumer Reports Group of America is a nonprofit organization that assists consumers, their lawyers, advocacy groups, government agencies and businesses. Yarrow said the group works with the federal government and members of Congress to make sure they are aware of current issues.

Yarrow is on the board of the American Consumer Institute, which conducts research and policy studies on consumer protection. The agency helps consumers get the right deal on utilities and energy.

In 2014, she was recognized by the Thurgood Marshall College Fund as a Champion of Change.

A self-described feminist, Yarrow explained that consumer advocates have come a long way since she started.

“There are still things to improve, but our agencies are doing the work now so that in the future, companies are more responsive to consumers,” said Yarrow. “We’re working on legislation to support those rights.

“We’re looking to make sure consumers have the right to sue and access their data and right to know what’s in our food. And we’re working to make sure consumers have access to low-cost government loans to purchase homes.”

This year, Yarrow received the Hoosier Women in Business’ Creating Change Award for Women in Consumer Services and the Novartis Consumer Protection Award.

Yarrow’s advice to consumers for finding the best deals?

“In the holiday shopping season, it’s always a good idea to comparison shop. Consumers can also shop for discounts online through deal sites and retailers. If you’re buying a larger ticket item like a home, car, television, or tablet, it may be worth taking a short-term loan to pay for the purchase instead of purchasing the item outright.”

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, also known as the Consumer Bureau, is the primary federal agency devoted to consumer financial protection. Its mission is to protect consumers from unfair, deceptive or abusive practices and promote consumer choice by being a strong and effective watchdog over Wall Street and the financial services industry.