Amway: The Untold Story

Consumer Reports Articles

This file summarizes the findings of all Consumer Reports ratings of Amway products that I know of to date.

Distributor pricing for the SA8 powder and liquid were taken from Amway's 3/95 Wholesale Price List. Distributor pricing for Zoom was taken from 3/93 Wholesale price list. For all the others, I either used the most current Amway distributor price list, or estimated the distributor cost based on the percentage difference between the retail prices given in the CR reviews and Amway's 1993 suggested retail prices.

Amway E-84 countertop water filter (7/97)

Eight countertop units were tested. Amway's E84 received the highest overall effectiveness rating, about 90 out of 100 points, followed closely by the Shaklee BestWater MTS2000, rated at about 88, and the PUR CT-6000 and Kinetco 6500 at about 82. (It's hard to be exact about the rating points because CR uses little graphs to represent the results.) Following are the initial cost and annual cost of the top four units (based on 1 gallon of water daily and taking into account replacement cartridges).

Brand Cost Annual Cost
Amway $310 $85
Shaklee $230 $95
PUR $70 $22
Kinetco $250 $87

Distributor cost on the Amway E-84 as of 9/96 was $260.24, plus $47.02 for the required faucet connector hardware, plus 4% shipping, for a total of $319.55. (CR does not mention if the other units also require additional installation hardware. CR also did not include the cost of the faucet connector in their published ratings results…if they had, the suggested retail cost of the Amway unit would have been $367.30.)

All four units were rated as having an average flow rate. All but the Kinetco were capable of filtering parasites. CR noted that the Amway unit has a "useful filter-change indicator.

Scrub Brite liquid scouring cleanser (8/96)

16 powders, liquids, and gels were tested. Products were grouped into two categories, "Effective and Gentle" and "Effective but Harsh," and within each category ranked by cleaning effectiveness. Scrub Brite was rated last in cleaning effectiveness of the 9 products in the "Effective and Gentle" category. It received a "Very Good" on not being too abrasive, and "Good" on cleaning.

At a retail price of $5.05 for 21 ounces, or $.24 per ounce, Scrub Brite was the most expensive on a per-ounce basis of all the products in its category, and the second most expensive of all the products tested. The only more expensive product was Shaklee At-Ease Heavy-Duty, at a jaw-dropping $.75 per ounce. The top-rated liquid, Clorox Soft Scrub Extra Gentle, was priced at $2.87 for 24 ounces, or $.12 per ounce; it was awarded a "Good" on abrasiveness and an "Excellent" on cleaning. The top-rated powder, Bon Ami, was priced at $.80 for 12 ounces, or $.07 per ounce. and was awared a "Very Good" on abrasiveness and an "Excellent" on cleaning. (In general the powders seem less expensive than the liquids, but I don't know how powders and liquids compare as far as how much you need to use to get the same results.)

At the distributor price of $43.18 ($41.52 + $1.66 shipping) for a case of 12 21oz bottles, Scrub Brite is $.17 per ounce…a much better buy than at retail but still more expensive than all the other products except for Shaklee.

Dish Drops (2/96)

21 products were tested. Products were ranked primarily in order of cleaning effectiveness. Dish Drops were ranked #14, and singled out as being a poor value:

"The best brands carry familiar names--Dawn Palmolive, and Joy. But Ajax, Sunlight and Dazzle (from KMart) were all very good, and a bit cheaper than the brands at the top of the Ratings. In contrast, the Amway liquid, an undistinguised cleaner, was by far the most expensive."

How expensive? The five top-rated products all cost about $.06 per oz…the cost of the Dish Drops was $.26 per oz, over four times as expensive. The distributor cost of the Dish Drops varies depending on how much you buy…a single 1 liter bottle costs $7.61 + $.30 shipping, or $7.91, for a per-oz cost of $.23. If you buy a case of six 4-liter bottles, the cost is $155.44 + $6.21 shipping, or $161.65, for a per-oz cost of $.20. Of the 13 products that were rated as being as effective or more effective than the Dish Drops, some costs as little as $.05 per oz. Even at distributor pricing and purchased in bulk, Dish Drops is 4 times the per-oz. cost of an equally effective product that doesn't have to be purchased in bulk.

(Dish Drops were previously rated by CR in the 9/91 issue, and were singled out as being "far and away the poorest value." See below)

Crystal Bright (10/95)

23 products were tested, 16 powders and 7 liquid gels. Crystal Bright (a powder) was rated #2 overall in effectiveness, an improvement over the 12th of 16 rating it got from CR on 2/92. At a cost-per-use of $.45 per load, however, Crystal Bright was again the most expensive on a cost-per-use basis, four times the cost-per-use of both top-rated Palmolive and Par (a Safeway brand), which was rated #3 and only marginally less effective than Crystal Bright. At distributor pricing, the cost-per-use of Crystal bright would be approximately $.35, still three times as expensive as a number of products that were rated almost as effective or better. Crystal Bright is a better value than some brands that were far less effective and almost as costly, but most shoppers should have not trouble finding products that represent a better value. CR did point out that Crystal Bright was one of the least likely to cause etching damage in soft water.

The top 5 products and their cost-per-use were as follows:

Palmolive Ultra $.11
Amway Crystal Bright $.45
Par (Safeway) $.11
All $.14
Shaklee $.39

SA8 Concentrate, powder and liquid (2/95)

35 products were tested, 17 liquids and 18 powders. The SA8 powder was rated #5 overall and #4 among the powders. The cost/load of the top five products tested were as follows:

Tide with Bleach Alternative (liquid) $.52
Cheer with Color Guard Bleach Ultra (powder) $.41
Tide with Bleach Ultra (powder) $.41
Gain w/Odor Removing Ultra Bleach (powder) $.32(recommended Best Buy)
Amway SA8 Concentrate (powder) $.41

The difference in effectivenes between the Amway SA8 and the Tide Ultra seems fairly minimal, with the SA8 in the low end of "Excellent" and the Tide in the high end of "Very Good." At distributor pricing, including shipping, the cost/load of the SA8 would be about $.38.

The SA8 liquid was rated #32 out 35 products tested and #13 out of the 17 liquids tested. At about $.35 per load (dist. cost), it was not the most expensive of the liquids on a cost-per-use basis, but of the 12 liquids that were rated as more effective, 6 were less expensive to use. The SA8 liquid was a full 40% more expensive on a cost-per-use basis than Arm & Hammer Double Power Fresh Free Concentrated, only $.25 per use.

Zoom Concentrate (9/93)

40 products were tested, 22 pourable and 18 spray. Zoom was rated #10 of the 18 spray products. CR notes that the product was tested at the recommended 1:1 dilution for "extra tough" cleaning, and that Zoom is "not labeled for full strength cleaning," which I interpret to mean it needs to be diluted.

The cost-per-ounce at the 1:1 dilution was $.10 per fl. oz. Again it was not the most expensive product to use, but of the nine products that were rated equally or more effective, 4 were less expensive. Top-rated Lysol Direct was $.08 per fl. oz. At a distributor cost of about $.08 per oz., Zoom is a more reasonable buy, although still more expensive and less effective than Formula 409 at $.07 per oz., Prevail (Kmart) at $.06 per oz., and Walgreens Super Spray at $.05 per oz.

Clear Trak vacuum cleaner (2/93)

The Clear Trak was rated 12th out of 20 uprights tested, but at $600 was the second most expensive, beat out only by the ludicrously costly $1600 Kirby, which at least got a #2 rating for effectiveness. For the price of a Clear Trak, you could buy three of the #1 rated Panasonics or six of the #3 rated Eurekas.

At a distributor cost of $479, the Clear Trak is still the second most expensive upright tested. (I don't have the shipping charge on this item, but Amway charges 7% of suggested retail unless otherwise specified.)

CR had this to say about the Clear Trak:

"Many models retained dust well, a the ratings show. The Danish-made Nilfisk, a canister that touts its ability to scoop up on hold onto allergens, proved to be the top dust-trapper. On the other hand, three bagless cleaners--the Amway Clear Trak, Sears Kenmore Destiny, and Rainbow-- virtually spewed tiny particles. The Amway and Sears, both uprights, trap dirt by swirling particles inside a plastic container."

Water Treatment System E-9225 (2/93)

Five countertop units were tested. Three of the products, including Amway's, were rated equal in performance and superior to the other two. However, the initial cost of the Amway product was $227, plus $53 or $83 for tubing and connections (the price for the two competing units apparently included the tubing and connections, since CR did not note otherwise), compared with $119 and $65 for the other units, and its operating cost (cost to treat 1000 gallons of water) was $110 compared with $25 and $36 for the other units.

CR reported that the Amway unit was the fastest of the three at filtering water, 0.6 minutes per gallon compared with 1.8 mpg for the Sterling and 2.3 for the Amtek.

Distributor cost on the E-9225 was $174.99, plus $41 or $64 for the tubing and connections (plus shipping), which would still make it three times the cost of the Ametek CT CMR-10, and twice the cost of the Sterling Springs CTS.

Crystal Bright dishwasher detergent (2/92)

16 powders and liquids were tested. Crystal Bright was ranked 12th out of 16 products. Of the 4 ranked below Amway, 3 were A&P store brands. CR found that they had to double the recommended usage amount of Crystal Bright to get good results, and singled the product out for being a particularly poor value:

"Two powders that are not sold in stores deserve special mention because of their extraordinarily high cost. Shaklee Basic-D and Amway Crystal Bright cost 38 cents and 52 cents per four-tablespoon dose, respectively. Both products suggest using small amounts--two tablespoons for Amway, four teaspoons for Shaklee. But if you follow Amway's suggestion, you'll see reduced performance and still pay 26 cents per wash--more that twice what you'd pay for a four-tablespoon dose of Cascade powder.

"Amway and Shaklee powders are three to four times as expensive to use as top-rated Cascade. You can get by with less, say their sellers, but if you cut Amway's dose in half, it will still be twice the cost of Cascade and its performance will suffer."

At distributor cost, including shipping, Crystal Bright's cost per use would be about $.46, still the highest off all products tested and almost 4 times the cost of top-rated Cascade.

CR had also had this to say about Crystal Bright's performance:

"Many detergents did at least an adequate job of preventing film and spots from developing on glasses. Products that did the worst job on spots included A&P Liquid Lemon and Amway Crystal Bright."

And those who are concerned about the environment should take note of these comments:

"As a rule, a four-tablespoon dose of dishwasher detergent contains about as much phosphorous as a half cup of laundery detergent. As the Ratings indicate, phosphorous content varies. Amway contributes the most, seven grams per four-tablespoon dose."

Dish Drops liquid dish soap (9/91)

18 products were tested. For this test, CU first assigned each product a "usage factor"—basically an index of the products strength or concentration—and then used that to determine the real cost of using the product to obtain effective results. Despite the protests of Amway distributors who claim that CU ignored the concentration factor of their product in testing, CU did quite the opposite and specifically tested the products for concentration before using them in the actual cleaning tests. Products were then listed in order of increasing real cost. Dish Drops were listed dead last, and again the Amway product was singled out as being a particularly poor value.

"But strength is not the full measure of detergent. When you multiply a liquid's usage factor by its price, you can determine the products REAL cost--what you actually pay for a given amount of cleaning power.

"The strongest detergent we tested was Amway Dish Drops, sold by the well-known direct marketing company. Dish drops has a usage factor of 0.8. But at $6.80 per quart, it's far and away the poorest value. It's real cost is $5.44 per quart [$6.80 X .08]--four times as much as Kroger, the top-rated brand.

"The Amway label suggests diluting the concentrate with water for 'maximum economy.' We tried that, adding two parts water to one part concentrate. The real cost remained $5.44--the same poor value, no matter how you dilute it.

"The Amway label also claims that 'lab tests show quart-for-quart, Dish Drops cleans up to 800 more dishes than the other leading competitor.' A teaspoonful of a high-rated product--Kroger liquid, say, with a usage factor of 1.0--will wash about 20 dishes. That's about 120 dishes per ounce and nearly 4000 dishes per quart. With a usage factor of 0.8, Amway Dish Drops should wash 20 percent more dishes. Sure enough, 20 percent of 4000 is 800, precisely the number of additional dishes claimed on the label. But Kroger liquid will do 4000 dishes for $1.35. Amway Dish Drops will wash 4000 dishes for $5.18.

"The strongest dishwashing liquids are often the most economical to use, but not always. Three liquids at the top of the Ratings--Kroger, Sunlight, and Ajax, all with a usage factor of 1.0--have a real cost of less than $1.90 per quart. As the usage factor increases, the real costs tend to rise, too. Kroger Cost Cutter and Pathmark No-Frills, two supermarket brands that are cheapest to buy, actually have a real cost of about $3.70 per quart. And the Amway Dish Drops, though the strongest, is BY FAR THE WORST BUY." [emphasis mine]

The real cost of Dish Drops, according to CR, was $5.44 per quart, the most expensive by far and 4 times the cost of top-rated Kroger. Cost per quart at distributor pricing would have been about $4.65, still the most expensive and the worst value.

Magic Foam carpet cleaner & Easy Magic Dry Powder cleaner (1/91)

15 carpet cleaners were tested. Amway Magic Foam tied for 3rd with 9 other products, finishing above the 4 products tied for last place. On removing 8 types of stains it got 3 "Poor" and 5 "Fair" ratings. Of the products it was tied with for effectiveness, Amway Magic Foam had the highest cost per square foot of coverage at $.05 sq. ft. compared to $.016 for Woolite Self Cleaning or $.025 for Turtle Wax Carpet cleaner.

Distributor pricing on Magic Foam would have been around $.04 per sq. ft. of coverage, making it one of the two most expensive of the products rated equal to it in effectiveness, and the same price as Host Dry Carpet Cleaner, which was rated as being the most effective.

On the other hand, Capture Dry Powder Cleaner--also sold as Amway Easy Magic Dry Powder--got a second place rating out of the 15, just under Host. CR did not give the coverage figure for Easy Magic, so I was not able to figure the cost per square foot. However, CR gives a price of $19 for a 4-lb. box of Capture, while Amway's 1993 distributor price for a 4-lb. box of Easy Magic is $18.92 or $20.24 with 7% shipping added.

E-9320 carbon water filter (1/90)

13 high-volume filters were tested, and the Amway E-9230 was among the 4 filters given the highest rating by CR. It was also the second most expensive, and at $276 was almost twice the cost of the also top-rated Sears 34201. CR noted that the cartridge on the Amway unit was "more difficult to replace than most," and at $69 was 2 to 3 times the cost of the cartridges for the other units.

At a distributor cost of about $231, including shipping, the E-9230 is less expensive than all but one of the other three top-rated units, but the cartridges are still far more expensive.

Aerosol oven cleaner (3/87)

Amway oven cleaner was rated 4th out of 8 products. All 8 products were in 16 oz. containers. At $6.50, the Amway product was again the most expensive by far. The next most expensive was $2.84, and top-rated Mr. Muscle was only $2.74.

At a distributor cost (including shipping) of about $4.90, the Amway product is still far more expensive than all the others.

Buff-up furniture polish (1/86)

Amway Buff-Up aerosol spray furniture polish was in the lowest-rated of three groups of products. To be fair, the rating method used here seemed rather confusing. What was clear, though, was that the Amway product was the most expensive of the 34 brands tested. At $.56 per oz., it was almost 3 times more expensive than top-rated Favor Lemon at $.21 per oz. It was almost 6 times more expensive than A&P Lemon at $.10 per oz., which got a slightly better rating than Buff-Up. I don't think the old "but it's concentrated" excuse would work very well for an aerosol spray.

At a distributor cost (including shipping) of about $.42 per oz., Buff-Up is still far more expensive than the other products tested.

Amgard E8496 burglar alarm (10/84)

The burglar alarms were not rated for effectiveness. At $600, the Amway system was 2 to 6 times more expensive than the 9 other systems, although it does come with 2 sensors and 3 transmitters—more than any of the others. Without knowing the cost of additional sensors and transmitters it's hard to compare costs. I noticed, though, that the Mountain West system, which comes with 5 sensors but no transmitters, is priced at $160, and the Radio Shack system with 1 sensor and 1 transmitter also costs $160.

I have no distributor pricing information for this product.