Survey ranks how ticked off people get

Drivers who tailgate? Shouting on TV or radio shows? Unscooped dog poop?

Maybe those aren't the most frequent targets of consumer ire, but they're high enough on many people's personal gripe lists that researchers at Consumer Reports decided to include them in a recent survey aimed at teasing out just how ticked off people get at life's varied irritants.

Opinion Research Corp., of Princeton, N.J., surveyed a representative sample of 1,125 Americans this fall, asking about 21 common annoyances. Respondents rated each on a 10-point scale: 10 was "annoys you tremendously"; 1 was "does not annoy you at all."

The, um, winner was "Hidden fees added to bills," which drew an average rating of 8.9. Trailing it closely were "Not getting a human on the phone" (8.6); "Tailgating" (8.3); and "Cell phone use by drivers" (8.0).

Least-annoying on the list, by far: "Inaccurate weather forecasts," which drew an average of 4.3.

Rounding out the top 10 on the Miffed Meter were "Incomprehensible bills" (7.8); "People who don't pick up after their dogs" (7.6); "Unreliable Internet service" (7.6); "Discourteous cell-phone use" (7.6); "Waiting for repair people" (7.5); and e-mail spam (7.5).

Toward the least-bothersome end of the spectrum were "Passwords and PINs" (6.1); "Speeding drivers" (6.1); "Checkout lines" (6.4); and radio and TV shouting (6.5).

The survey did show some interesting demographic variations, according to senior researcher David Gopoian, who said the project grew out of recognition that certain kinds of complaints seemed to pop up repeatedly in consumers' feedback about various products and services.

For instance, women found many items significantly more irksome than did men, including speeders, passwords and PINs, and paying the same amount for shrinking products. Compared with their younger counterparts, people over 50 were noticeably more rattled by spam, speeding, and discourteous cell-phoning. And Democrats complained more than Republicans about shouting on radio or TV.

Of course, you can probably guess which common irritant didn't make the list at all:

Telephone surveys.