How to check out a company BEFORE you give them your money:
The best way to make sure that you don't get ripped off by a company is to do a little research before signing any contract or parting with any of your hard earned cash. The Internet makes this incredibly quick, easy and free. You can even do it on your IPhone or other smart phone device while you're at a store or with a contractor.
Your two most valuable tools will be Government Agencies, such as the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) and the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Various government agencies including: The Department of Consumer Affairs, Department of Education, Department of Health, Insurance Department, Banking Department and Department of Motor Vehichles licenses, regulates and/or supervises all types of buinesses and professions in New York. They will often even help you resolve disputes with a business or professional. Before giving money to any business, check their licensing status and see if there are special rules they have to follow. Even if a business is licensed by a government agency, still check them our through the Better Business Bureau.
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Protecting yourself with the Better Business Bureau:The Better Business Bureau has been around for almost 100 years. It has a huge database of local and national companies including a history of complaints and how the company has dealt with complaints, and is accessible even for companies that are not members. You should always use both the DCA and BBB before deciding to use a business and in resolving any dispute.
The Better Business Bureau helps you to quickly decide if your should deal with a business by either:
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Searching for BBB accredited businesses:A business which goes to the trouble and expense of being accredited by the Better Business Bureau is likely to give you honest service and respond to complaints fairly. If you're looking for products or services, but don't have a particular business in mind, you can use the BBB directory of accredited businesses to find a trustworthy business.
- Click on this link to go to the BBB directory of accredited businesses.
- Under "Type of Business," type one word for the type of business you are looking for. If you're looking to buy a washing machine, for example, you could type "appliances."
- Under "zip code," type in your zip code. It will give you all businesses within 500 miles showing the closest businesses to you first."
- The search page will show a list of Business Types based on your key word. Click on the Business type closest to what you are looking for, such as "Appliances - Major - Dealers".
- Click on any Business from the list to see their rating.
- How to review a business' rating and history.
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Checking out a specific business.A great thing about the BBB is that a business does not have to register with them to have a rating or even to participate in their complaint and resolution process. If anyone has filed a complaint against a business with the BBB, the BBB is likely to have valuable information on that business. Use the following steps to see if a business you are thinking of using has a BBB rating.
- Click on this link to search for a BBB rating for any businesses.
- Under "Business/Charity Name," type in at least part of the name of the business you are looking for.
- Type in either a "zip code," or City and State. If you are looking for a national company, you can leave the zip code and City/State blank. Make sure that "Limit my results to BBB Accredited Businesses" and "Limit my results to only charities" are NOT checked.
- If your search does not come up with any results:
- Check the spelling of the name or put in a smaller portion of the name, or
- Remove the zip code or City/State, or
- Click on the link to to search "all BBB reports."
- Click on any Business from the list to see their rating. For national companies, such as chain stores, there is likely to be one rating for all locations rather than a separate rating for the location near you.
- If the business you are looking for is not in the BBB database, it could mean that the business was recently opened or that no one has filed any complaints against them.
- How to review a business' rating and history..
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How to review a business rating and history.
- Overall Rating: The first thing to look at is the overall rating. BBB issues ratings ranging from "F" to "A+" or "NR" (No Rating). You can get a full description of ratings here. The higher the rating the better. Your best bet is to stick with companies with ratings of "B" or higher. A company may have a lower rating, or not be rated if it is just too new or BBB doesn't have enough information about them.
- BBB Accredited: While not being BBB accredited does not mean that you should not trust a business, a business that has chosen to become BBB Accredited is agreeing to conduct business fairly. In order to keep its BBB accreditation and maintain a high BBB rating, it must respond to consumer complaints fairly.
- Number of complaints: If a business has a high number of BBB complaints, it's a pretty good sign that you should think twice before giving that business your money. Some types of businesses, however, are more likely to have a large number of complaints than others. A company that has customers all over the USA is likely to have more complaints then a company that is very local. If the business you are searching has a lot of complaints, check the ratings and complaints for its competitors to see if it has more complaints than other similiar companies.
- Resolution: Any business can have consumer complaints. How that business handles its complaints can tell more about the business than the number of complaints themselves. When the BBB receives a complaint from a consumer, it gives the business an opportunity to resolve the complaint. It then tracks whether the complaint was resolved and how it was resolved. Anytime you see complaints which are not resolved
because the company took no action or did not offer a resolution (as opposed to the consumer not responding to the proposed resolution) it is a warning sign. If the company has repeatedly offered resolutions that the customers found unfair, that too would be a warning sign. NEVER expect a business to deal with you differently than it has dealt with other customers in the past.