ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Consumer advocates at the Better Business Bureau (BBB) are busy... really busy. The complaints keep coming. More than 25,000 of them arrived in 2009. Economic times dictate the pace around the BBB's headquarters.
"The money is tight and if you're spending money you want to make sure you're getting what you pay for," BBB spokesperson Dan Hendrickson said. The agency investigates complaints for Minnesota and North Dakota. Each day a large bundle of letters arrives, but those letters only make up 15% of the complaints. The remaining 85% come in online. They are then forwarded to the businesses, which are given six weeks to respond.
"I would say actually 90 or 95% of the time companies do respond. Again, most companies are out there doing things right," Hendrickson explains.
There are 140,000 businesses in the local BBB's database, 6.700 of them are accredited by the Better Business Bureau. To qualify, businesses are investigated and then pay a yearly fee. They're required to sign a code of business practices, and if they don't abide, they're kicked out.
There are more than 1,700 businesses in the two-state area with an "F" rating. Over the phone magazine subscription companies top the F-rated list. BBB workers warn consumers to ask about monthly fees and subscription lengths ahead of time. "Make sure you understand the offer. I even suggest you ask them to send you the contract before you sign it so you understand all the terms, including cancellation," Hendrickson warned.
Trust your instincts, he adds. Don't be pressured or rushed.
The top six industries receiving complaints over the past year in Minnesota, according to the BBB, are new car dealers, used car dealers, siding contractors, auto repair and service providers, general contractors, and roofing contractors... in that order.
"Those are people's most important possessions. Your car gets you from point A to point B and if there's a problem you're going to complain about it. And your house, what's more important to you than your house," Hendrickson said.
Speaking of homes, do your homework. Check out a business online before committing to purchase anything. You can Google the company, or you can check out the Better Business Bureau's website.
"The couple of minutes before the transaction can save you just hours and headaches and frustration later," Hendrickson concluded.
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