Jewish World Review Oct. 2, 2007 / 20 Tishrei 5768
Better Business Bureau ramps up
By Vicki Lee Parker
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | (MCT) When you're about to hire someone - whether it's a roofer, car dealer or cleaning service - how do you check the business out?
If you're like most people, you ask friends for references. If you're technologically savvy, you could turn to Angie's list, Craigslist or Smartpockets.com.
What you might have forgotten is that old standby, the Better Business Bureau. Many people do. So the BBB introduces a $700,000 rebranding campaign this week.
Beverly Baskin, president of the Better Business Bureau of Eastern North Carolina, said recommendations from friends and family work, but only to a point. Same with Web sites that let consumers rate businesses.
You should start your search with the BBB. Its rebranding campaign - including a new Web site, logo, book series and commercials during shows such as "CSI" and "Grey's Anatomy" - drives the point home. Its slogan: Start with trust.
If a company is accredited by the BBB, you can find out whether it is properly licensed, the government has taken action against it, or it has operated under another name and run into problems.
"We have files on 56,064 companies," said Baskin, whose office oversees 33 North Carolina counties.
Many people know they can register a complaint with the BBB, but few realize that their local BBB office will arbitrate disputes with car dealerships through the BBB Auto Line. Few know that the BBB checks the licenses and certifications of accredited members each year to make sure they are current.
"We went out on the street and found that people had a different perception of us," Baskin said. "They thought you just call and pay your money and become a member. They didn't know that you had to meet standards and that you have to maintain those standards and that we expel members who do not uphold those standards."
But the 95-year-old nonprofit organization is making changes to better compete online.
One is the new Web site. Under the old system, visitors had to know the region that the local BBB was in to find the Web site. Starting Oct. 8, you can go to the national site, BBB.org, type in your ZIP code and be linked to the local site. The site makes it easier to find a company's report, file a complaint and get consumer alerts and warnings.
The site also will include a monthly list of companies that have lost their BBB accreditation and the reason why.
BBB also will introduce the Better Business Bureau book series. The first three books, "Starting an eBay Business," "Buying a Franchise" and Buying a Home," will be on sale at Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com and Borders.
The rules for becoming an accredited BBB member remain the same. A company must be in business for at least a year, have the appropriate licenses and certifications and be registered with and maintain its files with the secretary of state. Businesses pay an annual fee, averaging $400, Baskin said.
She hopes the ad campaign will encourage people to check the BBB database before agreeing to work with a company.
"If they come to us first, they don't have to contact us later with a complaint," she said.
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Vicki Lee Parker is a columnist for The News & Observer. Comment by clicking here.
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