June 13, 2014
Each week of my radio program, The Consumer Team, we present information designed to help people maximize their lives as a consumer. Much of the information I present on The Consumer Team is based on both my experiences as well as information we’ve learned from the hundreds of interviews we’ve done with consumer experts over the years. Below is a summary of some of the best tips that we’re calling ‘The Consumer Survival Kit.’
Get Multiple Quotes & Bids: Never, ever, ever do business with the first sales person you meet for any major purchase. I recommend getting at least 3 bids for any job.
Deep Discounts Often Signal a Scam: Just like the old bromide goes, ‘It it seems too good to be true, it usually is.’ In your consumer life, beware of people offering an unbelievably low price. Whether it’s $8,000 off MSRP on a car or 6K off the price of a central air conditioning unit, you’ve got to be suspicious of these offers. When you’re confronted with these deals as a consumer, it’s a critical time to do research and ask for second and third opinions. In most cases, the scam will be exposed quickly if you ask questions.
Get ‘Real’ References: Instead of accepting the stock references that most companies use, ask for the names of 3-5 current customers who have jobs in progress. You’re much more likely to get a ‘real’ reference this way.
Never Sign a Contract Under Duress: The more pressure any sales person puts on you to ‘sign today or this special will disappear’, the faster you should run from this individual. Good companies and reputable people don’t operate with pressure as a tactic. Moreover, whenever you feel a need to speed up a consumer decision, it’s a good time to take a deep breath and slow down the process.
Don’t Give Out Personal Information: Whether it’s a door-to-door salesman or a seemingly harmless internet-based consumer contest, don’t give out your personal information to anyone unless you’re going to do business with them. And even then, be very protective with your personal information. Names, addresses and phone numbers are often sold to other parties who will harass you with offers and even steal your identity. For sales people that I want to have contact with, I use a special G-Mail address that isn’t tied to my name.
Avoid Deposits and Advance Payments: This is especially true for companies you hire for home repair and improvement. Asking for a down payment can often be a sign of cash desperation. Reputable companies have enough capital on hand to buy materials for a job. If a down payment is required for a job, make sure that it is, in fact, a reasonable request (ask at least 3 other companies) and then only pay for a portion of the work in advance.
Do Your Research: Although the web can be a rich resource for vetting your consumer decisions, you have to be very picky regarding sources. And unfortunately, many sites that sales people give you to support their products or services, can be unreliable. There are several sources that I’ve used for years that I’ve found to be reputable. Consumer’s Union is the parent organization of Consumer Reports Magazine and Shop Smart Magazine. Consumer’s Union is a very good source regarding consumer issues and policy. And Both Consumer Reports and Shop Smart are vital tools for anyone who is serious about being an informed consumer. I recommend subscribing to both of the publications. Additionally, I recommend a subscription to The Consumer Reports website. For just a few dollars a month, you get access to years worth or testing, research and other data. Two other websites, http://www.consumeraffairs.com and http://www.consumerguide.com offer consumer information that can be useful. The Consumer Team website, http://www.myconsumerteam.com is a collection of consumer information from trustworthy sources. The Consumer Team website also gives you access to all the blogs we’ve written on a wide range of consumer issues.
I hope this information helps you in your life as a consumer. For more consumer information, tips and research, listen to The Consumer Team, Saturdays from 5-7PM (Central) on 1080 KRLD Radio in Dallas, Texas. The Consumer Team is produced by McQ Media Inc, Dallas, Texas.
The Consumer Team