Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mail-In Rebates

Once the excitement of the holidays wears off, people turn to the promised rewards of mail-in rebates. However, the Better Business Bureau advises that it’s more important than ever to read the fine print when filing for a rebate because retailers and manufacturers are changing the way they issue rebates.

“Rebates are a great way to get a deal, but they can also be a great source of frustration for consumers,” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “By acting quickly to redeem the rebate and reading the mail-in instructions carefully, consumers can significantly reduce any disappointment associated with redeeming rebates.”

The BBB offers the following advice to shoppers on how to make the process of redeeming rebates as painless as possible:

Don’t wait. Some rebates have a time window in which they can be redeemed or must be redeemed within a certain amount of time following purchase. Waiting also increases your chances of misplacing necessary receipts or packaging.

Read the instructions carefully. The guidelines for redeeming a rebate can be extensive and missing steps may delay the process or result in loss of the rebate. Be sure to indicate how you want to receive the rebate—such as if a gift card is the default option—and include all the necessary paperwork and proof of purchase. Also make a point to thoroughly read the fine print details that are included when you receive your rebate card or check in the mail.
Keep the packaging. Rebates often require UPC bar codes or other parts of the packaging to be included with the paperwork for processing, so don’t throw boxes away until you’re sure you don’t need them.

Make copies of everything. Keep a copy of all the paperwork you mailed back to the retailer or manufacturer for the rebate. It’s the only record you’ll have of the transaction if anything goes missing.

Contact the business if the rebate doesn’t arrive. Some retailers and manufacturers use third-party fulfillment companies for processing rebates so keep in mind that you might be dealing with a different business when it comes to tracking down your rebate.

Help is available if you need it. If the rebate never arrives or is significantly late, file a complaint with the BBB, the Federal Trade Commission or your state Attorney General.

For more advice on being a savvy consumer this holiday season, visit

Monday, December 20, 2010

Phony Calls Claim to Be from BBB Asking if Businesses Are Moving

Businesses across the country are getting phony calls claiming to be from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), asking if the businesses are planning to move. The calls are not from the BBB, and the source and purpose of the calls are unknown. BBB advises businesses to proceed cautiously with any unknown callers.

If your company received a phone call from the Better Business Bureau seeking to update records, particularly if your company is moving, be cautious. Furthermore, the caller ID on the calls displays all zeros.

The BBB wants businesses to know that the BBB does not call to ask if businesses are moving, and any calls from the BBB are clearly identified. Businesses can check with their local BBBs to verify any calls claiming to be from the Better Business Bureau, or to report any questionable calls.

Businesses can be targeted by a number of different schemes, including wire transfer scams, directory schemes, office supply schemes, and more. For BBB tips on schemes against business visit

Monday, December 13, 2010

Winter Weather Preparation Tips

With winter weather upon Chicagoland, the Better Business Bureau has some tips on keeping your family safe as snow storms and subfreezing temperatures reach the area.

Get a Kit

• Get an emergency supply kit which includes items like non-perishable food, water, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights and batteries. Add the following supplies in preparation for winter weather:

o Rock salt to melt ice on walkways

o Sand to improve traction

o Snow shovels and other snow removal equipment.

o Also include adequate clothing and blankets to keep you warm.

Make a Plan

• Make a family emergency plan. Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to know how you will contact one another, how you will get back together and what you will do in case of an emergency.

• Plan places where your family will meet, both within and outside of your immediate neighborhood.

Be Informed

• Make sure your home is well insulated and that you have weather stripping around your doors and windowsills to keep the warm air inside.

• Insulate pipes with insulation or newspapers and plastic and allow faucets to drip a little during cold weather to avoid freezing.

• Learn how to shut off water valves (in case a pipe bursts).

• Keep fire extinguishers on hand, and make sure everyone in your house knows how to use them. House fires pose an additional risk as more people turn to alternate heating sources without taking the necessary safety precautions.

• Know ahead of time what you should do to help elderly or disabled friends, neighbors or employees.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Fighting Cold and Flu Season in the Workplace

Cold and flu season is setting in and the close quarters of the workplace allow coworkers to easily trade germs. The Better Business Bureau recommends that business owners take a few simple steps to prevent illnesses from spreading and promote productivity throughout the workplace.

“Fighting germs around the office is about keeping your employees safe and maintaining productivity throughout the peak cold and flu seasons,” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “Encouraging proper hygiene and a liberal leave policy will help maintain a happier, healthier workplace.”

The BBB recommends taking the following steps to protect employees during cold and flu season:

Build up an arsenal to fight germs. Facial tissue, hand sanitizer, and products for cleaning work spaces are three basic purchases employers can make for fighting germs around the office. Also consider investing in no-touch trashcans.

Encourage people to stay home. Sick employees may think they’re being dedicated workers when they still come into work but, however, they may spread germs to other employees and cut down on the overall productivity of the business. Encourage employees to stay home when they are sick at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever or severe symptoms. Consider instituting a flexible leave policy—and appropriate technology—that allows employees to work from home if they or their kids are sick.

Promote good hygiene around the office – Remind everyone of the importance of hand washing and covering your mouth if you sneeze or cough. Encourage employees to regularly clean shared equipment such as phones and computers and wipe down common areas. Post friendly reminders around the workplace in languages that all employees can easily understand.

Encourage flu shots – Contact your local hospital to see if they provide on-site flu shots or consider reimbursing some or all of the cost for employees to get a shot on their own time.

Hold a health fair – Contact your local hospital to see if they provide health fairs for larger offices. You can also contract the coordination of an on-site health fair with a company specializing in the service.

Set a good example. Now that you’ve asked everyone to wash their hands regularly and stay home if they’re sick, it’s important as the business owner that you follow your own advice. When you’re the boss it can seem like an impossible task to take a sick day, but stay home and keep your germs out of the workplace.

For more advice on providing a safe and healthy workplace, visit

Friday, December 3, 2010

Possible Misinformation Regarding Cook County Assessor's Refund

The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois has been informed that there are accusations that the Cook County Assessor's Office has over charged all taxpayers in Cook County from 2006 through 2009.  The party or parties involved in making such claims are stating that owners of single family residences or condominium during this period are entitled to a refund. 

After contacting the Cook County Assessor's office directly recently, the Chicago BBB was informed that the Cook County Assessor has made no error in tax levies for this time period and that the info contained in the claim did not in any way originate from the Assessor's office.  The Cook County Assessor claims that if they determine such errors to have occurred they would have communicated this directly to each individual home owner via mail. 

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