Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Better Business Bureau Warns: This Valentine's Day Express Yourself with Care - Complaints Against Florists Up 47%

CHICAGO, IL - January 31, 2012 - Valentine’s Day means big bucks for florists. It is a bigger holiday than Mothers Day, Easter, and Christmas; making it their busiest day of the year. The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and northern Illinois (BBB) cautions those looking to send flowers for their special someone to be careful when selecting a florist.

Complaints about Florists increased 47 percent in 2011 compared to 2010. Last year 588 individuals filed complaints; in 2010 that number was 398 according to the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois.

“When buying flowers consumers should be especially careful when making the purchase online or over the phone,” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and northern Illinois. “Consumers need to review the description of the floral arrangement or any other gift purchased online or in conversation with the florist or sales person.”

Pay careful attention to the options offered such as size of arrangement, color of flowers, color of vase, delivery in a box or vase, and inclusion of an enclosure or gift card. Note that all the options mentioned may not be available on all sites or may involve additional charges. While you think you're ordering from a local florist, you may actually be on the phone with someone hundreds or thousands of miles away.

“Another important point is to make sure that your order is clear and detailed. Review the guarantee on the site or with the salesperson. This will help alleviate your concerns about quality or delivery,” states Bernas.

The BBB offers the following advice for safe and successful shopping for Valentine’s Day:

• Do your homework. Before ordering flowers, chocolates or any other gifts for Valentine’s Day check out the company’s Business Review at www.bbb.org in order to help prevent disappointment with the product or customer service.

• Allow time for shipping. Check with the retailer or check the web site to make sure that you have allowed enough time for delivery by your specified date. Make sure that this date is specified clearly and guaranteed when you order.

• Be wary of any email received from an unknown sender. Do not open any unsolicited email and do not click on any links provided. Fake e-cards coming from scammers/hackers may send you an infected card or send you to a link where you are could compromise your computer’s safety.

For more information on shopping with companies you can trust, visit www.bbb.org


As a private, non-profit organization, the purpose of the Better Business Bureau is to promote an ethical marketplace. BBBs help resolve buyer/seller complaints by means of conciliation, mediation and arbitration. BBBs also review advertising claims, online business practices and charitable organizations. BBBs develop and issue reports on businesses and nonprofit organizations and encourage people to check out a company or charity before making a purchase or donation.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Get Smart Before Picking Up Dumbbells

With New Year resolutions, consumers are hitting gyms, fitness centers and training studios en masse. For those in need of workout wisdom, Better Business Bureau suggests exercising caution when choosing personal trainers.

• Run background checks. Ensure potential trainers are properly certified. To verify accreditation on personal training certification programs, check with the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. Also, find out if trainers are continuing education with specialty certifications or programs.

• Spot the right trainers. Before purchasing training packages, request free sessions to help evaluate workouts and rapport. Also, discuss goals and training options. Don't feel pressured to purchase additional sessions that don't fit fitness needs.

• Work out the details. Make sure trainers have proven track records of success. Ask for client testimonials and referrals, preferably from those with similar backgrounds and fitness goals.

• Trim waists, not wallets. Examine possible post-introductory price increases. To reduce costs, ask about discounts for multiple sessions and group appointments. Read all refund and cancellation policies carefully; many personal trainers require payments upfront and clients may forfeit sessions for cancelling.

Visit bbb.org for up-to-date BBB Business Reviews on health clubs, personal trainers and more.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Last Minute Charitable Giving: Five Questions to Ask

The BBB recommends donors ask the following five questions before giving:

1) Is this a charity I can trust?

Look at the appeal carefully; some charities’ names sound the same. Do not be fooled by names that look impressive or that closely resemble the name of a well-known organization. A common scheme used in charity fraud is name-pirating of well-known organizations to gain the trust of donors. Check it out first. If someone says they are with a certain charity, call the charity directly and verify that who you spoke with or what you receive really is affiliated with them. Also, visit the BBB’s website www.bbb.org/charity to find out whether the charity meets the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability. These standards address charity governance, finances, fund raising, donor privacy, and other accountability issues.

2) How will the charity use my donation?

Ask questions about how your donation will be used. Beware of appeals that bring tears to your eyes but tell you little about what the charity is doing about the problem it describes so well. For example, if the charity says it is helping the homeless, do they explain how and where this is taking place? (Shelter, food, medical care, etc.) Watch out for statements such as “all proceeds will go to the charity.” This can mean that only the money left after expenses, such as the cost of written materials and fund raising efforts, will go to the charity. These expenses can be high, so check carefully.

3) Is my donation tax deductible?

If you want to take a charitable deduction for federal income tax purposes, make sure the organization is tax exempt as a charity under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. A charity appeal will usually include a reference to this. To verify a charity’s tax status, access an IRS database of organizations by viewing Publication 78 on the IRS website at www.irs.gov.

4) Can the charity actually use what I am donating?

All charities welcome the receipt of monetary donations, but some also solicit in-kind donations such as clothing, food, and toys. If you are planning to donate items to a worthy cause, make sure you know the in-kind contributions your charity prefers. For example, a food bank may prefer food items that are not perishable such as canned goods, and a toy drive may be seeking new and not used toys.

5) Am I feeling pressured to give?

Do not succumb to pressure to give money on the spot, either immediately over the phone via credit card or by allowing a “runner” to pick up a contribution. Also, never donate in cash. Always use a check or credit card to document the donation and to stop payment or dispute if you discover a problem. Take the time to research the charity fully; the charity that needs your money today will welcome it just as much tomorrow.

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