The Ten Consumer Commandments
By following these “10 Consumer Commandments” you
should have fewer hassles and reduce your chances of falling for a scam.
1. Thou shalt
Many consumer problems are created by simple misunderstandings that
result in major problems. The best way to keep this from happening is
to ask lots of questions. Don’t assume the tree service you
hired to prune will haul away the debris. Ask. Don’t assume
the appliance store will remove the old refrigerator when it drops off
the new one. Ask. Don’t assume you can return that new
computer you’re about to buy. If the return policy
isn’t posted – ask.
2. Thou shalt
get all promises in writing.
If it isn’t written down, it doesn’t count. Verbal
promises are worthless because you can never prove what was said. If
there’s a dispute, it’s your word against theirs
and you have nothing to back up your claim. So, when a mortgage broker
says that the bad loan will be refinanced in 6 months get it in writing
and make it part of the original agreement. Or, better yet,
just reject this type of offer.
3. Thou shalt
do thy homework before making a major purchase.
We’re all racing around trying to do more in a day than is
humanly possible. But you can’t rush the purchase of a big
ticket item such as a household appliance. Take the time to
research various brands and models. Read expert reviews and go online
to see what customers have to say. Talk to friends and neighbors who
have the models you’re considering. Use shopping bots to
compare prices. The more you know before you head to the store, the
more likely you are to get a good deal on the right product.
4. Thou shalt
not be penny wise and pound foolish.
Cheaper is not always better. Sometimes you save money in the long run
by paying a bit more up front. This applies to both products and
services. You might pay more for a washing machine that is
well-built and reliable, but over the long run you’ll have
fewer hassles and smaller repair bills. When hiring a
contractor, the lowest bidder is not always the best choice. Your goal
is to find a reputable company with a good track record; one that will
do a good job at a reasonable price.
5. Thou shalt
not hire a contractor who just shows up at the door.
They’ll offer you a great deal on a new roof or new windows
or driveway repair because they’re “in the
neighborhood” and have materials left over from a previous
job. Reputable contractors just don’t work that way. The
Better Business Bureau website <http://www.bbb.org/alerts/article.asp?ID=582>
has some great tips as well. The best advice is to just say
6. Thou shalt
not be pressured into buying anything.
A good business doesn’t need to rush you into a decision. The
high-pressure buy now approach is designed to keep you from comparison
shopping. Don’t fall for it. If the sales person tells you
the price won’t be good if you walk out the door, turn around
and leave! And, it is always to good idea to fully check out
your new car on line and decide exactly what you want and what the
approximate dealer’s cost is before you ever go the car
lot. Come in prepared to ask for what you want and take
control of the situation.
7. Thou shalt
not assume a transaction can be undone.
It is amazing how many people think they can buy a car or some other
expensive product, use it for a few days and bring it back if they
don’t like it. They think everything is covered by the
federal government’s 3-day cooling-off rule. Most purchases
are not. That cooling-off rule only applies to sales of $25
or more that take place at your home or away from the
company’s normal place of business. Some states
have their own cooling-off periods for time share, health club or
campground purchases. There is also a notice period on the
refinance of a residential mortgage. The Cooling-Off Rule:
When and How to Cancel a Sale: click here
8. Thou shalt
not buy a used car without an inspection.
A mechanic can spot structural problems, odometer fraud and flood
damage; things that won’t necessarily show up on a Car Fax
report. Yes, you’ll pay $100 or so to have this done, but
it’s worth the money.
It is amazing many people have a used vehicle inspected after they buy
it. They think if they find a problem they can get the dealer to fix it
for free. WRONG! Most used car sales are “as is
where is and how is” without any warranties. Buy
that vehicle and in most cases, you are stuck dealing with those
mechanical problems. That’s why you want to have the
inspection done before you sign any paperwork. You need to do this even
if you’re told the dealer inspected the vehicle. The Federal
Trade Commission website offers some help.
9. Thou shalt
guard all of your personal information.
Keep your private information private. Never give out passwords, pin
codes or account numbers to an unknown caller, no matter who they claim
to be. There’s no way you can verify that. Never
respond to an e-mail request for personal information, no matter how
official it looks or how urgent it sounds. Any company you do business
with already has all your personal information and will not send you an
e-mail asking for it. When in doubt, contact the company by
phone — use the number you know to be legitimate —
and ask them what’s up. Always shred financial statements and
records before throwing them out. The FTC website <http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/idtheft/idt01.htm>
offers ways to fight back.
shalt be more skeptical.
We’ve all heard consumer advocates say, “If it
sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” The expression
has become cliché, but the advice is rock solid. If more
people would follow this rule we could actually put a dent in consumer
fraud. With most scams the warning signs are there, we just tend to
ignore them. We let greed and gullibility replace common sense.
Don’t give your hard-earned money to a con artist. Remember
- You can’t win a contest or lottery
you didn’t enter — even if the prize winning notice
says you did.
- If it’s a prize, it’s yours
for free. You don’t have pay any money for anything or give
out your credit card number.
- You can’t make lots of money doing
virtually no work on a part time basis.
- You never have to pay money up front for a
credit card or loan.
- No one can “guarantee” you
a credit card despite your credit history.
- No one in Africa wants to give you $5M to help
you process the money of a deceased family member.