BBB Stands for the Small Town Values of My Childhood

Sure, as regional director of Better Business Bureau, I get a paycheck and benefits and everything you would expect from a professional job. Also, there are a lot of nice people here, who are generally pretty excited about making the world a little better, so that makes it more fun.

I feel like I could find another job with these qualities, though, so these are not the reasons I am committed to BBB in the way that I am. The fact is that I am a true believer. I have, as they say, “drank the Kool-Aid” that is the philosophy of BBB.

The philosophical foundation of BBB is incredibly simple, really. It is all about trust. That’s even the slogan, “Start with Trust.”

For many, that is just a slogan; it is a thing you read and agree with and do not think much more about it. For me, though, it very much hearkens back to my small town, pretty rural roots. There are plenty of things to complain about when you are from a small town, but one of the great things is that trust is a central, essential value – even today, we say things like, “my word is my bond” and “a handshake should be as good as any contract.”

Since you kind of know everyone, you learn quickly who is trustworthy and who is not, and the ones who are not tend to have a much harder time getting along in life.

Now that I live in a much larger city — Columbia, Missouri – I do not know most of the people I encounter or with whom I do business, and I never will. Trust is still important, but it feels a little different to me, a little more distant.

So Better Business Bureau has a fairly unique appeal to me, as someone who cares about trust in a very personal way. BBB was actually started around the turn of the century, by the business community, as a mechanism to start setting standards of behavior for itself. They wanted the world of business to be one in which people could trust each other, and they knew that there needed to be some entity to actively promote that value.

That’s how you get BBB. You start with trust, and you get a wide range of free services to promote and facilitate trust between businesses and consumers. You get an organization that basically spends all day talking about the importance of trust. To this small town boy, that is something pretty special, and I am proud to be a part of it.

In the Wake of Criminal Charges, BBB Tips on Hiring Contractors

Yesterday, the Missouri attorney general filed criminal charges against a contractor for scamming homeowners. The filing included multiple felony counts of financial exploitation of the elderly, stealing, and unlawful merchandising practices.

According to the attorney general, the contractor made false promises to do roofing and remodeling work for consumers. He demanded significant upfront payment and then, in most cases, performed no work and provided no materials. The total loss is more than $20,000 from seven consumers.

Reading about this, it seems like a good time to offer some BBB tips for hiring contractors. These are especially important when dealing with big jobs and large sums of money.

  • It is a good idea to get at least three bids for any major job.
  • Research the business and owners carefully before signing a contract or paying any money. Check the company’s BBB Business Review at www.midmobbb.org or by calling 573-886-8965.
  • Ask for references and contact them.
  • Before paying anything, make sure you have a signed contract outlining exactly what work is to be done, a timetable for completion and an explanation of what happens if either the business or consumer reneges on the agreement.
  • Ask the contractor for proof that he or she is bonded and insured.
  • Pay by credit card whenever possible in case you need to challenge the payment.
  • Do not pay everything in advance.  It is a good rule to pay a portion when you sign the contract, and the final payment only after you are satisfied with the completed work.
  • When the work is completed and the contractor has been paid, make sure you have received lien waivers showing that subcontractors and materials suppliers have been paid for the job.

For more tips and information about making good consumer choices, visit www.midmobbb.org.