Tuesday, June 29, 2010

BBB Foundation's 3rd Annual Classic Golf Tournament

May 19, 2010, Dub’s Dread Golf Club, Kansas City, KS

After anxiously watching the weather forecast for two weeks and being hopeful of no rain, imagine our surprise when Wednesday dawned cloudy, rainy and even a little bit cool.  Fortunately, we were scheduled for a 1:00 p.m. shotgun start so we had a few hours to let it all pass through.

We didn’t let the rain dampen our cookout and a wonderful meal was provided by Jay Olsen with Celebrity Sidewalk CafĂ©.  Everyone agreed the Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches were an improvement over our previous years’ cold sandwich buffet.

Nor were the players deterred from participating in the silent auction, purchasing mulligans, or extra games to be played during the tournament.  The most optimistic of our players even warmed up on the driving range and all found time to compete in the putting contest.

As the starting time drew closer, the rain became a sprinkle and then at last, a fine mist.  By the time we reached the third hole, the rain gear was no longer necessary and miraculously, the weather held.  We finished the day with overcast but dry skies and everyone had a great time.

Congratulations to the Global Connections team of Tom Lyons, Eric Stout, Kyle Lyons and Frank Collins as our first place winner, with a score of 61.  Close behind was the second place team, with a score of 62, consisting of Tim Quinn, Lance Huggins, Aimee Allard and Sarah Cucchiara with Freightquote.com

The Men’s and Women’s Long Drive champions were Jason Pointelin and Aimee Allard, respectively.  They were each presented with a golf caddy & visor provided by Millennium Marketing.  Closest to the Pin winner was Chad Curtis who won a Heavy Putter provided by Steve Wadman.  Our putting contest winner, Stan Thompson with Nebraska Furniture Mart, won a golf bag provided by North Kansas City Beverage. 

Overland Park Awards graciously provided us with water bottles for the player gift bags and Walt Whitaker Photography once again donated the team photos for each player.  Thank you to all of our sponsors for their continued support of this event.  We couldn’t be successful without you.  Please see our website for a complete listing of those contributors.

Thank you to all that participated in our success.  I hope you had a day of friendly competition while getting to know some of our Accredited Business Members and supporting the BBB Foundation.  I appreciate your commitment and look forward to seeing you at next year’s tournament on May 4, 2011! 

Jackie Wadman
Vice President
BBB Foundation

To check out the rest of the pictures from the 2010 tournament, go to Kansascity.bbb.org.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Gulf Oil Spill - Tips for Giving

Really, I hate to look at the pictures. I'm married to an environmental scientist and I just don't ask him many questions about it or what it means for the delicate ecosystems and millions of people surrounding the Gulf. But this man-made disaster has created real need and I know that the generous people of Kansas City are anxious to do something, anything, about it.

So here are some tips from the BBB's Wise Giving Alliance on how YOU can make a difference. As always, be wary of well-intentioned but inexperienced organizations that pop up in the wake of this tragedy. Look for established organizations with environemental experitise or experience working in Gulf communities.

Click here for a list of charities working in the Gulf region that meet BBB Charity Accountability Standards.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Most Charities are Good Charities

But a select few are horrible. Really, they're not even charities. They are organizations established under the auspices of charitable giving but they really only serve the people who run them.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster recently won a suit against Jeffery Duncan and Kathy Clinkenbeard, both of California, for soliciting in Missouri on behalf of three scam charities: Coalition of Police and Sheriffs, Inc. (COPS), Disabled Firefighters Fund, Inc. (DFF), and American Veterans Relief Foundation, Inc. (AVRF). The AG's office found that less than 5% of the funds raised by these 'charities' went to help the police, firefighters, and veterans they purportedly served.

The BBB's Standard is that no more than 35% of funds raised by an organization be used for fundraising expenses. Additionally, at least 65% of an organization's expenses must be program expenses. All organizations have administrative and fundraising costs - I would strongly question any organization that implies that it doesn't - but those costs must be reasonable.

I hate talking about charity scams because most charities are good organizations run by honest, well-meaning people. As donors, it is prudent that you ask questions of any organization that seeks your financial support. If you receive a solicitation call, you have a right to know if the caller is a professional fundraiser hired by the organization and what percentage of your donation will actually go to the charity. It is not uncommon for professional fundraisers to take 80% or more of the money collected from phone solicitations. You should also know how a charity allocates its expenses among program, administration, and fundraising.

For more information on giving wisely to police and firefighter organizations, check out these BBB tips.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Return Policies, Cancellations, and Rescissions

Consumers often turn to the Better Business Bureau for answers.  We receive hundreds of calls daily about companies, advertising, scams and laws. Our website receives tens of thousands of hits every month by people with questions about business.

One of the more common requests we hear is to explain people's rights when they don't know or understand them.  Confusion and misinformation has always circled right of rescission laws, but we have recently received a spree of calls from people in need of their clarification. When someone rescinds and agreement, it means that the agreement blinks out of existence.  It allows the buyer and the seller to go their separate ways without penalty or obligation.

Consumers often believe a right to rescission extends to all purchases and agreements.  They are often under the impression that a company must take items back within a certain time period. It does not matter if the product is untouched or unopened, a business is not obligated to accept its return just because a customer no longer wants it. A change of mind does not entitle consumers to the right of rescission.  It is referred to as buyer's remorse. When no return policy is posted or published, it's best to ask a business representative what the policy is.  Otherwise, assume there is no return policy.

On the other hand, if a purchased product is broken or inoperable, the company should take it back and exchange it for one that works or refund the money spent on the item. If someone buys a product that does not operate how it is supposed to, the seller can get in trouble for misleading 'bait and switch' advertising, unfair selling practices and even fraud if they had prior knowledge of the problem.

In the mid-twentieth century (1950s and 60s), door-to-door salesmen were everywhere, selling vacuums and makeup, radios and TVs, anything and everything.  Often enough, they charmed or pressured homeowners into buying unneeded and unwanted products.  Because of this, a federal law was passed in the 70s that allowed buyers to change their minds when purchasing products or services within their own homes.  Buyers have three days to change their minds.  The buyer can cancel for any reason whatsoever.  The agreement is rescinded. By law, the seller is required to inform the buyer of their three-day right to cancel. It must be written into all contracts. The same rule applies when products are sold at convention halls, hotel rooms, or other places away from the company's permanent address. It doesn't matter if the buyer solicited the business or the other way around.

We mostly receive calls about the rights of rescission for two types of business: Home Improvement Contractors and Car Dealerships.  They are governed by different laws.

Home improvement contractors usually solicit business at the time of an estimate on the customer's property.  Because of this, they must follow the same rules as door-to-door salesmen  If the customer signs a contract with the home improvement contractor, he must inform the homeowner of the three-day right to cancel and it must be written into the contract.

Used cars do not have any warranty or return policy unless otherwise stated by the car dealer. Good used car dealerships will often have limited warranties on their vehicles, but that does not mean they are required to.  Some consumers are also under the impression that there is a grace period to return a vehicle--whether they believe it is 3, 14, or 30 days. There is no grace period or three-day cooling off period or a right of rescission when buying a car.  Once a person signs a contract, he or she owns the car.

New cars have a return law made especially for them.  The "Lemon Law".  A new car, less than three years old, can be returned if it has a reoccurring problem.  It must be the same problem over and over.  The car could be deemed a "Lemon" and returned.

Consumers should choose carefully before purchasing anything. They could be stuck with it.  Take time to research a product or vehicle. It could save a buyer headaches and money.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Kansas Citians Are a Generous Bunch

When I moved here 4.5 years ago from the East Coast, I knew nothing about the local culture. As my luck would have it, two weeks after moving into our new home, I took a spill and was off my feet for almost three months. My new neighbors, most of whom I had not yet met as it was February and too cold to bring over a casserole, quickly pitched in and generously cooked my family dinner, watched my toddler son, and even swept our floors. It was a kind of generosity I had never before experienced.

But apparently that's just what people in Kansas City do and this report from the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation proves it. You can read all of the wonderful news about KC's generosity by following the link, but here's what I think are the key points:

*Individuals with an income of over $100,000 gave more than twice as much as the national average in the year studied.

*The average charitable gift ($3,375) in Kansas City was 50% more than national average ($2,247) during the same year.

The report goes on to explain that the growth of giving in Kansas City far exceeds that of the nation as a whole. Kansas City has a culture of giving that I experienced firsthand. People who help their next-door neighbors when they clumsily take a fall also engage in their communities by supporting their places of worship, feeding the homeless, sponsoring art exhibits, and by giving in big and small ways that make a difference for the people of our city and beyond. We should all be proud of our area's culture of giving.

If you want information on how to give wisely to charities, check out the KC BBB's website for tips on giving and reports on both local and national charities. If you know of a charity that you would like to see on our growing list of local charity reports, email me at charityreview@kansascity.bbb.org

Thursday, June 3, 2010

No Credit? Bad Credit? Beware of Loan Scams, Warns Better Business Bureau

Struggling families and small business owners lose thousands to phony lenders

According to complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau, victims across the country have lost a total estimated quarter million dollars to advance fee loan scams this spring. Advance fee loan scams target individuals and small business owners who are desperate to get a loan and often take the victim for thousands of dollars. 

Despite recent improvements, the economy continues to provide a great opportunity for scammers to take advantage of struggling individuals and small business owners. Lending standards remain stringent at most banks and many cash-strapped individuals are turning to fraudulent lenders that promise loans regardless of your credit history.

“Schemes preying on people looking for loans are not new, and they are flourishing in an economy when so many are struggling to get by,” said Stephen A. Cox, President and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. “The complaints received by BBB are only the vocal few and we know from experience that many more people across the country are falling for this scam every day—just when they can least afford it.”

BBB has recently received complaints about advance fee loan scammers operating under more than 75 different names including Capital Alliance Financial Group, Harford Financial Services, Howard and Clark Financial, Lending Hand Financial, among others.

Most people stumble upon the scam online or learn about the bogus loan offer from ads in local Thrifty Nickel publications and online through classified sites like Craigslist. Often, an advance fee loan scam website will be created and taken down within a couple weeks only to be replaced by another operating under a different name and fake business address.

The websites look professional and might even put the victim through the rigors of filling out loan application forms—often requiring the victim’s bank account and Social Security numbers. Eventually victims are told they are approved for the loan and just need to pay as much as thousands of dollars upfront via money order or wire transfer to pay for insurance or collateral. Those that pay, never get the promised loan and are even sometimes tricked into giving the scammers even more money.  

BBB advises cash-strapped individuals and small business owners to recognize the red flags of an advance fee loan scam:
  • The lender has a bad reputation—or none at all.  Research the lender thoroughly online and with your BBB. Most trustworthy lenders have an established track record; be wary if you can’t find much information about the lender online. 

  • The lender is not registered in your state to do business. Check with your state financial or banking regulators.

  • The lender asks you to wire money or send a money order—such as for insurance or collateral—before you can receive the loan. You might be told to wire money to another country, consider this yet another red flag.

If you’ve become a victim of an advance fee loan scam, contact your local Better Business Bureau and report the incident to your police department. If you were asked to wire money to Canada, file a complaint with Canadian law enforcement by calling toll free: 1-888-495-8501 or e-mail: info@phonebusters.com

BBB, the leader in advancing marketplace trust, is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses that earn BBB accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. BBB provides objective advice, free business BBB Reliability Reports® and charity BBB Wise Giving Reports®, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust.