It has been a blast!
However, it is now time for me to retire from the Better Business Bureau and pursue a life of relative leisure.
To all of you who have read this column over the years, and especially to those who have told me how much you enjoy it, I thank you.
I count myself among the extremely fortunate to have had not one, but two incredibly satisfying and rewarding careers.
As both a soldier for 24 years and as a director for the Better Business Bureau for the past 16, I have had the privilege and honor of serving both my country and my community.
My first BBB column appeared in the Killeen Daily Herald on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2005. Since then, my column has appeared the first Sunday of each month (with an occasional repositioning to the second Sunday), which makes this my 94th column.
I would like to take this last opportunity to share with you some sound practices and a few warnings. Do these things most of the time and your life will be easier:
Start with trust. Check out any company’s BBB Business Review at centraltx.bbb.org to see important background information on a business, such as how long they’ve been in business, ownership information and how they resolve complaints.
Give wisely. Always research a charity through BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance website, www.give.org, before making a donation. Remember, fraudulent charities commonly strike after natural catastrophes such as hurricanes, floods and earthquakes, as well as tragedies.
Check your credit reports every year. Check the credit reports of your minor children, as well. The only authorized source for free annual credit reports under federal law is annualcreditreport.com.
Wiring money when it’s someone else’s idea: Don’t do it. Especially if you are being asked to cash a check and wire back most of the money. If you believe you are wiring money to a family member or friend in trouble, first verify that an emergency exists. If you are scammed, the chances of recouping wired funds are virtually nonexistent.
Shred all personal and financial documents before discarding. Also, don’t leave documents containing personal and financial information lying around where someone can see them. Remember, it takes only a second to snap a photo with a cellphone camera.
Know what you are going to say to door-to-door or telephone salespeople before they call. Script an answer that puts time and distance between you and the salesperson. Then use that time to research a smart decision. “Thank you for stopping by, but I don’t make decisions like this until I have had time to think it over. You are welcome to leave (or mail) your information and if I am interested, I will contact you.”
Do not succumb to high-pressure tactics. Walk away, hang up, close the door, hit delete.
Maintain virus protection software on your computer. And keep it updated. And while you’re at it, don’t open emails from an address you don’t recognize and don’t click on links within an email, unless you are certain it’s safe.
When hiring a contractor, never pay in full in advance and do not pay in cash. Include in your contract a schedule for release of payments in stages that are tied to performance. Ask for references and check the references you are given. Read the fine print. Make certain that all promises are in the contract.
Be stingy with your personal and financial information. Don’t give it up just because someone asks. After determining the legitimacy of the requester and the need, ask what the impact of not providing the information might be.
Be skeptical of deals that “sound too good to be true.” Because, most times, they are. A healthy dose of skepticism when approached with unsolicited opportunities can be a very healthy thing. Remember; Start with Trust and Give Wisely!
Pay attention to your “gut feeling.” That feeling that, no matter how good it sounds, tells you something just isn’t right. I can’t begin to tell you how many times, over the course of the past 16 years, people have told me, “You know, I just had a feeling something was wrong.”
That “gut feeling” is the sum total of your life’s experiences. Good, bad and otherwise. Everything you’ve read, everything you’ve been told and everything you’ve experienced. It’s worth paying attention to.
Richard Kitterman is the former executive director of the Better Business Bureau serving Central and South Central Texas.