Richard Kitterman, regional director for the Better Business Bureau in Central and South Texas, has dedicated his career to looking out for the consumer. And as Killeen has grown, so have his responsibilities. In an age where fraud, identity theft and countless other scams are at an all-time high, Kitterman is busier than ever vetting local businesses and fielding complaints. Kitterman sat down with the Herald to talk about the issues he thinks are most pressing in the current business environment.
How different do you think the business landscape would be in the Killeen-Fort Hood area without the presence of the BBB?
Marketplace trust would suffer. Consumers would lose the ability to obtain, at no cost, objective, unbiased information on businesses and charities — information that is critical to making wise buying decisions. Businesses would not have the ability to distinguish themselves as trustworthy companies through BBB accreditation. Consumers and businesses alike would lose the ability to resolve complaints through BBB’s free dispute resolution process.
What do you guys get the most calls about and how do you handle those calls?
Understanding that nearly all consumer inquiries about businesses and filing of complaints is accomplished online via our website, most calls we receive are related to BBB accreditation and what it means. We explain that an accredited business is one that meets eight high standards of trust and performance in the marketplace. Those standards range from making sure the business is advertising honestly to making sure those companies are honoring promises with their customers. We explain that lack of accreditation does not mean a business cannot be trusted, but consumers should know that those businesses have not been through the rigorous standards process our organization holds so highly.
With the holiday season approaching and the re-emergence of layaway programs, has the BBB had to deal with any complaints about layaway? How is that dealt with?
It’s still early in the season, so we haven’t really received many complaints for this holiday season. Last year, when consumers complained about layaway programs the complaints generally concerned issues arising from the cancellation of a layaway contract. It’s always important to read the fine print on any contract, even a layaway plan, before you sign it. In the case of layaway plans, make sure you understand what the impact of canceling the contract would be and your rights regarding returns, exchanges or refunds — particularly when items are likely to be gifted. Another good question is, “What happens if an item I have on layaway is marked down or temporarily goes on sale?”
What is the business development in the Killeen-Fort Hood area that you are the most excited about?
The development of legitimate businesses in a community is always exciting. And clearly that is what I see, and I am very excited about. Whether it’s a Cavender’s Boot City or Courtyard Marriott in Killeen, Sam’s Club or Seton Hospital in Harker Heights, or The Shops at Five Hills in Copperas Cove, the development of new businesses provides consumers with more choices, and that is always good. BBB’s role in all of this is to help consumers sort things out with our free business reviews, accreditation for businesses that qualify, identifying marginal performers and scams and, when necessary, assisting consumers and businesses in resolving their disputes.
What advantages does a small business receive through BBB accreditation?
The advantage of BBB accreditation is the same for all businesses. Simply put, it allows a business to distinguish itself as a trustworthy business — a business that can be trusted to advertise honestly, honor promises, safeguard its customers’ privacy and personal information and has a signed contract with the Better Business Bureau to address consumer complaints quickly, respectfully and in a fair and reasonable manner.