Because of the Internet combined with the global economy, shopping has gotten more complex: it is easier to find the best deals and it is easier to get ripped off. That means consumers have to be educated.
A couple of rules:
Nothing – except for free samples at a grocery store – is free. Anytime you see or hear the word free – you can be sure you are going to be taken to the cleaners.
When you see or hear the phrase “up to” understand what it means – NOTHING. If an oil company claims that its new furnace will save you “up to 35 percent” it means that .1 percent savings would cover the guarantee.
So how do you protect yourself:
Research – to find the real value of an item go to eBay.com and see what identical items are selling for. Go to Amazon.com and read what consumers who purchased that item had to say about it. Use Google: put in the name of the product or company and add the words review or complaints; see what comes up.
For example, let’s say you want to buy a new vacuum cleaner. Dyson spends a fortune on advertising, which is one reason the vacuum cleaners are so expensive. Amazon customers give Dyson DC25 Ball All-Floors Upright Vacuum Cleaner – $590 – four out of five stars. The Hoover Platinum Lightweight Upright Vacuum with Canister, Bagged, UH30010COM, which sells for less than half that at $250 has 4.5 stars.
Also, two publications (or at least Internet sites you should purchase) are the Wall Street Journal and Consumer Reports. Both provide sophisticated, easy to understand information on health, finance, shopping, education and travel.
Check the Better Business Bureau bbb.org to see the number of complaints and how they were handled. Keep in mind, accredited BBB businesses are graded easier than non-accredited companies.
George Gombossy is Editor and Publisher of CT Watchdog.com and CT Condo News