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Educational Consumer Tips

Before You Buy

Author: Better Business Bureau

To avoid problems and make better decisions, use this checklist BEFORE you make a purchase. Decide in advance exactly what you want and what you can afford. Don't buy on impulse or under pressure. This includes donating to charities. Do your research. Ask family, friends and others you trust for advice based on their experience. Gather information about both the business or seller and the item or service you are purchasing. Review product test results and other information from consumer experts. See Consumer Information Sources. Get advice and price quotes from several businesses. Make sure that the company or seller has all appropriate licenses. Doctors, lawyers, home improvement contractors and many other service providers must register with a state or local licensing agency. Check out a company's complaint record with your local consumer affairs office and the Better Business Bureau. Get a written copy of guarantees and warranties. Get the company's refund, return and cancellation policies.  Ask whom to contact if you have a question or problem. Be sure to get the company's complete contact information (address, phone, website, e-mail address and owner/manager's names) Read and understand any contract or legal document you are asked to sign, before signing. Make sure there are no blank spaces. Insist that any extras you are promised orally be put in writing. Pay by credit card, if possible.  Credit cards offer the most protection should you run into a problem later.