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Savvy Consumer Tips

Chris Bjorklund photo
Dear Savvy Consumer,

How old is your oldest appliance?  My 92 year-old Aunt Marie was bragging the other day about her waffle maker that STILL works. It was a wedding gift in 1939!!! When I bought a Filtrex vacuum cleaner 25 years ago, I was worried that I paid too much for it.  But I chose to invest in a quality product, and as you can see in the photo below, I still have it. It was built to last. We use it for the “tough jobs” around the house, and for the cars too. We also have a top-rated upright vacuum cleaner for all the rest.

Is it worth spending a little more for quality products and services? Most consumers would answer that question with a resounding “yes” if they pause to analyze the relationship between price and quality over time.  Say you spend $7,000 to have your house painted but it lasts only 3 or 4 years versus spending $10,000 for one that lasts 10 years due to more prep, and better quality paint, which was the “value” choice?

Aunt Marie photo
Aunt Marie with her 1939 waffle maker
Chris with vacuum photo
My favorite vacuum

I don’t know about you, but I take pride when I invest in products and services that last. My O’Keefe and Merritt stove is more than 30 years old and as the repairman told me, “They don’t make them like this any more.”  We have put more than 300,000 miles on our 1969 VW Bug. A top-notch mechanic is also the reason why the Bug runs so well.

Do you have a story about benefiting from the quality of products and services offered and delivered by a Diamond Certified company? We would like to know about it. We’ll publish the best ones in a future newsletter.

 
Sincerely,

Chris Bjorklund
The Savvy Consumer

Website Helps Identify, Recover Stolen Gems

jewelry photo

The odds of being reunited with your jewels and watches are a little better thanks to an online registry for stolen and recovered pieces. If you’ve been robbed and would like to put law enforcement personnel, the jewelry industry and the general public on alert, you can place a listing on StolenJewelry.org.

Items listed must be valuable, and they must be unique or have distinguishing characteristics. (The Jewelers’ Security Alliance, owner of the site, will determine whether your listing meets the criteria.) There is no fee to search the recovered items database or to list an item, but you must register, and you must have filed a police report before you can place a listing.


Ask Chris graphic

Dear Chris,

I am currently involved in a billing dispute with my former CPA regarding fees charged for preparation of my amended 2007 tax returns. I feel I was billed twice for the same service, and when I refused to pay the second bill, I was told by the CPA that their company would be contacting a collection service. I have emailed documentation which supports my position. I have discussed my situation with my CPA with no success. Is there anything more I should be doing?
       Thank you,
       Richard

Dear Richard,
 
I’m sorry to hear that you and your CPA haven’t been able to achieve a meeting of the minds. Under the circumstances, it would be good for you to know what the business owner’s options are for collecting on the bill, and what your rights are if you don’t pay.
 
Your CPA has said he will send you to collections. You don’t mention the amount of the bill, but the higher it is the more likely it is he actually will hire a collector. Collectors often are more aggressive about collecting a debt than the original creditor would be. (The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers a debt collection guide for consumers.)
 
The CPA or, more likely, the collector could report you delinquent to the credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). This reporting would affect your credit report and score negatively. You could dispute the item with the credit reporting agencies, telling them why you do not owe the money. The agencies then would have to investigate your claim. If the creditor can’t prove you owe the debt, the agency must remove it from your report. If, on the other hand, the agency determines the debt is legitimate, it would stay on your report. You have the right to add a 100-word statement to your report explaining your side of the story. Anyone who views your report would see the statement. (Request your annual free credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com.)
 
Your CPA could sue you for the amount of the bill plus interest and collection fees, as could the collection agency if it has purchased the debt outright. The likelihood of being sued depends greatly on the size of the bill, how confident the plaintiff is of victory, and the chances of collecting on a judgment (In other words, do you have income or assets?). You mention that you have documentation to support your case. If you have strong evidence that you do not owe the bill and you feel confident that a judge would rule in your favor, then a lawsuit would be little more than an inconvenience for you.
 
Then there’s mediation, in which a neutral third party would help you and the CPA reach a compromise. The service may be free or low cost. This is typically most successful when both parties want to maintain a civil relationship. I’m not sure if that’s the case with you and your CPA, but you may want to suggest it.
 
Good luck, Richard.
_________________________________________________
Need advice on a consumer problem? Send your questions to me at ChrisBjorklund@diamondcertified.org. Due to the volume, I cannot respond to each question personally, but will answer one every month in this column.

Kudos from Diamond Certified® Consumers

Kudos from Diamond Certified CustomersAn East Bay woman called to say she and her husband had a wonderful experience with Metro Painting Company. Dora said that dealing with them was an absolute pleasure from start to finish! Their bid was the best and most professional. Every detail was spelled out. They have a 4-year guarantee on their paint job. The workers were wonderful. People driving by are stopping to look at the house. All their friends want to use them for projects. They’ve suggested to the Metro Painting owner to take photos of their home and use them on the company’s website. 

Companies Recently Earning
Diamond Certified®

Alameda County
Castro Valley Autohaus, Inc., Casto Valley

Contra Costa County
MAH Development, Inc., Danville

San Francisco
Kevin Webb Construction, Inc., San Francisco

San Mateo County
Masterpiece Gardens & Design, Inc., Pacifica

Santa Clara County

Gutter Helmet of the Bay Area, San Mateo

Sonoma County
At Your Service Home Care, Santa Rosa
Reliable Plumbing, Hidden Valley Lake

Read this newsletter and prior issues at Diamond Certified Newsletters