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The Diamond Certified<sup>®</sup> Consumer Report masthead
In This Issue
Diamond Certified® Resources
Savvy Consumer Tips

Chris Bjorklund photo
Dear Savvy Consumer,

Are you a 49ers fan, or a Celine Dion fan? Maybe you follow a political candidate, or are a big fan of some movie star like Matt Damon or Hallie Berry? One thing fans usually have in common is their enthusiasm and loyalty. They like to “spread the word” when talking to friends, family and neighbors, and easily connect with others who share their interest.

People can also be extremely passionate and enthusiastic about local companies they love or hate. I know I am. I asked a woman in my exercise class about her back doctor, and she couldn’t stop raving. She insisted on passing along the doc’s name and number. Another friend wanted a painting contractor recommendation. Lots of us came up with names and offered glowing testimonials, along with some negative reviews as well.

If you have an especially good experience with any local company, and you’ve become a fan, talk about it and write about it. Mention it on your Facebook page or shout out a message on Twitter. When scientific-based ratings are unavailable, personal referrals and reviews are helpful for consumers. The obvious downside of a consumer referral or single review is that it is not statistically significant, so despite a positive referral from a friend, a bulk of the referred company’s customers might actually be dissatisfied. For just this reason, my preference is to first look to see if the referred company has earned and maintained a Diamond Certified rating. This way I know I just didn’t run into one or two people who said they’re good. It takes consumer feedback, customer satisfaction and a money-back performance guarantee to an entirely different level.







The way it works is, to measure true customer satisfaction, the Diamond Certified research and ratings team conducts telephone surveys of a large random sample of past customers, a statistically derived cross section of a company’s customer base. Typically, 100 past customers are surveyed and most companies can’t pass the rating. Only companies scoring 90 or higher on a 100 scale in customer satisfaction and additionally pass their credentials-based ratings checklist, earn Diamond Certified. So when you recommend a Diamond Certified company to someone else, you can have a lot more confidence in making the referral because of the objective and thorough rating process.

All of us consumers can help each other and ourselves by becoming a fan and “spreading the word” about business and service professionals who are extremely customer-focused and serve us well.

Sincerely,

Chris Bjorklund
The Savvy Consumer

Credit Card or Charge Card?

Although many of us call any piece of plastic that allows us to spend now and pay later a “credit card,” there are important differences between an actual “credit” card and a “charge” card.

A credit card allows you to borrow money up to a pre-determined limit. You can choose to pay your entire bill when it arrives, and avoid finance charges, or pay just a portion of it and pay interest on the remaining balance. The major credit cards are Visa, Mastercard and Discover.

Like credit cards, charge cards allow you to make purchases now and postpone payment. But a charge card requires you to pay the entire balance each month. American Express is the most widely used charge card.

So, which card should you use? That depends on what’s most important to you.

If you want the option to finance your purchases over time, then a credit card is the way to go. Many also offer rewards programs that enable you to earn things like airline miles or cash back. (Detractors warn that rewards cards encourage overspending and can cost more in fees and finance charges than the value of the rewards themselves.)

Choose a charge card if you want to avoid the risk of racking up a lot of high-interest debt and you’re sure you won’t charge more than you can pay off each month. Charge cards typically have an annual fee, but you may be able to offset that through better rewards programs and freebies such as roadside assistance, hotel upgrades and rental car insurance.

Ask Chris graphicDear Chris,
My son and I disagree about how frequently you should change the oil in your car. I say every 3,000 miles, but he says that’s not always warranted. Please end the debate for us.
Thanks,
Charlene

Dear Charlene,

This topic is definitely worthy of discussion: Changing your car’s oil on time is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to avoid expensive repairs down the road. Unfortunately, there’s not a single answer that fits every car and every driving style.

Manufacturers’ recommendations for changing the oil and filter can range from 3,000 to 10,000 miles. Many experts say an oil and filter change every 5,000 miles is frequent enough to keep things running smoothly for most cars and drivers.

Your safest bet is to refer to the owner’s manual that came with your car, and then factor in your particular circumstances. Generally speaking, you’ll need to change your oil more frequently than recommended if you do a lot of city (stop-and-go) driving, you live in an extremely hot or cold climate, you drive aggressively, you carry heavy loads, or your car is older and burns oil.

And remember, cars that are driven very short distances or sit unused still need their oil changed regularly. According to CarConnection.com, over time “condensation, unburned fuel, and other contaminants…foul the oil, reducing its ability to protect against wear and tear.”

So, the straight answer, Charlene, is there is no straight answer. At least now you can move on to the next topic for debate.

Chris
_____________________________________________________
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 graphic

Here's a complimentary letter we received about Moovers, Inc.:

Dear Mr. Hassenstab,

Although it has been over a month since your company moved our household from Fremont to Napa, I wanted to tell you how pleased we were with your service.

Your staff was top notch. Robert Smith, the move co-ordinator was on time, professional and quick in providing us, as it turned out, a quote that was right on the money. The movers, John Daniel, Bravlio Torrez and Pedro Velasquez also showed up on time and were hard working, courteous and very careful with our things.

Before choosing your company we received estimates from other companies. Your bid was very competitive, plus knowing that Moover’s Inc. was Diamond Certified gave us comfort. Since, the move turned out so well, we are so happy that Moover’s was our ultimate choice. All in all, a great move for a great price!

We would recommend your company to any of our friends or family.

Sincerely,
P.S., Napa, CA

Companies Recently Earning Diamond Certified®

Alameda County
Aaron Chapman Builders, Concord
Abrew Repair and Construction, Dublin
Camber Construction, Inc., Berkeley

Contra Costa County
Growth Connections, Alamo

Marin County
ATCO Pest Control, Novato

San Mateo County
European Paving Designs, Inc., San Jose

Santa Clara County
Confidence Landscaping, Inc., Campbell

Santa Cruz County
Furnish & Hays Builders Inc., Santa Cruz

Solano County
Tuolumne Auto Repair & Electric, Vallejo

 


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Copyright 2009 American Ratings Corporation