Being an Educated Consumer

An ethical marketplace takes two—trustworthy businesses and educated consumers.

When preparing for a purchase, whether $100 or $100,000, as an educated consumer you do your research.  Trust but verify—take recommendations from credible sources AND look into ratings, complaints, and customer reviews to learn about other’s experiences. Check with local governing and regulatory agencies or watchdogs to ensure the recommended businesses are appropriately licensed and insured. After researching, you can contact the business.  Just because it’s online doesn’t mean it’s safe—to ensure you are shopping with a legitimate site check the site’s security settings, its web address should start with “https://” and include a lock icon on the purchase page. Read the site’s privacy policy, the fine print, check for return policies, restocking fees, and cancellation requirements. Resist high-pressure sales—a deal too good to be true or a “good deal” only available on the spot, is usually too good to be true. Shop around, get at least three estimates. Be wary of extremely low estimates that could be upsold later.  When you’re ready to purchase get a written contract. Make sure it specifies the price, the product or service and who will execute it and in what time frame.  Require all modifications to the original contract to be in writing and signed by both parties. Keep documentation of your purchase—save a copy of the invoice, contract, confirmation page/email confirmation until you receive the item or the service is complete to your satisfaction. If your product or service comes with a warranty, be sure to keep the documentation until that warranty is void. Be sure to know and understand the return policy and keep this documented with your purchase records. Pay by credit card, if possible; you may have additional protection if there’s a problem.

Be an educated consumer. A community built on educated consumers will promote good business practices and a marketplace where buyers and sellers can feel safe and trust each other.

Editor’s Note: This article was submitted by Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado and may be reached at 719-636-1155 or by email at