BBB or Bust: Guarding the Gulf Coast Homeowner

The Better Business Bureau is a primary resource for information regarding complaints and consumer problems with local companies, yet many websites claim to offer the same services. One website that focuses on problem contractors promises to help consumers avoid doing business with companies that do substandard work or engage in bad business or fraudulent practices. On the surface, a site like this one seems to be an asset for homeowners.

Upon closer inspection, some concerns are raised in regards to sites that promise to distinguish the good contractors from the not-so-good ones. One concern is how a company earned a positive review. If it’s not evident that it came from a BBB rating or customer testimonials, that should raise a red flag. There is a chance the site is offering a “pay for play” service to contractors, listing them in exchange for a monthly or yearly rate.

Another concern is the nature of the personal information the site requests. If it is as simple as a zip code, then a homeowner is likely to see a list of favorable contractors within a pre-determined range of that zip code. The content might cover a neighborhood or include all of Tampa Bay. If the site requests more personal information, including name, email address, phone number and type of contracting project, expect that information to be used in subsequent sales calls from one or more contracting companies.

Sales calls from companies you do not know, while often unwelcome, give you an opportunity to ask specific questions about a company’s history and ask for references before taking the next step and scheduling an in-home assessment and estimate. You should also ask for any available online details about the company, such as a company website. A company that cannot provide evidence that supports a legitimate business operation is one to avoid.