Mission: Repairing relations between businesses and customers

Though complaints about automotive repair weren’t first on the Better Business Bureau’s list of concerns for Mohave County, it was one of the top categories. Most disputes are resolved, the organization reported. (JC AMBERLYN/Miner)

Though complaints about automotive repair weren’t first on the Better Business Bureau’s list of concerns for Mohave County, it was one of the top categories. Most disputes are resolved, the organization reported. (JC AMBERLYN/Miner)

Congratulations!

You've won a free trip to the Caribbean aboard a luxury cruise ship!

You'll enjoy happy hour on the deck, dine at an elegant restaurant and settle in for an evening of world-class entertainment.

All you have to do is send a check or money order for the fees and taxes, which often cost as much as the trip itself.

It's an offer you'll hear on cold calls and at travel seminars, and one that takes a lot of people for a ride they weren't expecting. Getting a refund can take months, if not forever.

Incentive programs, as they're called, rank as the No. 1 complaint received by the Better Business Bureau office in Lake Havasu City, Mohave County BBB Director Elaine Cullen said.

High-pressure sales tactics, one-day or limited-time offers, upfront payments and big savings are all "red flags," she warned.

Beware of companies concealing their identities or providing limited contact information. And as always, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

The BBB office that opened in September 2014 has proven to be a great resource for consumers and businesses in the community. Last year, the office received 43,000 inquiries from consumers asking for information about Mohave County businesses, along with 207 complaints and 225 customer reviews.

There were nine complaints from La Paz County in 2015, most of them in the trailer, camping and travel industry. Six customer reviews were received and inquiries totaled more than 3,500.

Businesses are run by people who make mistakes, and about 70 percent of complaints get resolved, Cullen said. The other 30 percent either get no response or are not resolved to the customer's satisfaction.

"When a consumer submits a complaint, they need resolution at the end and that's what BBB does. We try to reach a resolution," Cullen said. "There's a little bit of self-confidence that comes with using a business with a BBB seal. It's kind of like an outward promise that they take this seriously to conduct their business honestly."

The bureau has eight standards of trust, and noncompliance with any of them can cause that business to lose its BBB accreditation, she added.

If you're in doubt, check out the company before you conduct any transaction at www.bbb.org, especially if you haven't done business with the company in the past.

Other most-complained about industries:

Jet Ski/personal watercraft: Consumers were charged fees for watercraft damages or fuel costs they did not incur. Consumers also reported one price being advertised, then charged another.

BBB tip: Inspect the watercraft for damages, make a note on the rental contract, and take photos before going out on the water. Get copies of all documentation. Afterward, check credit card statements to ensure the correct, agreed amount is charged.

Cullen said personal watercraft rental prices are obviously higher in the summertime, and most of the complaints are for undocumented damages. It became such an issue that Bullhead City passed an ordinance requiring an extra form to be completed by consumers, acknowledging that the city would not handle complaints about watercraft rentals.

"We encourage people to take pictures and document everything and double-check fuel costs," Cullen said. "A lot of people sign a form and don't read everything they're signing. People just have to be aware of what they're signing and be aware of what the watercraft looks like when they pick it up."

Auto repair and service: Incomplete, delayed and unnecessary repairs were reported by consumers concerning auto shops, a common problem for years. Some consumers claimed paying in advance for repair work that was not completed, while others said the shop didn't repair what was promised and refused to fix the problem when customers brought it back to their attention.

BBB tip: Always obtain a written estimate before authorizing any work, be leery about making payments up front, and require authorization for additional work on the vehicle. Make sure the estimate includes a description of your concerns, what the technician found to be the cause, and the correction or course of action for repair, including parts and total cost. Don't forget to ask about the warranty for parts and labor.

Air conditioning contractors and systems: Some consumers alleged they were misled into purchasing a new unit or paying for unnecessary repairs, while others reported difficulty using warranties when needed.

BBB tip: As with any major purchase, consider a second opinion and get multiple bids. Read and understand all warranty information. Not all system parts may be covered. In many cases, lack of regular maintenance by a licensed air conditioning contractor could void the warranty.

Towing: Complaints were received concerning towing and repair service. Regarding towing, consumers complained about unauthorized charges, discrepancies between insurance reimbursements and consumer refunds, and demand for cash payments with no receipts. In relation to auto repair, demand for cash payments, delayed completion of repairs and insufficient or no paperwork provided were reported.

BBB tip: Confirm towing coverage with your insurance company and be sure it is noted on your towing receipt. Be aware of towing fees. Additional charges can be incurred for charging a battery, changing a tire, or storing a vehicle. If the towing company is also repairing your vehicle, obtain a written estimate before authorizing any work.

As with auto repairs, make sure the estimate includes a description of your concerns, what the technician found to be the cause and the correction or course of action for repair, including parts and total cost.