Monday, November 30, 2015

Find Consumer Information

People holding customer sign. Find consumer information.
Caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware.

With the end of the year holidays approaching, and much gift buying and giving happening, that old phrase keeps on popping into my head. I was wondering just how long we have been concerned with scams and buyer's remorse. We can probably trace it back to 1523, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, when writer John Fitzherbert wrote to warn buyers to ride horses first before purchasing one to see if the horse is tame or wild. Just like back then we hope, when purchasing a product or service, to find the one that makes us the happiest. At MCPL we are committed to providing information to help our customers make informed choices in the marketplace. Here are some great resources to help you be an informed consumer.


family buying a washing machine
Looking to purchase a cell phone, computer, washing machine and dryer, vacuum cleaner, car, or other product? You can research these types of products online using Consumer Reports. It is a great source to get unbiased product testing and ratings information. Their general information about products is a great way to help customers know what to look for when purchasing a product. Once you know what features you want you can check that product's ratings. Products are rated from excellent to poor based on test results, features are mentioned, and they have their recommendations for best buy.


If you are interested in a local service and not sure what company to go with have a look at Washington Consumers' Checkbook. It has ratings, comments, and advice on many local services from Accountants to Wood Finishers. Once you find the service you are interested in you can limit the companies to within a specified number of miles of your zip code. Companies are rated for quality, price, and the percentage of customers who rated the service as superior on their survey for overall performance. You can also access their customer survey results and comments. Washington Consumers' Checkbook is available online, but can be accessed only at a library branch.


seniors driving a car
In addition to ratings on automobiles (Consumer Reports) and auto repair services and auto insurance (Washington Consumers' Checkbook), you have online access to Auto Repair Reference Center. It contains up-to-date repair and maintenance information on almost all domestic and imported vehicles. ASE-certified technicians created all of the content. Interested in purchasing or selling a car? Have a look at the Kelley Blue Book and the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) for car values. Automobile Recall and Defect Information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and information on Maryland's Lemon Law can be found on our Automobiles resource guide.


Health is another consumer area that you really want to make certain you are getting the most authoritative information.  The Health and Wellness Resource Center is a trusted source for articles on health, medicine, and wellness from magazines, journals, and reference books. It includes information on diseases and conditions but also includes trusted health websites and a medical dictionary. If you would like to research doctors that you are interested in seeing based on  years of practice, medical school attended, primary specialty, state of license, and board certification, Reference USA is a good source. You can research physicians' state licences, including disciplinary actions, for Maryland and Washington, D.C. on our Health resource guide. To find rated doctors, hospitals, and more have a look in the Washington Consumers' Checkbook. Health information is vast, rapidly changing, and sometimes presents contradictory viewpoints. It must be evaluated critically by the user.

Nonprofits and Charities

This time of year a lot of individuals donate to nonprofits and charities. With so many organizations it can be difficult to find those that match your interests. It's also good to know what the nonprofit or charity does with your donation. For example, the State of Maryland has a Charitable Organization Division that registers, regulates and renews charitable organizations doing business in Maryland. We have resources to assist you in researching and evaluating charities.

Government Help

And don't forget that there are government organizations to help you.  With Montgomery County's Office of Consumer Protection you can file complaints and search their complaint records. The State of Maryland also has a Consumer Protection Division where you can file complaints and get important consumer information. From the Maryland State Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation you can check to see if businesses or individuals are licensed in Maryland before doing business. The federal government also has many consumer protection agencies and departments.

We’re happy to provide you with the resources you need to make informed consumer choices this holiday season and beyond!

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