Smart Buying

Resources to Help You Review Before You Buy

Hate having to complain about bad service or products? Here's how to find reliable reviews before buying something or doing business with someone.

The July issue of Kiplinger's Personal Finance offers several tips on how to complain and get results if you're having problems with poor service or products. In an ideal world, everything would work as promised and service always would be great -- so that we wouldn't have to complain.

But we know that's not the case. Sometimes, though, you'll be less likely to have a reason to complain if you research products thoroughly online before buying them or vet vendors before doing business with them. The July issue of Kiplinger's Personal Finance provides several resources:

Start by scouring the reviews. Subscribing to a service that provides expert ratings could be well worth the cost in saved time and money. For example, Consumers’ Checkbook evaluates a wide range of local services in seven large metropolitan areas based on quality and price.

A two-year membership provides access to reviews for $34. And at www.checkbook.org, you can see free, detailed information and advice about dealing with many types of service, such as price ranges, common problems, how to select a provider and where to send your complaints.

Angie’s List collects and shares member reviews on service and health care providers. Companies can’t insert reviews of themselves or their competitors, and Angie’s List will jump in to help if you have a complaint about or dispute with a service. Membership fees vary depending on your location and the package you choose.

Looking for a new gadget? First go to CNET.com for free reviews of electronics from experts who test and rate the products. The written reviews come with videos of CNET editors using the items, and visitors to the site can post their own ratings and comments.

There’s no shortage of free review Web sites, such as Yelp.com, Epinions.com and Citysearch.com, on which consumers can sing praises or post problems. But keep in mind that the reviews may not be filtered, so companies could be promoting their own products. On the other hand, a few rants don’t necessarily mean the business is a dud.

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