BBB Gives Tips for Energy Efficient Windows, Gift Cards, Flu
Here are the Better Business Bureau's tips for December.
Purchasing a Gift Card? Read This First!
Gift cards make excellent presents, especially during the holidays when you’re unsure of what to buy for a family member or friend. But like everything else, gift cards may have hidden fees and strings attached. The BBB reminds consumers it’s important to read the fine print before making your purchase and presenting gift cards to co-workers, friends or loved ones.
In recent years, both the United States and Canada have made changes in federal laws to improve consumers’ chances of getting full value out of the cards they buy and give. These rules generally apply to gift certificates, store gift cards and general use prepaid cards, which are often branded by payment networks such as Visa or MasterCard.
Despite some historical issues with gift cards – such as cards getting lost or people receiving cards which have had their value siphoned off by scammers – sales of gift cards are still expected to increase this year. According to a survey by Consumer Reports, 62 percent of consumers are planning to buy gift cards this holiday season.
Here are some helpful tips from BBB regarding gift card purchases.
Buy from sources you know and trust. Avoid buying gift cards from online auction sites, because the cards may be counterfeit or may have been obtained fraudulently.
Read the fine print before you buy. Is there a fee to buy the card? If you buy a card by phone or online, are there shipping and handling fees? If you don't like the terms and conditions, buy elsewhere.
See whether any fees will be deducted from the card after you purchase it.
Inspect the card before you buy it. Verify that none of the protective stickers have been removed. Make sure that the codes on the back of the card haven't been scratched off to reveal a PIN number. Report any damaged cards to the store selling the cards.
Give the recipient your original receipt so they can verify the card's purchase in case it is lost or stolen.
Consider the financial condition of the retailer or restaurant.
Know the rules: Visit .ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt010.pdf for more information on gift cards.
For more holiday tips that you can trust, visit www.bbb.org/us/Consumer-Tips/.
Stay Warm with Energy Efficient Windows
Many consumers strive to winterize their homes and save money through better energy efficiency. The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) and the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) advise consumers to balance cost effectiveness with energy efficiency, as more efficient windows, doors and skylights can make a big difference in energy consumption over time.
According to the Energy Information Administration, home heating costs this winter are expected to rise by 10.2 percent for homeowners who rely on heating oil. Luckily, homeowners can fend off some of the rising energy costs by winterizing their home before the harshest weather takes hold.
Consumers in northern climates concerned about indoor comfort in the winter should pay special attention to U-factor ratings to determine which products are better at keeping heat in. The lower the U-factor, the better the product will perform.
The BBB and NFRC recommend the following checklist for consumers to consult when preparing their windows and skylights for the cold months ahead:
Start by looking for products that carry the NFRC Energy Performance Ratings label.This label can help determine how well a product will perform its key functions - keeping your home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, keeping out wind, and resisting condensation. By using the information contained on this label, builders and consumers can reliably compare one product with another and make informed decisions.
As with any home improvement project, make sure you are dealing with a reputable contractor and reputable materials. The BBB encourages consumers to consult with their home contractor to see that all energy performance materials carry this label. Check outbbb.org to find a home contractor you can trust.
If you are looking for a well insulated room, check the window’s U-Factor. U-Factor ratings generally fall between 0.20 and 1.20. The lower the U-value, the greater a window's resistance to heat flow and the better its insulating value.
Is your room sunny and bright? The Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) rates how much solar radiation is admitted through the window. SHGC is expressed as a number between 0 and 1. The lower a window's solar heat gain coefficient, the less solar heat it transmits in the house.
Are you looking for a well-lit room or one that’s on the dimmer side? Visible Transmittance is an optical property that indicates the amount of visible light transmitted through the window. VT is expressed as a number between 0 and 1. The higher the VT, the more visible light is transmitted.
Check window seals. Heat loss and gain occur by Air Leakage through cracks in the window assembly. The lower the AL, the less air will pass through cracks in the window assembly.
Check to see how well your window will resist condensation. The higher the Condensation Resistance (CR) rating, the better that product is at resisting condensation formation. While this rating cannot predict condensation, it can provide a credible method of comparing the potential of various products for condensation formation. CR is expressed as a number between 1 and 100.
Look for ENERGY STAR® products before making a purchase. ENERGY STAR helps consumers to easily identify products with superior energy performance. Since the energy efficiency performance of windows can vary by climate, ENERGY STAR’s performance criteria vary by climate zones, so that you can choose products that are best suited for where you live.
Preventing Colds and Flu in the Work Place
Beginning in late November each year, the flu affects millions of us. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says this germy bug costs businesses nearly $10 billion in employee medical visits every year. The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) is urging businesses to help keep their employees healthy by maintaining a clean and productive work environment.
“Better business can start with something as simple as good hygiene,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “It’s hard for any company to meet their bottom line when their employees are dropping like flies.”
The CDC has made it easier for employers to promote a healthy work environment with a free employer tool kit, “Make It Your Business to Fight the Flu.”
To help protect employees and customers as much as possible, the BBB and CDC advise businesses to:
Acquire products that ward off germs. Hand sanitizers, tissues and disinfectants are all products that can aid employees in keeping the workspace clean. Make them readily available throughout your workspaces. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Advise employees to stay home. While sick employees may deem it necessary to attend work, their presence will only expose healthy employees to contagions. If employees are sick, they should stay home for at least 24 hours after they no longer show symptoms. Consider creating a leave policy that allows employees to work from home should they (or their children) fall ill.
Enforce good hygiene in the work place. Institute the cleaning of shared equipment such as phones and computers, and wipe down common areas with disinfectant regularly. Remind employees of the importance of washing their hands, as well as covering their mouth when sneezing and/or coughing. Encourage them to “sneeze in your sleeve,” rather than into their hand, to reduce the spread of germs.
Promote flu shots. Search for on-site flu shots through your local hospital, retail pharmacy or other health care provider, or consider reimbursing some or all of the cost for employees to receive the shot on their own.
Hold a health fair. Contact your local hospital to see if they provide health fairs for employers. If your business isn’t large enough, you can possibly team up with others in your building, office park or neighborhood. If you are in a retail location, you can invite the community, as well. You can also contract the coordination of an on-site health fair with a company specializing in the service.
Be the example. It is important for the employer to follow the same advice being given to the employees. As the boss, it may seem impossible to take a sick day, but it is just as important for you to stay home and keep your germs out of the office.
The mission of the Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public. Our hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact the BBB at bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222. Visit our Centennial website at bbbis100.org.