Marketplace trust is easier to promote and sustain if the next wave of consumers and business owners already know its importance. Well, now there’s good reason to believe that understanding and optimism is currently in place.
Earlier this year, Better Business Bureau called on high school juniors and seniors across its eight-state region to submit essays on ethics as part of the Students of Integrity Scholarship. The more than 230 entries submitted reflect a generation ready to communicate and practice ethics in the real world.
Themes students covered in their essays include:
- Symbols of Trust. In a global and digital marketplace, trust is paramount. What symbols of trust do you look for when shopping online?
- Researching a Business. When researching a business, how do you make sure you are dealing with a company you can trust?
- ScamTracker Report. The latest BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report shows that consumers ages 18-24 have the highest susceptibility for falling victim to scams. What steps should young consumers take to ensure they are dealing with a trustworthy company?
Of the essays BBB received, six winning entries were selected, and their authors are now the recipients of a $2,000 scholarship to attend the school of their choice. So, let’s learn a little more about each of this year’s Students of Integrity…
Emily Morse and Sarah Keck were both selected to represent Washington state. Emily, a junior at Timberline High School in Lacey, plans to attend a four-year university and pursue a degree in vocal studies with a focus on opera upon graduating next year. Sarah graduates from Mount Vernon Christian in Arlington this spring and will go on to pursue a degree in journalism at George Fox University. Read Emily’s winning essay and Sarah’s winning essay presented by Susan’s Green Cleaning and Automated Accounts, Inc.
Marcus Allen of Pendleton, Oregon is a four-year honor roll student at Pendleton High School. The graduating senior will be attending a community college this fall, with eventual plans to transfer to Oregon State University to enroll in both their undergraduate and graduate programs. Professionally, Marcus hopes to join a company that utilizes green design. Read Marcus’s winning essay.
André Souza is a senior student attending Boise High School in Boise, Idaho. An aspiring journalist, André plans to earn a college degree to become a freelance writer or newspaper reporter. The all-state academic award recipient also plans to continue running cross-country and track at the college level. Read André’s winning essay presented by Dryvest Inc.
In Anchorage, Alaska, Isabel Guillen plans to pursue a career in the medical field after graduating from Robert Service High School in 2022. The future nurse has attended the Biomedical Career Academy since their freshman year, and through that program has logged more than 225 hours of volunteer service. Read Isabel’s winning essay.
Sophia Riley of Kilauea, Hawaii plans to attend Lewis and Clark College following graduation from Island School later this year. The self-proclaimed environmentalist is seeking a dual major in English and international affairs. Sophia’s background also includes a leadership role in their Model United Nations club. Read Sophia’s winning essay presented by Lex Brodie’s Tire, Brake & Service Company.
This marks the eighth year BBB has offered its Students of Integrity Scholarship. Since its introduction, 37 students have received a combined $98,000 in scholarships to pursue higher educations.
Is your student interested in becoming one of our next Students of Integrity? Sign up to receive updates on deadlines, entry expectations, and other announcements at the top of this blog.
Emily Morse, Timberline High School
Shopping online is a widely popular phenomenon in this day and age, but with scams being almost as common, how do you make sure that the business you are shopping from isn’t illegitimate? There are many steps that consumers should familiarize themselves with in order to protect themselves while shopping online. Some of the things that shoppers should keep their eyes peeled for are trust symbols, customer reviews, and verify the company through the Better Business Bureau.
One thing that is integral to determining the trustworthiness of a website is to see if they are displaying any trust symbols. These e-commerce trust symbols can validate the trustworthiness of a site. Symbols such as the Better Business Bureau logo may show that the business is endorsed by that party. An SSL badge or lock icon is another trust symbol; they are standard security symbols. Symbols that link to social media accounts can validate the authenticity of a company by showing that they have an established brand. Additionally, logos from well-known brands affiliated with the company are another symbol of trust, assuming that the company got permission to display them. Keep an eye out for these trust symbols to help ensure that the site you are shopping from is reliable.
Another thing that should be checked is the reviews of a business. Make sure that the site has reviews of their product/service present. If they don’t have any reviews shown on their site, then they may be an illegitimate business. Check for a mix of positive and negative reviews. If the reviews are all positive, they could be censoring their reviews or creating fake reviews to make the business look much better than it is or to promote a scam. You also want to make sure there aren’t too many negative reviews or multiple reviews that report the business as being a scam.
Additionally, you could verify a company through the Better Business Bureau. When shopping for a specific service or type of item, you can go to the BBB website and search through a list of websites that have been deemed trustworthy by the BBB. If you already have a business in mind, it is also possible for you to search for that business on the website and see if it is a verified company. The site also displays BBB’s rating for the company and any customer reviews or complaints previous customers may have left so that you can have confidence about where your money is going.
- “E-Commerce Trust Symbols - Advice For ETailers.” Spork Marketing, 20 Apr. 2020, www.sporkmarketing.com/4198/e-commerce-trust-symbols/.
- Digital, Dymic. “Trust Symbols: Critical Signals Your Website Needs to Build Trust.” Dymic, 11 Sept. 2019, www.dymic.com/website-design/using-trust-symbols-on-your-website/.
- Pandey, Sachin. “How to Build Trust in ECommerce in 2021? [Actionable Tips].” Blog, 26 Mar. 2021, www.vwo.com/blog/trust-in-ecommerce/.
- Freitas, Roseann. “Add Trust to Your Online Holiday Shopping List.” BBB Northwest + Pacific, 17 Dec. 2020, 1:51:20 PM, www.trust-bbb.org/torchtalk/add-trust-to-your-online-holiday-shopping-list.
Who Do You Trust?
Sarah Keck, Mount Vernon Christian School
We have all experienced bad customer service at one time or another. Whether it was a sleazy car salesman or a moving company which resulted in damaged property, it can be hard to know which companies are trustworthy simply by looking at their website. It is easy to be misled by edited pictures and slick advertisements. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has been protecting customers from scams like these ones for over one hundred years ("Washington: Walla Walla Winery Receives' F' Rating From BBB" 3). The BBB helps consumers sort out which businesses are trustworthy and which are scams. The main aspects to look for that prove that a website is trustworthy include: a listed address, a working phone number, and an accreditation label from the BBB.
One example of a company which is clearly fraudulent is Nocking Point Wines in Walla Walla, Washington. According to the article "Washington: Walla Walla Winery Receives 'F' Rating From BBB" on BBB's website, "…consumers allege Nocking Point Wines took their money but never delivered the wine. Consumers allege they are unable to contact the business to cancel their accounts, get refunds or find out the status of their orders…" ("Washington: Walla Walla Winery Receives F' Rating From BBB" 1). At the time of this incident, the Nocking Point Wines' website had neither a phone number accepting messages nor accreditation from the BBB. The BBB took the consumer complaints seriously and is currently working with Nocking Point Wines to reach BBB's high standards. The BBB provides the service of reviewing companies like this on their website. One can simply search a company name and area to find the full review. This service saves many consumers time and money, which would have been otherwise wasted.
Not only can the BBB warn consumers of fraudulent companies, but it can also refer to honest ones as well. One example of this is the Alaska Premier Auctions and Appraisals. This auction company exemplifies honesty, openness, and transparency in auctioning off goods ("Auctioneers Looking Out for Your Best Interest: Alaska Premier Auction" 1). The website also includes an approval stamp from the BBB, a working phone number, and an address. The BBB website also rates this company well, giving it an A+ grade.
The internet has drastically changed the world of businesses. It is much easier for companies to scam customers. There is less accountability as websites can easily remain anonymous. Personally, I am getting ready to go off to college in the fall and move out of my home state. That being said, I will need to find new and trustworthy businesses (dentist, mechanic, etc.). Knowing that I can rely on the BBB to help guide me through this process gives me peace of mind.
- "Auctioneers Looking Out for Your Best Interest: Alaska Premier Auction." BBB Northwest + Pacific, 27 Aug. 2020, www.trust-bbb.org/torchtalk/auctioneers-looking-out-for-your-best-interest-alaska-premier-auction . Accessed 4 Apr. 2021.
- "Exclusive, Ultra-Premium Wines With a Story and a Purpose… Delivered." Nocking Point Wines, nockingpointwines.com. Accessed 4 Apr. 2021.
- "Washington: Walla Walla Winery Receives 'F' Rating From BBB." BBB Northwest + Pacific, 1 Sept. 2020, www.trust-bbb.org/torchtalk/washington-walla-walla-winery-recieves-f-rating-from-bbb . Accessed 4 Apr. 2021.
- "Welcome to Alaska Premier Auctions & Appraisals!" Alaska Premier Auctions and Appraisals, 2021, www.alaskapremierauctions.com/. Accessed 4 Apr. 2021.
Researching a Business
Marcus Allan, Pendelton High School
In this day and age, researching a business prior to making a purchase is extremely valuable; and often can be the difference between a transaction’s success or failure. With an ever-increasing percentage of consumers utilizing websites in the US and abroad, purchasing merchandise and services online has become routine. The COVID pandemic has further perpetuated this situation, with business restrictions, closures, and consumer safety concerns. As a result, humans are buying more goods and services online than ever before.
As more and more consumers transition to online purchasing, the rise of bogus businesses, online scams, con-artists, and poorly managed companies has also taken place. Thankfully, the Better Business Bureau has provided consumers with many tools to ensure our online purchases are successful. The BBB Scam Tracker, business reviews, and other helpful links enable consumers to research a business prior to conducting financial transactions. The BBB website also provides reassurance that a business is properly licensed. The BBB has established 8 standards of trust which cover the concepts of honest advertising, transparency, safeguarding privacy, and responsiveness. A successful business will find that following these standards is paramount to having a positive accreditation with the BBB, as well as a convincing reputation with the public. The BBB has provided consumers with the platform to ensure safer transactions, as well as guidance and support when purchases go awry.
Additionally, the development of the online BBB blog, TorchTalk, provides an abundance of up-to-date tips, strategies, and guidelines to help consumers in their pursuit of safe transactions. Torch Talk’s recent articles, “5 Tips for Shopping Smarter” and “6 Savvy Steps to Becoming a Smarter Consumer,” provide easy-to-read recommendations and points to consider. These articles emphasize the importance of researching online sites and include several links in order to do so. Links such as ICANN lookup, reviewmeta.com, fakespot.com, sitecheck scanner, whois.com, archive.org provide helpful information on a business’s legitimacy and reputation. Furthermore, these articles also remind us that online product/business reviews, which consumers--myself included--have used to justify their purchases, are not always accurate or truthful. As the saying goes, “if it’s too good to be true…”
In conclusion, online purchasing is typically an easy, enjoyable, and hassle-free experience, oftentimes conducted from the comforts of home. However, bogus businesses, online scams, con-artists, and poorly managed companies are ever-present, and ultimately, we, the consumers, have the responsibility to ensure our transactions are being conducted with legitimate and reputable businesses. The BBB has provided countless resources for researching a business’s report card. With over 80% of online purchase scams resulting in lost money, and 80,000 complaints filed last year, it is clear that consumers have more work to do in safeguarding their online transactions. Smart consumers do their research. Be a smart consumer.
Researching a Business
Andre Souza, Boise Senior High School
Commerce is entering a new age in the United States and globally. Online shopping empires have skyrocketed to the center of the economic forum in the past decade, and the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have only accelerated this.
However, one of the prime drawbacks of this new era of consumerism is that it is harder to verify the credibility of businesses. Many customers are succumbing to dishonest economic practices used by people trying to scam customers out of either their money, especially young ones. This may seem interesting and unlikely because the generation that is coming of age right now has already had a great deal of experience with the internet, having grown up with it. It seems, though, that the younger generation of consumers has become more reckless and impatient than past generations and often can’t be bothered to do research to verify the credibility of certain companies.
I can certainly attest to this, as I too was once much too hasty in making a purchase from an unfamiliar company, and I paid the price (literally). It was around this time last year. I decided that I had sat on my Christmas money for long enough and elected to splurge. I wanted to buy a nice pair of Jordan 1s, a basketball shoe that I really liked at the time. These shoes are pretty expensive, however, so I couldn’t buy them off of the Nike Website or at a store. I went hunting for discounts or wholesale sites that could sell me the shoe at a cheaper price. Eventually, I stumbled across a company website that claimed they would sell it to me at around half of the price of the shoe at Nike ($170). I jumped at the opportunity, too blinded by my excitement of how fresh I would look to do any research on the company I was buying from. After I checked out, the website told me that the shoes would arrive in about 6 to 8 business days. Almost a year has passed, and I have yet to receive my purchase.
That was before I knew about the services provided by the Better Business Bureau. The BBB, as it is called, does independent research on companies to determine whether or not they are ethical and trustworthy. This is accomplished through a process called accreditation.
Accreditation is like a verification badge from the BBB; it lets potential customers know that this business not only conducts enterprise ethically but has made a continuous effort to be trustworthy and transparent. This badge is earned by adhering to a set of eight standards as follows:
- Build Trust
- Advertise Honestly
- Tell the Truth
- Be Transparent
- Honor Promises
- Be Responsive
- Safeguard Privacy
- Embody Integrity
Not all trustworthy businesses have been accredited yet, but all businesses that have been accredited are certainly trustworthy. The BBB is a great place to go when researching a business. It’s fast, simple, and easy to understand, so consumers can buy with confidence.
What symbols of trust do you look for when shopping online?
Isabel Guillen - Service High School
There are many websites out there that sell products or marketed goods, but not all can be trusted. The Better Business Bureau, whose motto is "Start with Trust," works to make sure all registered websites are reliable. In my review of the BBB website, I saw Amazon has a profile, which gives me the peace of mind that it's safe for me and other consumers to shop there. When I first start looking for a product, I look at the price and the reliability of the product. This is very important to me because I don't have a job, which means I don't have a lot of income. So I'm putting my trust in the description the website has about the product. I am also putting my trust in the fact that the website is reliable since many people shop there. I want to make sure they are selling me a product that will last and make sure they aren't trying to make money off of cheap things. A way I could also check reliability is through the reviews.
I make sure to look at the reviews after I look at the description of the product because you always want to have a second opinion when investing in something. I put my trust in the people who have received the product to give honest feedback about the product they have received.
I want to make sure the product I am buying has a money-back guarantee. This means if I am no longer in need of the product, I can get my money back. This also means if the product was damaged while in delivery or before, I can notify the store, and they will give me a refund or a replacement. Old Navy has a Return and Exchange policy on most of its items. Old Navy's policy is, "...perhaps it's a little too big, or the style just isn't you—we'll send you a new size, color, or style, or issue you a refund. For the quickest refund, bring your return to your nearest store. If you'd rather mail your return, you can use the prepaid return shipping label included in your package. Returns and exchanges are always free. You have up to 45 days to return items purchased at Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic."
his specific policy is for items that were bought online. This is a great policy and guarantee because other shoppers and I are able to return or exchange items with no extra cost. In addition to the guarantees, I expect that the website keeps my personal information private. Amazon and Old Navy have a great deal of online shoppers, which means they have a lot of their customers' information. They shouldn't give out my information without their consent, even if it's in their best interest. In my personal opinion, I would shop at any BBB accredited store because I would feel my information and the reliability of the product can be trusted and kept safe.
- Old Navy. (2021). Returns & Exchanges Policy - Online Purchases: Old Navy. Retrieved February 24, 2021, from https://oldnavy.gap.com/customerService/info.do?cid=82724
Symbols of Trust
Sophia Riley, Island School
For my ninth birthday, my mother gifted me a small money safe. Every Friday, I’d scrounge up the few dollar bills and loose cents I’d earned from babysitting, walking my neighbor’s dog, or digging in the couch cushions. The money in my safe slowly accumulated. Half a year later, I’d saved $300. I’d never felt so proud of myself.
While I’ve always loved saving money and being smart with my financial decisions, I am also an avid consumer. Perhaps my love of fashion is rooted in Friday afternoons at the mall growing up, or because fashion is one outlet in which I can express myself. Living on Kauai, with a shortage of local stores, I often resort to online shopping. A specific type of consumer intelligence is needed: deciphering the credibility of different online businesses.
At Meli Wraps, a local eco-friendly Hawaii products business I’ve worked at for the past few years, I produce, sell, and ship our products. We pride ourselves on being easily accessible to customers, allowing open communication on social media platforms and making appearances at markets around the island. Whenever I am looking at different online stores, I ask myself:
- Are they open for communication?
- Can I ask a question and get a reply shortly after?
- Is their contact information readily accessible?
These questions allow me to decipher the first step of establishing trust in a business. If I have to wait months for a reply or search every nook and cranny of their website to find their email, then I am likely to check The Better Business Bureau’s “scam tracker.”
Another important sign of a trustworthy business is the candidness of the reviews. As BBB says in their article “6 Savvy Steps to Becoming A Smarter Consumer,” it is important to always check a business’s reputation. At the business I work for, we encourage buyers to leave reviews of our products, whether they be positive or negative. Encouraging honesty and transparency is key to establishing trustworthiness. Businesses make mistakes, and consumers understand that. Business transparency means owning up to errors and encouraging consumers to share their experience; good, bad or indifferent.
In a world marketplace, choice is ever-present. Deciphering trustability can be challenging. As I enter a new stage of independence, going away to college, I face many exciting yet scary realities. I’ve always loved shopping, and I value keeping my money safe. This means I need to be assured the online stores I choose to support are committed to business ethics. I used to fear having to find smart online purchases alone.
BBB is my shortcut to assessing trustworthiness in online stores, equipping me with articles about scams and smart purchasing, honest business ratings and feedback, and live webinars discussing the business impact and how to approach a changing economy, not to mention the many other resources available.
As I step into this new chapter of my life, I trust the BBB to help me as a consumer apply my saving and savvy consumer skills, as well as assess a business’s trustworthiness.