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    Drop Down Menus Html by Vista-ButtUsers Guide - Recommended Businesses

    Being Updated for Added and Revised Features and Typo Correction

    How it Works

    HOW THE
    RECOMMENDED BUSINESSES DIRECTORY WORKS

    The Recommended Businesses list -- to be trusted and reliable -- must employ strict selection procedures, in large part to inhibit the use of shills to achieve an undeserved listing. Accordingly, we use a two-step procedure for initial inclusion and then an ongoing User Comments program that allows users to comment on their experiences with the listed business. In many cases, these comments will result in delisting of the business:

    Before Listing

    For a business to be added to the List of Recommended Businesses, it must be BOTH nominated and then screened:

    1. Nomination. A business can be NOMINATED for listing by.

    • Recommendation by a member of an Authorized Association, such as an HOA, civic association, or other membership organization. For a list of Authorized Association see [Nela: Fix and add link.]  This minimizes (but does not completely eliminate) the risk of a substandard business using a “shill” to gain inclusion.

    • Application by providing referrals from three customers, which will be reviewed by the Recommended Businesses Director.

      Note: Virtually all approved-business lists accept recommendations from virtually anyone.

    2. Screening. Despite all precautionary efforts to prevent the use of shills through our nominating procedure, some businesses may slip through the cracks.  Therefore, we also SCREEN the nominees through our members. We list new nominees in our Newsletter, inviting homeowner comments. If there are negative comments, we run the comments through our computer algorithm, which will decline nominations of questionable businesses. In marginal cases, we will investigate further, perhaps by contacting the Better Business Bureau and/or other consumer rating organizations and interviewing the business owner.

    Note: No organization we know of has this level of screening for two reasons: (1) it does not have a loyal and cohesive membership with an interest in avoiding tainted recommendations and (2) it does not have a Newsletter or other communications medium to request member reaction to nominations.


    It must be emphasized that at no time is a business required to pay any money, through an ad or otherwise, for the listing. Moreover, there's no way that a business can bypass our listing procedures by buying an ad or offering other consideration for a listing. Businesses that do not qualify under our procedures are NOT included in our guide. However, if a business IS listed it can, at its option, pay for an upgraded listing or a window decal.

     It is important to stress that an applicant who does not qualify for a listing can NOT get on by paying for an upgraded listing.

    After Listing

    Homeowner/consumer protection does not stop there. Even after we include a business in the listings, we will publish in our blog comments, both negative and positive, from homeowners who patronize these businesses. (Anonymous comments will not be accepted.) Where a comment is negative, the business then has the opportunity to explain or refute the comment, which we will publish, so that viewers will get both sides of the story.

    Note: To be eligible to publish a comment on a listed business, you must be a member of an Authorized Association, as explained above.


    These procedures will allow homeowners researching a business to form their own judgments about whom to use.
    Many times a business with several negative comments will voluntarily request that it be delisted because these comments, if serious enough, will kill the chance of getting the patronage of a customer using the Grapevine. Moreover, a business determined to be violating our rules or engaging in unfair practices in regards to its listing will be involuntarily removed from the Directory.

    Unlisted Businesses

    In addition to being able to check out a LISTED business, you can also check out an UNLISTED one through our blog. It allows you to ask other homeowners for specific information about their experience with an unlisted business you have in mind or as to any potential problems a planned project may face (an extended Grapevine).

    Ultimately, we hope to provide a Zagat-like rating and review program covering a substantial part of the local business community.

    Penalty Box

    We have a Penalty Box allowing homeowners to report on egregious situations. Upon receipt of a Penalty Box recommendation, we will give the business an opportunity to respond. The business can either

    • Resolve the complaint -- and thereby avoid inclusion;

    • Explain its side of the story -- so readers can judge the validity of the complaint; or

    • Refuse to respond -- and remain in the Penalty Box.

    We may also recommend that the homeowner file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and other consumer protection agencies. The Penalty Box contains links to these.
    In extremely egregious cases, we may (1) invite all homeowners who have had problems with the contractor to contact us so that we can determine whether there is a pattern, perhaps fraudulent, that should be pursued through other venues and/or (2) explore the background of the contractor to determine whether there is any record of criminal activity.

    Note: To be eligible to publish a comment on a listed business, you must be a member of an Authorized Association, as explained above.


    Accessing the Listings

    The Recommended Businesses listings can be accessed in two ways:

    If you want to see if a specific business is listed, do a Search by Business Name.

    If you are looking for a certain category of business, but don’t have a specific name in mind, you can Search by Category and Subcategory, either through the drop-down menus or the icons.

    Each listing contains the basic contact information, including a link from its name to its Website (if it has one). 
    If the listing is “Featured,” it will be larger and more prominent and contain a series of access and information icons.

    Proceed Cautiously

    Notwithstanding that, unlike most rating services, the listed businesses have gone through nominating and screening procedures, we recognize that no procedure is perfect.

    It must be emphasized therefore that all business recommendations are solely the personal opinions of homeowners and other viewers. We are acting as your Agent in passing on these recommendations for you to investigate in the same way you would investigate any other personal recommendations by any of your friends, neighbors or other persons. You should make your decision based on your investigation -- and proceed cautiously.

    To help you proceed cautiously, the section on Protecting Yourself under our Recommended Businesses program offers numerous tips on (1) Selecting a Contractor, (2) What the Contract Should Cover, and (3) How to Seek Redress.

     

    Benefits

    You can find the best businesses, confident that you will usually receive quality service.

    Unlike the national ratings services, we are specifically geared to LOCAL businesses and your LOCAL interests.

    Unlike other Recommendation lists, which list a business either because it pays for the listing or has only one or two sponsors, we get NOMINATIONS for inclusion from HUNDREDS of homeowners.

    Unlike other Recommendation lists, our nominees are thoroughly SCREENED through our panel of members (we periodically send a list of nominees to a random selection of 500 homeowners for comment).

    Our unique screening procedures greatly limit the use of shills to gain a listing for a friend.

    Unlike other rating Websites, most of which fail to note the great risk of shilling, we emphasize the need to protect against to these risks.

    Businesses have an incentive to provide you with fair value and good service to maintain their listing.

    Our blog allows you to enter comments (positive as well as negative) on your experiences with Recommended Businesses. All members will benefit from the collective comments of customers.

    In addition, our planned Review procedure (allowing you to post reviews of listed businesses) will provide additional ongoing information about consumers experiences with the listed businesses.

    A Zagat-like rating program is planned for the future.

    If there are several negative comments about a business, we will generally investigate further, perhaps by contacting the Better Business Bureau or other consumer rating organizations as well as speaking with the nominee (this will allow readers to get the full story). If this negative feedback appears justified, we will cancel the listing.

    In addition to negative reader feedback, we will cancel the listing of a business determined to be violating our rules or engaging in unfair practices. You can submit a Penalty Box recommendation, which will usually help resolve any problems with a business VERY quickly.

    In egregious cases, we may (1) invite all homeowners who have had problems with the contractor to contact us so that we can determine whether there is a pattern, perhaps fraudulent, that should be pursued through other venues and/or (2) explore the background of the contractor to determine whether there is any record of fraud.

    We provide an in-depth checklist of how to avoid being ripped off by a contractor and how to seek redress if that does happen, along with links to the appropriate agencies Many listees offer discounts (10-20%) and special offers to attract members business. These no-strings-attached discounts are REAL -- not offered to non-members, not reductions from artificial list prices, and not limited to selected items or situations.

    If you are considering patronizing a business which is NOT included in our Listings, you can utilize our blog to ask other homeowners for specific information about the business. (You will thus be able to reach beyond the Listings for help in your buying decisions.

    It is important to emphasize that a business cannot gain a listing through advertising, but rather must be nominated and then screened by a panel of at least 500 homeowners (the Grapevine).

    Competition

    There are a few very successful, ratings Websites, -- such as Angies List, with over one MILLION members -- that provide recommendations to reliable businesses. However, the drawbacks of these mammoth Websites compared with the benefits of the Grapevine are:

    1. 1.They cover the entire country, and therefore cannot take into consideration localtastes,attitudes, and conditions (despite efforts to compartmentalize the country). We are specifically geared to local members, and consider YOUR specific interests.

    2. 2.They cannot adequately police the common practice of using shills to recommend a merchant to gain a listing. A recommendation from just a few unknown consumers is all that is needed to get an unreliable business on the list. We greatly limit the potential abuse of shill listings because of our screening procedures.

    3. 3.They charge for access to their listings.

    Proceed Cautiously

    Notwithstanding that, unlike most rating services, the listed businesses have gone through rigorous nominating and screening procedures, we recognize that no procedure is perfect. It must be emphasized therefore that all business recommendations are solely the personal opinions of homeowners and other viewers.

    We are acting as your Agent in passing on these recommendations for you to investigate in the same way you would investigate any other personal recommendations by any of your friends, neighbors or other persons. You should make your decision based on your investigation -- and proceed cautiously.

    To help you proceed cautiously, the section on Protecting Yourself under our Recommended Businesses program offers numerous tips on (1) Selecting a Contractor, (2) What the Contract Should Cover, and (3) How to Seek Redress.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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