It's true, we here in Washington have a different agenda from others around the country -- at least when consumer complaints are at issue.
The national Council of Better Business Bureaus found that in 1975 it got the largest number of complaints from people dissatisfied with mail order companies, followed by home remodeling and improvement companies. No. 3 on the list was auto repair shops and No. 4 was franchised auto dealers.
But in the Washington area the top complaints by far were about autos. In a bulletin released yesterday at its annual meeting at the Capital Hilton, the Metropolitan Washington Better Business Bureau said that of 13,139 complaints lodged last year, most involved "auto (other than franchised auto dealers)," but excluding most repair shops -- which means largely independent used-car dealers. Second ranking was "franchised auto dealers." Car repair shops ranked fifth.
Take heart: The business-supported BBB staff settled 95 percent of the consumer complaints in the broad "auto" category, dropping to 72 percent with franchised dealers.
Interestingly, in this overwhelmingly white-collar and suit-wearing metropolis, complaints against dry cleaning and laundry companies ranked sixth, well above No. 10 nationally.
Want to compare? Here are the complaint rankings:
Nationally -- 1, mail order companies; 2, home remodeling and improvement; 3, auto repair; 4, franchised auto dealers; 5, home furnishings stores; 6, financial companies; 7, direct selling companies; 8, department stores; 9, insurance companies, and 10, dry cleaning and laundry companies.
Locally -- 1, auto (other than franchised dealers); 2, franchised auto dealers; 3, other service establishments; 4, home furnishings stores; 5, auto repairs except transmission shops; 6, dry cleaning and laundry companies; 7, magazines ordered by mail; 8, mail order companies; 9, general retail stores, and 10, travel agencies. (Mail order companies, home improvement firms, department stores, direct sellers and financial and insurance companies -- five of the top 10 nationally -- didn't even make our local top 10.)
Interesting sidelight: Both nationally and locally, more inquiries are made to the Better Business Bureau about the reputations of home remodeling companies than in any other category -- a desirable precaution, if you're planning a home project. Auto dealers, roofing contractors and moving companies also inspired frequent inquiries.
In his report, Arthur J. Pugh of Woodward & Lothrop, board chairman of the local bureau, said suburban branch offices in Maryland and Virginia are increasingly busy hearing and mediating disputes.