TODAY'S TIP: Finding Consumer Info

A while ago, we had a Tuesday Tip about Consumer Reports magazine, including free online access, at the Library. This Tuesday Tip is about finding independent consumer information on the internet and at the Library.

When searching the SFPL catalog for books, the best keyword phrase to use is “consumer education” followed by the kind of information you want. If you wanted to find out about buying a car, the keyword search would be “consumer education automobiles” and for makeup, “consumer education cosmetics.” If you need further assistance, you can always ask a Librarian.

Bay Area Consumers’ Checkbook is available at Excelsior Branch and many SFPL branches. The Checkbook is a twice-yearly advertising-free magazine providing consumer information on the Bay Area service industries. The Winter 2010 issue featured reports on auto body shops, plumbers, moving companies and more. The Checkbook website at http://www.checkbook.org/ is a fee-based website and includes the most up-to-date information. The Checkbook and website are published by the Center for the Study of Services (CSS), an independent, nonprofit consumer organization.

California has a Department of Consumer Affairs that helps consumers learn how to protect themselves from "unscrupulous and unqualified individuals.” On their website, you can verify the status of anyone licensed in a profession by the state of California, file a complaint, or access other guides on topics as varied as auto repair, identity theft, and product recalls.

The Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection (BCP) works to “prevent fraud, deception, and unfair business practices in the marketplace.” The website offers practical information on a variety of consumer topics. From advice on buying a car or declaring bankruptcy to making your home energy efficient, the BCP provides practical information and consumer education.

Other consumer organizations include Consumer Action and the Better Business Bureau. There are user-driven consumer advice sites as well as other publications for specific products. And stop by the Excelsior Branch this month to pick up a variety of brochures offered by the CA Department of Consumer Affairs.

Excelsior Librarians and Staff share tips & tricks to help you make the most of the San Francisco Public Library catalog, databases and website. New tips posted Tuesdays on the Excelsior Blog. Watch this space!