Do you know a trustworthy business or charity that deserves to be honored? Then nominate it today for Better Business Bureau Northwest & Pacific’s 2019 Business of the Year and Charity of the Year Torch Awards.

Each year we take nominations from all over our region, which includes Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Western Wyoming. If you know a business or charity that should be recognized, you can nominate them. We also accept self-nominations and accept nominations from accredited and non-accredited businesses.

All nominees will be contacted to complete the application form after the nomination period. BBB is accepting nominations at https://bbb-businesses.org/torch-awards/businesses until July 21. 

Last year’s Torch Award winner was 16 Cents, 3 Shoes and 5 Socks, which has been an accredited business with BBB since 2015. Owner Jason McSteen, who had lost everything, walked into the Union Gospel Mission in Spokane in December 2012 with nothing in his pockets but 16 cents, 3 shoes and 5 socks. From that day on, and with the encouragement from others, McSteen grew his business to three stores in Spokane.

“Five years ago, I started this business in a garage,” he said. “Because of the hard work of our staff and loyal customers, we now have three stores in Spokane and are glad to be part of the furniture and mattress retail industry in Spokane. We really focus on and are proud to give back, to give second chances and to make a difference in the community.”

The BBB Torch Awards program honors companies and charities that demonstrate a high level of integrity and ensure that the organization’s practices meet the highest standards of ethics. We are looking for businesses and charities that generate a high level of trust among their staff, customers and communities.

Starting this year, we have some changes and have added a few categories.

Business of the Year Tier 1: Honors businesses between one and 10 full-time employees that demonstrate a commitment to ethics, integrity and building trust in the marketplace.

Business of the Year Tier 2: Honors businesses with 11 or more full-time employees that demonstrate a commitment to ethics, integrity and building trust in the marketplace.

Spark Awards for New Business: This new Torch Award offered by BBB Northwest & Pacific recognizes early-stage businesses that generate authentic culture about their mission and embed social impact into their business model to support their community. Businesses can select this option if your business has been in operation for more than six months but less than five years by July 21.

Charity of the Year: Honors a 501(c)(3) organization that demonstrates effectiveness in impacting positive change in its community ethically and responsibly. 

A Business of the Year in both tiers, a Spark Award and a Charity of the Year will be named in each region of BBB Northwest and Pacific. One recipient from the Northwest and Pacific territory will receive an award for Charity of the Year.

Entries are evaluated by independent, voluntary panels of judges comprised of business and community leaders. Charities and businesses of all sizes are eligible to apply for this award. To learn more about the Torch Awards criteria or to make a nomination, visit https://bbb-businesses.org/torch-awards/businesses.

Scam Watch

Starting with this column, I will share information about a few scams that have been prevalent in our region recently.

Vacation rental: In travel and vacation scams, con artists post listings for properties that either aren’t for rent, don’t exist, or are significantly different than pictured. They then lure in vacationers with the promise of low fees and great amenities. Typically, the “owner” creates a false sense of urgency — maybe another vacationer is interested in the rental — to get you to pay up before doing sufficient research.

Time share resale: A time share owner who is looking to sell gets a call from someone claiming to be a real estate broker or agent. These scammers claim to specialize in time share resales and promise they have buyers ready to purchase. To secure this service, the scammer pressures the target into paying an upfront fee. The time share owner pays up, but the reselling agent never delivers.

Summer festival and concert: Summers are filled with festival and concerts; BBB wants you to have tips to protect yourself from those pesky scammers. Make sure to research the event before you go online. Scammers have been known to use names that sound like real festivals. Look for working contact information that includes a phone number, physical address and email address. Avoid those too-good-to-be-true discounts. Finally, check out the bands’ touring schedules and see what other users have said about the event in the past.

For more information and tips to avoid scams or to report a scam, go to www.bbb.org.

Tyler Russell is the media and community contact person for the Better Business Bureau Northwest & Pacific’s Eastern Washington and North Idaho area. Email him at tyler.russell@thebbb.org.