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Column attracts emotional mix of outrage, gratitude, praise

I started writing this column for The Spokesman-Review in May 2003. Where does the time go? Some topics that I write about change and some don’t. Scams get recycled. Industries rise, fall and experience varying degrees of ethical standards. Human nature remains basically the same.

Yet for some reason this past year has seen a more active public response to my columns with comments online, emails to me, phone calls and even letters from readers. Allow me to look back at some of the more interesting feedback (and you can read past columns at tags/better-business-bureau).

My favorite comment of the year came from an anonymous person who reads the SR online. The column topic was dissatisfaction from both businesses and customers who think we are here to protect them from each other. The reader referred to the BBB as “Jan and her troupe of self-serving trolls.” We loved that, and several BBB staffers wanted to find troll outfits and make that a Friday uniform. I do still wonder how you can tell if a troll is self-serving or not.

In general comments online can be pretty nasty. It is so easy to hide behind that keyboard and take shots at any target. But then sometimes they are really thoughtful and kind. The column about the Monday Night Football advertisers generated all sorts of emails and comments from other women who grew up watching football with their dads or brothers. There were a lot who thanked me for reminding them of such a warm memory.

By a huge margin the columns this year about abuse in unemployment garnered the most responses, and I still hear from business leaders on this subject. Many of the online comments attacked me immediately, and it looked like they did not read the whole column. Many jumped to the conclusion that I, with my nice fat job, was proposing taking away unemployment from everyone. Not the case at all.

One of my pet peeves is bringing forth a problem without a solution, and this unemployment award insanity is one of those areas in which there doesn’t seem to be a simple answer. Thanks to Rich Hadley and his team at Greater Spokane Incorporated, I had a meeting last week with an administrative law judge who hears unemployment appeals. It was eye-opening and I will offer a follow-up column early next year on that subject. While I don’t see an easy fix to a very slanted system, there are things employers can and should do to be sure they have the best chance of not paying unemployment to someone undeserving.

My spring-time column “Your bucket list is not a holding tank” was a distant second to the unemployment series, but the feedback was quite emotional. I shared the experience of helping my dad and his wife narrow down their life possessions before moving from Arizona back to Colorado, from a large home to an apartment, from independent to assisted living. Looking back at all the things they wanted to do, the things they will never do again and the people who touched their lives, was a lesson for my husband and I as we sorted, stored and threw away little bits of their past.

Readers talked about doing the same thing with their aging parents, or being the aging parents regretting (or not) the choices made in life, the chances taken, the roads not traveled. Some were hard to read while others were full of joy at a life well-lived.

My next column will be the first of 2012 – a year I hope brings us an improving economy and job market. I know it will be the 100-year celebration of the beginning of the Better Business Bureau system in the United States. I’ve been reading some of the archived materials about the start of this BBB in Spokane and will have some great stories to share about the problems we faced at the beginning of the 1900s.

Some things change, but many more do not.

Jan Quintrall is president and CEO of the local Better Business Bureau. She can be reached at