I came across a story posted at Search Engine Land pointing out that Google has an "unsatisfactory" record with The Better Business Bureau. How can a company voted "top global brand" in 2008 at the same time have an unsatisfactory record with the BBB? Apparently because out of 331 complaints filed against the search giant over the past three years, 2 were listed as unresolved. that's right - just 2! Despite this, Google continues to lead the way in search and nothing on the horizon seems to be able to change that.
 
This got me thinking as to whether the BBB is still a useful resource in today's online world. Their mission is to be the leader in advancing "marketplace trust" which they accomplish by creating communities of trustworthy businesses, setting standards for marketplace trust, encouraging and supporting best practices, celebrating marketplace role models, and denouncing substandard marketplace behavior. Businesses have always been proud to display their BBB membership, which indicates they are "more trustworthy" than non BBB member companies.
 
Two things have me concerned however as to whether the BBB has outlived their usefulness, especially in the case of "online" businesses.
 
1. BBB Discriminates Against Online Business
 
When a company becomes a BBB member, they are given a certificate that announces their membership. Many will proudly display this in their offices or storefronts so that customers can see they are a member. They may also use the BBB logo it in print advertising to identify their membership. However, should a company decide to announce their membership online via a web site for example, they can only do so through the BBB's Online Reliability Program. Did I mention that this requires an extra fee?
 
I have argued in the past that the BBB's policy to charge extra when displaying the BBB logo online is a discriminatory practice against online business, especially those who have no other way to announce their membership (i.e. they don't have a physical location or storefront). Online businesses not only have to pay the annual BBB member dues which are based on the number of employees they have, they also have to pay a separate fee to announce that membership on their sites.
 
The Better Business Bureau needs to recognize that most businesses today have an online presence and that many of their existing or potential customers will visit them there long before entering a physical location. As a BBB member, a company should have the right to announce that membership on their web sites, social media profiles, online press releases and the like, without having to pay extra fees. Until the BBB changes their policy on this, it is nothing short of discriminatory.
 
2. Do People Even Use The BBB Any Longer?
 
Since joining the Better Business Bureau in 1998, I can count the number of clients that have been referred as a result of them on both hands. On the other hand, the number of clients who have found us online via organic search results is phenomenal.
 
This leads me to wonder how much credibility consumers actually place in BBB valuations. It would seem to me that businesses should have much more concern over what people are saying about them online. I'm talking about online reputation. For example, conduct a search for any brand name - even your own. What do the first page of search results say? Are they positive, negative or even indifferent? This is the space where many consumers are now looking when qualifying whether they want to do business with a company or not.
 
Every time the BBB semi-annual billing statement has arrived in the mail, I have wrestled as to whether to continue my company's membership or not. So far, the BBB has won although I have refused to pay the extra fees for the Online Reliability Program for the last few years even though the BBB logo is present on our sites.
 
I am much more concerned over what the search results say about our company and if you are a business owner you should as well. If something negative begins to show up on the first page, especially above the fold, it can cause irreparable damage to your business. Many companies have discovered this the hard way which then forced them into the very often difficult task of having to repair their tarnished reputations.
 
A Better Solution?
 
One of the beneficial things about BBB membership, at least for consumers, is that you as a company agree to work out disputes with clients. This however is a defense mechanism. In other words, you do not react until the consumer is upset about something. A proactive approach is a much better solution in my opinion. How does one go about accomplishing this? There are several ways to do this with the main idea being "open yourself to communication."
 
This can be done with a company blog that is open to comments. Putting out quality content that is somehow related to your industry or even the specific products and services you offer is a good start. Allowing consumers to interact with you via the comment system is the icing on the cake. It will allow them to engage you of which they might praise you, probe you for more information or even criticize you. It also allows you to react to them, oftentimes long before negativity hits the search results or the BBB.
 
Getting involved with social media is also a great way to be proactive. Setting up profiles on all the major social media sites using your brand name(s) is a great way to control what the search results are saying about you. But don't stop there. Get involved with social media, especially when people are talking about you.
 
It's all about getting involved in the conversation. Consumers want an open dialog with the companies they choose to do business with. So give them what they want.
 
This is what Google does so well. They give consumers what they want - relevant search as well as a wide variety of other products. They keep the door open for communication as well. That is why an unsatisfactory record with the BBB has not hurt them in the least. They continue to grow, acquire and dominate.
 
Our BBB membership comes due in December and to be honest with you, I think I might let it go this time around. I just don't see the value any longer when there are so many other productive things you can do to establish trust with consumers.
July 23, 2008





David Wallace is CEO and founder of SearchRank, an original search engine optimization and marketing firm based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is experienced in search engine optimization and marketing, pay per click and pay for inclusion management, directory submissions and web site design usability. David is a frequent contributor to various search engine related forums, an active editor of popular directories such as GoGuides.org, Joe Ant and Zeal and has had several articles published on industry related sites. Since 1997, David along with his company have helped hundreds of businesses both large and small increase their search engine visibility and customer acquisitions.






Comments(47)

I joined the BBB on a venture a while back. Many of your thoughts were my own within a few weeks after joining. My biggest mistake of joining, was paying the fee to become a member. I saw absolutely no benefit, and it fact got a great deal of crap advertising from other member. Who checks to see if a business has a good reference from them before buying anyhow?

In this day and age I agree, the BBB is dead. I hate to say it but Google is the new Better Business Bureau. A quick search there will probably give you more relevant, up to date info than these old antiquated services will any day.

I don't think that the BBB has outlived its usefulness, but I do think it has outlived its business model. It needs to change with the times and understand that businesses and consumers are not the same now as they were 10, 20 or 30 years ago.

I may be a bit biased because a relative works for our local branch of the BBB, but I'd have to argue that it is still relevant. The BBB's value may not rest in the traditional sense of relating to a customer that a certain company is trustworthy, but by educating the public on how to identify and avoid scams. I hear all the time about people who call in to ask if an email about winning a $10 grand jackpot is legit. To the internet savvy it is clear that the email is a scam, but many still fall for it.
Obviously over the years the role of the BBB has changed, but to say that it is no longer relevant is incorrect. The focus has shifted from exemplifying socially responsible business to educating the public.

As the owner of physical stores and on-line sites, I'd argue that membership is more important for on-line. Customers have more faith when they walk into a "brick and mortar" store that things are on the up and up. Ordering from an unknown website is much more frightening for many of them. And I think people in "the business" give a little too much credit to the average on-line consumer when they think even a majority of them will think to do a search on a company's reputation.

I would have to say that the BBB needs to revise their model, there have been problems with it for a long time. However, I do think that a revised model is relevant still today since it is so well known. As a merchant, I belong to the BBB in hopes that the money I pay for the logo on my site gives some reassurance to visitors and customers; but I have been frustrated with them several times because they do not properly qualify the complaints.

What many people do not realize is that the BBB is a franchise just like McDonalds or U-Haul. And its intent is to make money for the franchisee by selling memberships to businesses who think that displaying their logo helps business - which is dubious at best. Additionally, its operation is no better than the local individual who is running it.

Their handling of a business' response to complaints is naive and cursory and it was my experience that the persons(s) running the local BBB in my area had little business experience to be able to judge who was right and who was wrong in a dispute.

Early on in my business, I had a dispute between me and the BBB. (I wish I could remember exactly what it was about.) Now there's an interesting question. Who do you complain to if you have a problem with the Better Business Bureau?

In my not-so-humble opinion

Shortly after obtaining my business license, I began receiving calls from the Washington State BBB wanting me to join. Each time, I asked for the information to me mailed to me for my review. I never received it.

Each call became more "hard sell," with one caller insinuating that if I didn't join, "you'll suffer dire consequences." When I posed as a receptionist, the callers would say things like "This is the BBB of Washington and I must speak with *the owner* of this company. An situation has come up that requires *his* immediate response." They didn't even know who they were calling!

After the 20th call, they finally stopped calling me but only after I threatened legal action against them for harassment and intimidation.

Talk about bad business practices!

Consumers still need some resource to check on the credibility of a business, whether it's the BBB or something else. This is especially true in some industries more than others. Company blogs and industry forums may eventually replace the need for BBB, but for now it still serves a purpose for the buyer. I do agree with previous comment, why do they charge to display their logo on your web page, that's just plain stupid. And google is not a GOD, there are other SEs that can replace them in no time.

My response to Brian about needing a resource for checking the credibility of a business is this. The BBB will supply you with essentially worthless information about a particular business. Their response will almost always be cursory and whether or not they have had any complaints about the company. So if a company does poor work or is unreliable and no one complains to the BBB, you will get back a "satisfactory" report. Conversely, if a company does great work, the BBB has no way to report that. They are essentially a "bad news" resource and they're not too good about that.

Instead of the BBB, what about asking them for references and if it's a local company, going to visit some of their completed work. Too often today, we want the government - or what we perceive to be the government - to take over what is really our responsibility. Do something stupid? (like spilling hot coffee in your lap) Just sue the company or ask the government to pass a new law.

In my not-so-humble opinion

Part of the problem is that the BBB does it all to make a huge profit! A cheaper, easier alternative is the Online Business Bureau. You can get a FREE membership by following this link and instantly get the OBB Approved Site seal to place on your website!

http://www.onlinebusinessbureau.com/signup_promo1y_s1.cfm

In defense of the BBB, they do research their client companies with their secretary of state and do track business complaints and resolutions – similar to a Bizrate or other service.

Is their business model outdated? You bet! Could they improve their model? Most definitely. Will they ever be the best ‘search’ to find business? Are you kidding? How long would it take Google to replace their worthiness on the web? About a minute if they wanted to! (hint, hint, googlers. Turn off the lava lamp and get busy)

Do you know that in some markets they offer online businesses an extra service for $600/yr that gives you essentially a hub-page or social profile on their servers? Cool I’m thinking it’s a decent backlink for $600 – NO. No PR and their robots file goes out of its way to keep the SE’s from finding your profile! “It would be too hard to manage.”

The national level of the BBB needs a top-down shake up or he BB and its logo's will become the buggy whip of the 21 century.

If the BBB is so irrelevent, why are there so many imitator organizatons out there such as: Online Business Bureau and Angie's List? The majority of the people that complain about the BBB are businesses or consumers who did not get their way in the dispute resolution process or do not understand exactly what the BBB is or what their purpose is. Annual statistics on the BBB's website states that in 2006, 45 million reliability reports were issued and 819 thousand complaints were filed with a 73% resolution rate. Which means that the consumer and business were able to reach a mutual agreement. Blogs and the like are nothing more than people's opinions and create more animosity between the consumer and business and decreases trust in the marketplace making the BBB even more relevant and necessary than ever.

Amanda, I don’t think anyone disagrees there isn’t a business need. We just don’t feel the BBB is the company to satisfy it. Maybe Scott is right in that Google or some other company will do it. Maybe they just buy-out the BBB for the shake up. As a respectful on-line business I sure wish the BBB worked better for us. Sure, we’ve had complaints and settlements, but what about the 20-30 orders a day that are perfect? The BBB doesn’t represent those. Even eBay gives you an idea of how many good orders go through.

I feel that we have been duped by customers who saw our BBB emblem, ordered and then filed complaints – realizing that we’d refund their money. No direct e-mails or phone calls. They just used the BBB to get free/discounted products. We took the emblem off the page – and the problems went away. We didn’t change anything in shipping or order process – just took the target off our webpage. Just my $0.02.

I think the author missed the mark on his first point relating to Google - their record in unsatisfactory in San Jose, CA because, "Based on BBB files, this company has an unsatisfactory record.
BBB Definition:
unsatisfactory record - A company has an "unsatisfactory business performance record" with the BBB is based on the experiences reflected in BBB files. This file condition results when the company has failed to resolve or respond to complaints, repeatedly failed to respond or resolve issues in a timely manner, failed to resolve the underlying issues for a pattern."

Google could have been unwilling to respond to complaints at all. An unsatisfactory rating doesn't only mean that they have a pattern of unresolved - it could be unresolved or unanswered. I think a company not responding to customer complaints at all is something a customer should consider prior to doing business with them.

Also - someone commented that the BBB is a franchise like McDonals or U-Haul - this is incorrect. BBB's are 506(c)6 not for profit organizations. Each one that is formed across the country has a board of directors comprised of business leaders that are with companies who are Accredited Businesses with the BBB. As a result of the them being a not for profit organization the comment someone made about BBB's doing it all for a HUGE profit is also false. All profits go back into the BBB to create more education for consumers and better services for members. Try contacting your local BBB and asking about the benefits.

There is no longer a BBB Online Reliability program; use of the BBB logo for your website is now included free with a basic membership. Also one thing to understand is that unlike what you'll find all over the internet the BBB reports are based on FACT not opinion. Granted the BBB is not as viable as it could be, it is still in essence the alternative to government regulation. The BBB is almost 100 years old; it's not going away so rather than criticize it's shortcomings let's support it and help bring them into the internet age. I'm staying far away from the often unethical copy cats like mentioned above.

Glad to see that this is a hot topic of interest here. I just wanted to comment again and put some more of my 2 cents in responding to some of the comments since my earlier comment.

Scott wrote: "In defense of the BBB, they do research their client companies with their secretary of state and do track business complaints and resolutions – similar to a Bizrate or other service."

I believe that the BBB does more to research their companies than does Bizrate, in my opinion, Bizrate (Shopzilla's review service) is just ridiculous. Plus, the BBB is complaint service set up to resolve issues and Bizrate is supposed to be a review service. I do not like it at all. Anyone can post a review regardless of whether they have even placed an order with your company or not. And it is highly skewed towards the negative simply because upset people are more likely to leave a review or complaint. So an 85% positive review is not an accurate approval % of any given company and I am not sure if the public realizes this. In addition, it is possible to get a negative review due to user error, in a recent Bizrate rating the customer comment said something to the effect of " I had a positive experience and had no problems as all" yet checked us on a negative for customer support - most likely because they didn't have any reason to call our customer support and didn't know what n/a meant. Ok, sorry to go on a rant off topic, but that is a while other can of worms.

Back to the BBB issue:

Ed wrote: "There is no longer a BBB Online Reliability program; use of the BBB logo for your website is now included free with a basic membership."

I was just contacted a couple months ago for renewal and it was certainly not free. If something has changed, please let me know because I need to decide whether or not to renew next month! This article has definitely influenced my opinion, however, must of us marketers and SEO people are not "average internet users" so it is hard to try and gather their opinions.

The problems that I am still upset with our local BBB isn't because we did not win disputes, after my answers they were marked as "resolved" but I am upset that they did not move a few complaints from our file completely. These complaints happened back in October 2005 when Hurricane Wilma hit us and completely demolished South Florida exactly one week before Halloween. We could not get online to answer emails, phone lines were down, cell towers were down, the entire Fed Ex ramp at the Ft. Lauderdale airport was destroyed, so we had no way of shipping our orders out. We immediately had a note put up on our website from out of state and refunded all our customers as fast as possible, yet the BBB accepted complaints and forwarded them to us!
Another ridiculous complaint from quite a few years ago, is another one, I can't belive they bothered to forward onto us. A customer complained about our Star Trek Uniform costume, which is listed on our site as the shirt, the dickie (which is the white turtle neck under collar) and the pips, which are the little gold round stickers that you apply to the collar, the amount you choose determines your rank.(I know, it is a Trekkie thing.) Well someone actually complained to the BBB that we didn't say that "some assembly was required". What? Really? This is a complaint that I now have to sit down a right a response letter? You've gotta be kidding me, right?

Ok, I guess I have taken up enough of your time and page with my bitterness on company reviews. It just hits me personally since we are family owned and operated and do everything we can to try and represent our products properly and get them to our customers quickly and offer the best customer service possible. As the saying goes, I am self employed, so I get to choose the 80 or so hours I work a week!

Shari from AnniesCostumes.com

@Ed - You said, "There is no longer a BBB Online Reliability program; use of the BBB logo for your website is now included free with a basic membership."

That does not seem to be true. When I visit their application page (https://www.bbbonline.org/reliability/apply.asp), I see the following:

"There is a license fee for participating in BBBOnLine. BBBOnLine Seal fees vary based on the size of the company. Pricing information can be obtained from your local Better Business Bureau."

How do you explain that? Do you have proof of your statement?

David, my experiences with the BBB show another dark side of the organization. Even when they get numerous complaints about a business, they are apparently under no obligation to share them with you.
I called an out of state BBB asking about a business that solicited me. The official report showed no complaints. However, the staffer that answered the phone told me to stay away from them and that there had been plenty of complaints but the enterprise in question threatened to sue them, so they didn't pass them on.
True or not, I don't know for sure, but it sure makes me skeptical. Thanks, Mary

A few blogs back I commented that the BBB is a franchise. Someone corrected me to say it was a non-profit. In order to check that, I went to the BBB web site and told them that I was interested in obtaining a franchise in my area. I immediately got one of those automatic messages telling me that my "business was important to them, blah, blah, blah." That was about two weeks ago with no further word from them.
Would you want to do business with a company like that?

I believe that the BBB is completely useless at this point. I just attempted to file a complaint against a contractor company that didn't show up for the job, but still wants to charge me for materials. After I responded back to the BBB agent. I never heard anything back. Several months later, she called to find out if the issue had been resolved, and I told her it hadn't. She then said that the complaint had gone on for too long and that she was going to close it because the company was just not getting back to her. She then referred me to the Consumer Affairs Office as well as the Attorney General - Consumer Protection.
I asked her if this would be posted against the company on the BBB website and she said, "yes". Two or more months have gone by and after looking at the company's listing on the BBB, they have the complaints as either 'resolved' or 'the company has made ever resonable effort to resolve'. This is just not true!! It seems the BBB just swept me under the rug. This is just so frustrating.
So I say once again, they are useless. Let the employees go and put their salaries into something we need as a country and that will do us some good. We can use 'Google' as our BBB, as the article states.

As a former BBB employee, let me just say that BBB membership is a complete waste of company's money. Although BBBs' are sustained primarily from membership fees, there is no real value (for businesses) in membership/accrediation. Basically all you are paying for is the right to use the BBB logo in your company advertising.

Sadly, most businesses are not aware that a company who is NOT a BBB member, can just as well have a satisfactory record and great review from customers, FREE OF CHARGE.

The fact is the so called BBB employees who contact companies to invite them for membership, are telemarketers. Many of them work for a third party contracted by BBB solely to get more sales. These telemarketers are paid strictly on commission.

Ultimately, if you are an ethical business owner and provide great customer service already - Do NOT waste your money on BBB membership. Simply fill out the FREE BBB business profile and you will automatically get a satisfactory record if you are licensed properly and have no pending lawsuits or government action.

Finally, you can request to be put on the BBB DO NOT CALL list for businsses for FREE. This way you do NOT get the dreaded telemarketing "invite" (sales) calls.

Here's my latest on the BBB.

I went to their site and sent them an email checking the SUBJECT box "home based business" saying that I wanted to obtain a BBB franchise that I could operate out of my home. I recedived a "boiler plate" message that said the BBB did not know off any legitimate home-based business scheme. (really?)

Then a day later, I started getting email solicitations saying that they had heard I was interested in starting a home-based business. I wonder where they heard that?

Obviously BBB is the culprit.

Then I filled out another "application" requesting information on buying a BBB franchise. (This time I did not check the SUBJECT box.) I got another canned response saying that one of their account specialists would get back to me. That was about 3 weeks ago. Should I continue to wait?

I agree with the negative comments about the BBB. I filed a complaint against a body shop that completely flubbed the repair on my car. It literally looked like the people who did the body work had never done this kind of thing before.

I complained to the BBB in my area because the shop claimed to belong to the Massachusetts BB. After waiting almost two months, and getting an answer from the shop that literally told me to go to you know where, I called a BBB agent. They told me that nothing could be done, and that the complaint would go on the shop's record. I checked later and the guy had 3 other complaints but the way the BB listed them, it implied that they had taken care of the problem! I was outraged. Apparently they're all about taking care of the businesses that pay them money!

The Better Business Bureau is getting ready to change its rating system for evaluating companies and, under the new system, will penalize individual companies for being part of “problematic industries.” So, an entrepreneur like Magic Johnson who owns dozens of fast food restaurants in urban neighborhoods would be labeled a pariah by the Better Business Bureau?

Companies should be judged objectively. People turn to the BBB for a third party reference on the respectability of a specific business, not to for values judgments on entire industries. Whether its fast food, or subprime lending, or industrial production, the BBB has no business damaging the reputation of a company just because it may not approve of the kind of business it happens to be in.



Sadly, most businesses are not aware that a company who is NOT a BBB member, can just as well have a satisfactory record and great review from customers, define FREE OF CHARGE.

Here's Who The BBB Must Answer To If You Complain About Them:

Federal Trade Commission
Consumer Response Center
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580

Phone: Toll Free 1-877-FTC-HELP
(1-877-382-4357)
TTY: 1-866-653-4261

Online Forms At:
http://www.ftc.gov/ftc/contact.shtm

I am a business owner, I have been a member of the BBB in the past, but I have declined any future membership. I see no real value in being a member. We will occasionally get a customer that freaks out if we are not a member of the BBB. We have fabulous ratings at Angie's list, and Service Magic.

What I don't like about the BBB is, they will only report a complaint and never report a postive experience by a customer, like other online services do.

First, let me also say that I think it is important to have a business watch dog out there to keep consumers from getting bad service, ripped off, etc. However, I think the outdated business model of the BBB has an out of balance system that favors the consumer. For example if a customer decides to complain about your business, and the complaint has no merit, the complaint still shows up on your business report with no recourse. To me, I think the BBB should consider one or more of the following:

A. Either have a neutral party that weighs the complaint, and if the complaint is legitimate, then a complaint should be filed and visible to the general public.

B. Allow a visible response by the business to the complaint, like other online services such as service magic afford a business to do.

C. Allow the customer / business first a chance to work out any issue's by letter / phone and then if the problem does not get resolved, report the complaint.

The BBB, when it receives a complaint, should, in my opinion, require the customer to fill out a questionaire. One of the first questions should be, have you called the company to express your complaint and have you tried to have the problem resolved? Both complaints that we received from the BBB were situations where the customer never called us to express any problems, and both of the problems could have been easily solved with a simple phone call.

I may be venting a little, because our business has received 2 complaints in the past 2 years in which I feel are unwarranted, but they still show up on our report which can tarnish a company's image and hurt business. I have no problem with someone filing a deserved complaint, it's the complaints that have no substance I have a problem with.

I guess what I would like to see is a fair and balanced system that not only protects the consumer but legitimate businesses as well.

I once tried to resolve a disputed cell-phone bill through the BBB. They were charging me almost a thousand dollars to cancel my contract after having been with them for years. I was willing to concede that I owed some charges for cancelling but felt they should swallow their share because of deceptive sales practices and, well, lies. I submitted my complaint, the phone conglomerate offered to reduce the bill by about $11 and that was the end of the process! No chance to respond or make a counter offer. The BBB declared the case satisfactorily resolved!

It was then that I realized that the BBB is not for the benefit of consumers, it's for the benefit of those who pay its way; the member companies. I imagine that its membership is more-heavily weighted towards companies with poor customer-satisfaction ratings than those with good. The membership fee is like an insurance policy that covers them (gives them cover) against legitimate complaints. They have the BBB seal of approval and an excellent rating.

Many of the consumers who contact the consumer advocacy org I volunteered for for years say they found out the hard way that the BBB can hide complaints, skew ratings, and protect business members, all while touting the BBB as some kind of consumer protection org. I've even seen the BBB listed under "government agencies" on one major U.S. newspaper's site. It is no wonder that people think it's there for consumers, and only find out when they have a complaint, that it's not. One of the main problems is people say they called a BBB and were told there were no complaints on a company...then the consumer later finds out there were. The BBB's new system appears to be reporting more complaints, at least the number of them, but it may pacify consumers who believe the term 'resolved' means anything. Another complaint of consumers is that the BBB will mark a complaint 'resolved' far too easily. The current grading system the BBB uses often gives A or A+ to companies that actually have quite a few serious complaints. It seems that what kind of membership a business buys has a lot to do with whether they even attain the A+ rating. Some perfectly good businesses are graded much lower simply because they haven't bought into the appropriate type of membership. The BBB "awards," I've read, are self-appointed, so are meaningless to consumers, another thing that appears to just be for sale. The BBB has an arbitration system now and some consumers say it's biased in favor of businesses. No surprise there, as any time there's a private justice system there's bound to be bias. I do think the BBB's time has come and gone. More consumers and more business owners are losing confidence in the BBB. I know I have, too.

The BBB is one big fraud. They claim to be a consumer advocacy organization. They are no such thing. They are a pro-business organization, funded by businesses, and committed to protecting the reputations of their members at all costs by hiding the truth. Here is one example of how deceitful they are:

You look up the "Customer Complaint History" of a business, and it says "BBB processed a total of 0 complaints about this company in the last 36 months, our standard reporting period." So you conclude that the BBB has received no complaints about the business, but wait -- it doesn't actually say that they RECEIVED 0 complaints, it says they PROCESSED 0 complaints. The BBB doesn't PROCESS all of the complaints that it RECEIVES, and it will never tell you how many complaints it RECEIVED. I found this out when I had a very bad experience with a business, complained to the BBB, and they RECEIVED, but refused to PROCESS my complaint, because the service was performed so badly that the BBB didn't want to get involved in it. The BBB has deceitfully concealed my complaint by categorizing it as RECEIVED, but not PROCESSED. I was also told over the phone that the BBB had "concerns" about the business, but as soon as he paid his dues, the "concerns" were forgotten and he received a favorable rating.

Use Google to research businesses, not the BBB.

I disagree with the BBB actually resolving anything. I have had a complaint for only 2 weeks with a company. Right when we were getting someplace in our discussions the BBB closed the case. What good is that? We didn't get anything resolved, except that we found out that the company didn't really know what was going on.
BBB is useless in my eyes.

The BBB is a joke. As has been stated, their business model lacks several key things, such as verifying validity of complaints, dated policies, no reporting of positive customer experiences, etc.

I have had 6 complaints against me in the last 18 months, none of which were my issues. The BBB judged that we were in the right, and made 5 of them resolved. I had to fight with the BBB, particularly Angela Ford at the local branch, to resolve these cases.

In one instance, the customer complained that we had deceptive ad in a paper and they got ripped off. Angela processed the complaint as "disputed", because it was a "he said, she said" case. I called her up when I saw this and told her it was most certainly NOT disputed. If the customer has a complaint against a business, they have the burden of proof to back that complaint up! The customer could not produce this "deceptive" ad that they were talking about. Angela said that the BBB is not in the business of being a mediator, and they can't judge either way. They are just there to report complaints.

Hello, BBB, if you're not in the business of mediating, what in the crap are you, other than a waste of time for businesses??

I talked to John Paschall, Angela's superviser today, about that last remaining disputed case. This complaint is probably a year old by now. I want to put it to bed and get my rating up to an A. I clearly outlined the case, and the customer is clearly in the wrong. They brought me a walk-behind lawn mower to tune up, so I did. Then they complained when I charged $117 to do it, that the tuneup was not done right, and that my ad was deceptive. My ad advertised in essence, "lawn mower service, all makes and models, free pickup and delivery available. Call for details!" One of the details is, we don't pick up a $50 walk behind mower for free. Riders only! The customer claimed we didn't tune it up right because it kept dying when they mowed with it. Turns out, they were trying to mow 24" tall grass with a walk-behind mower (probably trying to mulch it too!). The rest of the complaints were along the same lines.

The BBB did not put the burden of proof on the customer in any of these cases. They immediately deferred this to us, the dealer. John said that the only way he could close the case out is for me to produce the original invoice on the customer. The shop is on paper invoices. I'm not about to go digging through my files to find her friggen invoice. It's just not gonna happen. I would waste days searching for that invoice, and they have never asked for the original paperwork before on the other 5 claims. I asked if this was a new policy. He said no. Finally, after wasting the better part of 20 minutes with him, I asked him if I can just provide a document which outlines what we do in a mower tuneup. He said that would work.

What a messed up company! They have no intention of being helpful in the slightest. I don't like yelling, but unfortunately, that seems to be the only way I get anything done with them. Seems like what I say doesn't register unless I articulate it 10 different ways.

I wish there was a way to just delete my profile with them and not have to deal with them at all.

Wow! Well there are a lot of great opinions about the BBB. I do understand how some could feel its relevance is now expired because we are in a changing world and especially changing economy. I would like to bring to light that the BBB does and has continued to report on dishonest advertisers and even fraudulent advertisers. I believe it is all businesses choice to support an organization that was set up to promote VOLUNTARY SELF REGULATION. One would hope that as the Government is growing by leaps and bounds that non profits like the BBB would not go away. One would have to think that someone will come in and regulate advertising and even possibly complaints against companies. I don't know about anyone else but I don't want that regulatory agency to be the Government. This is why I'm a huge supporter of voluntary self regulation. Not all companies that support the BBB are just looking out for the direct effect. But I do know that my previous employer would always go to the BBB member pages to find a company when looking to hire a new vendor. (this was do to him knowing that the BBB checks references, time in business substantiation and lic. if applicable). Most importantly when some one is a member they are telling their current and future customers that they are an open book and will do everything in their power to make their customers happy. (Third Party Leveraging)

As far as how complaints are handled, my belief is that after a consumer complains to the BBB they then will forward on to the company so company can respond. Once both parties have responded then it is fully reviewed by the BBB with complaints vs responses and substantiation on both parties. If the BBB feels as though the company has done their due diligence to rectify the situation then it is closed. If that is not the case the consumer than request arbitration for final resolution. (once again all Voluntary Self Regulation) I believe this is the process I could be off a bit. But wow this can be much better than court...
I think it is great that companies put themselves out their to support this organization. As well I think it is great as a consumer to go to the BBB to check on companies and find out who they are and if they will even answer a complaint whether a member or not.

I would say before anyone forms an opinion about any company or organization to review all facts about them. Like I said in the beginning these are all great opinions but I will say there seems to be misconceptions about this non profit organization. And yes it may have some miss steps in its model as one said but what are the alternatives?

I am shocked to that Mr. Wallace would show his lack of knowledge about marketing and sales.. The BBB is a great tool to market trust! These days there is no GOD .com consumers can go to to find out if the business they are fixing to spend their hard earned money with is honest and ethical.. In this economy there are a growing number of scams and consumer TRUST is at an all time low!

Many of these opinions are just that.. The main problem the BBB has is the fact that there is so much missinformation out there from people like this whom just don't understand the BBB policies and don't understand why the BBB is a great!!

Zig Zigler will tell you consumers do business with whom they trust!

Mr. Wallace also shows his lack of knowledge with SEO, the BBB actually is a Local Business Refferal Agent for Google maps, and their member rosters often appear on page 1 of many search terms pages.. Take for example my home town. McKinney, Tx. If I got to Google and type in- Kitchen Remodeling, McKinney, Tx.. Guess what pop's up at the top of of Page 1 organically. The BBB Member Roster for Kitchen Remodeling Contractors in McKinney, Tx.

Look at the BBB.org page rank, look at how many links they have linking to their websites. BBB.org has over 3 million inbound links.
Joining the BBB is one of the best things to you to to get your website appearing better in Search Engine Searches..

I sense a bit of jealous envy that Mr. Wallace is loosing marketing $$ by clients whom are spending their marketing $$ with the BBB!

David,

As a business owner whom is a member of the BBB, I get phone calls daily from business owners like yourself whom promise the WORLD in regards to SEO and Internet Marketing. I have learned that there are so much Click Fraud out there and marketing scams.. You would not get my business unless I researched you with the BBB to see if you did not have any complaints!

I think business owners like yourselfs use the BBB to solicit off of and to try and gain business for yourself off of their database! Then you have the the GALL to bash them on the internet like this.. Fact of the matter, is you have probably gotten a ton of business by being a member and soliciting their members of their database!!

As a result of my BBB membership, I am on page 1 of searches in my city on Google, Bing and Yahoo..

I make about a 1000% return on my investment of $440 for the year for my BBB Membership!

Your comment about the BBB discreminates againts Online Business just show's your lack of knowledge about the BBBOnline program. My BBB Rep explained to me that, it is a internet Trust Seal that has a seperate Federally Trade Marked Logo and that they hold websites to a diffrent set of standards then a Brick and Mortor business. There is a diffrent set of laws that apply to online adveritisng and the BBB looks for deceptive advertising and untrue claims that a business could make on there website, etc..

I researched your business, and you have a A record with the BBB and Zero complaints, I would think that is something to be proud of and something you should use to promote your business!

I think the BBB is a fraudulent organization. Look at a company MerchantOne, back in December 09 2009 they had a rating of C+ and today (1/06/2010) they have a rating of an A+ and the stats have not changed any.

Go figure, MerchantOne made another donation to the BBB?

The BBB is a waste of time for most businesses in my opinion. Many many unsatisfied members have claimed that the BBB cares more about receiving dues then correctly resolving issues.

As an online consumer I could care less whether a company is a member of the BBB.

@David - It is clear that you work for the BBB in some way by how staunchly you defend them when clearly they have huge problems and just about everybody says that in their current state they are next to worthless.

I'm just a regular consumer that has had extremely unsatisfactory results with 3 companies that claimed to be members of the BBB. No response, no resolution. I had no clue that one only had to pay a fee to get the logo and it's not a sign of a quality company. As far as I'm concerned, it's actually becoming an indicator that it's a company I should avoid and much of this conversation confirms that.

The BBB is all about who pays to be accredited. There is a pool & spa business in the Chicago area. After they became accredited (read paid money to the BBB) all of their 79 complaints were swept under a rug and hidden under a listing where no commerce took place. They've run their total right back up to 59 complaints ranging from product issues and sales practices to service issues and contratc disputes, but they have an A+ rating.
The BBB's purpose is to protect their accredited members by stonewalling consumers and determining what is reasonable in settling disputes. Notice how many times the consumer disagrees with the "reasonable" offer approved by the BBB.

Well, whenever we are in the market for a service provider (home contractor, auto repair, etc.), my wife and I ALWAYS check in with the BBB and typically end up choosing a business based on their data. We have never been disappointed using that approach. It seems to us that businesses interested in providing quality, customer-oriented service will go to the extra effort and expense to register with the BBB and maintain a clean record with them. I have to wonder about the many disgruntled business owners posting against the BBB on this site -- perhaps they have amassed customer complaints and weren't interested in trying to resolve them through BBB mediation? You can kid yourselves if you want to with your perception of the BBB's current "irrelevance", but your business is the type we would steer clear of...

A good case in point is MagicJack. They had a BBB rating of "F" before they joined. Now they magically have a rating of "A-", despite having the same complaints.

Funny! When I was paying for their service, my business rating was an A- (due to "Length of time business has been operating". Since I have cancelled my service with them, my rating is now a B+, for the same reason. Apparently, money talks.

First, My opinion is the BBB has outlived its usefulness. Anyone can make a complaint and the only way to have that complaint removed is to join the BBB and pay for it. It is a for profit organization.

Second, With the internet no one really uses the BBB. Why should they? A person can find all the positive and negative information they want depending on where and how they look for it.

Third, If you cannot find anything about a company on the BBB or the internet that is a great indicator that the company is brand new. So either they are telling you they are brand new (not just a new name) or they are a scam. Every legitimate company has plenty of good and bad information written about them.

A better alternative

I was raised if you had a complaint about a business to contact the Better Business Bureau about it & they would help you to resolve it. I've complained about several companies in recent years and our local BBB did very little to try and resolve problems. In fact, they accepted what the company had to say about a problem (even if the company was wrong or was lieing which they were) and told me they closed the case, when normally they would direct you further as to what other options you have. This has been true for the BBB in IA and one in CO in recent years.

If you want a good read on the BBB try www.BBBRoundup.com or www.BetterEthicsBureau.com. A site which only posts complaints, without allowing compliments, has only one purpose - to extract fees from companies. And push arbitration to extract fees from consumers. They are living in the past.

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Search Engine Guide > David Wallace > Has The Better Business Bureau Outlived Their Usefulness?