How to use BBB ratings to your advantage


I have been so concerned about a loss of confidence around the country because of a handful of bad apples among local affiliates of the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

The BBB is the oldest institution working for consumer protection in the United States. They believe in capitalism and want it to be self-policing, not controlled by the government. But sometimes, things can run amuck on the local level.

First there were reports about a local chapter in Austin, Texas asking consumers to pay $70 to proceed with a complaint. Then you had a Southern California chapter selling a good rating to anybody who would pay them money.

In the second instance, that particular SoCal BBB gave an impostor posing as an affiliate of an al-Qaeda organization an A- rating in exchange for a price. Apparently the salespeople at this particular SoCal chapter were earning a 45% commission on selling memberships to businesses, so they sold to anybody they could find.

As a result of the controversy, the head of the SoCal BBB chapter resigned, then later rescinded his offer to vacate (probably hoping to preserve his nearly $500,000 paycheck.) Finally when the local chapter’s charter was about to be revoked, the guy finally decided to leave.

Here’s what you need to know: I want you to use the BBB as a veto, not as a green light. If an organization has a bad rating, that alerts you to potential danger. But just because they don’t have a bad record, that’s not the seal of approval.

It’s the same thing with a CARFAX report. A bad CARFAX is a veto, not a green light to buy, that’s why you need a mechanic to inspect any used car purchase.

The BBB’s recent black eyes are an isolated thing specific to a couple chapters around the country. Most local affiliates still do a good conscientious effort for consumers. It’s just the few bad apples around the country who don’t. The BBB exists to hold capitalists to good ethical business standards and that’s still what it’s about in most places around America.

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