How to use BBB ratings to your advantage

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I truly respect the people at the Better Business Bureau. So it’s very upsetting for me to come to you the second time of late about instances where the BBB has not been doing the right thing.

Before I go further, I want you to understand the BBB is made up of local councils all around the country. What I’m about to discuss is a problem that’s local to one chapter, not a black mark that’s systemic across the entire organization.

Let me refresh you about the most recent problem I told you about the BBB. Certain chapters were automatically giving good ratings to businesses that paid to be members. There was one highly publicized incident where a terrorist organization was registered and immediately given the highest rating. It was part of a sting operation and it stung one BBB chapter particularly hard!

In light of that incident, the BBB has now agreed to review and change its procedures so you can’t just buy a good rating. They’ve also apologized for the terrorist organization snafu.

Now the latest episode comes from the Austin, Texas chapter of the BBB and it’s real ugly. The BBB in Austin allegedly gives great ratings to businesses that have a zillion complaints because they’ve set up a system where it’s very unlikely that you can have your complaint processed.

The New York Times reports there’s a software seller called PC Drivers Headquarters that has generated hundreds of complaints to the BBB in more than 3 years. But all the complaints are shown as resolved and they’ve been given an A+ rating.

Is that for real? Well, what’s really going on is that the software that people complained about from PC Drivers costs $39. But when you tried to file a complaint with the Austin BBB, you had to pay $70 to have your complaint processed. If you didn’t pay, the complaint was listed as resolved!

Few if any people paid the $70 to pursue a complaint about $39 software. This kind of lack of disclosure is just completely unacceptable. There are also other examples in the investigative report by The New York Times.

Again, I truly respect BBB and what I’m telling you is about a single affiliate.

Here’s my rule of thumb for using BBB ratings: If a business has a significant number of unresolved complaints, you should use that info to eliminate them from your shortlist of companies you want to do business with. But if there are no complaints, that doesn’t necessarily mean a company is OK. Use the BBB to veto an organization, not as a way to approve using them.

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