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Do You Hate The BBB Too?

By Brett Lloyd Abbott, MYM Austin Inc.

One of the problems with owning your own business is that there’s usually no one there to slap you when you start to make a stupid mistake. I probably need someone to slap me right about now, because I’m going to take on that great big monster known as the Better Business Bureau. (You’d think I would’ve learned my lesson by now….)

I’m sure everyone knows that the foundational purpose of the BBB is to give consumers a place to complain about unfair business practices. Did you know that there is one business in town that is exempt from this scrutiny? That’s right – You cannot complain to the BBB about the BBB.

(Yes, it’s good to be king.)

Now before I go into a tirade, let me point out my own ironic contribution to all of this. As a marketing consultant, I’m always trying to help my clients separate themselves from their competition. So not surprisingly, one of the fastest and easiest ways you can separate yourself from at least some of the schmucks and low-life business owners in your area is to join the BBB.

OLD bbblogo.jpg BBB Member (blue).jpg

Because no matter what you and I might think of the BBB, that torch and flame have almost 100 years of instant positive recognition with the general public. In fact, many people think the BBB is actually a government organization. (It’s not.) As a general rule, it’s almost never a bad thing to have that logo associated with your company name or advertising.

But now, let’s be frank, blunt and honest, and review the litany of problems associated with this purportedly nonprofit charity.

First of all, does anyone else smell a small conflict of interest with this scenario? The businesses that the BBB is “rating” and “policing” are also the ones paying their salary.

Gosh, you don’t suppose that might affect their impartiality, do you?

What about their recruiting tactics? Doesn’t the BBB preach that you should never give out your credit card information to anyone who calls on the phone? Yet that’s exactly the tactic they use to get new members. They will tele-market a local business, make a pitch for why you should join this terrific organization, and then ask for a credit card number right over the phone.

Their e-mail solicitation tactics aren’t much better. I received the following e-mail from my local BBB a couple of months ago. I’m a member of the BBB, but this message instantly looked and smelled like a phishing* e-mail that should not be trusted. My clues were:

  • Unfamiliar e-mail domain ( instead of
  • It said that I bought something that I never bought. (A sponsorship package.)
  • Because I bought something (that I never bought), I get something else for free. All I have to do is go to their website and use the totally unfamiliar username and password contained in this e-mail to “update my information.
  • There was no traditional “signature” at the end of the e-mail, such as a familiar name, title, phone number and street address.
  • And if that weren’t enough, the website link in the e-mail (where it said “click here”) actually went to a “dead” page.

BBB Email that looks like Phishing.jpg

*PHISHING: These are bogus e-mails (or websites) that are disguised to look like official communications from a well-known company. These are often used by crooks to obtain your account numbers, passwords, social security number and/or other private information.

If you’re not familiar with “phishing,” please use the above as a tutorial of how to spot them. Do NOT go to the BBB for phishing advice, because they obviously don’t have a clue.

Another low integrity move (in my opinion) by the BBB was to change their nomenclature from “BBB Member” to “BBB Accredited Business.” The BBB rightly recognized that consumers have a lot more respect for “an accredited business” than simply “a member.” Unfortunately, they didn’t change any of their membership structure or requirements, nor did they put an accreditation process in place. They simply changed the name because it sounded better.

Okay, at this point in my newsletter, you’re probably wondering “where is the helpful advice that Brett always offers in his e-mails?” Well, today maybe I’m giving you more of a rant than advice, but I do have at least one tip that could save you $400 a year.

If/when you do buying membership with the BBB, do not purchase the “BBB Online” service. (This is one of the most annoying dirty tricks that I’ve seen from the BBB.) According to their rules, your membership allows you to use the BBB logo anywhere in print, but not on your website. To use their logo on your website (which is where you really want and need it), you’re supposed to pay an extra $400 so that it will hyperlink over to your “BBB credibility report” on their website.

I don’t recommend this. While I think it’s good to have the recognition of the logo, I don’t think the hyperlink is worth $400. It looks, feels and smells like nothing more than another coercive attempt to get more money out of you. (Of course, if you’re a member, it’s conceivable that you might just put the logo on your website anyway, without the link over to the BBB website. But I couldn’t officially recommend that, of course….)

There, in a nutshell, is why a lot of people (like me) love to hate the BBB. It’s a necessary evil. I think that provides a vastly superior service to consumers, but the vast majority of the North American population hasn’t discovered this yet. (By the way, as of this morning, has no less than 172 complaints about the BBB… go figure.)

In the meantime, I’m still going to begrudgingly recommend that you join the BBB. But save yourself that extra $400, and spend it on some other, more cost-effective form of marketing.

Best Regards,

(A Fully Accredited Member of the Cenrtal Texas BBB)

2009 Brett Lloyd Abbott / MYM Austin Inc. May not be used without permission.

16 Responses to “Do You Hate The BBB Too?”

  1. The BBB does not qualify as an “accreditation organization.”
    Accreditation is “educational” and BBB deals in businesses.
    I think what they really want to do (besides make money) is to see if they can make every person in American “ask there opinion” before they buy anything over $10 or so. This way most of the people who are dependent on the government will have the added resource of the BBB. Every business has complaints. Every human person deals with complaints daily. All I know is lots of businesses go out of business because of excessive exposure that the BBB ISSUES to the media if they know that that business is not a member of their organization. Thus providing more “unemployed” workers to claim Unemployment checks from States who can’t afford to pay them for their unemployment.

  2. Well, there you have it: “The BBB causes unemployment.” And “anonymous” and I are certainly in agreement that the BBB should not refer to members as “accredited” if they do not have an official accreditation process.

  3. I truly believe that the BBB should not be allowed to give out any grades whatsoever–at least not for businesses that are NOT members of the BBB. They listed my company, and said they didn’t have any complaints on it at all, but “due to the nature of the business, and being that it is only 2 yrs. old, they have given us an “F” rating! IF WE ARE NOT MEMBERS WE DON’T WANT THEM TO RATE US. IF THEY DON’T KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT OUR 2 YEAR OLD BUSINESS, THEN HOW CAN THEY RATE US? It is the BBB that should be rated an “F” because lacking sufficient info on companyies who are not members–should not then be rated at all! What is this? I thought only Dictatorship did things like this? They are either not making enough money to survive, or, they are acting like some kind of investigative police agency. God Help America!

  4. I dont mind paying the BBB $400 a year. Ever since I was approved and joined I’m making an extra $250k a year

  5. BBB loses credibility with Businesses:
    The BBB is under investigation by the Attorney General in Connecticut with good reason. The BBB went to the dark side in 2009. It went to a new rating system. When our company, a long time member at the time, went down in it’s rating with the BBB, we asked the local franchise owner, Judy Pepper, how she determined our rating. She said they use an algorithm they designed. We asked for the algorithm to determine how we could better our rating and she refused. Why would they keep that a secret? The Attorney General thinks maybe “money” is figured in.

    We decided to evaluate our membership and determined that:
    #1. Membership in the BBB is a COMPLAINT MAGNET. Our complaints grew 4 times over once we joined.
    #2. The BBB does not care about being fair to businesses it only counts complaints.

    We looked at our competitor who had almost 4000 complaints compared to our 133 complaints in the last three years, pretty good in our industry, and wonder how they keep their A+ rating. The judgments they make are arbitrary and subjective, no objectivity that we can see. As a member all of our complaints are “resolved”. Once you resign your complaints become “serious”.

    Judy Pepper’s BBB franchise is doing well. They just bought a new building worth millions of dollars. Their business model has changed. They make a lot of money for a non-profit. I think it is because they have gone over to the dark side. I suggest if you own a business stay away from the BBB.

  6. I worked for the BBB. I, too, thought it was an admirable orgnization. UNTIL I saw what was really going on. They mislead companies terribly especially when making the intial sales call or trying to get a company to renew. They call it accreditation because the term “membership” was hurting their ability to make money. Sales people (business realtions) make huge commissions (the top tier was 65%).
    They will sometimes provide a number to the business owner. This is how many calls cam in frmo people asking about your company. This is how many calls came in from people asking about your competitor. This is how many calls came in from people asking for a referral in your line of work. It’s all BS. Everytime an employee clicks on your company mane, your competitors company or even on the TOB (type of bsiness) it registers as a click. It does not matter if someone actually called or not. I’ll give you an example, I own ABC Co. A BBB rep finds my name in the phone book and puts me in their database. After entering he goes back to make sure it is accurate Wow, I already had an inquiry.

    Complaints are a joke. If I own ABC Co. and I hada a complaint 4 years ago that I never answered (for whatever reason) and they wanted me to join… they will re-open the cokmplaint, allow me to respond, send a letter back to the consumer and if the consumer doesn’t repond then the complaint will be closed in favor of the business.

    Check out the 2009 Annual Report for the Chicago BBB.from what I can tell there are 15 employees who get commissions. Commissions average about $48,740 each. Most also get hourly pay. (commission expenses are commissions)

  7. From a consumers point of view the BBB is not helpful at all. They will tell you a member is “in good standing” even if they have had 20 complaints in a year. As long as the member says it has resolved the problem according to the terms of their agreement they are put back “in good standing.”

    It doesn’t matter that the terms of the agreement are in violation of the state laws for doing business. I had to go to the attorney general to go after them. Even then the BBB told consumers the company was reputable.

  8. BBB is the biggest scam around.

  9. My biz lost @ 10k from a bad BBb report. I had to clear it up with docs etc proving I wad not the other owner of a franchise. They are bogus!

  10. If you are looking for an alternative to the BBB, please take the time to check us out. We provide an unbiased arena that is extremely fair to all parties.

    We do charge a membership fee, but it is the same for all businesses.

    If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at

  11. Read the Orlando Sentinal News Paper front page article on March 17, 2012. That tells the whole story. Lauri Knowles Carolina Cabinetry, Inc. A+ to F with one customer complaint because the “head of the central florida” BBB is Judy Pepper and she hated my personality. I will be practising my right to sue her and the BBB soon!

  12. bbb is the bigest crook in the market. THey will do anything to get your business and if they cant then they start to hurt your business. I wish there was a way to stop bbb all together and start a non for profit organization instead.

  13. I always thought the BBB was a good organization but I recently have questioned that blind faith. I really don’t like the new BBB and their new rating system.
    The BBB now has a carefully crafted new accreditation and rating system which in my opinion is extremely bias and intended to put all “non-member” businesses in a negative light compared to BBB members. I take offense in how the new rating system lists all “non-member” businesses as “NOT ACCREDITED” along with “NO RATING”. To me it looks as if the BBB really tries to sway people to use only their members.
    Because he BBB is in the business of selling memberships I think they should only list and rate their own members. They have no right and I believe it is an extreme conflict when the BBB lists every business in the phone book and rates all non-members in a poor light.

    Recently I contacted the BBB and asked them to remove my business information. I explained my position and that I don’t want my company information to be listed on any of their sites. The BBB refused to remove my information and have failed to answer or reply to any subsequent emails. I am surprised how they operate with such a sense of entitlement.

    Do you know that the BBB is not a sanctioned government entity and it has no official affiliation with the provincial or federal governments?
    Do you know that the BBB is non-profit but do you really know what that means?
    Did you know that the BBB is simply a franchised business with 116 different franchises.

    Sorry for the little rant but you might as well know that I now refuse to buy anything from businesses that are BBB members until the BBB cleans up their own act.

    I rate the BBB as an “F”

  14. Consumers not being members, get the worst treatment. What amuses me this the all the government sources recommend consumers to take their complaints to the BBB. Someone in the government is extorting from the extorters.

  15. I opened a small business about a year ago and never applied for BBB credit. Today I found out that BBB gave my company an F rating because of one complaint which was a lie over personal issue. How can a company be allowed to rate another company without its permission? This F is costing me customers and I am losing money over it. Does anyone know how can I push them to remove my business name? All they have to say is that the business did not apply for accreditation. They don’t even research to see if the complaint is legit??? So weird!!!

  16. My problem with BBB is that the business owner is going to pay compensation to the customer no matter what. No matter how much evidence you present, no matter how well done the job is. If the customer wants a freeby and goes to the BBB, you will have to pay. I’m going through this right now. A con artist tried to get a free service out of me by saying we never did the work. I sent 80 photos showing the completed work. But until the customer says ” Im satisfied” I will either have to accept an F rating or give the free service. Its really just a blackmail tool.

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