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February 2011

Better Business Bureau (BBB): The Rotten Truth of Business

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It’s unfair to have an entity that looms over every business but has no accountability for their own actions. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is such a place. My company has a lot of complaints against it registered at the BBB. Some of these complaints are legit, but far too many are not. The fact is you don’t even have to have a relationship with a company to log a complaint. Once the complaint is logged the BBB uses it as another number against the company, whether the complaint was resolved or not.

Before being employed with my company I had never thought about the BBB before. I knew it existed but I didn’t know what the purpose of it was. The real deal with the BBB is simply that they are a hack of a business with no ethics behind their actions. They don’t answer to anybody. They are not a government organization but they act like they are.

I’ve had a few customers actually come to me trying to use the BBB as an extortion tool to get me to make changes to their site for free. The BBB doesn’t have any such powers. They can NOT make a company do anything that the company doesn’t want to do. The only thing the BBB does is offer a binding arbitration when two parties won’t work with one another. It’s a way to avoid going to the courts and it costs less. We had a case that we easily would have won in the courts, but to save money we agreed to binding arbitration with the Better Business Bureau. The case worker at the BBB sided with the client even though there were no grounds at all for the client’s claims. The entire reason the case worker sided with the client was because of our other complaints. It had nothing to do with the case at hand.

I mentioned we have a lot of complaints and we really do. We are a web design company who specialize in sites for personal use, small businesses, etc. Most people who come to us have a vague idea of what they want but they haven’t thought of everything. They’ll say they want a community site like Facebook but they’re not willing to pay the $1,000,000+ for the programming of the site. So, instead we offer them a prebuilt package and we explain what the package is. Once the package is installed and set up the customer wants to know where all the Facebook functions are (that don’t exist). We explain that the package is what it is and doesn’t have those functions. This is when the customer demands a refund, orders a chargeback on their credit card and sends in the BBB complaint. This is equivalent to ordering a Honda and getting a Honda and complaining that you didn’t get a Ferrari, but somehow it’s our fault.

I’ve often thought it must be the sales practice. I’ve spent a lot of time eaves dropping on the sales team over the past few weeks. They are selling the sites correctly. They are telling the customer exactly what they will be getting and we even have contracts that the customer has to agree to before we start the work. Somehow after all this the customer feels it’s our fault that they didn’t get their million dollar site for only a few thousand dollars.

I’ve spent a while writing about this. The point is that the BBB, in my opinion, is an extortion site. They need to update their system because right now it’s very unfair to the businesses they claim to be protecting. We have closed 100% of our complaints (which means that we resolved the issue) but still we get a bad ranking.