CNN recently featured the problems with the Better Business Bureau’s rating systems. I spent a couple of years as a volunteer mediator/conciliator for the BBB of Greater NY in Manhattan when I was first training as a mediator. The article presents a fairly balanced viewpoint of the issues, but I thought I would add my experience to the conversation.
- The BBB does not investigate companies. They first and foremost try to help mediate disputes between disgruntled customers and companies, member and non-member.
- A non-responsive company receives the worst grades as they are perceived to be anti-consumer by not responding to a complaint.
- A company who responds, even if denying the claim, is not given a “demerit” since they were responsive.
- An accredited company was required to respond to a complaint, lest they lose their accreditation. Same for member companies.
- Many consumers thought the BBB was the government with the powers to shut a business down. The reality is that the BBB is not a governmental body and the government barely has that power itself.
- Some consumer complaints were pretty bogus, some were outright frauds. That is one reason why a company isn’t downgraded even if they simply respond.
- We would see a lot of complaints against the same fly-by-night companies, especially ones promising to make a modeling career. Those companies would disappear.
- Oddly, we would also get a lot of complaints from prisoners who did not receive their porn orders. I guess they have a lot of time on their hands.
- With millions of companies in the U.S. and a limited budget, the BBB has to automate their ratings as much as possible. Things will fall through the cracks in any automated system.
- What I did as a mediator/conciliator had no direct impact on the ratings.
- All of the mediators were volunteers. Some were good, some not so good. It was a great experience for me, and I was often given the more challenging cases.
- Consumers should not use BBB as their only source to check companies. Check their local court system. Check their references (more than one, especially if it is a big dollar project).
Perhaps a letter grade system is not a good fit for the BBB. Perhaps they should go to a satisfactory/unsatisfactory system. What was your experience with the BBB?