If you’ve ever done business in North America, you’ve probably heard of the Better Business Bureau. However, unless you’ve actually dealt with them, or done extensive research on them, you probably think they’re a business watch dog who mediates complaints between businesses and consumers. And that’s what they want you to think… The dark underbelly of the BBB is a sea of evil inspired by Al Capone, and much of it is actually as illegal as Capone’s activities.
The BBB wants you to think that the ratings they assign businesses are based on their practices, the ratio of complaint quantity to clients, and the speed and efficiency at which they handle complaints. This is a malicious lie. Believing it (and even wanting to believe it) will set you up for nothing but disappointment and frustration. So, how are the ratings really determined? Well, there are two main factors:
A business can elect to pay protection money to the BBB which will drastically improve their grade and make it easier to maintain. Of course, they call this protection money, “membership dues,” and they publish what businesses pay this money, calling them “Accredited.” The semantics are the only thing that makes this protection racket legal. Much the same way, you can legally buy a bong only if the seller calls it a water pipe. By any other wording, this would be illegal.
This part is secret because it is illegal the way they do it. Businesses can elect to bribe the BBB to have a complaint closed in their favour.
So, basically they’re extorting money from the businesses, promising them a good reputation if they pay and a bad reputation if they fail to pay. Nobody wins in this scenario. Businesses’ reputations are boosted based on how well they bribe (which are usually the evil businesses). As bad as it is for the businesses, it’s worse for us because we’re offered no option to bribe the BBB to turn the results in our favour. We’re also stuck with scams with high ratings. This leaves us with worse than no way of distinguishing the good guys from the bad guys. It incentivises the bad guys and decentivises the good guys.
That’s right. We would have less bad businesses screwing us over if it weren’t for the Better Business Bureau… You see why that name is somewhat of a misnomer now?
And, if you’re wondering why you’ve never heard this before, that’s a good question to ask. It’s been reported over and over again, usually by the little guy, but on as big a medium as television’s 20/20. It’s not exactly a secret.
And, well… Who do you report the BBB to for this sort of thing? Who watches the watch dog. I mean, it’s not as if you can go to the FTC. They’re a protection racket themselves.
The first step is to acknowledge what the BBB is and treat them accordingly. Only then will the real watchdogs acquire enough clout to truly watch businesses (and each other if we don’t want to repeat this mistake).
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to report the Better Business Bureau to the Better Business Bureau. That should be fun. In the meantime, here’s a collection of all the sources I found ( I didn’t have enough space to put them all in the body of the article).