Monkey Business at the Better Business Bureau

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    BBB in crisis management mode after being caught taking cash for ratings

    Over the years, Bernstein Crisis Management has often had the challenge of protecting businesses from the abuses of the Better Business Bureau (BBB), the less-than-honest organization whose mission is supposedly to protect the public from bad business practices, so when I spotted an ABC News story calling out the service, my only thought was, “about time!” A quote:

    The Better Business Bureau, one of the country’s best known consumer watchdog groups, is being accused by business owners of running a “pay for play” scheme in which A plus ratings are awarded to those who pay membership fees, and F ratings used to punish those who don’t.

    To prove the point, a group of Los Angeles business owners paid $425 to the Better Business Bureau and were able to obtain an A minus grade for a non-existent company called Hamas, named after the Middle Eastern terror group.

    “Right now, this rating system is really unworthy of consumer trust or confidence,” said Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal in an interview to be broadcast as part of an ABC News investigation…”

    Additionally, in my experience, the BBB does not consider a complaint resolved until the COMPLAINANT considers it resolved — no matter how wacko or vengeful the latter person is.

    Although the BBB vehemently denies that it is possible to buy higher ratings, claiming the example cited was due to a salesperson’s error, the ABC investigation actually managed to capture video footage of business owners being told that their grades could be raised if they paid hundreds of dollars in membership fees. With such damning evidence being thrust into the court of public opinion, the shoe is now on the other foot, as the group that has put unfair pressure on so many business owners is forced into crisis management mode in an attempt to protect both revenue and reputation.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. , an international crisis management consultancy, and author of Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training.]