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Posted by  in THE BBB is a BUSINESS on 02

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.


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 telemarket 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.*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,