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Letters to The Editor

The Better Business Bureau Ploy

http://educate-yourself.org/lte/betterbusinesbureauploy08mar07.shtml
March 8, 2007

Subject: Better Business Bureau
From: Virginia
Date: Thu, March 8, 2007 11:38 pm
To: Editor

Ken,

I used to have (7-8 years ago) positive experiences with the BBB. Recently, I contacted them about an abuse by American Express. I  wondered why they did not reply to me, but rather AMEX wrote to me at my home address to broker a deal for the fraudulent charges they were billing me for. Screw them...I say...but can you recommend any alternative to these corporations that are wearing people down by billing them fraudulently?

Your article makes perfect sense, that they are a shockaborber to make people think they are being heard. I have experienced this tactic in other corporate environments. What a cheap and lousy trick.

Thanks for any of your attention,
Virginia

***

Hi Virginia,

Well, all corporate devices are geared towards max profit, so you need to understand the nature of the corporate mentality. Use them, but don't let them use (or abuse) you-which is what they usually do.

Personally, I don't use credit cards. You can use VISA etc. with a debit account. It feels great not to owe anybody money and it forces you to live within your means.

You can get a debit only card from a Swiss bank account and have perfect sercuity and never worry about false charges to your acocunt. You use a different code each time you access the account and there are no names on the card, only numbers .

Do a search for Swiss (or overseas) bank account and debit only card offers.

A lot of web sites specialize in these things (asset protection and all that).

Regards, Ken

***

Subject: Re: The Better Business Bureau Ploy (Mar. 8, 2007)
From: Chris
Date: Tue, March 13, 2007 2:55 pm
To: Editor

Hi Ken:

I just read the above-mentioned article on your site (and the article you personally wrote about the BBB as well), and, yes, the BBB isn't what it appears to be.

I used to work for them, in both Los Angeles CA and Portland OR.

Here's an overview of how the BBB operates -

Companies are recruited into the Better Business Bureau, and every company that becomes a new member pays monthly membership dues.

These dues are based on the overall size of the company (specifically, the number of branch offices and the number of total employees in one city or town, fees are adjusted on a sliding scale).

The more branches and the more emloyees a company actually has, the more expensive their monthly dues will be.

I was a field rep for the BBB. Part of my job involved recruiting new companies into the BBB.

All companies that had "complaints" filed against them were considered "hot leads".

The field reps would call up the companies that had complaints filed against them, and talk to the person who handled each company's checkbook (or branch office's checkbook)...and that person would summarily be informed that there was an outstanding complaint (or complaints) on file against them, and did they realize this?

The representative for the company in question would usually have no clue about the complaint on file at the BBB, and after we made the company's representative nervous by informing them of the complaint, we would then immediately segue into talking about the benefits of membership in the Better Business Bureau...

An appointment would then be set for the field rep to "drop on by and discuss membership benefits, and a proper way for us to handle that complaint" (wink wink).

All companies and/or businesses in any given city or town in the USA are categorized primarily in three different ways -

1) Companies with ZERO complaints on file. (Not much need for the company to join the BBB, since they have no complaints on file.)

2) Companies with complaints on file, for which said companies have been non-responsive. (In other words, these companies have complaints on file but they have never responded to them - these companies are PRIME candidates for BBB membership - wink.)

3) Companies with complaints on file, for which said companies have been responsive. (In other words, these companies have complaints on file and they HAVE responded to those complaints.)

Now, there are some subtleties to this whole thing obviously.

In Portland, I used to work quite closely with the Director of the Portland Bureau, and with her Assistant Director, and one time I recruited a very large, well-known furniture and appliance rental company that charged monthly fees to its clients that were usurious to say the least. Since this company had about 20 branches in the Portland area, and a bunch of employees, their monthly fees for membership to the BBB were quite substantial. (A couple of thousand dollars a month, when all was said and done.)

This company had HUNDREDS of complaints on file with the BBB at the time I signed them up. Once we got the company's first membership check in our hot little hands, that company's BBB "report" suddenly changed and they received what amounted to a good rating on the Bureau's call-in phone service. (People can call the BBB nationwide, and get an automated report on virtually any company.)

But this is standard operating procedure for ANY company that becomes a BBB member.

To explain this a bit more - the automated report for this particular company suddenly became warm and fuzzy after we got their money..."This company has been responsive to all complaints that have been filed against it...this company is a member of the Better Business Bureau...", etc.

So that's how the operation works. The BBB NEVER eliminates all complaints that are on file for a particular company (because they don't have to...there's more than one way to skin a cat).

But the BBB ALWAYS upgrade a new member's report to say, "This company has been responsive to all complaints that have been filed against it", and, "This company is a member of the Better Business Bureau."

If a company isn't a member of the BBB - a RUNNING TALLY of all complaints filed against that company is kept on the automated call-in system.

So let's say you call for a report on Company XYZ and you hear, "This company has 76 registered complaints against it...this company has not been responsive to ANY complaints filed against it...this company is NOT a member of the Better Business Bureau..." (So that's the type of report you will hear for a non-BBB member that has been unresponsive to complaints filed against it in the past.)

Now, here's what "being responsive" means, in Better Business Bureau parlance...

Let's say you rent some furniture from the aforementioned furniture rental company, and they proceed to rip you off by charging you RIDICULOUS monthly rental fees that are significantly higher than what was stated on the original contract.

Well, all the company has to do, if you file a complaint, is simply RESPOND to that complaint. And that might mean that an assistant manager with the company in question (or some other company stooge) simply sends a letter to the BBB stating their position on the matter.

That letter might say, for all intents and purposes, "The complainant is high on drugs and they don't have any grounds for filing a complaint." Well, guess what - the case is now closed...because the company RESPONDED to the complaint. Ha ha - get it?

So to summarize - if you become a new member of the BBB, you are suddenly deemed RESPONSIVE to all complaints (but ONLY if you actually mail responses to the BBB regarding each and every complaint that is on file against you), and on the automated call-in report, there is no mention made as to the ACTUAL NUMBER of complaints filed against you).

If you're not a member of the BBB, a running tally of all complaints is kept in the database, and your automated call-in report states the TOTAL number of complaints on file, and whether or not you've been responsive to those complaints...and it will also state that you AREN'T a member of the BBB...

Pretty clever really.

The BBB isn't a total scam organization, however...you might object to their overall methodology for recruiting businesses into the fold, but there are many benefits available for members and for the general public - for example, the BBB does supply mediation services to both its members and to the general public, in order to try and settle MAJOR disputes without both parties winding up in court.

And they often do this quite FAIRLY (I've sat it on some meditation disputes and was shocked when the arbitrator ruled in favor of the complainant, instead of ruling in favor of the company that was a BBB member).

If a case goes to arbitration through the BBB "Care" Program, the mediator will listen to both sides of the argument and then render a judgment. And that judgment is usually very impartial, even if the ruling goes against the BBB member.

Most "filed complaints" never get to the mediation stage, however - and when consumers file complaints against a BBB member, the company usually just responds to the complaint by sending a letter in to the BBB office, and a copy of that response is then mailed to the complainant (the consumer who filed the complaint), and that complaint is then filed away in the BBB archives...and that company has now been"responsive" to the complaint...and that usually ends the exchange and nothing much happens beyond that... (So, yes, as you pointed out in the BBB article that you personally wrote, Ken, the BBB acts as a buffer of sorts for its members; but they aren't total puppets...and there are many layer to the onion here.)

As you can imagine, there are a LOT of consumers who file bogus complaints with the BBB for various reasons - maybe they're the disgruntled ex-husband of a woman who owns a restaurant; maybe they're a wacked-out ex-employee who wants to get the company they used to work for in trouble; maybe they're on Prozac and they have too much time on their hands...think about it...think of the hundreds of millions of people out there in Hooterville...do you want them all coming to your door to file complaints with you against the Illuninati? No, I don't think so...

Lots of people make frivolous claims so they can get "energy" (in this case, money, goods or services), and it isn't as if the BBB is totally evil and totally corrupt - and all consumers are "beacons of love and light" - wink.

Each BBB office in every city and town is overseen by a board of directors...and that board of directors is usually made up of some of the more well-heeled members of the local business community (Freemasons and such).

Back in the early 1990's when I worked at the Portland BBB, the board was comprised of a couple of prominent attorneys, a well-known real estate developer, and a major used-car dealer, among others. Of course, each of those board members had a really clean rating with the BBB...cough, cough. (Well, they were RESPONSIVE to complaints, which amounts to a "clean" rating...)

To be totally candid with you here, yes, companies that become members of the Better Business Bureau are less likely to get into hot water with the public over their business dealings (regardless of whether or not they are "good" companies or "bad" companies).

And yes, ALL companies that get a membership to the BBB end up with a record that states that they are responsive to all complaints filed against them - but ONLY if that company actually takes the time to respond to each complaint on file. (And yes, that's pretty misleading, when you break it all down - but hey, the BBB has to pay the bills, too, so I can kind of see their side of it.)

(***Note: If a company that is a member of the BBB is NOT responsive to complaints filed against it, their automated call-in report will reflect that they are not responsive, no matter how much money they pay the BBB in monthly in membership dues...so in this case, the automated call-in report would say, "This company has not been responsive to the complaints filed against it with the BBB...this company is a member of the Better Business Bureau..." Fact: If a consumer pushes hard enough (and it doesn't take much to make this happen), they can arrange to force any BBB member into mediation, where their complaint will be settled quite even-handedly...

I've actually seen BBB members LOSE their arbitration hearing and get all angry, and say, "What good is my membership in the Bureau?" But the arbitrators won't budge once they make their rulings, and that, as they say, is that (and suprisingly, most BBB arbitrators aren't Satanists-on-the-payroll, which is the case with most judges - wink)...I've actually seen BBB members cancel their membership to the Bureau because they lost out in arbitration rulings. (Sour grapes, no doubt.)

All in all, I think the BBB is less twisted, by far, than most rank-and-file corporations.

Yes, the BBB has to pay tribute to the Romans to some degree (who doesn't?), but they aren't total whores.

As a side note, I've seen the BBB kick out very well-known companies as members because the companies in question NEVER responded to complaints...and the complaints piled up so high that the Director had to literally boot the company out of the BBB...now, they give these companies a decent window of time to respond to complaints (and all they have to do is RESPOND), but if the company doesn't respond and the complaints keep piling up, it looks BAD for the Bureau to have them as a member...so in cases like this, that particular company's automated phone-in report will SAY that they are non-responsive to complaints, and that they ARE members of the Bureau...and that's not good for the Bureau or the company in question...

But, in cases like this, the Director will usually be able to get someone at that company to simply RESPOND by letter to each and every complaint, and then everything will be copacetic.

So to summarize: The BBB uses some "interesting" tactics to recruit members into the fold, and these tactics aren't totally "on the up and up" - but they sure are clever; the people who work for the BBB aren't ALL lapdogs and they aren't ALL bad, either...and they DO try and keep their members in line, and they DO offer arbitration to the public, and it is DEFINITELY more fair and balanced than you will typically experience in a Masonic court of law; and they WILL kick members out of the fold if those members don't make an effort to respond to complaints...I know a high-ranking Freemason who got once booted out of the Portland Bureau, and he raised holy hell with everybody at the Bureau, and the Director wouldn't budge. The Mason in question finally responded to the bazillion complaints on file against his company, and then his membership to the Bureau was eventually reinstated - and he actually began to treat his customers more fairly after he was reinstated.

So, to apply your own logic to the situation at hand here - "Not all men are horses simply because horses and men EACH have legs" - wink.

P.S.: What I have written here only applies to the one individual BBB office that I actually had an in-depth experience with - the Portland Oregon BBB...my personal experience with the BBB ceased in about 1993...and since that time, the Evil Empire has indeed started its big and concentrated push for a New World Order...consequently, I'm sure the BBB has probably fallen in line with the edicts dictated by that group of individuals, and as an organization it now HAS to side with the evil corporate entities that line its pockets with gold - so everything that I wrote above simply outlines HOW THINGS USED TO BE, at that one BBB office in Portland, Oregon...back in the day.

Thought you might be interested in this info - feel free to post it if you want...

- Chris

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