You may have seen a headline like this in the news last week; “The Better Business Bureau said Tuesday that it expelled the Los Angeles chapter after an investigation into an apparent pay-to-play scandal.”
Well, we could have told you that was going on.
Until recently, if you checked the BBB web site for DiscountASP.NET you would have seen this:
An F rating, even though we had only six complaints from some 70,000 customers over a period of seven years, and we responded to five of those six complaints using the BBB “guidelines.”
Naturally I was curious as to how this could be, so I called the Better Business Bureau to find out. The friendly woman who answered the phone asked if we were “accredited.” When I said we were not, she said, “You should consider it. Accredited business generally receive higher rankings.”
That sounded like an outright and unabashed admission of a “pay to play” scam, which surprised me, so I asked for clarification. “So you’re saying if we pay for accreditation you can make the ‘F’ into an ‘A’?”
“Well, I can’t guarantee that,” chuckle, chuckle, “but if you were accredited you would be able to speak directly with an account manager, and they can usually clear up any problems you may be having, such as a low rating.”
I thanked her, hung up and thought, “So the Better Business Bureau gives us an F unless we pay? Well, F the Better Business Bureau!”
Now the news comes out that there has been a “pay-to-play scandal” that’s been talked about for years. It sounds like it may have been one of the worst kept secrets in Los Angeles. But apparently a lot of businesses played ball with the BBB because the cost of “accreditation” was only a few hundred dollars a year. I’m sure many of them simply considered it a cost of doing business.
We’re funny around here though, and those kinds of things rub us the wrong way. We don’t pay extortion money to RBLs or business bureaus. It’s a slippery slope that we choose not to go down. Nothing against anyone who did pay the Los Angeles BBB for a rating. Hey, it’s understandable.
But the Better Business Bureau is a holdover from a time when people couldn’t readily speak to each other about their experience with a business. The BBB has effectively been rendered obsolete by 1001 different rating and ranking sites. Not that those sites are necessarily any more objective (and many of them are “pay-to-play” as well), but the BBB just seems like a quaint, dusty old institution these days.
I just checked the BBB web site to see what kind of rating we had in light of the recent excommunication of the Los Angeles chapter and found this:
We’ll see what happens from here, but you may want to think twice before putting too much stock into ratings from places like the Better Business Bureau. You never know what they really mean.