Friday, September 08, 2006

BBB a joke, or what?

Over the years I have seen a lot of journalists tell consumers to contact the Better Business Bureau (BBB) when they have problems with companies that are selling defective merchandise, don't honor their contracts, or don't even respond to phone calls or (e)mail.

In my experience, the BBB is a toothless organization that offers little help to consumers. When I had some dress shoes resoled several years ago, the shoe repair shop owner would not lift a finger when his work didn't hold up for even a month. I said I would contact the BBB and he laughed, saying "Go ahead! I'm not a member."

When I was doing some research for this article, I noticed that Equifax is a current sponsor of the BBB Web site. Hmmm. Not good. Why anyone would think a credit bureau would be interested in helping consumers instead of lenders and businesses is beyond me. Like the other two credit bureaus, Transunion and Experian, Equifax is busy trying to lure consumers into paying for their "credit score" when consumers can get all the relevant information free from each credit bureau once a year, per federal law, and every time they are denied credit because of the actions of a particular credit bureau. Credit bureaus do not have the best interests of consumers in mind.

I wonder if BBB really cares much about consumers. I have been involved with start up companies that claimed to be members of the BBB before they ever opened for business...in a particular incarnation, anyway. Lots of small (and some large) businesses seem to go though regular cycles of opening, going out of business in a hurry with a mob of angry customers at their heels, and reopening with a new name or in a new location. As far as I can tell, the requirements for being a BBB member in good standing are laughable.

But hey, that is what I have seen and heard. I'm curious as to what experience(s) any readers might have with the BBB actually helping to get an issue with a recalcitrant business resolved in a manner favorable to the consumer (assuming the complaint is justified).

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