Friday, February 11, 2011

Can you trust the Better Business Bureau?


Don’t worry. River City is safe,for now; however, a big problem has been uncovered in Los Angeles as reported by Sharon Bernstein, Los Angeles Times, on February 8, 2011.

The article entitled “Head of Local Better Business Bureau Rescinds Resignation” states: “The beleaguered head of the local Better Business Bureau, who resigned in December amid controversy over the group's letter-grade rating system and his high salary, has rescinded his resignation…William Mitchell, who made more than $400,000 in 2008 running the Southern California chapter, had resigned in the middle of an audit of the chapter by the National Council of Better Business Bureaus..”

Bernstein’s article continues “Nationwide, Better Business Bureaus have been embroiled in a scandal over their now-discontinued practice of giving businesses better grades if they became dues-paying members. The system was based on one devised under Mitchell's leadership of the Southern California chapter, where businesses have long complained that heavy-handed recruitment tactics amounted to a system of pay for play. The controversy reached its peak last fall when L.A. business owners critical of the BBB obtained high ratings for fake firms immediately after paying membership dues for them.” The entire article can be found at,0,2836402.story.

So what’s a consumer supposed to do? The Federal Trade Commission web site ( is a great place to start. It provides valuable information as does the Federal Bureau of Investigation web site ( Unfortunately, both sites refer you to the Better Business Bureau. One may wonder why neither agency has publically stated investigations of BBB practices discussed above.

The bottom line is simple. Take responsibility for and be an alert consumer. Provide your own due diligence.

What about third party endorsements? They can be extremely valuable if properly used by the customer. Ex movie stars touting reverse mortgages or Medicare approved diabetes paraphernalia ARE GETTING PAID for the endorsement! Companies providing telephone directories for “approved” vendors are typically nothing more than publications in which anyone may advertise. They can’t be adapted for the “bad apples” until the next year’s publication. And don't forget those Non Profits (NGOs)offering medical and other insurance. They hardly ever offer competitive pricing as they are reimbursed by a single or captured Insurer. Legal, but also resembles pay for play!

Then there is We provide third party endorsements for organizations that provide goods and services to senior citizens. The Businesses and Professionals who participate in the program agree to abide by a code of ethics found on the web site to provide merchandise and service at the high level they would provide their own parents. Members agree to meet with and attempt to resolve misunderstandings.

The site is both business and consumer friendly. Business participants proudly show the Merchant Seal of Approval on their website and know they won’t be dinged for anonymous and unfounded grievances. Consumers know their unresolved legitimate claims will be reviewed and posted in a timely manner.

For information to join and provide that ‘extra effort’ to work with and treat seniors fairly, visit our web site. Questions and comments may be sent to

Regards, Fred Claridge

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