How Do I...Get a Better Business Bureau Seal of Approval?

The Better Business Bureau, which promotes business ethics through self-regulation in the marketplace, cites a Gallup Poll that says three out of four consumers prefer to do business with a BBB member. But is it worth your while?

To be able to sport the seal, a business must become a member of the organization and meet a certain set of BBB standards. The average membership dues are about $400 annually, but according to the group's Web site, "in some cases it is less and depending on the size of the applicant firm, the dues structure may be higher."

The organization offers two main free services to the public - a complaint processing service and reliability reports. Both services are available for non-members too.

It also offers a for-fee arbitration service, which is a formal binding agreement that can be enforced by the courts. Feuding firms must agree to go into the BBB's arbitration process where an arbitrator will render a binding agreement. The arbitration service can be used when a business has a labor dispute or a dispute with a vendor, for example.

Great Scott Moving of Hyattsville, Md., has been a BBB member "of and on for 10 years or so," said Scott Gillis, the company's owner.

"In our line of business there are a lot of rogue movers out there," he said. "The BBB is a great way for consumers to find out about any business because if there's been a complaint about a business, the BBB has a record of it. It means a lot if you have a clean record."

The BBB approval also can act as an indicator of how well a company is operating.

The Internet-phone service provider SunRocket was kicked out of the BBB about a year ago after "we didn't like what we were seeing with their complaints and they had an unsatisfactory record," said Ed Johnson, the president and CEO of the BBB chapter overseeing the D.C. metro area. "Our reports are a good gage about a business - for both businesses and consumers." SunRocket of Vienna,Va., shuttered its doors last week, deeply in debt while leaving its customers with no service.

The BBB keeps complaint records on both member and non-member companies. The D.C. chapter, which also serves Northern Virginia and parts of West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, has about 9,000 members and 120,000 business records. Last year, it handled roughly 60,000 complaints and 2.1 million inquiries. On a quarterly basis, the D.C. metro chapter rejects and suspends roughly 40 firms, according to Johnson.

"The marketplace is very competitive, and a business can live or die by its reputation and how it treats is customers," he said. "For a small business to be associated with BBB, that stamp of approval sends significant message to its customers."

Small Business readers - are you a member of the BBB or is there another mark of approval out there that is more relevant to your industry?

By Sharon McLoone |  July 24, 2007; 6:00 AM ET How Do I...
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The fallacy of this is that SunRocket was a member in good standing of BBB when I initially contracted with them. They provided me with exemplary service and quality so I had no reason to question their stability when I renewed my contract in April of 2007.

Posted by: Carl F Sapelli | July 24, 2007 10:09 AM

Experience is a great teacher. A home improvement company, Remodel USA, claims to be a member of the BBB, but a check of their complaint records reveals they are not. They use their false BBB membership as a sales pitch. Check before you buy any goods or services from Remodel USA.

Also -- any franchises may be suspect. I had a major problem with a home inspection service (AmeriSpec) and found out they are only a franchise, which can be bought and sold to different owners. The issue I had with one inspector fell through because the new owner of the business wouldn't own up to the problem.

Posted by: Southern Maryland | July 24, 2007 10:43 AM

I put in many many hours of research, I found a great company which I signed up too.. called VIATALK They are offering a plan $199 a year for unlimited calling, just like sunrocket and they will give you in addition to the plan they offer you, up to 6 months free service , only if you were a sunrocket customer.

for example , if you sign up for their service for $199 a year and had been a customer of sunrocket and you had 4 months left on your sunrocket plan.. they will give you 4 months free

here is the link.. copy and paste this link in your browser

Posted by: mark 2 | July 24, 2007 3:37 PM

I'm a SunRocket (SR) customer who was stranded.

It is clear, SR management was lousy and the free market severely punished them. If Lisa Hooks is ever employed by some outfit, they deserve what they get.

(Remember the "ghost" of Bill Agee?)

VOIP and SR services are thankfully NOT regulated by Big Nanny government and their crony business partners who use excessive regulations to squash the small start-ups while erecting barriers to entry for those like SR and others. Limiting competition equates to higher prices and less service. But, opponents argue, at least you're "protected." Ha!

Hopefully the regulators will not listen to the big providers and create regulations. Let the VOIP market ride freely. We will be better off with these problems, like SR, than with the problems created by government regulations.

Plus, government is virtually incompetent and that is another wave of problems we consumers don't want to deal with. (Did someone say Katrina?)

Since the VOIP market is still free and at liberty to do business, offers came streaming to "pick-me-up" as a stranded SR customer. Economically, I'm a cheap pick-up for another VOIP.

I took a couple days to sort and sift and have made my VOIP decisions that are just right for me. The fellow who brought me into SR (and he got a $25 credit for his effort) chose another provider that works for him.

We both know that VOIP is a freewheeling and cowboy market. It was, and is, fun and less expensive than Las Vegas. And, like Las Vegas, it's not for everyone.

Consumers know nature of the deal ... you get to choose two of the following three ... Fast, cheap, or quality.

SR was fast and cheap.

Land lines are quality and fast, but not cheap.

Those who want fast, cheap and quality, generally look to government to have someone else pay for it. They are mooches, also known as statists.

As for the BBB, which you article mentioned, it is too bad that the BBB culture has sided with the mooches, government and their anti-competition cronies (many of whom are members of the BBB) to get more regulations enacted.

More regulations create a rich environment for consumers to find more reasons to complain; and receiving and processing complaints is the BBB's stock-in-trade.

The BBB is a private outfit who lost their free market bearings and has become more like the anti-competition businesses that use government favors (regulations, et al) to pad their bottom line ... again at the expense of the consumer.

Look to Underwriter's Laboratories for an excellent private watch-dog consumer group. They have my Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval ... but not the BBB.

Posted by: FreeMarket stopped SunRocket | July 24, 2007 6:51 PM

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