Sunday, November 14th, 2010

Honestly, I don’t see how this story is very relevant:

(Besides the point that BBB has ZERO enforcement power, anyway.)

BBB is where you go to look for complaints, not praises. You check up on a company to see if people have complained about …it. When they have, it shows you how many people have complained, and how many people had their complaints resolved satisfactorily.

If someone made up a fake company called “Hamas”, of course it’s going to have an A rating — nobody has complained about it, because nobody’s been fucked over by it, *because it doesn’t exist*. It SHOULD have an A rating. A on BBB means nobody has submitted any complaints about the company.

The government, of course, doesn’t want private competition. It has its own complaint systems. And it loves big business, bribes, and corruption. Government systems, of course, hide facts under privacy laws… For instance, Virginia’s DPOR is great, but when you find out a complaint, you get 0 details. You have to call/write in to get them to send you a copy weeks later. They have legal enforcement powers [got my addition contractor de-licensed by the time he was done, 3 yrs to do a 3 month contract], but they don’t have a lot of readily available information, as complaints have to meet legal standards and when you make a deal to get your job finished, the complaint disappears.

BBB is superior in the sense that they don’t flush their data away or have government privacy policies holding them back. You get far more information.

This story is pretty much a contrivance for the government to try to stamp out the BBB (so they can be the only authority for such information), using this “OMG THEY GAVE TERRORISTS A+” pathetic tea-party-esque fear campaign. Appealing to terrorism fears to manipulate opinion of the Better Business Bureau is just… wow. Wow. Wow. Very poor, sensational journalism.

Of course, BBB didn’t have this grading system until 2 yrs ago. Buying a grade is bad. But a grading system is more precise than “satisfactory” vs “not satisfactory”. The old system required you to look at the total number of complaints and make your own decision. That can be very time consuming if you’re checking 20 companies out to pick one.

But what does the “buy a grade” money go to?

Does it pay for BBB to investigate past complaints and make sure they were met with a satisfactory conclusion? If so, then it’s not as bad as it sounds. If a company screws someone, and that person complains, it lowers the grade. If the grade can only go up if a complaint is resolved, and the person never updated their complaint later [open ticket], someone needs to figure out what happened. Make calls. Gather information. That costs money.

$395 seems really high, though.

But could the $395 could simply be a fine? If you are bad to customers, they complain, and you get a bad BBB grade — pay us $395 and we’ll raise your grade. That is actually good for consumers. If a company has to pay $395 every time it makes someone complain, then that expense will give them incentive to fix their practices. This is no different than the police fining someone for speeding — that reduces the odds that that person will speed in the future.

Basically, BBB has no enforcement, but it’s still needed. And there’s nothing wrong with a grading system. But this “OMG HAMAS IS A+” is so overly sensational that it’s kind of hard to take the real critiques within the article as seriously. Even if people are “buying A ratings”, that means that they care about their opinion. I’d rather do business with someone who bought an A than someone who didn’t bother to buy an A. (more…)