We started a new business trying to live the dream. In short, this simply means you're going to get a lot of sales calls. We expected that because we have owned a few businesses in the past.
Enter The Better Business Bureau (BBB Washington State). Until last week, I thought that the Washington BBB was a government-run organization, funded by my tax dollars. I thought that it was a neutral observer of business standards and practices, a place where one could get information on a legitimate business or where one could lodge a formal complaint against a shady one. Just about none of this is true.
The truth is that the Washington BBB is not run by the government, but they do a lot of business with the FTC - at least that's what I hear. They are a non-profit, charity organization known as a 501(c)(3). This means that whatever money you donate to their cause is tax-deductible. The money that you donate is to go into programs and charitable causes. The organization is supposed to report their income, report their board of directors, report about their programs, and so on. This information appears on IRS form 990.
So the Washington BBB calls me (Cold Call). Mind you, this was back when (last week) I thought that they were a legitimate organization. It went something like this:
The "Guy" called and said that he was from the Better Business
Bureau. My ears perked up: I thought either I have already done
something wrong, or that they are a really conscientious
organization interested in how I conduct my affairs.
He said that he wanted to set up an appointment to
visit my business. When I balked, he said that he could just ask
me some questions over the phone. So I said ok.
He asked questions that were already answered on the county DBA filing, so I answered diligently, thinking that he was probably checking up on me to verify if I had been honest on the DBA application. He finished his simple questions (e.g., do you have employees? How long have you been in business? What is the nature of the business ? ), and told me:
It costs $465 a year and that will carry you through June 2006.
We take credit cards or check by phone.
I was floored. The "Guy" cold-called me and thought that I'd
start giving out credit card numbers? Insane. I asked him,
"Excuse me, you can't bill?" He answered, "We do credit cards
or check by phone." Wary of phishing schemes, I told him that
I had no way to know that he was who he claimed to be and that
he would have to give me his information and I would call back
if I was interested.
The problems run deeper. An hour or so after they talked to me,
my business appeared on their web site. The information on the site is the information that I told them over the phone.
They never confirmed that information. Furthermore, they
assigned me a "BBB" rating of a C-. This means, paraphrased, that they have no reason to believe that anyone would have trouble doing business with me. What's curious is that many other local businesses, who are members of the BBB, have "A" or higher ratings. Hmmm. I wonder what my rating would be if I paid for a "membership".
More curious, and again I encourage anyone to look this stuff
up, I checked out the local Wal-Mart: they are a "member" of the BBB. They have had one complaint against them, but it apparently was resolved. So, they have an "AA" rating. I checked out the local Lowe's. They have 14 unresolved complaints against them and have an "F" rating. They are not members of the Washignton BBB. What a joke and Washington bbb scam.
curious, in my estimation, is the number of lodged complaints. These stores are no more than a couple of miles from each other and so have basically the same customer base. I find it impossible to believe that the BBB has only received
one complaint against Wal-Mart and 14 against Lowe's. This makes me suspect that a) the BBB is not recording complaints against their members; b) the BBB is not recording responses from non-members; c) the BBB might be "creating" complaints against non-members. Or some combination of these or others.
Hope this helps a new company and makes them more aware of the Washington BBB Scammers. If I help one business getting starting I have done my job.