Monday, December 08, 2008

Why I Cancelled My Better Business Bureau Membership

When I first became of a member of the Better Business Bureau, I was under the assumption that it was an organization that I could trust to be fair to both businesses and consumers. My recent experience with a complaint filed against Hewlett-Packard and Staples caused me to rethink my position and cancel my membership.

Complaint Against HP

In a recent blog article, I discussed a problem with a defective HP laptop that I purchased at Staples in October 2008. After 3 weeks, the sound card and network card both failed. Staples refused to exchange the laptop and HP wanted me to send it back for repairs. Their repair and warranty policy was in the box.

It took HP over a week to send me the box to return the laptop and another 3 weeks to make the repairs. While waiting for the return, I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.

When I received the laptop back, HP failed to even address the network card. The BBB closed the file before the repairs were even complete. When I asked to have the complaint reopened so I could add information about HP's failure to provide a complete repair, I was rudely told by San Jose BBB employee Erin McCool that she felt HP had handled the situation "appropriately." When I asked to speak with Ms. McCool's supervisor, she stated that her supervisor was the CEO and that she was out of town. I have yet to hear any further response from Ms. McCool's supervisor.

It appears that local Better Business Bureau's are actually run like franchises and there are no uniform rules for dealing with consumer complaints. I suppose that explains why HP can maintain a satisfactory rating with the BBB while it has over 2000 open consumer complaints. The San Jose BBB swept my complaint under the rug, so I refiled it with the new information to see how HP will address my complaints.

Complaint Against Staples

I also filed a complaint against Staples with the San Diego Better Business Bureau, which is where I purchased the laptop. The San Diego BBB informed me that all complaints involving Staples are sent to the BBB in Natick, MA. The transfer occurred on November 4, 2006. However, the BBB in Natick, MA has no record of receiving the complaint. The complaint was "retransferred" on November 26, 2008. The Natick office still has no record of my complaint and there has been no response whatsoever from Staples.

Most BBB offices do not allow you to search and review the specific complaints against a business. Instead, it gives the business time to respond. A business can maintain a satisfactory BBB rating without regard to the sufficiency of the response to a consumer complaint. Even businesses that routinely victimize customers can maintain a satisfactory rating if they are "responsive" to a consumer's complaint.

My experience has shown that the BBB complaint process is both burdensome and unreliable. If I cannot have faith in how the BBB handles consumer's complaint, I cannot have faith in the ratings system it uses to rate businesses.

About the Author: Carl H. Starrett II has been a licensed attorney since 1993 and is a member in good standing with the California State Bar and the San Diego County Bar Association. Mr. Starrett practices in the areas of bankruptcy, business litigation, construction, corporate planning and debt collection.


Anonymous said...

That is so upsetting. These huge companies think they can just squash customer complaints. Don't they see if organizations like the BBB were really effective, it would make them better companies. Their customers would be more loyal, and they would make more money,

Anonymous said...

It's even worse in some cases. I had a bad experience with a car dealership in a fairly good sized town in Tennessee. When I told the dealer I was going to call the BBB, he told me he was the Automotive Section Board Member for the BBB and he would be sure that my complaint was handled properly. I filed the complaint and, true to his word, the complaint never saw the light of day.

Anonymous said...

BBB is supported by the local companies and they are not stupid enough to ever find in favor of the customers.

BBB is a database of customer complaints and the way they were handled in favor of the accused business so they can shut down future complaints based on all kinds of dreamed up reasons and "precedents" that worked.

BBB is a trap to keep customers from going to court and file their complaints where they should be filed in the first place.

BBB is at the end of the day a business that has to survive on the good will donations of local businesses. If the local businesses are unhappy, they won't donate and thus BBB will lose funding.

BBB is a sack of guano.

Anonymous said...

And, the BBB posts false negative press releases, to non-paying business members by merely taking the "word" of consumers. Please. They are not an investigating firm. An investigating firm looks at BOTH sides and makes an intelligent decision based on facts, not just the word of a customer. The ratings are inaccurate as well for many businesses, especially online businesses.

But, hey you cannot really complain to the BBB about the BBB. unbiased? I think not. If they truly were, wouldn't they have their OWN page dedicated to the numerous complaints against their business practices? You would think so. said...

I knew about the crookedness of the Better Business Bureau a year ago. Thanks to ABC News for their feature last night. Click for Information on the Better Business Bureau chicanery

Anonymous said...

How does one cancel their membership with the BBB?

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I had a problem where a BMW dealership screwed up on my auto loan, promised me one rate when I ordered the car and tripled the interest rate when I went to pick it up. Long story short I had BMW financial fix their mistake. I complained to the BBB which says on their website they will evaluate if the business has responded appropriately to complaints. I got a reply from the D-bag who ordered the car and it contained insults and lies. I wrote back with proof that he was wrong and said that I want them to apologize for their mistake. The BBB of San Diego closed the case saying that the dealership responded appropriately. What a crock! "The BBB is a worthless entity that projects an image of arbitrator but does very little to resolve anything." BBB=scam!