In 2010, Carmen of charmandhappy.com was featured on the news show 20/20 on ABC. The 20/20 show was about the Better Business Bureau was being accused by business owners of selling grades for money. The show showed a few business owners running a sting on the BBB where they made up companies and were given an A after paying a membership fee. Many business owners felt this was nothing but a shakedown racket.
Carmen’s company provides clowns for businesses. Charm and Happy Clowns was listed on the Better Business Bureau’s website with a C- because of a two-year old complaint which had already been resolved. Carmen was told by a BBB telemarketer she had to pay a membership fee to remove the C-. Carmen paid $395.00 and the very next day her grade was changed to an A+. Carmen’s concern was if she is paying for a grade then how is the consumer supposed to trust the BBB?
In June of 2015, I reached out to Carmen to see how things were in the past five years. I asked the following questions and here are the answers:
Q: When the BBB found out about what was going on. Did the BBB give you your money back?
A: The Better Business Bureau did not give me my money back. At the end of the year, the BBB asked if I wanted to rejoin and I astutely said, “No way.” The BBB ended up charging my card for the full year amount. I shockingly could not believe they would even dare do that since there dealing with me. But the BBB did reverse the charges for the new charge.
Q: What happened after the news story aired? What happened with the BBB and your grade?
A: Nothing, they made no contact. The grade stayed as an A+ for the year. Then the next year after they reversed the charges for the membership, I had no grade and was not listed at all even as a business listing of a nonmember.
Q: I know your grade was a C- before the news story aired and on the story you got your grade changed to an A+. Now in 2015 its listed as a “no rating”. Do you know why your listing says “no rating”?
A: Yes, because I did not want to be a paid member.
Q: Have you had any other interaction with the Better Business Bureau since the news story aired?
A: The only interaction was when the BBB wanted me to renew the membership and when I called upset that the BBB had charged my card in full after I already stated I did not wish to renew.
Q: Please tell me anything you can about issues or happenings with the Better Business Bureau.
A: Before the TV exposure, for years the BBB would try to solicit membership on the grounds that they claimed clients checked with them for trust issues. Being a member would help clients trust the business. I would tell them I have excellent references from celebrities, schools, high profile companies, parents, and churches.
As of today Charmed and Happy, Clowns is listed as “no rating” with no complaints within in the last three years. Wonder why?
The Better Business Bureau has been well respected for many years. That was because the BBB was impartial. The Attorney General at the time Richard Blumenthal said: “the grading system is unworthy of consumer trust.” The Attorney General at the time Richard Blumenthal sent a demand letter to the BBB calling on them to stop using the nationwide grading system. The Attorney General at the time Richard Blumenthal said: “the grading system is harmful and misleading to consumers.”
The Better Business Bureau later did close down the Los Angeles BBB and vowed to make changes and use a new system. But has the BBB changed?
After looking through hundreds of companies who became paid members, it seems they have not. Almost all paid members have some sort of “A”. I understand the members must follow the BBB’s rules, but it is hard for one to believe all those members deserve an “A.”
Do you think the Better Business Bureau is stilling giving out good grades to paid members? Please tell NIR News in the comments below.