In 2014 I signed up for the The Better Business Bureau (BBB) who claims to offer “accreditation” for businesses that meet certain standards of quality, trustworthiness, and responsibility.
It’s true that more than 90% of consumers recognize the BBB, and they particularly relate the BBB symbol to honesty, quality, approval, good business standing, and reliability.
The BBB website claims “tens of thousands” of potential customers are visiting business websites from the listings.
The BBB charges businesses an annual fee based on the size of their organization. Small businesses under 100 employees can expect to pay within the range of $500 to $1,500 per year.
Upon signing up, they sent us a folder congratulating us on BBB accreditation and after that… nothing. Nothing of value that is.
I have attached a screenshot below of an Google Analytics report from my website AdInfusion.com which shows referral traffic from the BBB since I first setup a profile on their website in 2014.
That year we received one single visit from the BBB’s website. That visit lasted 43 seconds.
Since 2014 to date I have tracked 2 users who have found our website through the BBB.
As if that weren’t horrible enough paying hundreds of dollars for a couple clicks with an Avg. Session Duration of only 15 seconds, the BBB profile ended up doing us much more harm than just wasting money.
On more than one occasion we got fake complaints lodged on the BBB profile which the BBB publishes, with no regard to the authenticity of the comments. They publish the content on your profile and then you’re forced to reply… giving weight to otherwise ridiculous claims.
We’ve had complaints lodged using imaginary emails, fake names & addresses and non-working phone numbers. We told representatives from the Sacramento BBB about this and they just ignored us, and published the reviews, urging us to add more content to the complaints via responding.
This doesn’t work – it actually makes things worse because adding more content to a profile on an authoritative domain makes it rank better. If it ranks better better more people see the fake reviews.
We obviously didn’t renew our paid BBB listing, but our company continued with an A+ rating since, you know, we always follow responsible, honest practices.
Until I called them out for being a complete waste of money and for ignoring our pleas for them to review the fake reviews.
Then they yanked our score down to F, claiming we were implying that we were an Accredited Business.
Their website actually explains that its fine to advertise your current BBB rating.
Their email provided screenshots detailing how we advertised our rating, and its pretty clear that we didn’t claim to be accredited, just advertised our A+ rating which they allow according to their BBB Name And Logo Use Policy.
Then they had their lawyers send a takedown request to my host, in an effort to shut the whole website down.
In a legal context, a chilling effect is the inhibition or discouragement of the legitimate exercise of natural and legal rights by the threat of legal sanction. The right that is most often described as being suppressed by a chilling effect is the US constitutional right to free speech. A chilling effect may be caused by legal actions such as the passing of a law, the decision of a court, or the threat of a lawsuit; any legal action that would cause people to hesitate to exercise a legitimate right (freedom of speech or otherwise) for fear of legal repercussions.
So we took down the BBB logo off the site. It hasn’t effected conversion rates on the website or the amount of leads I get from the site. Obviously we didn’t lose any traffic.
Sadly I’m not alone in this struggle. A closer look at the Sacramento BBB’s yelp page shows more of the same. They currently have a 2 star rating.
Filled with complaints from people like Nick Z from Rocklin who also obviously didn’t see the benefit of their “accreditation”.
Karisa H from W. Sacramento also was burned from relying on your company for one of the most important purchasing decisions of her life.
C.C. from Beale AFB, he knows what’s up too.. calls it like he sees it “extortion”.
Guys like Cesar Cabellero who reached out to the BBB for help before he posted that 1 star review. People like Jeramiah Mileham who discovered he had been ripped off by the BBB as well.
Buyer beware.. these aren’t isolated incidents, this is a pattern that has been going on for years!
I want you to know if you’re facing similar issues, you’re not alone! Also – I’m here to help you hold the BBB accountable if they have hurt your business too. Contact me with your story and I’ll help you out.