Though the Better Business Bureau may "start with trust" at its core, for the council's Southern California chapter, the journey ended in expulsion. Built upon honesty, the BBB works to protect every consumer's best interests by making sure companies across industries uphold the highest standards and keep true to their promise. But when an ABC News investigation uncovered this hidden "pay to play" culture, the BBB determined that this chapter did not maintain the very standards this organization commands.According to the investigation, the southern California BBB chapter permitted companies to pay a membership fee in order to obtain an A-range grade without needing to meet the necessary criteria for accreditation. But, as Carrie Hurt, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau, said, accreditation involves more than just pushing paper--it involves pushing standards. Brands must meet the standards first, then apply for accreditation and pay the licensing fee that allows them to use the BBB approval logo in association with the company's name. Instead, the former chapter allowed money to overpower integrity, putting the almighty dollar ahead of the BBB's reputation (and evidently neglecting to do its job in the process).
For instance, one investigator was able to register a decoy company named Hamas within hours of having their credit card approved, no assessment necessary, while one segment of Wolfgang Puck's food empire received an F because he refused to the amount necessary to garner an A. Yet, while Hurt emphasized that this was one isolated case, one cannot help but wonder if such fraudulent behaviors are currently underway throughout other BBB chapters. While consumers surely want to believe that this single incident was an extreme example of representation gone awry, the southern California chapter has besmirched the BBB's good name, adding an ounce of skepticism to the mix.
One chapter may have gotten caught, but how many others have become caught up in the pursuit of money? Can we be positively positive that those BBB markers mean a company provides superior service, or must we sit and wonder whether they used a credit card to get accredited? Of course, we'd hate to admit that this 100-year-old institution might be facing a period of faltering trust, but with such issues comes the need to rebuild and repair. We can only hope that, by sharing this story openly and honestly, the BBB will be able to recover quickly with little damage to its reputation and the standing of the brands and companies that truly deserve the honor.