Friday, March 04, 2005


"Hello? Mr. Flyboy? This is the Better Business Bureau calling. We need to speak to you on a matter of utmost importance concerning your company StumbleKing Enterprises? Would you please return our call as soon as possible?"

A dagger through my heart. Who's mad at me? What have I done wrong? Breathlessly I dial them back .....

Most folks think the BBB is a governmental agency charged with consumer protection. Far from it, first and foremost this membership based not-for-profit organization promotes itself.

The first rule of business is survival. Survival requires funding. Funding requires dues-paying members. Those dues pay for everything, including the salaries of all employees and directors. Some are large salaries. These then are the people responsible for enforcing the BBB code of conduct, interdicting poor and contrary business practices. With whom? Why those dues-paying members, of course. Do you smell what I smell?

When you see a company advertising with the BBB logo, you might think to yourself, "This is an honest company". What might be more accurate is, "These folks forked out the hush money to purchase a veil of legitimacy." Because that's what the BBB is selling. They're a protection racket, disguised as a consumer advocacy group.

Have a complaint? Take it to your Attorney General, who has the force of law in the arsenal.

Need a recommendation? Look to Consumer Reports as THE model on how to produce independent arm's-length evaluations -

To maintain our independence and impartiality, CU accepts no outside advertising, no free test samples, and has no agenda other than the interests of consumers. (Source

The BBB? That's paying your sister to tell her girlfriend what a great guy you would be to date.

So what did these jokers want from me? Why, membership of course. After scaring the bejesus out of me with their ominous we've-got-a-problem message, it turns out to be a common sales call. Perhaps they ought to read their own material -

BBBs champion marketplace ethics and hold member and non-member businesses alike accountable to the highest standards of honesty in their advertising and selling. (Source:

Yeah. What they said.
Lest this be attributed to an overzealous or misguided individual, I have been receiving these calls on average every six months for the past ten years. It is established sales technique.


Anonymous said...

Hey, those StumbleKing guys screwed me too!! And with my pants on no less!! How do I contact these bizness buroo folks?? Sounds like the govement is finally taking care of us little guys. Stop whining Mr. Enron guy!!

sooray said...

While I agree the BBB does not have the teeth or is as effective as most citizens think, I think you're being a bit unfair. The BBB has 2 effective roles as far as I have seen. First, it can be an objective passive mediator between two parties in disagreement. Second, it is an excellent research resource for a consumer choosing, say, an auto repair shop. Their charter requires they make public for 2 years ANY consumer complaints, and their resolution. The AG can work better, tho I've found them to be bureaucratic and disinterested in individual complaints. I think one has nothing to lose by pursuing both options. I wholeheartedly agree on CU, they are amazing, how they've retained their objectivity for, like 70 years or something.

sooray said...

BTW, its the BBB's policy to notify you by US Mail of any complaint against your company.