Better Business Bureau Fraudulent Sales Practices
Have any other small businesses had a problem with the BBB and there sales practices? We have for quite some time. Our franchises, (our company is a mobile car wash franchise company) are required to join the local Chambers of Commerce as part of their franchise when one exists in their exclusive territory. But as soon as they do the BBB calls up and says;
"We have been getting a lot of calls about your service, but we did not know what to tell those customers who asked about you with The BBB?" Then the pitch goes on … for about $ 300 plus dollars you will receive ….
Our franchises join the chamber prior to the commencement of their business while their mobile car wash service trucks are being built to get to know the communities they will be serving. Inver ably they will get the call from the BBB from the new member directory from the chamber of commerce before any advertising goes out, so in fact no one had ever called the BBB at all. This has happened to our franchisees in Carson City, NV; Palm Desert, CA; Agoura Hills, CA; Camarillo, CA; Sacramento, CA and Houston, TX. I realize that this is "telemarketing fraud" and I am concerned. I am told that many of the 128 BBBs across the country pay their salespeople either all or part commission. So perhaps this is an individual problem, yet their sales people have done this. I personally had had it happen five times to me as the franchisees signed up at the Chamber of Commerce in various cities and they did not have phones yet, so they called me at Corporate. As a franchisor I am responsible for any verbiage of any sales person given during a sale, should not the BBB also be liable for these falsehoods?
I contacted the Washington DC head office of the BBB and they denied that any such incident has ever occurred and referred me to the fact that they are a 90-year old organization. Maybe, but as it stands today they are breaking the law. This has occurred five times in sales calls to me personally from BBB representatives. I also contacted the Los Angeles BBB and was told that yes their sales people often use Chamber of Commerce lists of new members as well as look up names of anyone who has had a complaint filed against them. I was told of this off the record, yet I am using this information too. In other words they use the list of companies who had customers call in if it was a valid complaint or not as a sales tool. Interesting since accounting firms can not also be consultants these days. The hypocrisy of the BBB is a little unnerving and of course unethical if not out right fraudulent in my opinion. I was told at the LA office that "MOST COMPANIES" join the BBB. Impossible since there are over 1.6 million businesses throughout the greater LA, Orange County, Riverside, San Fernando Valley area and most could only be over 51%. This is an exaggeration by any stretch. This would mean they would have a minimum of 800,001 business members, when in fact they have less than one tenth that number in all of Southern California. Yet these same BBB offices take complaints about franchising and on many of their web sites tell buyers to be aware of exaggerations;
This is quite appalling and shows that both franchisors and franchisee attorneys should stand up and take notice; But this is not just a franchise business issue, it is a small business issue. All small business people are subjected to this and possibly harassed. Chambers of Commerce across this country signup their new members with public trust, yet this is being aborted by another organization the BBB. I was also told today by this sales person in Los Angeles that 9 out of 10 calls coming into the BBB were consumers looking for references of businesses for service or products. This is also an exaggeration and a falsehood (lie). If you call any BBB the answering machine usually states; "If you would like to make a complaint press 1 …" There is no mention of getting a reference and certainly few incoming calls result in new business for its business members. One of the benefits you receive is instant credit from the consumer, yet the organization issuing the stamp of approval lacks credibility and ethics of it's own.
Also of grave concern is the fact that even if you join the BBB and appear in the BBB phone book they produce in some markets, if you are disreputable you are still in print for the reminder of the year. And therefore we have the BBB promoting disreputable businesses for as much as 12 months. If someone files a complaint against your company whether real or imaginary (trying to get free stuff) you must settle the said complaint before you can renew, once again extortion.
I feel these sales techniques are fraudulent and disreputable. I am also concerned with the "Boomerang" closing techniques when the BBB sales person gets a negative response to join. "We will not be able to tell the people who call us that you are a reputable company." Implying that the consumer will assume the opposite, that you are disreputable company. This in itself maybe good for BBB sales, but it is an extortion technique. I have heard this extortion technique myself many times and phrased many different ways all-leading to the same tactic. Asking small companies to fork over $ 300 plus dollars is unnecessary and they will receive little if any benefit for their BBB membership. Perhaps the plaque displayed may be of value to customers in a store, but the way in which they attempt to sell it is dishonest.
The BBB works closely with the FTC and after contacting the BBB to make a complaint they told me I was wrong, and that I did not know what I was talking about and that the BBB would never do such a thing? Which is also a falsehood since I have experienced it first hand. When I told them that I might have to contact the FTC in this matter, they said go-ahead knowing their strength in alliance with the government
The BBB preys on small businesses of all types as well as franchised businesses for membership using these techniques. We called the FTC as well and they would not take the complaint. Perhaps this is because they work with the BBB in secretly using entrapment techniques to get franchisors to make unsubstantiated earnings claims. The FTC has also worked with the BBB to catch franchiseses of various systems in consumer fraud such as automobile repair, advertising claims and telemarketing techniques. So for this reason the FTC will not do anything about this issue.
The BBB is above the law. They often lie to prospective members to make sales, meanwhile attack franchisors using entrapment techniques from the inside while preying upon franchiseses to prove self worth in conjunction with other agencies in the media and also use extortion tactics to make money for membership fees. Imagine the money they have extracted from all the franchise systems of this country. Just imagine the number of small businesses who are struggling right now to make payroll as cash flow has lessened due to economic forces beyond their control. Over 10% of all Americans own some type of small business and can be subjected to these terrorismizing and extortion sales tactics. Most franchisors have many franchisees that are members of the BBB; This costs franchises each year and cuts into the profits of the franchised units. We have put this line of text in our franchise agreement:
5.1 You may not join the Better Business Bureau as a business member as part of this franchise with us.
I am very serious about this issue, having been lied to by BBB representatives for the last five years and today when I called to see if things had changed. I was hung up on by the BBB in Washington DC when I called to discuss this issue. The FTC will not do anything about it for fear of losing a partner. If the FTC will not look into this, why do we need an FTC or a BBB?
I have received several emails from concerned business people, for instance, Bob writes: "That's really interesting, is not it? One government bureaucracy is using what
Is "supposedly" to be a free-market entity to do the dirty work that they
Themselves do not have the Constitutional back to do in the first place.
Then, by not holding the BBB accountable for its fraudulent practices, it is
Basically saying to them, "You are a brother government agency – one of us -,
Free to terrorize whomever you want. "" I always thought that the BBB was basically a private organization that served as a watchdog, with a membership of businesses that could self-police. Almost, I was wrong. "
This is a nationwide problem not just a few rouge sales people in one part of the country or one of the BBBs 128 locations. In Atlanta Mr. Lee writes: "It's not just with franchises …. We get calls at our company stores in Atlanta, NYC, Chicago, and Birmingham with the exact same pitch pitch" blah blah … we've been getting a lot of calls About your company from your prospects, and we do not know what to tell them because you're not listed with us .. "" It looks like a total scam. I often feel stongarmed by them. Do you mind if I share your email with our attorney? "
Other people are also concerned with these issues, iCop Founder writes: "You certainly do not need to convince me! I know first hand that everything you're reported here is true. I have personally received the exact same treatment from the BBB in California. I had to threaten to sue them to get them to stop calling with the threats and harassment. A few years ago, when I had a complaint about one of their big name "sponsors" who ripped me off to the tune of several hundred Dollars, the only response from the BBB was, "They said they did not so it." This in spite of the fact that I had sent them undeniable proof! What is wrong with THIS picture ?! " "Unfortunately, I have no idea that anything can ever be done about it. They are protected by the government – as you have already found out. I did write a series of articles on it a couple of years ago. Them! Almost, the only thing we can do is educate people and warn them.
Pretty much like the Mafia making you pay for protection under threat, eh? But then when Quest is listed as one of their corporate sponsors, you have to know something's very wrong! Sorry we can not be more help but it's way too big a scam for iCop! When a government supported company like the BBB acts like nothing more than thugs, it's hard to be surprised at situations like Enron and Worldcom. "
But that is not all the smallest of small business also have been harassed, Greg Spunk writes about this from San Diego and an office now in Phoenix: "We have not joined the BBB in either the Phoenix or San Diego locations for similar reasons. Just verified what I already felt was happening. They are of no value to us and we have not missed them. "
In Pittsburg a small manufacturer writes in to us and says: "The same thing to me." Someone is calling about your business and we are not able to tell them anything since you are not a member …. It was $ 465 Dollars to join, and they called and called and called. I decided since I did not see the point. "
We received this from Albuquerque, NM from the proprietor of a small automated business who wanted her husbands company to remain anonymous; "It happened here for 6 months, same speil, We have been getting calls for your business etc. Finally I told them that I was not interested and to stop calling or I would call Santa Fe and talk to the DA. Susie"
I received this email from one of our own franchiseses;
"The BBB has called us and even after telling them I was too busy to make an appointment (after several calls), they dropped in when I was not home and told Gino I had made an appointment. , I told them we were too new to join yet, we had to watch our cash flow. "What's up with them?"
Franchisees coming into the market and / or having been laid off need to watch every penny they spend, if the BBB uses forceful tactics, then they are of detriment to the success of a new franchisee that is on a budget to get their businesses going. Then they show up at a personal residence without an appointment? The sales people are so aggressive and hound small businesses. What happened to privacy? Is the BBB resorting to new tactics after the recent telemarketing law became effective? The BBB was told by our franchise that they were not interested after several calls, so they show up at their house? I am sorry but is not this pushing it a little, general harassment? Yet no one will enforce these issues.
If any other Small Business Person, Chamber of Commerce, SBA office, SBDC or franchisor are having this problem, I would sure like to know. Yes we are busy too, but that does not mean we can allow this injury to continue. This is unacceptable behavior and the BBB should be disgorged of these ill-gotten gains. These monies should be rightfully returned to the businesses and the FTC should not get a dime since they are in cahoots with the BBB and are allowing this to continue for years on end. The FTC and the BBB should stop throwing stones at franchisors and their franchisee team members.