sorry, this is long, but you may find it interesting... ; )
If I would have been told this story two years ago I never would have believed it.
I invite your scrutiny. I urge you to verify the facts.
But you need to know the truth about the "Better" Business Bureau.
I thought I was all alone going against these guys, but if you visit bbbroundup.com, you'll see that this is an AMERICAN story.
Congressman Anthony Weiner from New York was on the Bill O'Reilly Show in December 2009. He made the following comment:
"The L.A. Times reported this of the Better Business Bureau; one of the ways you can get an "A+" [rating] is to pay higher dues…"
Mr. O'Reilly asked, "Are you saying the Better Business Bureau can be bribed?”
I'll let you decide the answer to that for yourself.
Wolfgang Puck certainly believes this. His class action lawsuit filed against the BBB in November 2010 states categorically that he was given an "F" rating for "refusal to pay dues."
Well, that's what happened to me.
Here's my story:
My rating with the BBB had always been an A since joining years ago. That changed when my book, "The Every Other Day Diet", got picked up by an international affiliate and sales shot through the roof overnight.
Our customer service department was equipped to handle about 100 calls and emails a day up until then. When EODD took off like a rocket, our calls jumped tenfold in a matter of days.
Naturally, our CS suffered for a month or so until I could train additional staff to answer the questions. And, consequently, our rating with the BBB fell from an A to a B-.
Please hear this: IF the BBB is the legit company they claim to be (more on that in a moment) I would agree with this assessment. As painful as that is to admit, it's the truth.
We dropped the ball because we never saw the pass coming in the first place.
So, we were a B- company for a few months. However, once we regained our footing and increased CS staff, including building a totally custom software system that drives help.jonbenson.com, at a cost of over $80,000.00, we were ready to return to the good graces of the BBB.
We earned those good graces. We earned them with our clients. With our peers.
Just not with the BBB.
For the record, here are the top 3 reasons why clients contact our Customer Service department (in order):
1. "I did not receive my downloads." Our online system at help.jonbenson.com solves those issues in most cases. 90% of the time the client received the email with their download link, but it went into their spam or junk folder. Also, many times, the client did not click the final order link, thinking perhaps it was just a page with order details. Without clicking that last button (it does say YOU MUST CLICK on the page and button…: ) the order cannot be recorded.
Despite our best efforts at educating the customer as to how our order process works, and believe me I think we can do even better.
THIS SINGLE ISSUE ACCOUNTED FOR OVER 80% OF OUR C.S. CALLS AND EMAILS! Not dissatisfaction with the product, but rather the inability to locate the downloads. You should know this, as the VAST MAJORITY of our BBB complaints were related to this particular problem. In reality, if the user follows the directions, this is rarely if EVER a problem. Still, I understand how it goes when you order online. I do it all the time, and occasionally I rush past a page I should have read. We're only human. : )
We have since gone to a redundant email system. TWO emails are sent out from two different sources. That, along with our lookup system, helped decrease these issues significantly.
2. "I thought this was a physical book." We clearly state that our clients "receive immediate access via our digital downloads…" Still, especially for clients not accustomed to purchasing e-books, MP3 files, Flash video files, and other forms of digital media, the confusion is understandable.
For the majority, once these facts are brought to their attention, they either (a) are totally satisfied, knowing they are getting exactly what they paid for; or (b) request a physical copy be sent at cost plus shipping. We comply to make the client happy. We usually toss in a few extras for their troubles as well.
3. A technical issue involving how to save a file, how to open a file, etc. This accounts for only 5% of our CS calls and emails, as 95% of computers today automatically open and read the file structures we use.
Consider these facts as well:
Only 4.7% of our clients opt to refund our products total. That's an INCREDIBLY LOW refund rate, given the fact that (a) unethical people order and instantly refund, and yes, that does happen; and (b) people who are genuinely dissatisfied have a VERY easy refund process.
That should tell you how good our products and services are. : )
Still, when you sell literally thousands of books, products, and services a day, these numbers add up. And, if a reader uses some form of contact that is NOT on the order page, such as posting to a blog, sending an EMAIL (never reliable; 10% of all email gets lost and over 35% goes into spam or junk mail folders), or even dialing the wrong number for Customer Service, they will not get the answer they seek.
This happens to the best companies in the world. Why? Because we are ALL comprised of people who make mistakes… plain and simple.
The mark of an excellent company is not to be flawless, but rather to repair their mistakes as quickly and painlessly for the client as humanly possible. That's all I ask out of any company. That's all any company can deliver.
Rational people understand this. There are very few irrational people on our customer list. Perhaps we're lucky in this regard; or perhaps it's good karma.
THAT is an "A+" company in our opinion.
So, over 97% of all our customer service emails and phone calls are dealt with promptly and to the total satisfaction of our customers.
The BBB? They chose to focus on the 3%. And subsequently, our rating fell to a B-.
Remember three things about the BBB:
1. Customers who contact the BBB rarely chose to contact our customer support FIRST. Had that done so their issues would have been handled by us personally.
2. Those who did and "fell through the cracks" during our expansion were right to do so. However, at least SEVEN of these individuals fell through the BBB cracks as well (thanks to their email-only protocol.) Unlike the BBB, we fully acknowledge our mistakes. They have not to this very day, except once on the phone, saying, "Our email server was down for a time, so some complaints may not have reached you." Did that matter? No. Our score was still lowered.
3. The BBB is NOT A GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATION! The BBB is a privately-held 501( c ) company. Each branch is self-governing. There is no mechanism in place to complain to the BBB about the BBB. In fact, the BBB isn't even a member of the Better Business Bureau! Talk about irony.
Again, I can live with that during the months in 2010 when we grew so rapidly. However, we not only repaired any gaps we had in Customer Service… we vastly improved the experience for our users. We actually set some new standards in the online industry!
*** Our rating was never returned to normal. ***
I contacted the BBB personally dozens of times to get this matter resolved. A representative would rarely even return my calls, despite paying close to $1,000.00 per year in membership dues.
When contacted after many attempts, I was told that we "needed to resolve outstanding complaints" in order to have our rating restored.
Outstanding complaints? We had ZERO in our inbox.
( NOTE: We 'begged' the BBB to allow us an online ADMIN to log in and check for any complaints. We were originally told that "no such admin is available." The day before I resigned my membership, we were told that we "could pay a premium fee" for this very same admin tool we were told did not exist. Hmm… a bit fishy? )
So… the BBB is relying on EMAIL to deliver highly-sensitive complaints?
Yes. Yes they are.
Here's the kicker:
After busting our BUTTS for months to satisfy every complaint, every hurdle the BBB asked us to jump, and then some, our rating DECREASED.
Something smelled MORE than fishy at this point.
I decided to conduct some research into the BBB that very same day. An ABC Special Report story had just broken. Here's an excerpt from the LA Weekly story on the BBB:
"Business owners said [The BBB] was all about membership money. And ABC set out to prove that by buying $425 annual memberships for businesses that didn't exist, including one called ... Hamas (the radical Islamic group). The news organization listed Bill Mitchell [the Los Angeles BBB CEO!] as Hamas' leader.
"Another nonexistent business also gained membership, ABC News claims. It was named Stormfront, for a white supremacist group."
I READ THAT LAST PARAGRAPH AND RESIGNED MY MEMBERSHIP THAT DAY.
I don't care if I lose business… and I do. I lose business every day thanks to The BBB. But I'll be damned if I'll be associated with a business who would give an approval rating to a white supremacist group. PERIOD.
After I notified the BBB that I would no longer renew my dues, get this:
My approval immediately fell to an "F"!
That's right: I was a "C" (for who knows what reason) and I fell to an "F" literally within two days.
I then took this up with legal counsel. I was told that the BBB was already in several class action lawsuits, the most notable of which is the Wolfgang Puck suit.
Since then, hundreds of complaints have been filed against The BBB, and I can only hope legal action will be taken.
However, rather than fight a hopeless legal battle with the BBB (they have more money than I ever will, I'm sure) I decided to take to the trenches and use my reach on the Internet to tell the TRUTH as I and many others see it about the BBB.
I URGE YOU to Google this stuff and find out for yourself. If you for one second doubt my story, please look into it. Just Google "BBB lawsuit" and see what you find. Or "BBB pay for ratings".
Do you REALLY want to do business with a company that bribes another company to appear more legit than they may be? Could that be what's happening here?
Again, you decide. I already have.
Listen: I want your business. Especially if you are interested enough to read this entire story. And you can absolutely trust me with it. Rather than state this, I back it up with proof. Here's how:
I have an entire staff for simple customer service issues, but if you feel wronged in any way, you let ME know. If I don't take care of the problem to your satisfaction, I'll be glad to give you DOUBLE your money back.
However, as for the BBB and trying to "impress you" with a wonderful score? No deal. I am not playing their game because, from first-hand experience, I find it unethical and possibly even illegal.
I am not saying that all BBB members are unethical… not at ALL. Very, very few people know about this, including upstanding businessmen and businesswomen who join or have joined their local BBB with nothing but the best of intentions.
What I "am" saying is this: After looking at these facts and experiencing what I experienced, it would be unethical FOR ME to do business with The BBB.
Even at the cost of losing YOUR business.
I truly hope legal action is brought against the BBB some day very soon. If it is, it will be because of stories like this, and probably much worse.
Until that day, they are innocent until proven guilty.
That's more respect than they EVER gave my business; One that has a stellar reputation in every community outside this questionable organization called The BBB.
Thank you for your time and your consideration of these matters.
President, JBF Nutrition
3-Time Bestselling Author
Ex-BBB Member and PROUD OF IT