Better Business Bureau

Better Business Bureau – huh?

Somehow got a copy of this 2016 NJ Better Business Bureau directory recently. And after flipping through it – does anyone even know what they do anymore?

I recall back in the day (prior to the internet), it was hard to resolve issues you might have with local businesses. And if you really got “shafted” by someone, and were angry enough – you’d “lodge a complaint” with the Better Business Bureau of your area.

Not many people took those steps, but when they did – they typically had a good chance of resolving their matter. It was like hiring “big guns” to step up to the plate for you. Results were not instant – and often took weeks or months to resolve. But people felt like they had a chance.

Additionally – being “rated” by the BBB was considered a badge of honor for local businesses – that many customers took as a way of vetting out shitty businesses. Same can also be said for the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.”

But apparently – it seems that most businesses don’t give a crap about the BBB anymore. Looking through their directory, I’d be surprised if even 0.1% of all NJ businesses are even listed anymore.


Were they ever good?

I’d suspect at one point in time – those badges and seals were legitimate and honest. It might have been useful to have human contact along the way.

But as almost any organization has the propensity for corruption, I can imagine that the BBB and Good Housekeeping eventually went “on the take.” A payment here for a good rating, or “hush money” for suppressing bad news – became par for the course. Plus, many businesses felt that the annual fees were not helping them earn more money.

And the fact that the internet swept them off their feet – and on their asses – the boat sailed without them.

Comments, social media (and social shaming)

borat-thumbs-upSince those types of accolades are not the same anymore, and over the past 20 years, the internet has supplanted those types of methodologies.

People now take care of business like that indirectly. And it’s become a bit of a shit show too. Angry tweets, petitions, and all sorts of other (hardly thought-out actions).

We can safely presume that 90% of the people make negative reviews public, while 10% of those who are satisfied find the time to share the good news. That makes decision-making much harder.

Also – public commenting systems are often filled with fake trolls that throw off the accuracy.

And with some companies getting WAY TOO BIG to effectively handle customer service, it’s become almost the wild west again – and very hard to trust. You’re on your own.

Stick with what works – experience and word of mouth

The way I see it nowadays – there is still nothing better than word of mouth recommendations. From friends, and or neighbors who can either physically demonstrate items they bought – or at least tell you directly what their experiences were.

And as you interact and share personally with others – you build your own “reputation ranking” system to determine if others have good judgment.

It certainly won’t work all the time – especially if you’re pushing new envelopes in terms of an untested product or service. But it beats the confusing mess online reviews have become.

Being able to physically inspect products prior to buying is also a plus. Which is why I hope physical stores will be around for a long time. However, with ridiculous rents and other over-head, we may just end up with Amazon for everything – as long as their return policy is so generous.

How do you handle complaints these days?

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