The Better Business Bureau, an organization that has made a mission of building consumer confidence in the business community, celebrates its hundredth birthday in 2012.
The BBB describes its mission as “advancing marketplace trust” in pursuit of a vision of “an ethical marketplace where buyers and sellers can trust each other.”
The first local BBB began in 1912 as a volunteer committee of large and small business owners in Minneapolis seeking to root out and expose unethical business practices. Although the name Better Business Bureau wasn’t coined until four years later, this Minneapolis “Vigilance Committee” is considered the first BBB in the country. Businessmen in New York, Boston and Indianapolis also formed Vigilance Committees in 1912, and a national BBB was set up that year, too.
Today’s BBB is a network of 128 independent, local not-for-profit organizations located all over the United States and Canada. The BBB collectively employs more than 2,000 people. Local BBBs in the U.S. are affiliated through the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB). The Canadian Council of Better Business Bureaus (CCBBB) coordinates and licenses the local BBBs in that country.
The BBB was launched at a time when many ethical businessmen feared that confidence in the fairness of the marketplace had gotten so low that consumers no longer knew which businesses to trust. Government agencies and federal laws that fought fraud through the legal system were in their infancy, and many unethical business practices were rampant. The manufacture and sale of useless or even dangerous patent medicines was of particular concern at that time.
Today’s BBB educates consumers and business owners alike, and acts as an impartial, non-government body that self-polices the business community. Local BBBs offer mediation services to resolve customer complaints, and the BBB says that it handled more than a million consumer complaints just last year.
The BBB accredits businesses that pay a sliding-scale accreditation fee based on the number of employees they have, and that demonstrate adherence to its “Standards of Trust”:
- Build trust
- Advertise honestly
- Tell the truth
- Be transparent
- Honor promises
- Be responsive
- Safeguard privacy
- Embody integrity
Each standard is defined by the BBB in detailed, concrete terms that take into account a firm’s current practices and its track record of ethical behavior.
The BBB doesn’t provide recommendations or referrals to consumers, but it does assign ratings that are intended to give consumers an idea of how well each business it reports on measures up to BBB standards. The BBB formerly assign each business a rating of either “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory,” but in 2009 it instituted a system of letter grades. This grading system has sometimes been controversial – there have been allegations that some BBBs have a pattern of awarding higher grades to companies that have gone through the BBB accreditation process and paid its fees.
For decades,PADGETT BUSINESS SERVICES® has been a part of the small business community in cities across the U.S. and Canada. Like you, we believe in treating our customers with fairness and honesty. We offer small business bookkeeping, tax and payroll services that you can count on to save you time and simplify the job of running your business well and with integrity.