The Southland Better Business Bureau in California today admitted that it made a mistake by accrediting a fake company called Hamas and giving it an A- rating, but insists that it does not damage its credibility or that of the Better Business Bureau.
Unidentified critics of the BBB’s letter grade system – to show how high grades can be purchased – signed up two non-existent businesses, paid $425 for each to the Southland BBB (Los Angeles area) and both businesses were immediately up on the BBB.org web site as accredited businesses with prized A- ratings.
Normally, a new business seeking to get on the BBB.org site without paying the annual accreditation fee would get a C or slightly better rating, never an A. It takes cash for that to happen.
One of the sites was called Hamas – an obvious reference to the terrorist organization in the Middle East – and said on the BBB site that its purpose was to provide “educational programs for troubled youth”
The BBB published on its site the following:
Our opinion of what this rating means:
An excellent rating. A company with this rating may not rate higher because of a greater number of rate-lowering factors, but we do not consider them to be factors that would likely adversely affect consumer transactions.
“Jimmy Rivers,” a former journalist and now a California businessman has been writing about the Better Business Bureau’s letter grading system for two years – like I have – and disclosed the Hamas incident earlier this week on his website www.bbbroundup.com.
Today I called Gary Almond, vice president at the Southland BBB organization – the largest in the country.
Almost said his staffers got taken.
“They mislead us,” he said, insisting that proof that the BBB will give its A rating to anyone with a phone and a credit card does not damage its credibility.
“We have systems that check” to make sure businesses are legitimate, he said.
In this case, he said, his staff simply made a mistake. He said his staff did call the telephone number the business provided to make sure it existed.
He also said the money is being returned to the people who paid for the accreditations, which were taken down yesterday from the website.
Almond had to rush off so he did not have an opportunity to explain why Starbucks, which did not pay to get accredited, has much lower grades for its stores in California from the BBB. But if you go to www.bbbroundup.com you will get Jimmy Rivers’ answer. By the way, that is not his real name. He keeps that confidential to protect himself and his friends from retaliation from the BBB, which has been trying like crazy to learn his identity.
“So, where were these standards when the BBB accredited and welcomed the terrorist group HAMAS as a member?,” Rivers asks in his column.
“Now in case one might think this an isolated instance, be assured it’s not. A group of angry and frustrated businesses across the United States and Canada have decided to fight back. The registering of these BOGUS BUSINESSES has been ongoing for quite some time. The HAMAS registered with the BBB does not actually exist, except as a member of the Better Business Bureau. Here’s another Bogus Business that was awarded BBB accreditation from back in June of this year. Whatever happened to the review and acceptance that’s supposed to be done by the local Board of Directors of the BBB?”
“When I first started my investigation I found pretty early on that they were a corrupt and flawed organization. Never in my wildest dreams did I comprehend how fully invested the Better Business Bureau was in greed, hypocrisy and arrogance. The fact that anyone can call up the BBB and wave a credit card in front of them and get an “A” grade is just plain evil. It certainly exposes their grading system as being totally useless.”
“Unfortunately, it is the consumer and the small business who suffer from the BBB’s greed. My take is that the BBB should be shut down. Barring that, they need to immediately pull all grades from their websites and put right all that they have done wrong,” Rivers said.
In an editorial on his website, Rivers said expect more disclosures.
“And don’t forget readers, bbbroundup knows of dozens and dozens of other bogus businesses that have ALREADY received their accreditation and grade from various BBBs in the US and Canada.”