“In business you get what you want by giving other people what they want.” Alice Foote MacDougall
So I just got a call from the Better Business Bureau. Evidently since I’ve been around as Boyink Interactive for more than six months without them getting complaints I’m now eligible to “join”.
The (elderly) lady was very nice, but the entire experience left me feeling like I had been somewhat strong-armed. I mean, this is the BBB, keeper of the ethical marketplace. If I hung up on her (my typical response to telemarketers) would that go on my record?
“Yes..Boyink Interactive…no…no complaints from customers but our records do show that he was quite rude on the phone.”
I suffered through her entire pitch including a verbal history of the BBB (well, OK, I confess to reading some email while she prattled on) hoping that at the end I’d be able to just request some information by mail, and be done with it. Did you know the benefits of membership include a monthly printed newsletter? How quaint. I’d also get a link from their website. Yeah, that site will really send the referrers.
But oh, no, at the end of the pitch was:“And how will you be paying for your membership today?”
“Uhh…can I get invoiced?”
“Yes, I can send an invoice marked paid after we receive payment.”
“No, that would be a reciept. Can I get an invoice?”
No kidding, she acted as though this was very unusual. She would fax the invoice and then wait 10 minutes then call back. She even told me when she had to go home, and wanted it all settled before then.
I got the invoice via fax, and a couple points in the fine print really turned me off even further. First this (underlines theirs):
“I understand that any BBB indentification may not be used on the Internet unless the member is also a BBB Online member company.”
Looks like the BBB got greedy during the dot-com rush, and thought they’d scoop up an extra few bucks by making members pay extra to put the logo on their website. I’m sorry, I find this ludicrous. A company website is just another avenue for advertising and should not be treated any differently than their off-line efforts. Either they’re a member of the BBB and can indicate as such in any of their ads, or they’re not. For a Internet-only company like me, this alone is a barrier to entry to the BBB.
The next item just gave me a good chuckle, and sounded like a perfect submission to the “Thanks for the Memos” section of the PBS radio show “Whaddya Know?”
“This agreement shall be in force for an unspecified period of time and may be terminated for any reason by either party. Upon termination, all rights to display or use the membership plaque shall cease and the plaque shall be removed and returned to the BBB offices immediately.”
Wow. Are there BBB Plaque Police to enforce that?
But it got me to thinking - what is the BBB in the Internet era? Are they relevant any more? Would it really instill confidence in Boyink Interactive if I had the BBB logo over in the right column? Do you even recall seeing that logo on other sites?
My view is that they are outmoded. They were born out of a need for some neutral 3rd party to hold businesses to behaving ethically in the marketplace, and to provide a place to store a business reputation that could be accessed by anyone. The Internet now provides that. If you wonder about me as a business, you do a web search, and see what comes up. You see if people have blogged about me, or posted to Bulletin Boards about me. You see how many links there are to my site. You look at my Google rating.
Call the BBB? Maybe.
Join the BBB? Sorry. I have better uses for $260/yr.
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