Better Business Bureau Reviews: Fact or Fiction?

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Better Business Bureau
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Ever checked the Better Business Bureau website for reviews of a company before buying a product or service? You’re not alone. The BBB has become the go-to resource for researching businesses and their reputations. But can you really trust what you read there? Turns out, BBB reviews may not always give you the full, unbiased picture.

While the BBB aims to promote trust in the marketplace and set ethical standards for businesses, their review platform has some significant flaws. Companies can choose to become BBB accredited by paying membership fees, and then heavily influence the content and ratings on their own business profiles. Some use this to mislead customers or hide negative reviews. At the same time, non-accredited businesses don’t get the benefit of the doubt and may face overly harsh criticism.

The truth is, BBB reviews are not always factual or unprejudiced. As with many online reviews, they should be taken with a grain of salt. The BBB is not immune to manipulation, errors, or biases. So do some extra research from other trusted sources as well before making a final judgment. While the BBB can be a useful starting point, the reviews found there may be more fiction than fact.

What Is the Better Business Bureau?

The Better Business Bureau or BBB is a non-profit organization focused on advancing marketplace trust. Basically, the BBB collects reviews and complaints about businesses to help consumers make informed decisions. But how accurate and unbiased are these reviews really?

How Businesses Get Rated

The BBB assigns letter grades from A+ to F based on a number of factors. Two of the biggest influences on a business’s rating are:

  1. How long the business has been operating. Established companies with a proven track record generally get higher ratings.
  2. Whether the business responds to and resolves customer complaints. Businesses that ignore complaints typically receive lower ratings.

While these seem like reasonable criteria, some critics argue the system can be misleading. For example, a new business may provide great service but get a lower initial rating simply due to lack of history. On the other hand, a company with a long but mediocre track record could still achieve a good rating by resolving a high volume of complaints.

Accusations of “Pay for Play”

Over the years, the BBB has also been accused of providing better ratings to businesses that pay membership dues. The BBB denies these claims and says membership dues are used to fund operations, not influence ratings. However, some analyzes of BBB data have found a correlation between dues-paying members and higher letter grades.

So, while BBB ratings can be a useful starting point, it’s best to consider them along with other factors like word-of-mouth reviews from friends or online research. The savvy consumer evaluates all sources to make the most informed choice.

How the BBB Review Process Works

So how exactly does the Better Business Bureau determine their ratings? It’s not as simple as you might think. ###

The BBB reviews businesses based on several factors. First, they evaluate how long a company has been in business and their complaint history. Businesses that have been around for a substantial amount of time and have few legitimate complaints from customers will score higher.

They also consider how the company responds to complaints. Businesses that make a good faith effort to resolve issues in a timely manner will be rated more favorably. On the other hand, those that fail to respond or address complaints will see a lower score.

Another thing the BBB looks at is whether the company has a proper license and insurance to operate. They check if the business meets basic licensing and insurance requirements for their industry. Companies that fail to provide proof of proper licenses and insurance will receive a lower rating.

The BBB sends evaluators to inspect some companies in person. These evaluators examine things like the professionalism of the staff, the condition of the facilities, and contractual details. Their findings also factor into the final ratings.

While the BBB aims to be impartial, some critics argue that the review process can be flawed or unfair at times. Still, BBB ratings provide a helpful snapshot of how reputable and trustworthy a business is according to some reasonable standards. For consumers, the ratings are a useful starting point when evaluating a company.

Can Businesses Pay for Better BBB Ratings?

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is a nonprofit organization that aims to promote trust between businesses and consumers. Many people check BBB reviews and ratings when deciding whether or not to buy from or use a company’s services. However, it’s important to understand what goes into those ratings and whether businesses can influence them.

BBB ratings are based on several factors, including:

  • The number and nature of complaints filed against the business. More or serious complaints can lower the rating.
  • Whether the business has been accredited by the BBB. Accredited businesses are reviewed annually and must meet certain standards to maintain accreditation.
  • How transparent and responsive the business is. Businesses that don’t respond to complaints or provide clear company information may get a lower rating.

Some critics argue that businesses can pay for better BBB ratings in a sense. BBB accreditation and membership are not free. Businesses pay annual dues to become accredited and stay accredited. While paying dues alone does not determine a rating, the BBB may be more lenient in ratings or less quick to lower ratings for paying members. The BBB denies this claim and says ratings are based solely on the factors above.

However, there is little transparency into how ratings are calculated or how much weight is given to each factor. The BBB’s funding model, which relies heavily on membership dues from the same businesses they monitor, also introduces some inherent conflicts of interest.

As with any review site, BBB ratings should be taken with a grain of salt and considered alongside other research. Look for persistent or serious complaints and see how transparent and responsive the business seems. Check other sites for reviews as well to determine if any issues seem ongoing or if the business addressed them properly. The BBB can be a useful resource, but should not be the only factor in making a purchasing decision.

In summary, while businesses cannot directly pay for higher BBB ratings, their membership dues and accreditation status may indirectly influence how ratings are determined and how quickly they change. Do your own digging to get the full, balanced picture.

Are Negative BBB Reviews Removed?

Many business owners and customers question whether negative reviews on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website can be removed. The short answer is—not easily. The BBB aims to provide objective ratings and reviews to help consumers make informed decisions. Removing negative reviews simply because a business requests it would compromise their credibility and transparency.

However, there are a few circumstances where the BBB may consider removing or revising a review:

  • The review contains inappropriate language or personally identifiable information. The BBB prohibits reviews that contain profanity, threats, or sensitive data like social security numbers.
  • The review is found to be fraudulent or intentionally misleading. If a business can provide concrete evidence that a review was submitted with malicious intent or under false pretenses, the BBB may remove it. Things like IP address tracking or messages between the business and reviewer could support such a claim.
  • New information has come to light. In some cases, additional context may warrant an update or removal of a review. If a business and customer were in a dispute but have since resolved the issue, the BBB may note the resolution or remove the review upon request from both parties.
  • The issue was out of the business’s control. Reviews that complain about things like natural disasters, accidents, or health department closures that were unavoidable and not due to the business’s negligence can potentially be removed. The business will need to provide a reasonable explanation and documentation.

While the BBB aims to promote fair and honest reviews, they understand that sometimes circumstances warrant exception. However, the vast majority of the time, negative reviews will remain on the site. The BBB’s policy is that a business cannot pay to remove or alter reviews. If a review seems truly unjustified or malicious, the best approach is to respond to it professionally, then report it to the BBB and provide evidence to support your claim. But in most cases, the old adage rings true—“the customer is always right.” The BBB rating system depends on authentic reviews, so removal requests are evaluated very carefully.

How to Weigh BBB Reviews When Choosing a Business

When choosing a business, the reviews on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website can be helpful, but it’s important to consider them carefully. The BBB is a nonprofit organization that aims to promote trust in the marketplace, but the reviews on their site aren’t always the full story.

Check the Overall Rating

The BBB assigns businesses a grade from A+ to F based on factors like how long they’ve been in business, their complaint history, whether they’re properly licensed, and if they’ve been truthful in their advertising. An A rating is a good sign, but don’t dismiss a company with a B or C outright. Sometimes newer businesses just haven’t been reviewed enough yet to get an A.

Read Reviews Critically

While some reviews can reveal useful information about a company’s service, values or business practices, others may be exaggerated or skewed. Look for reviews that mention specific experiences, both good and bad, rather than vague general complaints. See if the business has replied to any negative reviews—their responses can say a lot about their customer service.

Consider the Total Number of Reviews

A single scathing review shouldn’t necessarily scare you off, especially if a company has dozens of positive reviews otherwise. No business will please every customer, every time. However, a large number of negative reviews mentioning similar issues could indicate real problems. On the other hand, don’t assume a company with no reviews is untrustworthy—they may just be new to the BBB.

Check Other Sources Too

For a balanced view, search online for reviews of the company on other sites like Yelp, Google, or Facebook as well. See if their customers have posted reviews or ratings there too. Look for mentions of the business on industry sites or forums as well.

The BBB can be a useful tool, but take the time to weigh all the reviews and ratings in context. With a critical eye, you can spot the genuinely insightful reviews and make a well-informed choice of a trustworthy business.


So there you have it folks, the truth about Better Business Bureau reviews. While the BBB does provide a useful service by collecting business reviews and ratings in one place, don’t take everything at face value. Do some digging to verify the details and look for patterns. And remember, even the most reputable companies will have a few negative reviews. The key is looking at the overall volume and content. If the vast majority of reviews are glowingly positive, that’s probably a good sign. But if there are a lot of recent reviews citing the same issues, that’s worth paying attention to. As with everything these days, reviews require a critical eye. But used properly, the BBB and other review sites can be helpful tools when making important buying decisions.

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