"BBB Is Useless" Says Cable Company Call Center Manager

If you have a hassle with a cable company and you want to escalate it to an outside agency, one cable company call center manager told The Consumerist to forget the BBB. His exact words were, “The Better Business Bureau is useless — Public Service Commission is best policy (but a last resort).” Straight from the mouth of a man on the inside and in a position to know, the cable companies are more afraid of PSCs and PUCs than the BBB. Probably because of the two, only the PUC has direct oversight! So, you’re more likely to get action by ccing your cable company complaint to the PUC than the BBB. Don’t know your PUC’s info? Here’s a state-by-state list.

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  1. mantari says:

    Having actually worked a BBB complaint from the side of a business, I’d say that they’re pretty toothless. They record if a reported problem is resolved in a satisfactory manner or not. That is, satisfactory according to the BBB, not the customer.

    In this case, the customer wanted a check returned to them. We told them we won’t be returning the check, but we won’t cash it. Customer didn’t accept that response, but the BBB did.

    [Translation: we lost their check and we didn't want to admit it]

    So, “if you don’t do what I say, I’m going to report you to the BBB!” means, “If you don’t do what I say, I’m going to have an outside party ask you again, and then see if your answer satisfies them!” Ooooh. Scary! And the larger the company, the better they know how to work BBB complaints.

  2. statnut says:

    Nice pic of Commissioner Gordon!

  3. zentec says:

    The BBB is worse than worthless. If a consumer files a complaint against the BBB, the BBB will call the business and say “we have a complaint from one of your customers”. Then, the BBB will attempt to shame and shake down the business into joining the BBB in order to get the details of the complain. If the business declines to join, then the BBB tells the consumer that the business was not interested in helping the BBB pursue the case.

  4. zentec says:

    *correction – files a complaint with the BBB…

  5. I filed a complaint with the BBB against a car dealership a few years back. I also sent a carpet bomb email to the execs and business directors. The very next day the president of the company called me personally and met me at the dealership to resolve my problem. (Also received a free car wash out of the deal, yay!)

    That being said, I have no way of knowing if it was the BBB or my email carpet bomb that was more effective here.

  6. fuzzycuffs says:

    He’s right. The BBB is there to protect BUSINESS, not the consumer.

  7. legotech says:

    @zentec: Exactly, the BBB is a membership organization and the kinds of businesses that have a lot of problems are exactly lining up to pay the membership fee

  8. Pro-Pain says:

    I used the BBB ONE time for a dispute with Best Buy (of course) they were BEYOND worthless. I would never contact them again. It’s a total waste of time.

  9. nightmage61 says:

    The willingness and capacity of the BBB to help any consumer can be summed up in one thought.

    Who pays the BBB’s bills?

    Not the consumer.

  10. Some states give their PUC/PSC oversight over cable companies. Some states give them limited oversight (i.e. over rates and consumer issues, but do not dictate build out or franchise requirements). Some states have no oversight at all.

    It really depends on what state you’re in. Don’t go to the PUC and assume they’ll be able to help you.

  11. Buran says:

    @mantari: Yeah, I kept rejecting an attempted resolution by a company (demanded a refund for fraudulent charge) and the BBB claimed “they tried to resolve it” and closed the complaint on me.

    Luckily for me, anyone who reviews that complaint record will be able to clearly see that the BBB spews bullshit.

    Why can’t you just admit you lost the check? Dishonesty gets what you deserve — a bad reputation…

  12. poornotignorant says:

    Who says the PUC or the PSC are any help? My gas usage more than doubled from one month to the next, although I didn’t change. Philadelphia Gas said that’s what your meter read, that’s what you owe, complain to your PUC. I did and 10 months later the PUC said that’s what your meter read, that’s what you owe. No explanation from anybody. Needless to say I didn’t pay anything for the last 10 months I lived in that apartment, and now I pay rent, all utilities included.

  13. ncboxer says:

    Two experiences with the BB. The first was against a company that was a BBB member. We sent a complaint. They answered it. BBB asked for more evidence. We wrote back with evidence. The company said we are getting nothing. BBB said we accepted (which we never did). They ignored all further emails.

    The second is from a friend that does contracting for Time Warner cable. They had a woman that had contacted the BBB for a messed up initial install, and the cable company wanted my friend and his crew (who didn’t go to the initial install) to get out there the next day and work till it was done. He had to pull several people off other jobs to do one customer install (it was a faulty wire) to the tune of over 3k.

  14. noquarter says:

    @LucasAnderson: If you got a response the next day, then it was not the BBB. They take months just to assign a staff member to handle a complaint.

  15. @mantari: LOL,
    I definitely agree.

  16. torontomike says:

    I filed a BBB complaint (against HP for *gasp* failing to ship a warrantied part for months after they promised it) and found the entire process laughable.

    After filing the complaint I started receiving an email from the BBB about every two weeks indicating my complaint was not relevant in their jurisdiction and they were passing it on. My complaint travelled around North America (I am in Canada) for several months. It became a source of levity for me to get the next email and see where it was then.

    Eventually, after visiting some BBB branches several times, I received notice that I had a reply from HP. They declined my request for compensation for having to buy a new hard drive after giving up on their repeated broken promises to ship a new one, and the BBB feels the issue is resolved.

    Last time I buy anything from HP or bother with the BBB. They are a bigger joke than HP!

  17. Paul D says:

    Unfortunately, many state Public Service Commissions are stacked with former industry types now charged with overseeing the industry they either used to work for or are connected to by some form of “good ol’ boy” politics. (We see this on a national level too, especially in George W. Bush’s America.)

    Here in Kentucky the PSC are often more sympathetic to the utilities than to the public. One former Attorney General famously dubbed them the Public DISservice Commission.

  18. ivanova says:

    I actually have had GREAT success w/the BBB, albeit not in cases involving public utilities. (For those, the PUC really is the best choice, and in the past I have had good results simply threatening to take a complaint there.)

    The first time I used the BBB was this winter. We had moved out of an apartment we had rented on a month-to-month basis and left in good condition. The landlord then apparently decided to remodel the apartment on our dime, kept our entire security deposit, and sent us a bill. Our letters and phone calls were ignored. We filed a complaint with the BBB, and within 2 weeks the landlord refunded every penny of our money.

    I also had good results with the BBB when I had a problem with a national high-end department store. We had recently moved, and I went to the store to give them my change of address so they would send the bills for my charge card to the new address rather than the old one. Long story short, they screwed it up and I didn’t know it until I started getting calls from a collection agency on what started out as a small balance (~$200), but once all the usurious fees were added had nearly tripled in size. After the collection agency refused to believe me, and the store’s own “customer service” people refused to do anything, I complained to the BBB. Within a few weeks, I received a letter of apology from the company, the collections entry was removed from my credit report, and all the fees/interest charges were reversed.

    Sometimes BBB does work. YMMV.

  19. Rando says:

    I’ve always laughed at people that say “I’ll report you to the BBB!!”

    What, are they going to shut me down?

  20. sgodun says:

    Why is Commisioner Gordon headlining this story?

  21. P_Smith says:

    I ignorantly tried to buy a laptop from Gate-To-Hell-Way a few years ago and was victimized by a “bait and switch”.

    The Brainless Business Bureaucrats did sweet FA to help.

    Whent the South Dakota Attorney General got the same evidence I sent to the BBB, the response from the AG *and* Gate-To-Hell-Way was immediate. No more jerking off by the company, and I got my money back.

  22. PinkBox says:

    The BBB actually helped in my case, and got an online business I complained about to refund money to me.

    The online business even sent a written apology.

  23. garykung says:

    Once, I have my issue (with T-mobile) resolved by solely CA PUC but not BBB. But well, when you file complaints, you file to wherever take your complaints anyway. So I don’t care if BBB is useless or not.

  24. Keirmeister says:

    I, too, went to the BBB to attempt to resolve an issue with T-Mobile. I’m still working on it, but my complaint through the BBB was completely useless. My BBB “case worker” was very sweet and all, but T-Mobile essentially cut-and-pasted the same response they gave me when I contacted their Executive Response email…twice (when I said their response was unacceptable).

    I admit I was pretty disheartened by how useless the whole BBB exercise was. In the end, at least I have documentation showing that I tried to resolve the issue in good faith.

    The next step is with the PUC. Oh, and I never heard back from the FCC. How depressing!

  25. JGB says:

    People who report bad businesses to the BBB usually have realzed, by that point, that they have been screwed and there is little they can do about it. But, they report them anyway thinking that at least the company will have a black mark against them with the BBB and it might cost them some business.

    Wrong. A “satisfactory response” is NOT “we took care of this” or “it was not our fault and here’s why” to the BBB. It is any kind of language type sound (or gutteral grunting) made in response to the complaint.

    I got royally screwed by a moving company and thought that I would at least make a BBB report.

    ME (to BBB): They lost shit. They stole shit. They broke LOTS of shit. They did not show up for several WEEKS after the agreed upon delivery date!

    BBB (to moving co): Well?

    Moving Co: No we did not.

    BBB: Well, okay then.

    Bottom line, you will feel better calling your Mom. And she is more likely to do something to help.

  26. mantari says:

    @Buran: I didn’t admit to the company losing the check because: the boss said so.

    On another note, very small companies actually love the BBB because it lends an appearance of credibility to their operation.

    Yes, even if your resolution doesn’t please the customer in the slightest, the BBB will be happy to report that you attempted to resolve the dispute. Which ends up looking like a positive unless you read between the lines.

  27. SOhp101 says:

    Yeah I have to agree, the BBB is worthless in my past fights with businesses. It’s an empty threat but it sounds cool if you add it along with a bunch of other organizations that can be referred to with acronyms!

  28. Chaosium says:

    It’s true. The BBB is pretty incompetent and doesn’t have the internal resources to properly deal with complaints in a manner fair to the individual and the company.

    Sometimes the complaint will go in the company’s favor and ignore the consumer, or sometimes the complaint will be a black mark against the corporation, and not allow them to properly retort. Either way, as an arbitrator they’re spread a little thin for complicated problems.

  29. irfan says:

    ive used the BBB twice.. once when my phone company charged me a local plus rate (1.5cent/min) from college… and they quoted that it would be a local call… i got a $60 phone bill and they refused to credit it even tho it was their agent that misquoted me.. filed online with BBB and it was fixed in 3 days.

    other time a clothing company said my order was backordered.. i requested they cancel it.. they didnt and charged me… i refused shipment. emailed them (no phone number listed anywhere at all).. got a “we’ll credit in 10 days”… then another email just like that… 40 days later still nothing and emailed BBB… company personally calls me 2 days later and process refund ASAP.

    so they worked out for me.

  30. MercuryPDX says:

    The BBB is best used for information purposes only. Consumers can attempt to look up a business on the BBB website and get a snapshot of customer complaints and use that to decide if they want to do business with them.

    I think people SHOULD complain to the BBB when a business does them wrong, but not to expect much action from them.

  31. dantsea says:

    A lot of people seem to labor under the misconception that the Better Business Bureau is some government agency, probably because of the official-sounding name and its three-initial abbreviation. In many instances a BBB branch may record a matter as resolved satisfactory as long as the company responds to the customer. The response can be “here’s a refund, sorry for your trouble,” or “go pound sand, whiner” — as long as they acknowledge the complaint.

  32. aighmeigh says:

    When filing a complaint with the BBB it’s important to remember a couple of things:

    1. It’s not a government entity and therefore has no kind of legal power whatsoever. Their focus is on business “voluntary self-regulation”–more or less, asking a business to do the right thing by their customers. It says a lot about a company if they aren’t working hard to make the people happy who keep their business going.

    2. They are a sort of free mediation service. If your problem isn’t of enough financial significance to you that you’d like to go to small claims court, the BBB is a good option. Granted, there’s no guarantee that you’re going to get what you want, but it’s worth a shot.

    3. Even if you do plan to go the small claims route, a BBB complaint is good documentation of your efforts to resolve the issue on your own.

    4. A complaint is a complaint-whether or not a customer is happy with the result of their files complaint it pretty insignificant to me. If a company has a ton of complaints, regardless of whether they’ve worked everything out or not, people are going to think twice about doing business with them.

    So yeah, if you’re looking to stick it to a company legally, you should look elsewhere. If you want to try to work something out on your own before jumping into the legal arena, it’s an option.

  33. BigNutty says:

    When I managed a computer training school the BBB would come around extorting money from me so I could dsplay the stupid plaque.

    It got to the point I told them to screw off and kept the plaque hung up anyway.

    When a student complained, the BBB did nothing but send us a “form letter.” Have you ever seen the form you must use to complain about a company. What a hassle.

    The BBB is a Big Joke that makes consumers feel they got a company into trouble.

  34. sashazur says:

    Won’t reiterate that BBB is useless, but I will only add that the “BBB Preferred Member” logo you see on some ads (maybe it’s not that exactly, but it’s something like that) gets there because the business PAID the BBB for it, and not because of any record of sterling service to consumers or somesuch.

  35. alterboy says:

    The last company I worked for was a BBB member and took it very seriously. We were also a very small company. From what I saw the BBB always sided with the customer and we always complied. One case we had a crazy customer who just wasn’t happy and had filed lawsuits against us. We had already given him his money back and everything. The suits never made it to court,but since he wasn’t made happy the BBB marked our grade down! The BBB looks good to consumers, but there was nothing stopping a company from not complying. Especially large companies who don’t need to compete.

  36. Coles_Law says:

    @poornotignorant That could well be legitimate. At least around here, the gas company will sometimes estimate bills. If they guessed low for a couple months, the next time they actually read your meter, it will have a much larger jump than expected. I had it happen the other way to me, which is admittedly a much nicer way to learn of it.

  37. I agree completely that the BBB is worse than useless. It provides the illusion of respectability to business who flout complaints. When I see a BBB sign in a business window, I almost consider it a negative indicator.

  38. t325 says:

    Agreed on the BBB being useless. I started a complaint regarding PayPal (no surprise there) against them and after going back and forth, the BBB closed the case saying they determined PayPal resolved the dispute to their satisfaction, or some bullshit like that. Of course, absolutely nothing got resolved and I was still screwed out of my money thanks to PayPal.

  39. mr.dandy says:

    I’ve never bothered to use them for any sort of reporting or information, but I can say that the BBB is deceptive in its membership-sales practices.

    When I filed for a city business permit and business name statement, the BBB called me that same week, with an ominous-sounding message, saying my business was being “investigated” by some party via the BBB. Of course when I asked who was investigating me, they told me they weren’t allowed to say, followed by a sales pitch that I should join the BBB for an annual fee. I thought it was weird, since I hadn’t done any business whatsoever to be investigated.

    The next time I filed for a biz license (because of moving to a new city), the same exact thing happened, again in the very same week I filed.

    That’s when I realized, nobody was trying to investigate me, except the BBB itself, and only to shake me up enough to think I needed to join.

  40. guevera says:

    BBB’s fine for reporting straight scammers. Contractor takes money and runs, BBB will track them accordingly. But big company routinely, but arguably legally, screws its customers with the sort of shady practices that drive us all crazy, and the BBB is fine with that.

  41. valthun says:

    Being on the side that handles the complaints from the customer. The BBB is a joke. First the BBB can’t make anybody do anything. All they do is report to the business. The business can ignore the sites and complaints and receive an F. This is literally for just not responding to the BBB. Even if the company has actual resolved the customers issue. It will be closed by the BBB for the company not responding.

    However the process goes like this. Customer Complaint; Company Reply; Customer Rebuttal; Company Reply; Case Closed.

    As long as the company keeps someone on top of the BBB and they do not join they will fall somewhere within a B category.

    The next part is where the BBB begins to scam the companies. In order for a company to reach an A or higher, they must pay an annual fee to the BBB to become a member. So the company will continue to follow the process listed above and then the BBB will re-assign the math equation to ensure the company receives an A.

  42. rikkus256 says:

    I once filed a complaint with San Jose BBB against eBay. Then in a week my ebay account got suspended for bogus reasons. Went back to BBB page and found out eBay is a SPONSOR of BBB.

    No wonder eBay has a “satisfied” record in BBB.