Better Business Bureau Kicks Out Four Businesses

What can you do if you’re too small to have a shot in our Worst Company In America contest, but too awful to not earn some sort of notoriety? Well, you can get your BBB membership revoked and earn a big fat F ranking. It’s no golden poo, but it’s a start.

This is from the BBB in Buffalo, NY, so all four businesses are New York Based. Two of them, AC Design & Construction and Black Tie Catering, will probably only matter to locals.

FFEMAX.com, also doing business as ElectronicsAvenue.com, has a couple of web presences, but they’re both down as of this post and the company may be out of business (which may explain partly why they earned the F rating to begin with).

FireplaceEssentials.com is still up and running though, so watch out. The “F” in “fireplace” stands for BBB FAIL in this case.

BBB page for FireplaceEssentials.com

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  1. Etoiles says:

    I heard about that catering company from an extremely, and apparently rightfully, disgruntled bride. Apparently the complaints added up…

  2. CompyPaq says:

    I don’t understand why a business would operate in such a way to make them deserve an F. Do they want to fail?

    • InThrees says:

      @computerwiz3491: I would say in the vast majority of cases it’s because the operators don’t have realistic grasps of operating costs, and don’t sell with appropriate margins.

      You’re going to have problems, you’re going to have (broken stuff / warranty issues), and you’re going to have plain old fashioned dissatisfied customers. You need to have the cash flow or reserves to handle those issues, and if you’re not charging enough to account for those sorts of problems AND the regular operating costs of the business (including whatever you need out of it) then something is going to have to suffer… and it’s usually the customers.

      • mrbenning says:

        @InThrees: I would imagine part of it involves business owners not realizing they need to pay employees enough to care about work performance. A catering company with bad customer service/food prep/servers probably won’t stick around long.

    • admiral_stabbin says:

      @computerwiz3491: Incompetency and insanity are not factors that elude entrepreneurs. In fact, more of them than you would realize (many of whom are even still relatively successful in business) are incompetent and/or insane.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      @computerwiz3491:

      In some cases, it boils down to “we’ll collect money, not do our jobs (or do a terrible job), then shut down, and restart under a different name.”

    • humphrmi says:

      @computerwiz3491: Especially when you consider how hard it is to actually get an F.

      The BBB is famous for not actually resolving any customer complaints – all they do is mediate. So when you file a complaint against a vendor, they get a chance to respond. Their response might be “We fulfilled the terms of our contract, the customer wanted more than they agreed to pay for.” They don’t even have to provide any actual contract as proof, all they have to do is respond.

      To get an F, you have to not respond to multiple complaints with even the most basic “Too bad, stupid customer is screwed” response.

      • humphrmi says:

        @humphrmi: I really should have read the other comments and checked out the BBB site before I posted. It’s not even about responding any more, it seems to be about paying a fee.

        I’m glad to see scammers, especially the electronic variety, shut down. I doubt the BBB had anything to do with that.

    • Viciouspixie says:

      @computerwiz3491:

      In some cases customers don’t have a choice but to use the business, like for my instance living in Toronto I have to use Enbridge Gas Distribution. They have a lovely F rating as well with the BBB and from personal experience so far, I can say that I’m really not suprised.

      However, granted for a company servicing the GTA and the sprawling amount of departments within the business it’s not unusual to land with good service one day and brain numbing service the next. At this point its a matter of sometimes choosing the lesser of the many available evils (like phone /internet companies).

  3. laserjobs says:

    LOL!!! Looks like the BBB is trying to gain some credibility by kicking out the worst of the worst. My guess is those companies could all have an “A” rating if they paid their membership bill on time.

    • shepd says:

      @laserjobs:

      So true. Have you checked eBay’s unresolved complaints level (it was in the several thousands 3 or 4 years ago when I checked)? Yet they (somehow) maintain a very respectable score.

      • katstermonster says:

        @shepd: They mention somewhere on each page that the grade is based on number of complaints as compared to the volume of business. I have to imagine eBay surpasses most, if not all, other retailers in number of transactions per year.

        • shepd says:

          @katstermonster:

          Sure, that’s true. The problem with that is a company like eBay has virtually zero customer interaction with a normal transaction.

          If you measured it based on satisfaction after an interaction, I think you’d find eBay reaches 100% dissatisfaction. If you don’t believe me, just try calling them to ask a simple question… :D

          • Cant_stop_the_rock says:

            @shepd:

            But eBay does impact the customer’s experience during the transaction.

          • katstermonster says:

            @shepd: Sooooo true. Plus, the BBB only measures complaints from people delusional enough to think that the BBB has any power to do…anything. Ha.

    • Trai_Dep says:

      @laserjobs: Cites?

    • Galactica says:

      @laserjobs: +1. They are in themselves a scam!

    • Anonymous says:

      @laserjobs: One thing that puzzles me about The Consumerist is their apparent faith in the BBB — an organization founded by, run by, and in the service of businesses. Are they better than nothing? Perhaps in some cases. But I’ve had 2 distinct dealings with different BBBs, and they were basically disastrous. Yet, every so often, The Consumerist posts something with a favorable bent toward the BBB. Strange.

  4. Brent Woodle says:

    The Black Tie Catering profile linked in this article shows a “C” rating.

    • katstermonster says:

      @Brent Woodle: Yeah, I was wondering about that, too…hmm. Maybe they had an F before and enough time passed to make the algorithm think they should have a C? Who knows.

  5. SkokieGuy says:

    I read the BBB report on the Fireplace biz. Mostly all the complaints were resolved. The F rating was basically tied to length of time in business, not being acredited with the BBB and the # of complaints, which the BBB acknowledges could be meaningless, based on the size of the business. 7 complaints in 12 months, what if they did 5,000 transactions in that 12 month period? Not unlikely for a internet biz.

    I have read to frequently on Consumerist that the BBB was useless in resolving complaints. In this case, I am not so sure their “F” means the place is really that sucky. After all, your score is tied to whether you are a member? Pay us or we’ll lower your score – doesn’t strike me as overly ethical of the BBB

    Customer Complaint History

    The company’s size, volume of business and number of transactions may have a bearing on the number of complaints received by the BBB. The complaints filed against a company may not be as important as the type of complaints, and how the company has handled them. The BBB generally does not pass judgment on the validity of complaints filed.

    Number of complaints processed by the BBB
    in the last 36 months: 16
    in the last 12 months: 7

    Complaints Concerned:
    Selling Practices (1 complaints)
    1 Resolved

    Service Issues (1 complaints)
    1 Company made every reasonable effort to resolve

    Delivery Issues (11 complaints)
    10 Resolved
    1 Delayed Resolution

    Refund Practices (3 complaints)
    3 Resolved

    • fjordtjie says:

      @SkokieGuy: i noticed that too. it looks like there is only 1 unresolved complaint in the last 36 months, so unless there’s more to it, i don’t get the point of giving them an F.

      i am also confused by the statement of length of time in business. does it mean a business is allowed a certain amount of complaints in a certain time period, or they are a new business so there’s a probationary period? confused.

      • DragonflyLotus says:

        @fjordtjie: To the BBB, “resolved” can simply mean that the consumer didn’t feel like jumping through all their hoops anymore. I filed a complaint once and the hotel got three weeks to respond. The BBB then mailed me another form to fill out that was postmarked the day after my deadline to accept or reject what the hotel said. I called the BBB and was told that there was nothing I could do but file another complaint, but the original would be listed on their website as “resolved”.

        • sponica says:

          @dragonflylotus: yeah that happened to me when I filed my complaint against Decipher, Inc. I used my legal residence and not my mailing address, so I never responded to the paperwork. By the time I filed another complaint the BBB’s response was “due to the volume of complaints against this company, all complaints are being directly forwarded to Decipher Inc.” Well that’s what happens when you STEAL 32.90 from a bunch of Star Trek fans and go out of business without telling subscribers.

          We should have just formed a class action lawsuit….

  6. Anonymous says:

    Pimsleur Approach (also known as Internet Order LLC, Stroll LLC, and the Rapid Reading Institute) has been kicked out of BBB and still operates.

    Their profile here:
    http://dc-easternpa.bbb.org/codbrep.html?wlcl=y&id=7003182

    Pimsleur Approach has a lot of complaints at Complaintsboard.com and Ripoffreport.com too.

  7. cuchanu says:

    I think that the electronics store was using illegal sales tactics such as bait & switch, to sell their crap. They had to shut down all but a few of their online sites and the few that remained had to change their practices.

    It’s the place that had ridiculously cheap prices, but when you would call them they’d try to upsell you by saying the one you wanted “only has a 15 minute battery; is the plastic version; doesn’t include a lense, etc”. If you insist (knowing they are full of shit) then they tell you that what you want is backordered and will not be in for a few months.

    • bwcbwc says:

      @cuchanu: Yeah, wasn’t Electronics Avenue one of those Brooklyn camera shops that got shut down by the AG a couple of weeks ago? Glad to see the BBB is on the ball on that one!

  8. BuddyGuyMontag says:

    Uh, the black tie company in the link only has three complaints in the last three years, one of which was resolved, and the other was “delayed resolution”.

    Am I missing something? For a catering company, three complaints over three years isn’t that drastically horrible.

  9. teknowaffle says:

    I have noticed that in my time working with customers at my work, the only time that any people have given us the “grave” threat of “going to the Better Business Bureau” they are in the wrong, and the mistake is on their end. Be it they didn’t know how to read their credit card bill or who knows what else.

    I think there are a lot of people out there under the assumption that because the word Bureau is in the name, that it is some sort of government regulatory body, which seems pretty shady to me.

  10. Sarah Black says:

    The BBB charges (starting at) $400 a year for membership and if you let that laps, they kick you out and give you an “F” rating? How does that = fair ?

  11. wvFrugan says:

    The BBB is worthless as tits on a boar hog. They are about as independent of business interests as the NFCC (National Foundation for Credit Counseling = CCCS (Consumer Credit Counseling Service)) is of the credit card industy. They are all disingenuous FRAUDS with their only success being to fool a number of people into trusting them.

  12. gman863 says:

    In Houston, the local BBB has changed its rating system. If a business isn’t a BBB member and has no complaints, it scores a “C” by default. After some prying, the Houston Chronicle finally got the BBB to admit that – if a business is a paid member of the local BBB – it ups the business’ letter grade.

    Even worse is that the Houston BBB appears to have an incestous relationship with at least one local heating and air conditioning company. The dealer’s TV commercial starts out with the line, “The Better Business Bureau is proud to recognize John Moore with its Award of Excellence for the fifth year in a row” and soon blends into the dealer’s jingle, “Call John – Get More – 7-3-0-35-35″

    Although John Moore is likely a reputible company, my opinion is the ad reeks of quid pro quo: The contractor spends half of his ad promoting the local BBB. As such, I question how unbisaed the local BBB would be if a legitimate complaint was ever filed against the business.

    Since Consumer Reports doesn’t rank local businesses, I’ve subscribed to Angie’s List. Although it’s a bit pricy (around $50/year), I’ve found it to be a great resource since members share both good and bad experiences. In two years, it’s helped me find both a great local vet and car repair shop and – even more importantly – given me a “heads up” on a roofing company I was considering after Hurricane Ike.

  13. Major-General says:

    So this is slightly harsher than a letter from the UN frowning on ones making of NBC weaponry?

  14. CaptainKidd says:

    A couple years ago I chatted with a business layer who was trying to help some relatives clean up a mess they’d made of their company. It, of course, involved a few complaints through the BBB. His opinion was to ignore those and focus on ones that had come into the company proper and only then look at the BBB complaints.

    He said that the BBB, while extremely useful a few decades ago, is dying and is trying to find a way to still be relevant now that people can check up on companies through multiple online sites in minutes. Basically, they’ve jumped the shark and are desperately trying to maintain their sense of importance in the modern world.

    Seriously, how many people check a company’s BBB rating versus online checks? Personally I’ve never used them and a random sampling of the people here at my office returns the same.