A local affiliate of the Better Business Bureau got booted from the national group last week over an incident that provides a nice reality check about what the BBB is, and what it isn't, writes Brad Tuttle at Time. In the LA case, the local affiliate gave its blessing to a non-existent company—named Hamas—because investigators running the sting dutifully forked over $425. Among other things, this case should serve as a reminder that the BBB is not a government agency, though many people think otherwise because it's often listed under "Government Offices" in the phone book.
Nor does the group define itself as a consumer watchdog, notes Tuttle. It is, in fact, a business itself. "From top to bottom, the BBB is funded by the annual dues paid by businesses it anoints with 'accreditation,' which allows the companies to put those iconic BBB stamps of approval on their storefronts and websites." Pay your dues, and it's relatively easy to score a good grade, no matter how many complaints come along. "The organization’s customers are businesses, not taxpayers or consumers." Click for Tuttle's full column. (Read more Better Business Bureau stories.)