This year the Better Business Bureau marks a century of leadership in setting and upholding high ethical standards in business. Founded in Minneapolis by a group of advertising professionals concerned about false and misleading advertising, the organization has grown from one small “Vigilance Committee” to 116 BBBs across the United States and Canada. Together they evaluate and monitor more than three million local and national businesses and charities.
When the BBB was started, advertisers were touting everything from electric hairbrushes that cure headaches to dimple makers that put a crease in your cheek. In 1915, the top industry for BBB inquiries was door-to-door insurance sales. The BBB has been called upon to protect consumers and businesses from fake stock offerings, shady real estate development firms and phony schools.
During the Great Depression, “the old butter racket” was prevalent. In this scam, salesmen convinced buyers to purchase a secret formula guaranteed to make two pounds of butter from one quart of milk. Those who were duped later discovered that the “demonstration” had been rigged, and that two pounds of butter were already in the churn before the milk and “secret” ingredients were added.
The issues the BBB deals with may have changed since then, but there are still some unethical businesses and charities that try to take advantage of people. The need for the BBB continues.
Perhaps the two most recognized ways that the BBB serves the public are by accrediting businesses that operate ethically and by resolving conflicts between consumers and businesses. In 2010 consumers requested 87 million BBB Business Reviews and filed more than 1.1 million complaints about businesses.
The BBB provides many programs and services, including the BBB Auto Line to protect consumers against lemons; the BBB Military Line, which offers free services to military communities; and, the online scam portal, Scam Tracker.
During this centennial year, the BBB plans to launch new programs and services in support of our educational mission. Find out more at delaware.bbb.org.