How to Use the Better Business Bureau

In today’s climate of big business and automated customer service, nearly everyone has at least one story to tell about getting nowhere when complaining to a company about its products, services, or practices. Just like person-to-person relationships, person-to-company relationships have much potential for miscommunication, mistrust, and misunderstanding.

So what do you do when you have a problem with a company that you just can’t seem to resolve? If the dispute is over a relatively small amount, it probably isn’t worth the cost of hiring a lawyer or the time spent badgering the company’s customer service. But sometimes, the issue hits a nerve, and you might want to pursue the matter on principle.

When a company treats you unfairly and you have trouble getting anyone to pay attention to your complaints, you may be able to get a resolution by filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). The BBB works as an arbitrator between a consumer and a company or charity; it does not handle disputes about illegal practices, which must be reported to the proper authorities.

Although the BBB does not hold legal authority over companies, its reports on companies and charities, as well as its fraud alerts, hold weight in many consumers’ spending choices, so businesses are usually willing to respond favorably to complaints in order to maintain their good reputations. Buyers should beware more than usual when dealing with a company that has a large number of unresolved BBB complaints.

Before complaining to the BBB, do your best to resolve a dispute directly with a company by contacting a manager. If you do not receive a satisfactory response, contact the local BBB in whose territory the company’s headquarters are located. (You can find a list of local Bureaus and file a complaint online at; the site also handles complaints about online companies, whose physical location information is sometimes difficult to determine.) Some companies become members of the BBB to demonstrate a commitment to good business practices, but consumers can file a complaint about non-members, as well.

When you file a complaint, be as detailed and specific as possible about the problem. The web form has space to put in model numbers of products that have not lived up to expectations, dates of your complaints to the company, order numbers, salespeople’s names, and more. Include any relevant information to make your case, and present the information in as neutral a tone as possible – save the rants for your family and friends. Also be clear about what actions you expect the company to take to resolve your complaint. Do you want a refund, a replacement product, or something else? An expression of clear expectations will help the BBB determine whether the company has acted in good faith to meet those expectations.

Every time I have used it, the BBB has helped solve the problems I’ve had with companies. In one case, a simple mention to the customer service representative that I planned to contact the BBB was enough for the company to do what was right. Two or three times, after getting unsatisfactory responses from customer service, I have actually filed a complaint. Every time, the company about which I complained resolved the problem within a week. Most recently, when I complained about a large credit card company not crediting me the rewards promised in a special offer (even after five calls to its customer service number and as many promises that the credit would be on my next statement), I received a personal call and more credit than I had requested.

The BBB provides a valuable and (I believe) underused service to consumers. By working to resolve disputes between people and organizations, the Bureau improves communication, accountability, and good will. Try using its services the next time you have a problem with a company; you will probably be pleasantly surprised at the results.

Image courtesy of ‘SeraphimC’

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15 Responses to How to Use the Better Business Bureau

  1. lou says:

    The BBB is a joke. The companies against which we, the consumers, are filing complaints, are the sames ones supporting the BB financially. I find this, and have been a victim of, this huge conflict of interest. Everyone should be careful of using this as the only alternative for “small claims”.

  2. poundwise says:

    I have only filed one complaint through the BBB and it was resolved. I had dealt directly with the problem company that owed me money for nearly a year. I have no doubt that the BBB is the reason why I finally got my money. You have to make sure that you deal with the company the best you can, and document all of that, then take your complaint to the right BBB office with concise but still detailed wording of the problem. I’m sure it doesn’t always help but the BBB got me my money so you won’t hear me say anything but good things about them.

  3. Craig says:

    Great article. I have had nothing but positive experiences with my local BBB. I think the most important statement you made was to beware of companies with complaints against them. I use the BBB to investigate companies before I do business with them.

  4. Alanna says:

    Thanks for touting the BBB’s services! Great Article!

  5. Teri says:

    we filed a complaint once with the BBB and I can’t remember if it resolved anything – the company was very snotty. Most companies though will value their reputation and it was a good wake up call to us to remember to check the BBB before doing business with any company. Could have probably prevented our situation if we just had looked them up and decided not to do business with them in the first place.

  6. Clinton Rushing says:

    I have never used, and I have something I thank they can help me with, where do i go to to comlpant? need a email.

  7. Jack Payne says:

    Although the BBB does perform a great informational service, the one drawback seems to be its endless database, accessible by anyone wishing to hold a club over a company’s head. By putting together a list of complaints they can use this as leverage to get what they want.

  8. Tara says:

    I have been dealing with this company that is a memeber of the B.B.B. My husband did a job for them and they are very slow in payment (2 mths Later!) Do i have a complaint? Should i turn them in?

  9. david says:

    this site is a scam it frauds people out of there earnings just like the rest of the gpt sites.this should not be allowed

  10. JK says:

    I just filed a complaint through the BBB and the company i complaint about sent me an email saying “Unfortunately, your interpretation is not accurate and the BBB will end up siding with us”
    Did i just waste my time?

  11. pfadvice says:

    Not if you believe you are correct.

  12. Paul says:

    Like a few of the people that have commented here, I use the BBB to check up on prospective customers and suppliers before doing business with them. I have read quite a few articles on other sites however claiming that Google has now superseded the BBB.

  13. Fred says:

    I agree the BBB is a joke. You have to be a member which is costly to be a member. That’s how they make their money. They really don’t care if claims are resolved or not. As long as the company responds, that is considered satisfactory. I would not pay to be in their database, but they will still file complaints even if you are not a member. DON’T USE THE BBB!!!

  14. Tom h. says:

    Just used bbb. Did nothing, they are paid by the companies!!! Useless scam!

  15. maureen mcdonald says:

    I just finished generating a complaint to the BBB regarding a breach of contract issue. I am asking for the amount I paid to the company a settlement. Either way- I win. Money, or a formal complaint filed.. I don’t care.

    The BBB is wonderful, and offers mediation at no cost to you which is priceless. There are too many haters on here who think everything should be taken care of completely.


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