In order to help consumers make better-informed decisions on where to spend their hard-earned dollars, Better Business Bureau this week announced it will now assign letter grades to local businesses ranging from A+ to F.
The letter grade system -- which replaces a less-detailed scale of "satisfactory" or "unsatisfactory" -- represents the bureau's degree of confidence that the business is operating in a trustworthy manner and will make a good faith effort to resolve customer concerns.
Consumers can research the grades of more than 10,000 local businesses by reviewing bureau's "Reliability Reports," which are available online and free of charge at www.bbb.org.
In addition to noting the business' letter grade, the report also includes details about integrity and performance, such as the number of complaints a business has received, their response to complaints, and details on any government actions against the business.
The bureau's new letter-grade concept was first developed by the bureau in Colton, Calif., and has been test marketed effectively by Colton and bureaus in New Mexico, Santa Barbara, Calif., Asheville, N.C., and West Palm Beach, Fla.
The original concept, with modifications recommended by a national committee, is the basis for the approach announced today, and is part of the organization's ongoing commitment to making it easier for consumers to find trustworthy businesses.
The Better Business Bureau is a not-for-profit organization funded by Better Business Bureau accredited businesses. The organization's mission is to improve consumer trust in the marketplace.
The business bureau's proprietary ratings formula takes into account 16 weighted factors, using objective information and actual incidences of a business' behavior that have been verified and evaluated by professionals.
Specific issues affecting a business's rating are described in detail. Ratings factors include:
• The business's overall complaint history with the bureau, including the number and severity of complaints from customers
• Whether complaints have been resolved in a timely manner or the business has demonstrated a good faith effort to resolve them
• How long the business has been operating and whether it meets appropriate competency licensing
• Government actions against the business related to marketplace activities
• Advertising issues evaluated by the bureau
• Whether the business is an accredited business with the bureau and has committed to its standards.
Rating factors also take into account the bureau's opinion as to whether business models and industries operate in violation of the law, misrepresent products and services, and are likely to generate trade practice concerns and/or have high levels of customer dissatisfaction.
As part of its strategy to build trust in the marketplace, the bureau also recently changed the way businesses affiliated with the organization were designated, from "BBB member" to "BBB accredited business."
The "accredited" designation highlights the fact that businesses have been evaluated by the bureau and have contractually agreed to meet and uphold its standards for integrity and reliability when dealing with consumers.
Both accredited businesses and non-accredited businesses in the bureau's database will receive a letter grade as part of their report.
For more information on the ratings and to find out which local businesses made the grade, go to www.bbb.org.
For more information about the services and products provided by your area bureau, call 206-431-2222 or 253-830-2924 in Washington, 503-212-3022 in Oregon or 907-562-0704 in Alaska, or visit our Web site at www.bbb.org.