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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

BBB members know what’s expected

Jan Quintrall Special to The Spokesman-Review

From time to time in this column I mention the names of companies whose memberships in the BBB have been revoked. Last year, the board of directors expelled 15 member companies, which set a record. Who were the 15? Why so many? And what does it take to warrant a BBB revocation?

When a company applies for BBB membership, we check credit and licensing to make sure we’re dealing with someone who does business the right way. The company has to have a clear record with us — meaning if there have been complaints they’ve been resolved — or we won’t accept an application. If customers see the BBB “torch” logo when they walk into a store or shop online, they know they’re dealing with a company that’s proud to stand behind its services, endorses the BBB code of ethics, and has pledged to handle complaints at a high level.

Problem is, sometimes when tested, a company decides that playing fair is too difficult, and revocation results.

Of the 15 revocations last year, 10 companies are based in the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene area:

National Marketing Solution faced action by the Washington Attorney General’s office related to its marketplace conduct. That government action against the company was severe enough to violate BBB standards.

URL Motorsports of Hayden, ID, and Mr. House Painter of Spokane each chose not resolve a customer complaint. In the BBB’s process, if normal conciliation fails we move to arbitration or mediation for resolution. These firms declined to follow through on their agreement with the BBB to resolve complaints.

Professional Crane Inspection of Liberty Lake did enter into mediation with the other business involved, but not in the spirit of resolution. In some cases, parties come into mediation with absolutely no intent to resolve, or the company sends a representative who doesn’t have decision-making power. Those tactics defeat the purpose of resolution.

Metropolitan Mortgage & Securities, the bankrupt investment company that’s currently the subject of multiple investigations, was revoked for obvious reasons. One BBB standard is “refraining from activities that reflect poorly on the BBB or the other members.”

Washington Mutual was an interesting case. TheLocalBBB had no problem with the local operations of the Seattle-based bank, but its mortgage division, based in California, and its corporate headquarters both have been subjects of unfavorable reports. BBB operating standards dictate we must revoke local memberships when a company’s headquarters has an unsatisfactory report. The logic behind this policy is that operating standards are (or should be) set and enforced from the top.

Spokane’s Max Theater, also known as, failed to alter confusing advertising on its Web site. The BBB attempted to work with the company to clarify those claims, but the company failed to cooperate. Look for more focus on advertising review from TheLocalBBB in 2005.

Responding to our calls and letters about complaints is pretty basic, but three companies chose not to uphold this most basic of membership standards: G & D Haaheim, also known as As Seen On TV, of Dalton Gardens; Affordable Auto Sales, of Spokane; and North American Coatings, of St. Maries, Idaho.

We are in the resolution and information business. Buyers seek out our reliability reports in ever-increasing numbers. The majority of the complaints we handle are against businesses that are not BBB members, but inquiries are fair game for everyone. This is the main reason why we strive to make sure our reports honestly reflect the facts, including government actions, revocations and in some cases, lack of licensing.

TheLocalBBB’s board of directors and members are committed to making sure that the BBB standards are meaningful.

A company is offered ample opportunity to avoid revocation, and can appeal the decision to the board’s standards committee if they choose to do so. The BBB’s board is composed of business leaders and owners from North Idaho and Eastern Washington. BBB staff doesn’t make those decisions.

We’re an odd duck: while our major support is membership dollars, if a company doesn’t measure up, we won’t take the dollars in the first place. And if a member chooses to violate BBB standards, even after it has paid its dues, we reserve the right to revoke those memberships and publicize them.

Bottom line? If a company accepts BBB membership, it knows what’s expected.