Better Business Bureau Accused of doing "BAD" business

By Layron Livingston - bio | email

TYLER, TEXAS (KLTV) - An ABC News investigation alleges some Better Business Bureau offices may be in it solely for the money--bumping company grades from 'D' and 'C' ratings for cash.

Friday afternoon, Connecticut's attorney general's pushed the organization to stop what he calls a 'pay-to-play' system that rates BBB members better than nonmembers.

Richard Blumenthal's office said he sent a letter to the BBB's national office in Virginia, outlining his concerns.

Just this past spring, Bayless Custom Homes was chosen to build East Texas' Extreme Makeover: Home Edition project. Apparently, Gary Bayless's company was good enough to take on that project, but wasn't good enough for the Better Business Bureau of Central East Texas.

Bayless was surprised when KLTV informed him, Friday, about his 'F' rating.

"They raised my rating to a 'B+' after I talked to them," he said. "If I wanted to become a member, I think I can get an 'A,'" he said, sarcastically.

Bayless is not a member of the Bureau, but he apparently had an unresolved complaint with the--one he said he was just made aware of, Friday.

"I've been here for 30 years, and no one has ever complained, and we take pride in making sure our customers are happy."

Bayless said the rating system needs to go. "If it's a pay-for-your-grade deal, which it is, now, that's not fair to people who are out here trying to make a living."

Mechele Mills is president of the BBB of Central East Texas. She said pay-to-play does not happen in East Texas.

"If you have an 'F', we will not accept your money. If you have below a 'B', we will not accept it. We send it back," she said.

Mills' office monitors more than 20,000 businesses across 19 East Texas counties. Nearly 2,000 of them are accredited, with 'A+' ratings.

"We take complaints very seriously," said Mills. "If you don't resolve a complaint, you're not going to have a good rating with us."

Mills said complaints are just one factor in the East Texas grading process. Mills' office also conducts background checks, sex offender checks, and looks into court records involving member and nonmember businesses.

"I believe we're here to set standards for businesses to run their businesses ethically, and for them not to do their do diligence makes the rest of us look bad."

Mills said her office also checks with the state comptroller's office and local county clerk's to make sure companies are legitimate. If not, the BBB will not process an application.

"To think that you can just buy your way into a better rating is just wrong," said Phillip Goodwin with Advantage Roofing in Tyler.

Goodwin paid to have his company checked. His company truck bears the "BBB Accredited" message. Goodwin's rating, though, is still an 'A-'. He said he'll keep working for the 'A+'.

"We want to show the public we're a company you can trust."

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