When a Group of Business Owners Proved the BBB Was a Pay-To-Play Scam

In 2010, a group of business owners accused the Better Business Bureau — one of the country’s best consumer watchdog groups — of running a “pay-to-play” scheme in which A+ ratings are awarded to those who pay membership fees and F ratings are used to punish those who don’t. To prove their point, the Los Angeles business owners paid $425 to the Better Business Bureau and were able to obtain an A- rating for a non-existent company called Hamas, named after the Middle Eastern terrorist group. Proving the point further, the group pointed to Carmen Tellez, the owner of a company that provides clowns for parties. She was told by the BBB that she had to pay to fix her C- rating, based on a 2-year-old complaint that she said had already been resolved. The C- became an A+ the next day, after Tellez provided her credit card number to the BBB for a charge of $395. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal sent a demand letter to the BBB, suggesting that they review their rating system and make the necessary changes. Steve Cox, CEO of the BBB announced the next week that the ratings system would no longer give extra points to businesses that pay for accreditation.