BBB Admits It Was Suckered Into Giving “HAMAS” An A- Rating For $425

The Southland Better Business Bureau in California today admitted that it made a mistake by accrediting a fake company called Hamas and giving it an A- rating, but insists that it does not damage its credibility or that of the Better Business Bureau.

Unidentified critics of the BBB’s letter grade system – to show how high grades can be purchased – signed up two non-existent businesses, paid $425 for each to the Southland BBB (Los Angeles area) and both businesses were immediately up on the web site as accredited businesses with prized A- ratings.

Normally, a new business seeking to get on the site without paying the annual accreditation fee would get a C or slightly better rating, never an A. It takes cash for that to happen.

One of the sites was called Hamas – an obvious reference to the terrorist organization in the Middle East – and said on the BBB site that its purpose was to provide “educational programs for troubled youth”

The BBB published on its site the following:

BBB Reliability Report for Hamas

A BBB Accredited business since 07/12/2010

Rating Explanation

Company Rating A-

Our opinion of what this rating means:

An excellent rating. A company with this rating may not rate higher because of a greater number of rate-lowering factors, but we do not consider them to be factors that would likely adversely affect consumer transactions.

“Jimmy Rivers,” a former journalist and now a California businessman has been writing about the Better Business Bureau’s letter grading system for two years – like I have – and disclosed the Hamas incident earlier this week on his website

Today I called Gary Almond, vice president at the Southland BBB organization – the largest in the country.

Almost said his staffers got taken.

“They mislead us,” he said, insisting that proof that the BBB will give its A rating to anyone with a phone and a credit card does not damage its credibility.

“We have systems that check” to make sure businesses are legitimate, he said.

In this case, he said, his staff simply made a mistake. He said his staff did call the telephone number the business provided to make sure it existed.

He also said the money is being returned to the people who paid for the accreditations, which were taken down yesterday from the website.

Almond had to rush off so he did not have an opportunity to explain why Starbucks, which did not pay to get accredited, has much lower grades for its stores in California from the BBB. But if you go to you will get Jimmy Rivers’ answer. By the way, that is not his real name. He keeps that confidential to protect himself and his friends from retaliation from the BBB, which has been trying like crazy to learn his identity.

“So, where were these standards when the BBB accredited and welcomed the terrorist group HAMAS as a member?,” Rivers asks in his column.

“Now in case one might think this an isolated instance, be assured it’s not. A group of angry and frustrated businesses across the United States and Canada have decided to fight back. The registering of these BOGUS BUSINESSES has been ongoing for quite some time. The HAMAS registered with the BBB does not actually exist, except as a member of the Better Business Bureau. Here’s another Bogus Business that was awarded BBB accreditation from back in June of this year. Whatever happened to the review and acceptance that’s supposed to be done by the local Board of Directors of the BBB?”

“When I first started my investigation I found pretty early on that they were a corrupt and flawed organization. Never in my wildest dreams did I comprehend how fully invested the Better Business Bureau was in greed, hypocrisy and arrogance. The fact that anyone can call up the BBB and wave a credit card in front of them and get an “A” grade is just plain evil. It certainly exposes their grading system as being totally useless.”

“Unfortunately, it is the consumer and the small business who suffer from the BBB’s greed. My take is that the BBB should be shut down. Barring that, they need to immediately pull all grades from their websites and put right all that they have done wrong,” Rivers said.

In an editorial on his website, Rivers said expect more disclosures.

“And don’t forget readers, bbbroundup knows of dozens and dozens of other bogus businesses that have ALREADY received their accreditation and grade from various BBBs in the US and Canada.”

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5 Comments on "BBB Admits It Was Suckered Into Giving “HAMAS” An A- Rating For $425"

  1. How can Almond say all this with a straight face. Why can’t he be a man and admit that he and BBB got caught with their hands in the cookie jar. They don’t care if you sell coffee (so long as your not Starbucks that is) or Rocket Propelled Grenades so long as you grease their palms to the sum of $425. To them you are not black or white or yellow, you are GREEN. BBB needs to be taken apart and buried, just like HAMAS.

  2. What about the Sushi restaurant that was approved for a A rating by the same office? How many more businesses do we need to show to prove they will give anyone an A rating who provides a credit card and a 2 minute conversation over the phone. Why is everyone letting them off the hook that this is an isolated incident?

  3. There is absolutely no excuse for what happened in California. The Southland made a HUGE mistake. Calling into question their accreditation procedures is completely understandable and warranted.

    With that said, I would like to make one correction to this story. There ARE non-accredited businesses with an A rating. It is untrue that the highest grade a non-accredited business can get would be a C. Companies only receive an F if they fail to respond to consumer complaints. An F is not just arbitrarily given out because you refuse to join a BBB.

    This incident is embarrassing for the whole system and it, unfortunately, has an impact on the good BBB’s that are out there serving the public interest. Someone needs to be fired.

    • George Gombossy | July 22, 2010 at 3:47 pm |

      I don’t believe I wrote that non-accredited business cannot get an A rating, I wrote that NEW businesses cannot unless they are accredited

  4. Interesting to see the various ratings. I happened to check out Verizon and according to the BBB web site, Verizon Communications has been a “BBB Accredited business since 1/1/1929”. How is this possible since Verizon’s investor page states that’ “Verizon Communications Inc., based in New York City and incorporated in Delaware, was formed on June 30, 2000, with the merger of Bell Atlantic Corp. and GTE Corp”

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