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BBB's Naughty List is Here: Takeaways for Consumers and Businesses

by Keylen Villagrana | Dec 3, 2021 3:30:15 PM

Better Business Bureau Great West + Pacific has officially released its 2021 Holiday Season Naughty List spotlighting the most complained about businesses with significantly low ratings in its eight-state service area.

The 14 businesses headlining this year’s list operate exclusively online, and they each have a pattern of unaddressed consumer complaints related to issues including delivery delays, product quality, customer service, and refunds. Consumers overwhelmingly reported feeling misled after items failed to meet expectations.

This year’s naughty list includes businesses that have failed to correct the issues consumers are reporting or have simply not responded to BBB’s communications. Some have perhaps attempted to correct the pattern of complaints but their efforts were short-lived. BBB has provided a detailed explanation specific to each company of why we’ve released an alert, listed at the top of their business profile.

“Although COVID-19 has presented serious issues for businesses, such as a slowdown in the supply chain and difficulty finding employees, this cannot be an excuse for not addressing issues the business can control such as communicating with customers about delays and providing refunds when a business can't deliver,” said Dene Joubert, investigations manager for BBB Great West + Pacific.

Online shopping fraud has been growing for several years, but according to BBB research, it dramatically increased during the pandemic as more people shopped online. BBB Scam Tracker reports and complaints to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) more than doubled in 2020 and continue to increase throughout 2021. Additionally, online shopping has more BBB “F”-rated companies than any other type of business.

Consumers are encouraged to take the following preventative steps every time they are shopping from an unfamiliar website.

What you see may not be what you get.

Websites associated with illegitimate businesses often steal professional-looking images from established companies to mislead consumers. They often also mark down the price of products to make you think you’re getting a great deal on a popular/expensive item, or they may charge you a higher price to give you the impression you’re ordering a prestige product.

A reverse image search on Google will give you a good idea of whether the images were stolen. If the same image appears on more than one site, it’s likely being used to deceive consumers. Even the smallest businesses try to use original images of their products.

Are they really based out of the location that’s advertised?

Foreign-based companies may falsely claim to be operating from within the U.S. to appear more legitimate. Since international packages are more prone to experience delays, it’s tempting for these companies to use an alternate address.

Sites such as who.is or ICANN provide information on when and where the site was created. You can also lookup the address advertised to make sure it matches what the business states. Look for reviews from trusted sources to check whether consumers experienced significant delays or if they received their items at all.

Be aware of the FTC mail order rule.

Most consumers aren’t aware they’re entitled to a refund if their merchandise has not been shipped within the advertised time frame without consenting to a delay. Or at least notified by the seller that there’s a been significant delay according to the Federal Trade Commission:

“The Rule, issued in 1975, requires sellers who solicit buyers to order merchandise through the mail, via the Internet, or by phone to have a reasonable basis to expect that the sellers can ship within the advertised time frame, or, if no time frame is specified, within 30 days. The Rule also requires that, when a seller cannot ship within the promised time, the seller must obtain the buyer’s consent to a delay in shipping or refund payment for the unshipped merchandise.”

Keep a close eye on your email communications and verify the tracking number sent to you.

Look for signs of a trustworthy company.

A trustworthy business cares about honoring its promises. They’ll set clear expectations for the shopper before they make a purchase to help ensure a satisfactory experience.

Look for a transparent and thorough return/exchange policy. There should also be multiple methods to contact the business, including a phone number, email, and a legitimate registered address that coincides with the company. Call the customer service number, too, if needed. You’ll get a feel for the kind of service you’ll receive should any issues arise.

The key is to be proactive. Take the time to compare items, look for reviews on multiple platforms, learn how to spot a fake review, and know how to contact the company should your purchase hit any roadblocks. Search the company’s reputation on BBB.org to find any potential consumer alerts, business ratings, number of complaints filed, common issues consumers are facing, how they are responding to their customers’ concerns and their BBB Accreditation status.

BBB is here to help every step of the way. Lean on us to look up a company before you start shopping or file a complaint to help reach a resolution after you make a purchase.

Additional Resources:

Don’t Let a Social Media Ad Ever Mislead You Again

6 Savvy Steps to Becoming a Smarter Consumer

Don’t Let Shortages Spoil Your Holiday Shopping


Key Takeaways for Businesses

Being a business owner is a challenge, especially when forces out of your control affect your bottom line. But those external factors don’t have to hurt your relationships with customers. Here are some takeaways for businesses based on the common issues the Naughty List brought to light.

Facing supply chain delays? Communicate.

Thoroughly communicate with your customer before they place an order and until the item is delivered. Most importantly, be transparent from the get-go. If you’ve been facing significant delays, whether it’s supply chain hold-ups out of your control or staffing issues, communicate those issues with your customer.

Provide a realistic window of when their merchandise will be processed and shipped to prevent setting false expectations – preferably in the form of a disclaimer before they purchase the item(s). Also provide clear instructions on how to cancel orders in case the estimated time of delivery gets delayed. Notify your customers every step of the way.

Look into setting up pending charges.

Setting up your orders to not process payments until the item has been shipped or delivered takes your customer service to the next level. It gives your customers peace of mind to know they won’t be charged for an item until it’s officially on its way or once it's delivered. It’ll also significantly reduce the number of inquiries to your customer service department from people asking for a refund.

Strongly equip your customer service department.

One of the biggest pain points reported by consumers is not being able to get ahold of the company. It’s vital to have a customer service department that is accessible and responds within a reasonable timeframe. Provide multiple methods of contact including email, phone calls, direct messages on social media, or a chatting service.

If you have a small customer service team, be transparent about your limited bandwidth and set realistic expectations. Building an FAQ page on your website can help your customers find an answer on their own for those moments your queue is running behind.

Your website is a representation of your business. Can a customer feel confident ordering from your site?

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