When I was a kid, I lived in a small town in Oklahoma that had a population of about 20,000. Before we ever got a Wal-Mart, our downtown area was like something you’d see on TV or the movies: Mayberry or Marty McFly’s hometown when he went back to the 50s. We had a couple of shoe stores, a half dozen clothing stores, banks, bakeries and even a movie theatre that had a whopping TWO screens.

I remember seeing two things in every storefront when I’d go shopping with my mom. One was some kind of display boosting our local high school, such as the varsity football schedule or a poster for the Junior/Senior musical. The OTHER thing was the sticker on the door announcing that they were a member of the Better Business Bureau. As far as I can remember, every single downtown merchant had that sticker on their window. I assumed it was just something you did if you were a business owner — like supporting the local high school or knowing all your customers by name (again, it was a small town).

Well, the Better Business Bureau is still around but they’re much more than just a sticker on a shop window. The BBB was founded in 1912, so you might be thinking of them as the Edwardian version of Yelp.  That’s not really accurate, though. Sure, the BBB now has a website. The difference is when you access the BBB site, you’re not reading reviews by random people who may have their own agendas or scores to settle.

When the Better Business Bureau ranks a business, they take into account not only any possible complaints people might have had. They also act as a go-between, getting the business’s side of the story and, if the business is in the wrong, encouraging them to fix the problem.

I’ve always wondered about these sites that review businesses. Maybe a really bad review is from a competitor. On the other side of the coin, how do you know if a glowing review isn’t from the owners themselves? I can imagine a scenario where an unscrupulous competitor tasks their employees with writing bad social media reviews and the other business counters that by assigning THEIR employees to leave Five Star reviews.

That's just not possible with the Better Business Bureau's website. Here's an example of what you'll see with one of their business profiles (click here to see the entire page):

For consumers, their website offers a Scam Tracker, a user-friendly complaint form, and a tool to request quotes from up to three BBB accredited businesses.

The Better Business Bureau has been accrediting business for over a hundred years.  The BBB torch symbol has been displayed proudly on millions of storefronts, large and small.  Whenever you’re looking for a list of good landscapers, veterinarians, upholsterers — you name, it really — I can’t think of a better starting point than the Better Business Bureau’s website.