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The Utah branch of one of the oldest if not the oldest consumer rating service in the U.S. is passing the century mark this year.
The Better Business Bureau of Utah (BBB of Utah) is celebrating its 100th anniversary, striving to maintain its goal of helping consumers find trustworthy businesses to patronize and setting an ethical performance standard for Utah businesses.
What started as the Business Men's Alliance in Salt Lake City in 1913 has morphed into a one-stop resource for consumers and companies throughout the state, said Jane Driggs, president and CEO of the BBB of Utah.
She's worked for the organization for more than 25 years and says that although technology is making the information more accessible, the organization's mission hasn't changed much.
"Back when I started, we didn't have computers," Driggs said. "Now 99 percent of what we do is on the Internet."
For consumers, the BBB of Utah has been a way to report scams and get service complaints resolved. More than 16,000 consumers lodged complaints with BBB of Utah last year, most online, but Driggs said one or two people a day will file complaints the old-fashioned way, in person.
"They're coming to us to file a complaint or check on a business, but they're also coming to us to look for compliments," she said, adding that all of the complaint data they've collected will be available for consumers to search online next month. "Everybody has a different definition of quality ... so the complaints give consumers more information to make decisions that are right for them."
The way BBB of Utah handles consumer complaints sets it apart from Angie's List and other online review sites, Driggs said.
"Any complaint we receive, we send to the company to get their side of the situation," she said. "We really want to make sure that it's actual customers, not somebody trying to game the system."
About 2,900 Utah businesses are accredited by the agency and given a letter grade, from A+ to F. The grades are assigned based on a set of standards that include length of time in business, truth in advertising claims and complaints numbers.
Just Right Heating and Cooling in Salt Lake City is one of those accredited businesses. Owner Dan Dearden said his company has been a BBB of Utah accredited business since 2008 and also chooses to advertise on the site.
"We've found [BBB of Utah] to be extremely helpful," Dearden said. "Any of those accreditations we pursue. We find them all to help with customer confidence and trust."
His one quibble with BBB of Utah is its rating system. He said his company has never had a single complaint, while a competitor has had dozens, yet they both are graded A+.
"It seems to me they should have more to their rating system," Dearden said. "People need to look deeper."
Driggs explained that complaint numbers alone don't tell the whole story, adding that how a business responds to complaints is even more important to its BBB of Utah evaluation.
"If they don't correct the pattern (meaning, they don't figure out why they are receiving complaints referencing a certain issue over and over again), then that also can make their rating go down, and we put that in the BBB business review," she said.
And that is one of the best things about her job, Driggs said.
"I get to yell at businesses and get away with it because if they're doing something wrong, we actually do go after businesses and say you're doing it wrong," she said.
To file a complaint or check a business, visit http://www.bbb.org or call 801-892-6009 or toll-free 800-456-3907.
Twitter: @jnpearce BBB of Utah facts
1913 • Business Men's Alliance is formed "to protect chamber (of commerce) members from solicitations of all types."
1963 • Business Men's Alliance becomes the Better Business Bureau of Greater Salt Lake.
2,900 Utah businesses are accredited by BBB of Utah.
More than 1.9 million business and charity reviews of Utah organizations are online at http://www.bbb.org.
Gov. Gary Herbert declared June 12 "Better Business Day in Utah."
To contact the BBB
Visit http://www.bbb.org or call (801) 892-6009 or toll-free (800) 456-3907