Some of the biggest online sellers have embraced the Better Business Bureau to aid their credibility, which means — like it or not — you should, too, when you have a problem.
The BBB, a business organization that has been accused of giving high ratings to dues-paying members despite their track records, counts as members seven of 10 top retailers surveyed by dealnews. We reviewed the complaint data and found that all but one of the companies surveyed received an A rating or higher.
The only one without that lofty rating is Cabela's, the outdoors retailer, whose rating is being reviewed after an uptick in complaints. Cabela's logged 163 complaints in the past three years, more than 100 of which came in the past year, the BBB says. But the number of complaints against Cabela's is small in comparison to some other retailers.
Amazon.com, the biggest of the bunch, tallied 2,580 complaints. It's all relative, of course. Amazon had nearly $13 billion in sales in the last quarter of 2010. And about 1,800 of those complaints were resolved to the customers' satisfaction.
Among the companies surveyed, only Cabela's, Piperlime (Gap) and Apple did not pay for BBB accreditation. So, why does a company's BBB rating matter to you? A company with a D or F rating is not likely to care very much if the BBB forwards a letter of complaint. Most likely, they've decided that they're not interested in having the BBB mediate disputes with customers.
But, and it's no guarantee, if the company has a higher rating (and/or is a member) a consumer will have a better chance of getting a complaint noticed when it's filed through the BBB. Meritline and Overstock, for example, resolve most complaints filed through the BBB to the satisfaction of their customers. Others, such as TigerDirect, have a lower success rate.
If you have a dispute with an online seller, you should first try to resolve it with the company. If there's a charge that shouldn't be there, be sure to alert your credit card company so your objection is documented within 60 days of getting the credit card statement with the erroneous charge.
If your complaint goes beyond normal issues and is worthy of a larger complaint, still file with the BBB, but add to the mix your state attorney general or consumer affairs office.
With that perspective, here are the 10 retailers listed by the number of complaints, how many were resolved to the customer's satisfaction and the company's BBB rating.