Ever received a recruitment call from the Better Business Bureau? In nearly 20 years in business, I have received oodles.
Your experience may vary. In mine, they leave ominous sounding voicemails one can easily take to mean there is a complaint against your business. Of course, in a masterstroke of plausible deniability, the message says no such thing—at least not literally. It says something to the effect of, “There has been an inquiry about your company and I need to ask you a few questions.” Yet that wording with a dead-serious tone, along with what it leaves unsaid, can easily create the impression that you’re in trouble, and that you need to hop right on whatever the problem is and straighten it out before your reputation is ruined.
When you hasten to call—as I did the first time I allowed one of these messages to dupe me—you learn that, no, there is no complaint, no investigation. The BBB wants to invite you to join, as a dues-paying member, the organization that famously stands for business ethics. You know, the one that tricked you into calling them back.
The tactic is no different when they actually get you on the phone. A similarly ominous voice opens with, “There has been an inquiry about your company ...” Wise to them this last time, I asked specifically if there had been a complaint. No. When I asked the nature of the “inquiry,” the caller waxed elusive. Finally I said, “It sounds like the ‘inquiry’ is actually on the part of the BBB as to whether we might want to become a dues-paying member.” The caller confirmed as much, adding that this was a great honor for the RESPONSE Agency. Membership is by invitation only, he said, and they don’t accept just anyone.
I asked what kinds of companies, membership-wise, the Better Business Bureau declines. To his credit, he had a laundry list. Telemarketing companies were on it. Hmm. I think “telemarketing” fairly describes the BBB’s principal recruitment strategy.
I didn’t join. I have no interest in supporting an organization that espouses business ethics while resorting to a plausibly deniable yet deceptive sales pitch to grow its ranks, much less that resorts to the tactics of an industry to which it refuses membership, e.g., telemarketing.
I am tempted to report them to the Better Business Bureau.