As a constituent of the Southern California area, NHE was contacted by the BBB. They asked us to consider being an accredited member. Although a membership fee was required to become accredited , we originally decided to join nonetheless. The annual fees associated to a BBB accreditation later became a major concern of ours. Those familiar with NHE's philosophy on purchased accreditations (view: The truth about the Personal Training Accreditation System), will appreciate our concern regarding purchased accreditation seals.
Ironically, the organization most perceive as the epitome of business ethics was forced to shut down due to fraud, extortion and coercion. The two-year federal investigation into the practices of the Los Angeles BBB (which also controlled Orange County, Riverside and San Bernardino) had been going on behind closed doors. With the exception of those who watched the 20/20 investigation on television or YouTube or read the New York Times investigation pieces, most believed the BBB was an honestly run government agency. Apparently, that was an illusion. The BBB is not a government agency and according to this latest federal, and its own internal, investigation the Los Angeles BBB was far from honest.
A couple of years ago, we documented one of our competitor's ordeal (NASM) of a similar extortion practice by the BBB, precisely as has been reported by the New York Times. Although NASM had been operating for decades in Southern California (before relocating to Arizona) and is an admired, popular personal trainer certification organization, the BBB rated them an 'F' (view here). At the time, NASM was not a BBB accredited organization. Evidently, on February 25, 2011 the owner of NASM thought it to be in NASM's best interest to become BBB accredited. Although for decades no such interest in doing so seemed to exist. However, the associated fees that accompany all BBB accreditation seals earned NASM an instant 'A+' rating (view here). With the exception of having cut the BBB a check, no other changes were evident. Their complaint volume has not improved, in fact it has substantially increased. With the exception of having paid for 'BBB services', there were no other indications that a rate overhaul was suddenly warranted. This is not to say NASM deserved an 'F' rating to begin with, but to jump from the bottom of the grade scale to the very top, overnight, speaks for itself.
Until now, there has been no reason to mention any of this on our website. We simply have been documenting certain companies within the fitness industry to better understand the BBB extortion rumors that have been circulating the Southern California area for years (Eighty percent of personal trainer certification organizations originate in the state of California). Our position on paid accreditations is unwavering, despite what benefits the accreditation might bring. We appreciate that all organizations must generate revenue to remain operational. However, if an accreditation organization generates the majority of its revenues directly from the very same people it is supposed to regulate or judge, unbiased opinions are not probable.
As a result of the expulsion of the Los Angeles BBB, all 90,000 plus businesses operating in the Los Angeles, Orange County, Riverside and San Bernardino areas have had their BBB reviews deleted from the BBB database. This was the decision of the BBB's national chapter, the Council of Better Business Bureaus, in an effort to erase everything the Los Angeles BBB chapter built in its nearly 80 year history. All businesses operating in the Los Angeles, Orange and surrounding counties were essentially collateral damage as a result. Surely, those with an 'F' rating and numerous complaints are not complaining because they now have a clean slate. However, there are those of us who had great BBB reviews. None of that matters now because the BBB's credibility has been irreparably damaged, at least in Southern California.
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