Is there much Credence to A+ BBB Rating?

Before you answer.....

If asked , what % of 626 Home Improvement BBB members (*without omissions) have A+ rating & what % have some sort of an A rating ( A- , A , A+) ?

Select 1 of the 4 below for correct answer!

1. 55 % & 79 % 2. 76 % & 81 %
3. 65 % & 73 % 4. 96 % & 100 %

The correct answer is number 4, (96% & 100%).

I compiled an exact breakdown as shown below.

Total Home Improvement Contractors viewed (without omissions) on 2-11-15, graded by the BBB were 626.    

600  out of 626 with a A+  = 96%  20 with a A  & 6 with a A-   = 626 out of 626  with at least a A = 100%.

(5 companies excluded from total amount, under review, no given reason, no given grade)    

Contractors with an A grade (total of 20). 14 due to lack of longevity, all established between 1-2 years.

6 due to complaints, 2 with 3, 1with 4, 2with 2, 1 with 5.

Contractors with an A- grade (total of 6).   4 due to lack of longevity, all established 1year or less.

2 due to complaints, 1 with 8, 1 with 5.                                                            

It's somewhat ironic that I'm writing this article because I've been recognized by the CT BBB with the achievement of winning the " Business / Consumer Educational Award " , 2nd place in 2011 & 2016, 1st place in 2012 & 2014. This award is based on contents of companies' website that displays an exceptional strong and consistent effort in educating businesses and consumers on topics of professional and public relevance. Any current CT BBB member having a website, regardless of the type of business is eligible to compete (except previous winner not eligible following year) 

It started as curiosity, wanting to know the amount of A+ BBB companies, once researched, it initially was unbelievable and soon after, actually shocking to me. My instinct told me to research the BBB's "Grading System ". I do understand an A+ BBB grade is highly possible, however not 96% & 100 % as outlined above.  Once researched, I felt it was very favorable and generous and needs to serve the consumer more wisely.

A little background , when first becoming a BBB member in the late 70's the BBB didn't have a grading system other than distinguishing  companies into 2 categories , either " In Good Standing " or " Not In Good Standing ". Ten years later ,In the late 80's I realized this grading system truly didn't distinguish me from other companies (99% were in good standing) and I felt no financial benefit to continue paying a yearly due, so I cancelled.  It was not until I heard that the BBB had implemented a new grading system (A+ to F) that intrigued me to immediately rejoin (in 2007).

After familiarizing, researching and analyzing the present BBB "Grading System" and the oddity of not noticing any B's , C's . D's or F  grades, and especially knowing that there isn't any skill , knowledge, experience nor business savvy required in obtaining a  " Home Improvement License " , ( actually bought, not earned) I felt it was my duty to have my voice heard regarding " loop holes "I've noticed in the "Grading Evaluations "for the sake of improvement.

I've noticed that the BBB's perception of grades (A+ to F) isn't in my opinion the public's perception of what a true A+ grade is, which is scoring top 97% to 100 % of the class. I wondered why such low thresholds were implemented within the BBB grading system. I initially thought the BBB was giving the company the "benefit of doubt" since certain information was provided by company; however I dismissed that theory because the BBB is extremely knowledgeable and resourceful.  I also thought the BBB didn't want to jeopardize the livelihoods of companies associated with a true B or C grade because the consumers will dismiss those companies and pursue only A rated companies. I did notice the present "Grading System "is somewhat similar to the prior one I mentioned of not distinguishing companies apart from one another. I still wasn't satisfied because I felt the present over-all version is actually more of a misrepresentation to the consumer because the original version ("In" or "Not in" good standing) didn't imply much. I do realize and give credit that the present BBB grading system provides more information than prior one, such as business category, confirms licensing, name of principle owner, address, complaint volume, governing actions, etc., however falls short in the most important aspect, implying a favorable and generous grading system (A+ to F) and contrary to public perception.   

Trying to reach "a middle ground" I came up with 3 concepts that would neither degrade nor possibly jeopardize the livelihood of newly established companies and would neither be a misrepresentation to consumers or a deterrent on not wanting to contact any BBB member. They are as follows…..(1)  All newly started companies  ( 0 to 2 years) that join the BBB  will be "In Review" the first 3 years with no issued grade , in its place ,the following statement will be posted on their review " New Company , in good standing , under mandatory 3 year period review ". The " In Good Standing " statement will assure the consumer that the BBB confirmed licensing, complete understanding of products and services, address location ,owner name and confirms type of business . These companies will not lose their privilege of posting testimonials and photos on their BBB Review. These companies will be allowed to educate the consumer about their previous experience (as a past employee) , because even thou newly started, the owner could still have more " on job " experience then companies that have been in business some 10 years thus having the same opportunity to be contacted by consumers to bid on projects. BBB still required to monitor volume of complaints if and when they arise, however with a history of either zero or little contact with a consumer , not much credence should be credited to companies on not having any complaints , contrary with the present BBB " Grading System ".  (2) All recently established companies ( 2 to 4 years )  , same policy as above with a few changes (1) Change the word ,Newly started company to Recently established company (2) Change 3 year probation period to 1 year. The reason for a lesser probation period is the BBB now has a pass history before them ,enabling to research other categories of interest associated with the BBB "grading System "such as improper advertising, government actions, etc.  It should be noted, even thou companies aren't yet a BBB member , they still can be monitored. (3) Companies in business for at least 6 years will bypass any probation period and receive an instant grade on "2 conditions", (1) Proof this company was registered with the State as a Home Improvement Company and ALL under the SAME registration number during entire duration . (2) BBB reviews company's income tax records previous 3 years to either confirm being a full time self-employed company (either 1040 or 1099 form) or possibly an employee (W2 form) or possibly a combination of both. It's possible to be registered as an Official Home Improvement Contractor and actually not perform any work.  Usually the amount of income generated can determine volume of work.  Once these tax documents are analyzed , the BBB would determine what portion of this 3 year period will be credited or deducted, and these companies may fall into a category of not yet being awarded a grade until further time is rendered and reviewed. This procedure will be a disadvantage to those " Working under the Table".      

Still wanting to know why the BBB is using a "Grading System" that truly doesn't imply anything when implying all companies have earned some sort of an A grade.  I've came to the conclusion it's a" cleverer version "of the original " Grading System "of not endorsing . The difference is the "Marketing Strategy "of generating an overwhelming amount of revenue from the funds received in membership fees followed by annual dues paid by these companies. I'm not against increasing BBB revenues especially knowing  all the good this would do for further research .However it comes with a consequence to the consumers by anointing all "BBB Accredited Businesses" with some sort of A grade as researched and illustrated above..  I believe the original grading system of " In Good Standing " or  " Not in Good Standing "  didn't generate enough revenue nor had a motive for companies to either join or continually pay yearly dues as I personally stated happened to me.

I appreciate all the research the BBB does for the consumer that occurs prior, during and after their home improvement project. However I feel the consumer should also do their own research as the BBB recommends. I will provide information, scenarios not covered by the BBB's present grading systems format. I will further inform you of these ambiguities along with my suggestions of resolutions, as I mentioned a few examples above. I would be more than happy, if invited by the Ct BBB to meet for further discussions, along with other parties of interest to update the present grading system.     

Before informing you in detail the contents of the present BBB "Grading System ". I wanted to give you the background journey in obtaining a Home Improvement registration license. This is instituted by the Department of Consumer Protection and not the BBB . This will only further prove the importance, due diligence & responsibility the BBB has in wanting to update the present "Grading System ". The same could be said with the present version of the Department of Consumer Protections " Testing System "for "Home Improvement Contractors"  (as detailed below). For comparison reasons I'll first walk you through the journey of obtaining an Electrical license which is also similar when obtaining a plumbing and heating license and then I'll walk you through the journey of obtaining a Home Improvement license.

The 7 step journey in obtaining an Electrical License.

  • Start as an apprentice, required to achieve 8000 supervised / documented hours of on-job training.
  • Once obtained, take a 6 hour written exam conducted by the State of Ct.
  • If exam passed, an E2 license is earned, still not self-employed, however no on-job supervision required.
  • Required to achieve additional 4000 documented hoursof advanced on-job training.
  • Once obtained, take a 6 hour written exam conducted by the State of Ct.
  • If exam passed, an E1 license is earned and able to become self-employed if so desired.
  • To maintain an E1 license , must enroll yearly in a 4-7 hour course conducted by State of Ct.

The 1 step journey in obtaining a Home Improvement License.

  •  Fill out a form and buy your Home Improvement registration license.  

You actually purchase a Home Improvement license, no test, no knowledge no experience required just $$$.

The BBB's "Grading System "for Home Improvement Contractors is based on the combined evaluation of 13 different categories (called Elements, highlighted in RED below), shown below. Each element has a range of points that are either earned or deducted (highlighted in BLACK below). Also the range and amount of points vary among Elements.

Listed below (left column) is the "BBB Grade System " format, consisting of 13 Elements with the range of points that can be earned or deducted (maximum to minimum).

In my opinion the BBB grading version of "grading " seems a little complicated to understand because there are zeros to the right and zeros to the left along with positive and negative numbers. I did figure that the BBB "Spread of scoring is  346 and figured that since there are a handful of elements with a possible negative score that it seems the " Lower your positive score " the better your grade. In this case, the idea highest BBB grade score to receive is a zero.  

 Highlighted in BLACK is present BBB grade scores & spread                   Highlighted in BLUE would be my version,

             Total of 13 ELEMENTS of BBB Grading                                                   Me mimicking BBB's scores & spread                                                       

  • Complaint Volume                                         15 to 0                                                               0 to 15
  • Unanswered Complaints                                40 to 0                                                               0 to 40
  • Unresolved Complaints                                  30 to 0                                                               0 to 30
  • Complaint Resolution Delayed                       5 or 0                                                                 0 or 5
  • Failure to Address Complaint Pattern             0 or -11                                                            0 or 11
  • Type of Business                                           0 or -41                                                             0 or 41                              
  • Time in Business ( Longevity )                        10 to 0                                                              0 to 10
  • Transparent Business Practices                       0 to -5                                                               0 to 5 
  • Failure to Honor Mediation/Arbitration           0 to -41                                                             0 to 41
  • Competency Licensing                                   0 to -41                                                             0 to 41
  • Government Action ( per action )                   0 to -25                                                              0 to 25
  • Advertising Review ( per incident )                 0 to -41                                                             0 to 41
  • BBB Trademark Infringement                         0 or -41                                                            0 or 41  

                                                                            Spread difference of 346                         Spread difference of 346

Footnotes on BBB's grade score & spread and why it was initially confusing to me. 

(I) I highlighted the word "or "in red & "to" in black because I didn't want you to think it was a typo error.

(2)  It's evident that the lower your positive point score total the better your grade .

(3)  Observation, there are 5 Elements (1, 2, 3, 4,7) that the greater number is on the left opposed to right , don't know if this means anything .   

 (4)  The sum of the lowest point score of each of the 13 Elements is a little confusing because 8 of the Elements have a negative grade , all adding up to – 246 and the remaining 5 Elements having the lowest possible grade , all adding up to a positive grade of 100. So do I add 100 to 246 or subtract 100 from -246?

 After attempting to dissect the BBB format logically, I realized I had to convert it into something that would make sense to the " Average Joe ".  So I converted the complicated BBB grading system (shown above highlighted in RED) to my version (shown above highlighted in BLUE ) .Both versions have a 346 point spread.

Below are some of the Elements (highlighted in BOLD GREEN) that the BBB takes into consideration to obtain a grade, however highlighted under each Element is a compelling counter evaluation that should be considered for improving the present grading system.  

Time in Business, Longevity       

  • Public perception of "longevity" is 15, 20, 25, 30 years , BBB's perception is only a handful of years because 1 year or less you could receive a  (A-) , 1 to 2  years you could receive a (A) and as little as 6 years receive a  (A+). I do realize the Element Longevity is only a part of total score, however it does penalize companies that have been in business a lot longer than a handful of years. 
  • A newly established company would be encouraged to join the BBB knowing their lack of Longevity isn't taken for "face value " and a certainty of most likely receiving some sort of A grade.  
  • One would think longevity is a result due to success and excellence however you should also consider the following second possibility, and ask, can an average company with average skill survive a handful of years to obtain an A+ grade? The answer to both scenarios is yes. You the consumer need to research to know if this companies longevity are based on prospering or just surviving. Many, many carpenters (laid-off, fired or unemployment due to lack of opportunities or not experienced or skilled enough) can easily buy a Home Improvement License, become self-employed and it is lucrative. This is achieved by charging cheaper prices, possibly 50% (per hour) below market value. However, still be double the amount (per hour) the wage they would earn as an employee of same profession and quadruple in a field other than their expertize. The premise of going into business decades ago was based on being well taught, obtaining the required experience (minimum 10 years), skills and confidence. Today the premise is based on all the wrong reasons, desperation & the convenience in obtaining a license (no skills, experience or Knowledge required). This industry is saturated with incompetent companies. As you may of noticed , nowhere on the BBB "Grading System "and the " Department of Consumer Protections " test , regarding "Home Improvement Contractors " warrant having knowledge, skills or business savvy . This being said, how could 100 % of these companies be graded some sort of an A grade.    
  • Footnote , if a plumber or electrical apprentice with less than required the required  12,000  documented hours  is in any one of the following scenarios (1)Active employee in their profession (2) laid off and collecting (3) Unemployment benefits expired and (4)Working in a different profession, "They Can't "obtain a license to become self-employed.   However a carpenter with little or no experience (as illustrated in the " Journey " chart above) can obtain a Home Improvement License.

An electrical, plumbing or heating contractor needs 12,000 hours of on-job training (translates to working 8 hours a day ,5 days a week ,50 weeks a year for 6 years) plus  pass two 6 hour written exams conducted by the State of Ct receive a License , then eligible to join the BBB as a member . However a Home Improvement Contractor that purchased a License ( not earned , nor was tested ) can join the BBB as a member with zero hours experience.   

Licensing & Government Action

  • As mentioned above, obtaining a Home Improvement license doesn't warrant any skill, knowledge or assurance of quality workmanship and because of this the consumer should still verify ,dismiss if not still active and not solely a reason to hire if license is active. Consumer should consider other avenues such as requesting referrals from recent clients with similar projects.  
  • I don't understand why such discrepancies in the point range ( 0 or -41 ), I feel a company not licensed warrants an F  regardless of all other Element achievements. However, there are  scenarios in reconsidering this drastic measure such as a grace period of 2 weeks .  The reason  , Department of Consumer Protection mails renewal  billing statement about 4 weeks prior the present license expiring , it's possible a company mailed  check in time however got lost or mailed just prior to date of present license expiring. The 2 week grace period should only occur the first 2 weeks after the outdated license expired.
  • Based on my reading of the contents named "Governing Action "  it only relates to the "Business " only  which I would assume means consumer law suits , business filing bankruptcy or any misconduct by the business however I didn't read anything about researching individual / personal background violations. I'm just mentioning this so the consumer understands BBB "Background Check "Only refers to their business.   

Complaints (volume, response or unanswered, resolved or unresolved)                                                                                       

  • A newly established company (1 week to less than a year ) that joins the BBB will most likely receive at least an A- grade ( this was earlier established in my research ). The reason is , since a great majority of the BBB's grading deductions is based on complaints ( 6 of the 13 Elements are based on some sort of stage of Complaint ). These companies would either have zero or a few customers and an incentive to join the BBB knowing you'll most likely start with some sort of A grade. That's why I purpose the "No Grade "probation periods as mentioned above.
  • I've seen companies with at least an A grade with as little as 1-2 years in business.  And one would also figure the first couple years weren't busy or only performed small jobs thus neither a volume of consumers nor a challenge of skills to properly award a high grade.  Consumers would need to do proper research to discover that in-reality this high grade was based on a low volume of work and simple projects and this company most likely not qualified to performed complicated, larger projects. That's why I purpose the "No Grade" probation periods. However company can receive a deduction in this "No Grade "probation period by reporting to the BBB on either volume of customers or value of performed work.
  • A common scenario, a company works solely as a sub-contractor for many general contractors. And since this sub-contractor doesn't work directly for the consumer, thus no consumer complaints could / would have been filed with the BBB. Hence, each additional year this company's grade score could raise and reach an A+ grade. Fast forward a couple years later, this company now decides to work directly for the consumer. The consumer is not privileged to know that the zero registered consumer complaints on "BBB Review" were falsely arrived, hence a misrepresentation of information that created a BBB A+ grade. Also, this contractor with as little as 6 years of experience (based on this scenario ) will most likely start with an A+ grade if they want to join at this point in time..
  • Another common scenario, a company acting as a sub-contractor (different from the one mentioned directly above). Actually works for only 1 general contractor (not many) and is paid solely on an hourly wage and is only labeled a sub-contractor (opposed to an employee) because the general contractor does not want to put them on the books as not to be responsible for cost of medical bills should an injury occur or be responsible to pay unemployment benefits due to lack of work.  Also same scenario, this sub-contractor later decides to deal directly with the consumer and since no possible consumer complaints could be filed, hence the possibility this company's grade score could raise and reach an A+ grade, hence a misrepresentation or could possibly start with a A+ if they want to join at this point of time.
  • Contractor can do shoddy work and reach a settlement without the BBB's knowledge, thus no logged consumer complaints.
  • Another common scenario, owner of a company is inactive due to lack of work , works for another company as  an employee ( same profession or another ) can still maintain and renew their home improvement registration and possibly generate a higher BBB grade the following year, due to no logged consumer complaints (because there weren't any customers). Fast forward a hand full of years later, company can actually receive an A+ rating with a handful amount of pass customers.
  • Plus other scenarios that may not be logged as a complaint , (A) A complaint regarding workmanship occurs 1to 3 years after project completed, can company state "It's beyond the State required 1 year warranty", thus could this complaint still be logged".  (B) A complaint occurs within 1 year of completion and company states " It falls within the 1 year warranty, will correct and is corrected", thus could this complaint still be logged?. (C) A complaint occurs during the project and company states " I will correct and is corrected ", thus could this complaint still be logged?  Based on the lack of complaints logged on BBB's members " Review ", I feel the BBB needs to explain their interruption of what a logged complaint consist of. For example, I believe all 3 scenarios (A ,B & C ) "Above the surface"  have some sort of merit of not logging a complaint  ,either legally as A , or due to resolving as B & C . However I feel if it got to the point of a consumer contacting the BBB it might be due to contractors resistant's to correcting or consumer feeling many issues should have never occurred. Some examples are (1) No permit (2) A roof should not leak, a floor or wall tile should not crack, drywall seams should not become visible, etc., regardless of the time periods of (C) during project, (B)With-in 1 year of completion of project ,or (A) 13 months after completion (1 month after 1 year warranty) should occur.   
  • There could be a "Positive Reason"  why there aren't a lot of logged complaints and that could be a credit to the BBB , encouraging / convincing  these companies to correct their mistakes or they will be dropped down to a B or C grade contractor. This tactic has rewards to the affected consumer however not to the new and upcoming consumer.
  • I wonder if the BBB actually verifies amount of employees (or lack of) each company claims to have or does the BBB just take the companies word. I say this because the BBB has stated, the more employees the more tolerance there is regarding the volume of complaints. It is possible for companies to state a work force double the actual amount by including (1) sub-contractors (2) employees on workman's compensation (3) part time or seasonal employees or relatives that occasional help in the office (4) or truly a greater volume of employees however only during a fraction of the year. 
  • In my research of reading all 626 home Improvement companies BBB grades, I researched deeper regarding 2 companies, 1 having 5 complaints and other having 8 complaints (both with an A- grade).  There's an area on the BBB "Review " in which you can "click" to read customer review , upon clicking , there were no posted review from consumer to read , zero . I was baffled.  

Other possible scenarios why an A+ scores could be misleading and part due to the Department of Consumer protection.

A company can legally venture into doing other types of remodeling work, still under the same home improvement license / registration number. A few examples of these other trades ( but not limited to )are roofing, siding, driveways, swimming pools, landscaping, fences, insulation, waterproofing & painting. Based on this being a fact the following scenarios can and do happen.

  • Companies that perform primarily 1 of the types of work mentioned above ( highlighted in BOLD )can venture / stretch their services in building additions, remodeling kitchens & bathrooms, drywall ,tiling , trim , etc..   These companies can advertise on the internet stating their insured, have a home improvement license, been in business for years and has an A+ BBB grade, however not  performed these types of projects (highlighted in RED),or if they did, neither in volume nor in a professional manner and absolutely not what the consumer would expect or accept .

Please read Home Page Heading "Read in Between the Lines "(References) for deeper explanation and resolution.

I felt I was both obligated and compelled to enlighten the consumer on information they either wondered themselves, didn't know, or now "want to know " . I hope the BBB does understand my only motive was for the sake of improvement ,equally for the consumer and for the BBB. This isn't any type of  "witch hunt" similar to the attacks  I read regarding criticism toward the BBB's " Grading System " , of which I only read  after I already felt obligated and compelled and never with any ill intent or any pre-motived vengeance.  

I firmly believe that I honestly and meticulously researched and analyzed, based on almost a half a century of training, experience, perception , foresight , knowledge and evaluating ( all firsthand & in the trenches )  and brought up some excellent concerns and resolutions and if the consumer also believes and agrees, then I'm correct and I should not be criticized or reprimanded for my effort of writing this article of which I'll call "Review the Review".

Thank you, John Arnone.

 Charts below.

Credence to BBB


Credence to BBB


Credence to BBB


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