In September, 1920, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Dallas and Northeast Texas was founded to promote truth in advertising in the Dallas marketplace. Today the BBB in Dallas continues to fulfill that original mission with a local advertising review program and with services that have been added through the years to help customers Start With Trust®.
Early member emblem for BBB in Dallas
Consumers and businesses now turn to the BBB not only for concerns about truth in advertising, but also for Reliability Reports on businesses; lists of BBB Accredited Businesses; news, tips, and scam alerts; and customer complaint processing including BBB arbitration.
The Dallas Advertising Review program continues to identify questionable advertising claims and ask businesses to correct or stop advertising that doesn’t meet BBB standards as outlined in the BBB Code of Advertising.
“Our vision is a marketplace with trust between consumers and businesses,” said Jay Newman, President and CEO of the BBB serving Dallas and Northeast Texas. “BBB holds businesses to high standards for good business practices. We support an information system that allows people to make good buying decisions based on those standards by telling consumers how businesses have treated their existing customers.”
In 1956, Stanley Marcus of Neiman Marcus in Dallas said: “If the Better Business Bureau went out of business tonight, we would have to organize one tomorrow morning.” He noted the BBB is “financed and carried on by business to maintain a high standard of morality and ethics in the business community that will justify the continued confidence of the public in business and in the free enterprise system.”
In 1912, advertising professionals across the country joined together to begin establishing independent organizations to promote “Truth in Advertising” and seek voluntary cooperation from businesses. The name “Better Business Bureau” was adopted for these organizations.
In Dallas, the BBB was established by the Dallas Advertising League. On September 7, 1920, the Better Business Bureau of Metropolitan Dallas, Inc., was chartered as a non-profit organization in Texas, and the first meeting of the board of directors was September 17, 1920. The first meeting of member businesses was held on September 29, 1920.
One of the earliest cases handled by the BBB in 1921 was a “bait and switch” advertisement for tires. Only one of the advertised brand of tires was available “with the salesman exerting all his efforts to switch the BBB shopper” to another brand. The business agreed to change its advertising.
A few more examples from the BBB’s decades:
In the 1930’s, the BBB investigated numerous oil promotion schemes following the discovery of the East Texas oilfield.
William H. Collier, Manager of BBB in Dallas, with a consumer, about 1938
In the 1940’s, the BBB worked to improve mattress labeling and quality. The BBBfound that mattresses sold as new contained “refuse material”, resulting in the creation of a state bedding association and the enactment of a state bedding law.
In the 1950’s, the BBB examined the claims for the “Atomotrone”. The device was said to produce “Electrical” or “Thermal” water to cure diseases and treat medical conditions. The BBB found that the water “remained as it was before, namely, water”. The BBB publicized its findings, and later the promoter was charged with mail fraud.
U.S. Marshal James Y. Victor
In the 1960’s, the BBB warned the public about “Betsy Cars”. These cars had been damaged in Hurricane Betsy and were being offered to unknowing buyers at 30% to 40% of the insurance payments that sellers had received.
In the 1970’s, complaints piled up on reducing salons and skin-peel clinics, but the businesses wouldn't cooperate with the BBB on a voluntary basis. A referral to law enforcement resulted in several of the businesses shutting down, and an injunction on one.
In the 1980’s, the BBB alerted businesses to a for-profit business using a charity-like appeal to sell advertising in a drug abuse manual. The manual was never published.
In the 1990’s, the BBB notified advertisers who were not complying with new federal truth in lending requirements. Most advertisers cooperated. One was an auto dealer who advertised some financing terms but not the down payment and sample payments. The dealer's advertising agency agreed to include the required disclosures in future ads.
In the 2000’s, the BBB warned the public about a succession of gifting schemes. Participants paid a so-called gift, on the promise of a big payoff when others “gifted”. The schemes were illegal pyramids that collapsed when new gifts ran out.
Today, the BBB in Dallas serves 13 counties in Northeast Texas: Collin, Cooke, Dallas, Delta, Denton, Ellis, Fannin, Grayson, Hopkins, Hunt, Kaufman, Lamar, and Rockwall.
In 2009, the BBB in Dallas provided 3,797,053 instances of service, including 1,653,881 Web page visits. There were 1,422,499 requests for BBB Reliability Reports® and 438,876 requests for lists of BBB Accredited Businesses. A total of 32, 871 customer complaints were filed, and the BBB in Dallas handled 137 advertising review cases.
BBB Reliability Reports on businesses list basic information on the business as well as the BBB rating, which ranges from A+ to F. The BBB rating is based on several elements, including whether there have been customer complaints and if so, whether complaints are resolved. In addition, businesses that meet BBB accreditation standards are shown as BBB Accredited Businesses. The BBB reports on both accredited and non-accredited businesses.
BBB Accredited Businesses must meet BBB accreditation standards, based on the BBB Standards for Trust: Build Trust, Advertise Honestly, Tell the Truth, Be Transparent, Honor Promises, Be Responsive, Safeguard Privacy, and Embody Integrity.
To learn more or to check out a business, find BBB Accredited Businesses, see news, tips, and alerts, or file a complaint, start at www.bbb.org.