Who doesn’t love unpacking a good scam?
I love investigating issues and scams, and I recently came across a tweet that pointed me to something less-than-good seeming — a cam network with an apparent C rating from the Better Business Bureau.
Founded in 1912, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is a nonprofit organization focused on advancing marketplace trust, according to its charter. The BBB collects consumer reviews and uses said reviews in conjunction with internal criteria to rate businesses from A+ to F.
The BBB serves as an intermediary between consumers and businesses, handling hundreds of thousands of consumer disputes against businesses each year. Nearly 80 percent of the disputes are resolved, meaning the consumer and the business came to some agreement.
This all sounds well and good, but the BBB has undergone some scathing criticism and discovery in recent years. In 2015, CNNMoney did an in-depth report about, which you can read here: “Slammed by the government, A-rated by the Better Business Bureau” (September, 2015).
The main point was that, after some extensive digging, CNN found the BBB’s rating system to be seriously flawed, resulting in grades that appear to be arbitrary and change erratically. They also found a number of other not-so-obvious things, including:
- Consumers can complain about any business. The complaints stay live on a company’s BBB listing until the business attempts to reconcile the complaints.
- Only paying members may BBB-accredited, which includes bragging rights and permission to use the fancy BBB logo. Accreditation requires being “trustworthy” and costs anywhere from $400 to $10,000 annually.
- BBB-accredited companies receive faster reconciliation than non-paying businesses. Put simply, if someone complains about a non-accredited company, regardless of the complaint’s veracity, the black mark will hang around on the business’s file like the world’s most high-profile negative Yelp review.
The last point — essentially having to pay to keep consumer criticism at bay — sounds distressingly like revenge porn. Which brings us back to webcam and adult entertainment.
I found three cam companies on the BBB’s website that illustrate CNN’s assessment.
The previously mentioned C-grade company is not accredited, has two resolved and one unresolved complaint, and one negative consumer review.
Another unaccredited network has only one unresolved complaint and no reviews — and that network received a grade of B-. (Huh?)
A third, also unaccredited network with seven resolved and six unresolved complaints, had one neutral and two negative consumer reviews. And their grade? They don’t have one!
In digging through the BBB’s “adult entertainment” listings, which include everything from retail sex toy stores to porn production houses to cam networks, I found not one single company with BBB accreditation. But from what I can tell, BBB accreditation is basically a bought position, so props to porn for not falling victim to false, for-profit legitimizing.
Many adult entertainment companies have an unaccredited listing, though — something on-par with what I found for the three cam networks. Though the vast majority of the nearly 1,000 “adult entertainment” companies listed include no complaint or review information, some do. For example, Los Angeles-area strip club Silver Reign received an especially ludicrous complaint related to allegedly unclear lap dance coupons.
Sadly, I came away from this exercise a bit disappointed. I always associated the BBB with unbiased legitimacy, but I now feel it’s more like an amalgamation of paid advertising and Yelp — and lord knows you gotta take those consumer reviews on Yelp with a grain of salt.
In sum, if you’re looking for information about an adult company’s business practices, the BBB is just one source — one that should be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism. As such, you should triangulate BBB details with your own experience, commentary on other review sites, and feedback from trusted friends and peers.
The best decisions are always informed ones — so stay savvy, and learn all you can before you lock yourself into any sort of commitment.
P.S. — If you’re not following @YNOT_cam on Twitter, you should be! I’m always on there looking for goings-on that we all could stand to know more about. Tell me your news, both good and shitty. I’ll write about it!