A few months back my good friend, roofing contractor Tom Scribbins, approached me with an idea for a feature he would like to write for Roofing Contractor about the Better Business Bureau.

A few months back my good friend, roofing contractor Tom Scribbins, approached me with an idea for a feature he would like to write for Roofing Contractor about the Better Business Bureau. In a previous life Scribbins did some copy editing and given his experience as a roofing contractor I was frankly delighted with the prospect of having him submit a story.

He wanted to examine the Better Business Bureau and evaluate its rating system to determine if businesses that pay get better ratings than ones who do not join (with a paid membership). I have heard similar stories in the past and wondered what it would take to come up with a story that would be balanced. At any rate I told Tom I was interested in pursuing it and to let me know when he had something for me to look at.

Tom is an independent businessperson who is very active in his church and community. No one knows better than I how difficult it is to come up with surplus time to work on magazine features. Long story short, I have not heard back from Tom. Yet. But after the ABC News “20/20” report on the BBB aired last week, I will be contacting Tom to discuss this matter a bit further.

This teaser run on Good Morning America gives you a good taste of the “20/20” report: abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/bbb-members-ratings-12129596. You can find lots of local news follow-ups with interviews of local BBB officials. The reports, like Tom’s concerns, are troubling to say the least. Makes me wonder about the many other online rating services that have sprung up on the World Wide Web. Is money all it takes to get a good rating?

Consumers should always, always beware. But for many consumers, the idea that they would not trust the venerable BBB to tell the unvarnished truth is like not trusting their pastor or doctor. This report has the potential to bring about real change in the way BBB does their business.

The word “trust” appears repeatedly on the BBB website - www.bbb.org/us/. Roofing contractors need a way to demonstrate to consumers that they are trustworthy and have a good track record. The idea that businesses support an entity or entities that serve as clearinghouses for that kind of information is certainly valid. Tried and true. But if the clearinghouse engages in any kind of “pay to play” scheme, why would consumers or businesses trust them?

I am sure there are two sides to this story and it will be revealed in the coming weeks and months. Have experience with the BBB? Good or bad, we would like to hear from you. Please post your comments here or drop me a line.