Unsettling incidents lead BBB to change operations

Steve Bartlett
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Executive director Lisa Gray says doors at the Better Business Bureau are open only to those with an appointment. — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

The Better Business Bureau’s doors might be locked, but the office is not closed or avoiding the public.

Someone called The Telegram this week upset that the doors at the BBB’s Topsail Road office were locked, even though there were obviously staff inside.

It was surprising to get a complaint about an organization whose business it is to respond to consumer concerns.

But it turns out the bureau’s board of directors had a reason for locking the doors.

Staff there had disconcerting encounters with two irate consumers during the lead-up to Christmas.

CEO and executive director Lisa Gray said the second one had the potential to turn ugly.

The upset man’s concern with a local business was legitimate, she says, but his ire increased because the bureau’s staff wouldn’t immediately phone and scold the company.

“That’s not how we work. We’re a mediation service and unbiased third-party between the consumer and the business,” Gray says.

“We certainly do not call up a business and say, ‘You know what? That wasn’t a good thing to do,’ or, ‘It wasn’t very nice.’”

As the man’s irritation escalated, she says, she told him to lower his voice because he was making staff uncomfortable and there are other tenants in the building.

At that point, Gray recalls, his partner walked in and helped defuse the situation.

“Had she not been there, I honestly don’t know how the conversation would have turned out,” Gray says.

After that incident, the board decided the bureau would still be a public office, but would provide service by appointment only.

As a result of the change, there’s always more than one person there when a client comes in, and staff know when someone is coming.

“It’s unfortunate, because our door was always wide open,” Gray says.

She said the new operation is working well, but people still drop by and try to get in without an appointment.

“We’ve had it to the point where somebody is outside the door and they’re shaking it off the hinges … because they know we’re in here, and it might be that we’re each on a phone line or we’re discussing different clientele.”

Gray says the bureau will operate this way unless the day comes when it has a staff of four or five.

To continue delivering its services, it logs calls and attempts to reply to each of them.

The irate consumer later apologized, Gray says.


Twitter: bartlett_steve

Organizations: Better Business Bureau

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Recent comments

    June 12, 2011 - 15:54

    I live in Nova Scotia and almost all government businesses and corporations have secure buildings where you get buzzed in to some of them and most of their service counters have plexiglass cages, I call them that anyways, so that the public can't get to the employees. I believe that is more feasible instead of locking your doors to the public when you are responsible for a very important public service. Beef up the security and open your doors...problem solved for the most part.

  • whateverbud
    June 11, 2011 - 19:42

    Locking the door because of an irate client or two? I drive a cab and wish I had that luxury. Trust me,I deal with a much larger cross section of the population when they are in much worse states. The BBB is on the same level as Workers Comp,BBB works in the best interest of the business just as Workers Comp works for the best interest of the employer. Come on Lisa,grab a cab and do a nice Friday night shift-you'll lose your mind faster than you can say Jiffy!!

  • Emily
    June 11, 2011 - 14:10

    I've contacted the BBB twice in the last few months. They have been helpful and courteous at a time I thought no company listened to a consumer. Lori and Lisa listened and helped me feel protected, I think it is great their Board thought of protecting them. It is disclosed on the website, voice mail and the door they are by appointment and I have never had a problem arranging one. Good job ladies, thanks again for being there for me. Emily Parsons

    • Ron Owens
      June 11, 2011 - 17:22

      Typical! Being reactive to a situation as opposed to always being proactive.

  • Donny Dooley Dildo NL
    June 11, 2011 - 10:52

    If you have a consumer complaint it would be more beneficial to tell the guy playing the guitar in front of Atlantic Place than call the BBB. No offence!

  • Denise
    June 11, 2011 - 10:41

    I tend to agree with the comments here, the BBB is supposed to be there for the public, not have their doors locked when we, the public, need them the most! What purpose do you serve when you can't provide the public with the job you are getting paid to do?

  • AstonishedOne
    June 11, 2011 - 10:28

    Sure looks like casual Fridays there at the BBB Lisa. For an Executive Director of an organization that promotes good business practice I see T-shirts are the latest business fashion statement

    • Steve
      June 11, 2011 - 21:53

      Oh take out a loan and buy a clue AstonishedOne, what in the world does apparel have to do with conducting business anyways? I think you're just a good for nothing troll that likes to nitpick on the smallest things because you're such a sad human being that you feel you have to gripe and complain to get attention.

  • jason
    June 11, 2011 - 10:07

    So this must be the reason they dont answer the phones or return phone calls either? Are the afraid that someone will raise their voice?

  • P F Murphy
    June 11, 2011 - 09:47

    Why is the door being shaken? Is there not a large notice on it saying "By appointment only. Phone this number." With everyone carrying a cell phone these days, an appointment could be set up for 5 or 10 minutes time, but I don't see how this will stop people getting angry when they find out how little the BBB does once they're inside. I agree with most people here that the Better Business Bureau is not of much use anyway. I was left with the feeling that it was a shill for the business community to talk you around and around until you just gave up. The locked door just makes it more apparent.

  • cindy
    June 11, 2011 - 09:01

    Unfortunately you have to serve the public and closing the doors just don't cut it. Every job has so many idiots to deal with but you can't punish the rest of the consumers because of that. I provided customer service for years and if I had to lock the door everytime I had an irate customer , I would of had half the business. Also you said that was before Christmas and the man has later apologized...get over it and start doing your job!!!! If you want clients by appointment only that should be advertised next to your # in the phonebook and advertised in other forums as well. Why waste people's times by driving there only to realize your not dealing with them cause they don't have an appointment.....something is wrong with this.....

    • Steve
      June 11, 2011 - 21:59

      Soooooooooooo you're saying by locking the doors to protect the staff she's not doing her job? So she's not talking to the public anymore? Not taking appointments? Wow, not a lot going on upstairs is there Cindy?

  • james
    June 11, 2011 - 08:50

    bbb is a waste of time and money, they do absolutely nothing but talk a good line

  • Good move
    June 11, 2011 - 07:36

    A busines has to do what it has to do for employee protection. Totally understandable!! People have to understand that you get more accomplished by being rational.

    • rosalind duff
      June 11, 2011 - 09:24

      Maybe Ms. Gray should work a few evening or nights at a gas station, corner store or even drug store . Talk about locking up the shop.

  • Marie
    June 11, 2011 - 06:26

    No offense, but I have had to deal with worse than that at my job, and I don't have the opportunity to shut and lock my door. Don't mean to complain, but if your in the business of public service, you better get a thick skin. The public is not always pretty, but we thrudge on...