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.