Some of my neighbors and community members don’t know exactly where Better Business Bureau (BBB) fits in the local Waco community. As the BBB executive director for the Heart of Texas area, I’d like to take this opportunity to answer the question many of you may be asking:

Why did BBB close its Waco office?

Prior to the advent of the Internet, the majority of BBB services were delivered by telephone. At that time, BBB used its resources to (1) provide consumers with pre-purchase information on how businesses perform in the marketplace and (2) help businesses and consumers resolve disputes.

During that time, it made sense to have offices in many communities. Now, as the Internet has changed the way businesses operate, you can order items from anywhere in the world, look up old friends and even discover your family tree. The entire world is at our fingertips with the Internet, creating a very different, global marketplace.

The Internet also has changed the expectations of the consuming public. Consumers demand access to information instantly, 24 hours a day, every day. In response, today BBB delivers about 97 percent of its services online, from reliability reports to dispute resolution services to e-newsletters.

All communities expect their BBB to deliver all of their services 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for free. They expect fast, accurate and reliable information. Although a different method is now used to deliver this information, the core of BBB remains as it has been for almost 100 years, “for free, to anyone who asks.”

Along with many businesses, in 2007 BBB took a hard look at its business model to be sure it was meeting the demands of each community. Foot traffic in all of its offices had declined dramatically. With a two-person office in Waco and little to no foot traffic, it was discovered that businesses and consumers would be better served by diverting dollars away from bricks and mortar to where demands from Waco residents are most consistent. People can visit www.waco.bbb.org or call 254-755-7772 for our services. 

“The advance of the Internet as a critical source of communication has positioned BBB as a vital source of information, accountability and support for businesses and consumers in greater Waco,” said Dr. Mitchell J. Neubert, Chavanne Chair of Christian Ethics in Business for Baylor University and BBB board member. “The free services provided by BBB have been and will continue to be invaluable resources for the Waco community.”

Because we realigned BBB services, your BBB continues to keep its dues to accredited businesses low and offers consumer services for free. Last year, your BBB delivered more than 900,000 reports on businesses and helped resolved more than 25,000 consumer disputes, with an 86.6 percent resolution rate.

“BBB works hard to provide a supreme level of consumer protection and business integrity in our local marketplace and is a vital component of our economy’s steady growth,” said T. Getterman, BBB board member and past chair. “I look forward to their continued success as a leader in the Waco business community.”

So ask yourself: Have you looked up your old friend BBB lately? Phone calls are still free, along with visits to our page online at waco.bbb.org. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Richard Kitterman is executive director for the Heart of Texas Better Business Bureau.

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