Life Fitness’ Better Business Bureau rating leaps from ‘F’ to ‘A’

While SNEWS was investigating inconsistencies at the Better Business Bureau, we informed Life Fitness it had an “F” rating. Shocked, Life Fitness set out to find out what was up. We take a look at what it did and how the rating changed.
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Six weeks ago, as SNEWS® began to research a story about inconsistencies at the Better Business Bureau raised when Johnson Health Tech was blind-sided by an “F” rating, we discovered Life Fitness also had an “F” rating -- unbeknownst to that company.

Johnson’s “F” quickly became a C- after the company raised a ruckus about the lack of information it had received and other communication issues. (Click here to see a March 24, 2010, SNEWS® story, “BBB surprises Johnson Health with ‘F’ rating; SNEWS questions broader BBB inconsistencies.”)

Meanwhile, Life Fitness representatives stunned by their rating when informed by SNEWS went to work to figure out what the problem was. Turns out the company had six “unresolved” consumer complaints in the last three years. According to what Life Fitness learned from its sources at the regional BBB office, just one such complaint can drop a company’s rating to an “F.” In fact, Life Fitness’ rating had been an “F” since sometime in 2009. (In March 2010, when SNEWS researched its initial story, in fact, the BBB listed 10 complaints, and still lists seven with no details about the others and how the numbers changed.)

“Once it was brought to my attention by SNEWS, I contacted the area BBB,” said Stephanie Weiss, Life Fitness spokeswoman. The first person to return her call and email after a week was a salesperson responsible for getting companies to buy the BBB’s “accreditation.”

Once she got past the salesperson and found out details, she started the process of digging to find out what happened with each of the alleged six outstanding complaints so she could have the cases closed.

“The number is ridiculously minimal, but the BBB has a lot of power,” Weiss said.

Finding out the details of the six took about four weeks, she said, involving shuffling through old paper folders since not everything was electronic three years ago. She dealt with her company’s so-called BBB “complaint handler” but despite numerous emails to the person, Weiss never did get a response from her; rather she got responses and updates from another at the office.

Three were billing complaints, including the only one of six that involved commercial sales, Weiss said, and two of those dated back to December 2008. Three involved service, warranty or repair issues and all stemmed from mid- to late 2009. In a couple of cases, the complaints weren’t all wet, Weiss said.

“Some were our fault,” she admitted, and based on a glitch with resolving a warranty or billing issue. For example, in one case a customer needed a new power adapter for a piece of equipment, and although the equipment was still under warranty, the company tried to charge for the adaptor before realizing the mistake.

Just a few days after Weiss delivered the last information to the BBB, the rating on May 5 leaped to an “A.” Click here to see the BBB page on Life Fitness

Although relatively unknown, the BBB is a non-profit network of regional businesses and not a government agency. The so-called “accreditation” must be bought by a company; “accredited” companies used to be simply called “members.”

In Johnson’s case, the company discovered its “F” rating when a local reporter called Johnson after receiving a press release about the “F” from the BBB and was preparing a story. The rating was changed to a “C-” after the company had an angry conference call with the BBB noting that it had not been fairly informed first and had not received notice of the complaints. Soon after the call, the rating changed with this note on the BBB website: “On March 22, 2010, the company informed the BBB that complaints on file with the BBB are a small percentage of their customer base, and are resolved in a timely manner with the customer once brought to their attention.”

--Therese Iknoian