By Becky Billingsley
Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012, Conway – Kathy Graham, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Coastal Carolina based in Conway, says most Myrtle Beach area restaurants are missing out on additional customers.
“Restaurants are the least accredited and the most researched businesses on our Web site,” she said on Sept. 6 in the non-profit agency’s office at 1121 Third Ave. “This month we’ve had almost 800 inquiries about restaurants, and it’s only the sixth [of the month].”
That’s a boon for the handful – less than 10 – Grand Strand area restaurants that are accredited by the BBB.
Becoming accredited is as easy as going to the BBB Web site and filling out a brief form that staff will follow up on before sending accreditation application paperwork. It costs $50 to apply for accreditation, and if accepted the annual fee to stay accredited is $270 to $320 per year.
The benefits for accredited businesses, Graham says, include a strong sense of trust from potential customers. Since accreditation requires references and business license verification, consumers have good reason for that trust.
Ratings from the BBB are not to be confused with customer-provided ratings such as on Web sites like Yelp or Urban Spoon. In addition to ratings and complaints, the BBB provides information about scams that affect businesses and consumers.
"We sent 300 complaints about Computer Inferno and Seaside Computers to Microsoft," Graham said. "There was a guy, Tommy Clark, paving driveways and scamming people out of money. He was doing it in South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, Maryland. I testified against him in court. Direct Air? I knew about them eight months before they closed."
Accreditation also guarantees a business’ transparency, especially when dealing with complaints. Graham says they receive hundreds of complaints per week about many kinds of businesses, and she and her staff can assist those businesses – accredited or not – with how to handle them.
She realizes that not all complaints are valid, citing a recent call where a diner and her family ate at a local seafood buffet and paid the bill. However, the diner contacted the BBB to ask for help in getting a refund for their meals because the price included crab legs, and they didn’t eat any crab legs.
“It’s a buffet,” Graham said, shaking her head. “It wasn’t one where you pay extra for crab legs – it was included in everyone’s price. Some people are looking for a free meal, we know that.”
When restaurant complaints are received, the restaurant is notified. If the restaurant doesn’t reply within 90 days the complaint is posted on the BBB Web site and the restaurant’s rating goes down…a lot.
“If they don’t answer, they get an F rating,” Graham said. “We have to assume they don’t care. If they want, we will help them answer the complaint and talk with them about how to address future complaints. We understand that sometimes consumers want business owners to cut off an arm to make them happy. For the restaurant owners, it can be ridiculous. But we encourage being professional at all times. Sometimes these people only want to be soothed.”
Some restaurants and other businesses don’t have any rating, and that’s because the staff at BBB of Coastal Carolina doesn’t have time to research the thousands and thousands of businesses in its 15-county territory. They assign ratings to as many as they can, but accreditation is the fast and easy path to an A+.
“Right now a person sitting in Ohio researching accredited Myrtle Beach restaurants is going to find Drunken Jack’s and a few others,” Graham said. “When someone 100 miles or more away is sitting down planning a trip and they take the time to check for accredited restaurants, they’re probably going to eat there.”
Any local business owner can apply for accreditation through the BBB of Coastal Carolina by GOING HERE.