“Best of Louisville 2008” Award Winner? Read This Before You Send Money!

July 10, 2008

Flattery can be an effective tool for someone wanting to get into your pocketbook. Not surprisingly, BBB sees many “vanity pitches” designed to separate people from their money.

If you receive an e-mail from the US Local Business Association proclaiming that your business has been selected winner of the “Best of Louisville 2008, or "Best of New Albany 2008," or “Best of Bowling Green 2008” award for your business category, you may not be alone.

Companies across America, including businesses in Louisville, have told the BBB that they have received such e-mail messages. The e-mail message includes a picture of a plaque, “personalized” with the business’s name and business category. It looks impressive. 

The e-mail message about the “award” includes a link to the USLBA website where you can order the plaque commemorating the award. The message says nothing about the cost of the plaque, but BBB has learned that the plaques are being sold for $79 or $99, depending on the size you order.

What kind of award is this? What does the award mean? Based on what BBB can tell, it appears e-mail messages to area businesses from the US Local Business Association “Selection Committee” may be little more than sales pitches for the plaques.

The website of the organization says, “The USLBA ‘Best of Local Business’ Award Program uses information gathered internally in conjunction with third-party data as a part of its selection process.” The BBB’s experience is that such “third-party data” may be, let’s say, the phone book, an online Yellow Pages directory, or a purchased list of businesses and e-mail addresses provided by a data seller.

What is the “U. S. Local Business Association?” BBB has been unable to find a phone number for the organization. The organization has an impressive-sounding address, 2020 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 742, Washington, DC 20006, which is right down the street from The White House .  But this address is not the physical location of the organization, but is a mail receiving/forwarding address, what we call a “mail drop.”

According to the organization’s website: “U.S. Local Business Association (USLBA) is a Washington D.C. based organization funded by local businesses operating in towns, large and small, across America.”

It appears “funded by local businesses” may mean funded by plaque sales to local businesses for $79 or $99. Before you purchase, you may want to ask yourself, “Is this just another ‘vanity pitch’ designed to separate me from my money?” Based on what BBB can tell, the answer may be, “Yes it is.”

The Better Business Bureau exists to promote marketplace trust and help consumers and businesses find trustworthy businesses and charities. To find a BBB Reliability Report® for any business or organization, go to www.bbb.org.