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Better Business Bureau ®
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Louisville, Southern Indiana and Western Kentucky
BBB Warns: Louisville Award Program Tied to US Commerce Assocition Vanity Awards
November 28, 2012

The Better Business Bureau is warning small businesses and consumers to be wary of a new vanity awards program linked to the notorious US Commerce Association.

The program, operating locally as the Louisville Award Program, notifies businesses via emails that they have been selected to receive a Best of Louisville Award for their “exceptional marketing success.” The award program honors “the achievements and accomplishments of local businesses throughout the Louisville area.” BBB believes the program’s actual purpose is to persuade businesses to spend $80 to $180 for an award plaque or hand-polished crystal trophy. The emailed press releases announcing the awards are virtually identical to releases sent by the US Commerce Association, a Los Angeles-based business with a history of soliciting businesses for awards. The US Commerce Association has an “F” rating with the BBB, the lowest possible.

The new awards program uses the website www.awardprogram.org (or local.awardprogram.org) and customizes the name of each award, depending on the recipient’s location.

The awards are potentially misleading to both businesses and consumers, who may not know how the awardees are chosen. Strong, ethical businesses should refrain from publicizing these awards on their websites or on other marketing materials, as they could cause skepticism among customers. An Internet search found several businesses publicizing the awards on their websites. Among them:

· An Arizona minister who was named a winner of the 2012 Best of Goodyear Award in the “psychics & mediums” category.

· A West Haven, Connecticut, martial arts academy that was selected for the 2012 Best of West Haven Award in the “martial arts training” category.

· A Chattanooga, Tennessee, comedy club that was selected for a 2012 Best of Chattanooga Award in the “nightlife” category.

· An Atlanta, Georgia, magic business that was named recipient of a 2012 Best of Atlanta Award in the “corporate entertainment” category.

Once a business receives the email that they won a “Best of” award, it directs the company to a website with a personalized press release and offers a chance to purchase a customized plaque.

In addition to their near-identical news releases, the BBB found other connections between the Louisville Award Program and the US Commerce Association. Much of the website content is the same for both businesses. Also, several news releases from the US Commerce Association were from a person identified as Kelly McCartney, the name used to register the website awardprogram.org in May 2012.

Attempts to contact representatives of Louisville Award Program were unsuccessful.

The BBB offers several tips to avoid losing money in a vanity award program:

· Learn everything you can about who is giving the award. If it is coming from a mystery company, chances are they simply want your money.

· If you didn’t apply for an award or the group cannot tell you how you were nominated, chances are the award is not legitimate.

· Most legitimate awards do not come with costs for the recipient. If there is a cost, scrutinize it even more closely.

· Ask specific questions about how your company or organization was chosen for an award and find out how many similar awards are given each year.

· Check BBB Business Reviews by going to to www.bbb.org or by calling 800-388-2222.