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Timeline

 

1875 to 1905 Advertising professionals express concern about the pervasive, false and misleading advertising they believe is causing the public to distrust all advertising, and therefore all legitimate enterprise.
1906 The U.S. government brings charges against a number of firms for deceptive advertising.
1911 Printer's Ink magazine publishes an editorial calling for local advertising associations around the country to launch Vigilance Committee programs aimed at challenging false and misleading advertising.
1912 Minneapolis is the first to respond to the Printer's Ink call to form a Vigilance Committee (which in 1916 changes its name to Better Business Bureau).
1914 Mac Martin, the advertising agency owner who led the Vigilance Committee effort, recalled his decision to hire a full time manager when, in 1948, he wrote to the BBB:

"We now had the law with teeth in it and our volunteer 'Vigilance Committee' went to work in earnest. We got all kinds of publicity, but we found our hands full chasing down fake sales and more crooked schemes than we had ever dreamed of it occurred to me that if we could hire someone to devote his entire time to the work, we might sell his services as a reporter to those vitally interested and make the movement a marketable success."

Mac Martin hired the first BBB professional, H. J. Kenner, a newspaper reporter, advertising manager, and commercial organization manager as the first permanent full time manager of the Minneapolis Vigilance Committee. Kenner went on to head the New York BBB and the national organization of local Better Business Bureaus. In 1936, Kenner wrote "The Fight for Truth in Advertising," chronicling the first years of the BBB movement.
1915 to 1917 The Minneapolis Advertising Forum is awarded the Printer's Ink Trophy for the outstanding results of its Vigilance Bureau. Minneapolis wins again in 1916 and again in 1917, at which time Printers Ink gives permanent possession of the trophy to the Minneapolis Advertising Forum.
1916 The Minneapolis Vigilance Committee changes its name to Better Business Bureau and becomes the first BBB in the country.
1919 The Minneapolis BBB takes on one of the biggest stock promotions of the time when it challenges the accuracy of the advertising and promotion of stock offerings by Samuel Pandolfo and his Pan Motor Company in Saint Cloud, Minnesota. When the Better Business Bureau exposes the operation, Pandolfo responds by suing the BBB for $1 million. The suit is dismissed and Pandolfo is later charged with fraud in federal court, found guilty, and serves 10 years in Leavenworth Penitentiary.
1933 BBB Members' newsletter reports the depression-era return of "The Old Butter Racket" saying:

"Search is now being made for one L. Martin, who used the local classified newspapers to obtain suckers for the purchase of a 'secret formula' whereby two pounds of butter could be made from one quart of milk and a miscellaneous assortment of powders. A Minneapolis individual paid $50 for the formula after a demonstration, only to discover later that two pounds of butter had been inserted into the churn before the quart of milk and assorted powders were added. A warrant has been issued for Martin's arrest." 
1957 The Minneapolis BBB exposes Abundivita, a pyramid scheme promoted in newspaper ads saying, "Get rich quick with ABUNDIVIA!" The fraudulent offer involves promotional meetings open to the public and hosted by a Dr. Jones, who, the BBB discovered, had attended a phony school. In response, the company sues the BBB for $3,150,000. The suit is dismissed two weeks later and the company closes its doors.
1961 The BBB probes the aggressive sales practices of Holland Furnace Company, a nationwide company using scare tactics to sell new furnaces to customers. Customers reported the company was tearing out old furnaces immediately before they could change their minds. BBB staff turned over the results of its investigation to Attorney General Walter Mondale. A jury trial ends in a decision that closed the company down in Minnesota and led to its demise nationally.
1967 The BBB secret shops Port Mille Lacs, a real estate development firm near Lake Mille Lacs that sends bait-and-switch mail ads offering $500 vouchers to purchase land "valued" at $695. The BBB discovers that the lots are on drainage land unfit for building and separated from the lake by a highway. A salesperson tells the shopper that there were only 18 lots with 2 already sold, but there were plenty of lots in the $1,000-$5,000 price range available. Postal records disclose that the firm "selected" 91,000 people to receive this offer. In the spring of 1968, the Minnesota Attorney General orders the company to sign a stipulation with a permanent order to cease false bait-and-switch advertising. 
1975 The BBB of Minneapolis and the BBB of Saint Paul merge to form the BBB of Minnesota, which becomes the national leader in developing and testing formal arbitration services. Over the next 10 years, the BBB establishes itself as a first-class provider of Alternative Dispute Resolution services, among its many other programs.
1979 BBB of Minnesota is selected by General Motors (GM) and the national Council of Better Business Bureaus to conduct a pilot consumer-business arbitration program. Several state and federal agencies were enacting "Lemon Laws" to deal with issues in the auto industry. General Motors was the first company to allow BBB-trained volunteer arbitrators to render binding decisions regarding warranty disputes. This new arbitration program resulted in arbitrators ruling that GM would have to buy-back cars. Until this time, customers had never been able to return a "lemon" car for a refund. 
1986 A popular national promotion targeting Minnesotans is the offer of a "boat, complete with motor!" at a very low price. The boat turns out to be a small blowup raft with a tiny battery-powered motor, battery not included. Federal postal regulations at the time required all shipments of questionable products to be made Cash on Delivery (COD); in other words, consumers had to "pay before they could peek," often leaving them with products unlike what they were promised. The BBB of Minnesota partners with KSTP-TV reporter Neil Murray who airs two news reports warning consumers about the offer. Murray uses the reports during his testimony before a congressional panel in Washington to repeal COD/Pay-to-peek. The law is repealed. 
1989 The BBB moves from the Midway area to Gannon Road, just off of West 7th St.
1990 The BBB acquires their first computer, courtesy of a donation by AT&T.
1994 BBB of Minnesota President Ron Graham saves the day for several Twin Cities brides-to-be. After Barbara's Bridal goes bankrupt and owners suddenly abandon the store, Graham alerts the media and has bankruptcy trustees unlock the shop to retrieve dresses that brides had already paid for. That same year Graham also leads a successful effort to get Wal-Mart to substantiate or modify its claims of always having the lowest prices. The company agrees to modify its claims. 
1997 The BBB of Minnesota adds the state of North Dakota to its service area, becoming the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota.
1998 BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota President Jay Pfaender improves customer service with new technology so BBB services are more user-friendly. Pfaender installs a 24-hour phone answering system and new website to better accommodate consumers who cannot call during regular business hours. 
2001 The BBB Wise Giving Alliance (the Alliance) is formed by merging the National Charities Information Bureau and the Council of Better Business Bureaus' Foundation. The Alliance helps donors make informed giving decisions and advances high standards of conduct among organizations that solicit contributions from the public and produces in-depth reports on national charities based on comprehensive Standards for Charity Accountability. National charities that meet the standards can apply to participate in the Alliance's National Charity Seal program. 
2007 The BBB offers the Student of Integrity Scholarship, an annual scholarship program designed to recognize and promote ethics and integrity among young people. The BBB awards go to two graduating high school seniors who personify all of the best aspects of high character in their personal choices and actions. Scholarship money is awarded directly toward winners' post-secondary education expenses (tuition or room/board) at any accredited institution.
2009 The BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota wins the Marshall A. Mott Award for excellence in communications based upon several criteria: print and broadcast media placements, presentations before groups, original material, cooperation with government agencies, and membership support. 
2010 A satellite office is opened up in Fargo, North Dakota.
2011 A second satellite office opened in St. Cloud, Minnesota. The BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota wins the coveted Marshall A. Mott Award for the second time. The Minneapolis Star Tribune names BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota as one of the Top 100 Workplaces. The BBB ranks 18 of 40 on the list of small businesses. The BBB competed against 1,200 organizations statewide, totaling more than 60,000 employee survey responses.
2012 The BBB celebrates its 100th anniversary! The BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota moves to new headquarters in Burnsville, MN. The BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota hosts the first-ever BBB Business Ethics Summit. For the second stright year, they are named one of the StarTribune Top 100 Workplaces, as well as winning a 2012 Midwest Society of Association Executives Award of Excellence.



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