- US Commerce Association is once again sending notifications
to area businesses that they have won a “Best of Memphis” award
- Appears to be a scheme to get businesses to pay
for vanity awards of little or no value
- BBBs have warned companies about this scheme
of the Mid-South
is issuing a business alert about U.S. Commerce Association’s “Best of” vanity awards. The
“prestigious” awards from this national association appear to be part of a
widespread scheme designed to get businesses to pay for vanity awards of little
or no value. BBBs across the nation have issued warnings about this vanity
award scheme since 2008.
nationwide have reported receiving an email notification that they’ve been
selected as an outstanding local business in their particular industry. The association’s website says winners are
determined by their “marketing success, using information gathered internally
in conjunction with third-party data” as a part of its selection process.
to Randy Hutchinson, BBB President, “That probably just means that they were
able to find your contact information online.”
in the email is a link to their website, where you can access a personalized
press release to tout your award to your local media. It’s also where you find
out that you have to pay for your own trophy or plaque to mark the honor.
businessman Jay Myers, owner of Interactive Solutions, Inc., recently received
the email announcing that his company had been selected for the 2011 Best of
Memphis Award in the Communications Equipment category.
here at my office knew anything about this recognition, which made me wonder
about its validity,” Myers told the BBB. “ISI has won other legitimate awards
in the past, so we’re familiar with the nomination/notification process for
many of these. This one came out of the blue.”
company’s website says they are based in New York. However, the notification
email lists an address in Los Angeles, CA, and BBB files show another address
in the Washington, DC area. All three addresses are actually rented mailboxes
or mail forwarding services. There have been 10 complaints lodged against the organization,
9 of which are unanswered.
to BBB files, U.S. Commerce Association has been associated with a similar
organization called U.S. Local Business Association. The BBB in Washington, DC
says that the websites for both organizations were identical, down to the
contact person and descriptions of the organizations. The solicitations sent by
both organizations were identical as well.
Internet search for U.S. Commerce Association shows posts from loads of
business owners who received the same phony notifications – some with company
names misspelled and some for companies that have been out of business for
years. In fact, when placing your order on the organization’s website, you can
change the name, business category and city to have engraved on your plaque or
“From everything we can tell, this is just one
more ploy to profit off the universal desire for recognition and approval,”
adds Hutchinson. “We are advising people to steer clear, unless they want to
pay for what appears to be a meaningless office decoration.”
BBB of the Mid-South offers the
following tips for businesses to avoid losing money in a “vanity award”
everything you can about the organization that is giving the award. If it is coming from a
mystery company, chances are it is simply a ploy to get your money.
specific questions about how your company or organization was chosen for
the award. Be
wary if you didn’t apply for an award or the group cannot tell you how you
out how many similar awards are given each year. Are there other winners in
your city in the same category?
legitimate awards do not come with costs for the recipient. If there is a cost,
scrutinize it even more closely.
the BBB Business Review
on the awarding organization at www.bbb.org or by calling 901.759.1300