Business Columns & Blogs

Your business might deserve an honor, but be wary of ‘vanity awards’ seeking money

Veronica Craker
Veronica Craker

Everyone wants to be the best. Especially business owners who believe they run their company better than their competition. So it can be pretty flattering when these business owners receive phone calls, emails or letters telling them they’ve won an award for being the best. But not all kudos are legit.

Better Business Bureau is reminding business owners to be wary of any notifications letting them know they can claim their trophy for a fee. There are many legitimate awards out there, such as The Best Places to Work in Idaho contest and your BBB’s Torch Awards for Ethics, but some are not what they appear to be.

“Vanity awards” reel you in by claiming your business was nominated by a customer and beat out the competition to be the best. These are available in virtually every industry and for every profession. For some, you fill out a form and pay a fee to enter the “competition.” With others, you are notified that you’ve won and directed to a place where you can order plaques or trophies. These awards may sound good but are not particularly prestigious. The more winners there are, the less respected the prize becomes.

Here are some specific things you should do before paying to receive an award:

Research the company. If there is no address or phone number on the materials about the award, be wary. Check out the information provided to make sure it is legitimate. Look up the company’s BBB Business Profile at bbb.org to see whether there have been previous complaints or bad reviews.

Ask specific questions. Learn everything you can about who is giving the award, how long it has been in existence, and how your business was selected as a winner. Organizations that offer legitimate awards will be willing to provide details on why your company was chosen.

Know the nomination process. Ask how many awards are given and how businesses are nominated. If you didn’t apply for it or the organization cannot tell you how you were chosen, chances are the award is not legitimate.

Check for payment requirements. Most legitimate awards do not come with significant costs to the recipient. If there is a fee, scrutinize it as it could be a scheme. Some legitimate awards may have an entry fee to cover administrative costs, but the winners don’t have to pay extra for the actual plaque or trophy.

If you are the victim of a scam related to a vanity award, you can go to BBB.org/scamtracker to file a report. If you’re looking for a trustworthy contest to enter, visit go.bbb.org/torchawards. The Torch Awards honor businesses and charities that demonstrate excellence in the marketplace.

Veronica Craker, veronica.craker@thebbb.org, is the content and communications director for Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific. To check a business, do research or report a scam, go to bbb.org or call 208-342-4649.

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