Online Business Bureau: Rick Rocks a Meaningless Seal
We reported briefly in previous posts on a letter we received from Home Rescue LLC, which displayed a "trusted site" seal from something called the "Online Business Bureau." Though it states upfront on its home page it's not the Better Business Bureau, you'll notice some graphic similiarities, including the soothing cerulean blue color scheme. WebWatch did some research years ago that showed people trust blue Web sites, so there you go.
Who's behind this consumer protection service? A D.C.-area entrepreneur named Rick Rahim, whose personal Web site is one of our all-time favorites.
Rick has had something of a colorful history in customer service. By our count, no less than three of the companies he's most recently been associated with scored the Better Business Bureau's lowest possible rating. Worse, the BBB referred to his Online Business Bureau's headquarters as a mail drop. His consulting firm's page lists almost 30 sites he's involved with, on topics from pet sitting to laser tag to free helicopter rides. We'll get to the helicopter later.
You can read about Rick's poker prowess here -- note one of the participants caught in the bust was a local cop. Some early insights into Rick's career may have come when his credit repair business caught the attention of the FTC back in the mid-90s. From credit repair, he went stratospheric, into cell phones and satellites. His former company, VMC Satellite, was acquired in April 2005 by InPhonic, which itself had something of a troubled history in customer service. (Oddly enough, this Washington Post article is linked to from Rick's Online Business Bureau site). The domain for Search Engine Ranking Service, another site that's drawn consumer complaints, was registered by Simplexity, the new name for InPhonic.
This whole poker-Web site-seal program thing must pay pretty well: Check out Rick's sweet $3.6 million digs (scroll to the bottom).
However, in 2005, Rick apparently tried to sell his private police helicopter (used only on volunteer missions; apparently you can remove the official decals). We have to admit, it's cherry. Thinking that Rick will no longer be flying his half-million-dollar Sheriff's chopper high above D.C.'s crowded Beltway makes us feel a little less safe somehow.
So is the Online Business Bureau an exercise in sour grapes on Rick's part, since the BBB spanked some of his businesses so hard? If so, it's kind of funny. But we wonder if the 1,838,557 companies the OBB claims to have in its database are aware of that, and if they had to pay anything to be listed.