Businesses You Love to Hate

  • The Worst Customer Service

    Ever wonder which businesses are the most aggravating for consumers? Well, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) recently released its annual report totaling the number of consumer complaints and broke them down by industry. As it turns out, 2009 was an especially unsatisfying year for consumers. The number of complaints Americans filed with the BBB increased by nearly 10% to 948,305 after having already increased by 7% the previous year. According to the BBB, this increase is due to the greater frustration consumers feel with the struggling economy. While some may be able to tolerate a certain amount of bad customer service and business practices, Americans are more likely to be on edge if they’re already dealing with unemployment and the risk of losing their homes. So here they are, the 10 industries consumers love to complain about. Photo Credit:
    10. Furniture (Retail)
  • 10. Furniture (Retail)

    There were more than 12,000 complaints filed against retail furniture businesses. We picked one company at random to get a sense of what people complain about and it varies widely. Customers of Jordan’s Furniture Co. in Massachusetts filed complaints about deceptive advertising, defective products and items that were late or just never delivered to their homes. Complaints Filed: 12,313 Complaints Left Unsettled: 2,556 Photo Credit: Rennett Stowe
    9. Auto Repair & Service
  • 9. Auto Repair & Service

    Americans have a love-hate relationship with car mechanics mainly because we love to pamper our cars almost as much as we do our pets. But there have been too many horror stories of people getting ripped off by their mechanics for simple fixes. The BBB offers some useful tips so you can avoid having an issue that you’ll need to complain about. For example, they recommend you get an estimate on the cost before you leave the shop and notify the mechanic that they need to “contact you for approval” before making any repairs that would exceed the estimated price. Complaints Filed: 12,410 Complaints Left Unsettled: 4,139 Photo Credit: aresauburn
    8. Telephone Companies
  • 8. Telephone Companies

    You may be surprised that telephone companies didn’t land higher in the list, but we should note that the Better Business Bureau considers cell phones to be a separate industry, which will pop up later on the list. Still, consumers apparently felt enough rage against landlines last year to file more than 13,000 complaints. On the bright side, all but a few hundred of those complaints were eventually settled, which is a higher success rate than most industries. Complaints Filed: 13,166 Complaints Left Unsettled: 516 Photo Credit: Getty Images
    7. Used Car Dealers
  • 7. Used Car Dealers

    They may not be the #1 on this list, but there’s no doubt that these guys have the worst public image out there (perhaps with the exception of the health care industry.) There are tons of complaints online about consumers searching for a bargain on the used car lot only to end up with a lemon and a huge price tag. One person from Baldwin, N.Y., complained to ConsumerAffairs that he had been duped into signing a contract that included extra charges for a 2000 Honda he bought in Queens. He tried multiple times to come in and fix the paperwork, but the dealer deliberately kept the contract away from him for three days so that it could be finalized as is. Complaints Filed: 13,235 Complaints Left Unsettled: 3,752 Photo Credit: LancerE
    6. Collection Agencies
  • 6. Collection Agencies

    These guys are no one’s best friend, but especially in a tough economy, people are bound to feel wronged by collection agencies. Surprisingly though, there were about 500 fewer complaints filed against this industry in 2009 than in 2008, although it still represents an increase from 2007, when more than 14,000 complaints were filed. Complaints Filed: 15,628 Complaints Left Unsettled: 2,051 Photo Credit: meddygarnet
    5. Internet Shopping
  • 5. Internet Shopping

    The number of Internet shopping complaints has been steadily rising the past few years as more and more people buy their goods online. Last year, there were more than 20,000 complaints. What’s particularly problematic is that nearly a third of all complaints are left unsettled, which is the worst of any business on this list. One menace for the Internet shopping industry is the increasing amount of scams consumers stumble into while shopping. This was the second most complained about industry for fraud according to a recent report by the National Consumer’s League. Complaints Filed: 21,154 Complaints Left Unsettled: 5,727 Photo Credit:
    4. Auto Dealers (New Cars)
  • 4. Auto Dealers (New Cars)

    Whether you buy a new car or a used car, there’s a chance that something will go wrong. Last year, there were more than 26,000 complaints against new car dealers. And just imagine, that was before all of the Toyotas in the world simultaneously decided to revolt and go wild. Complaints Filed: 26,019 Complaints Left Unsettled: 4,105 Photo Credit: ryantxr
    3. Banks
  • 3. Banks

    This is the second year in a row that bank complaints have been on the rise. There were nearly 30,000 complaints filed last year against banks. By comparison, there were more than 18,000 complaints in 2007. According to the Better Business Bureau, this increase “reflects the growing discord between consumers and the industry.” Dozens of banks have failed in the past year and many of the bigger ones that remain intact have resorted to questionable practices like raising their APRs to incredibly steep rates and being overzealous in foreclosing on homes. Complaints Filed: 29,824 Complaints Left Unsettled: 637 Photo Credit: Betsssssy
    2. Television (Cable, CATV and Satellite)
  • 2. Television (Cable, CATV and Satellite)

    There were more than 30,000 complaints filed against the television industry, making it the second most infuriating industry on our list. This one doesn’t surprise us too much – we’ve written about cable company issues before in our consumer outrage series. We found stories about people being charged for things they didn’t sign up for… like porn. And then there are the big providers like Time Warner who operate a near monopoly and are impossibly slow to fix neighborhood service problems. Complaints Filed: 32,158 Complaints Left Unsettled: 729 Photo Credit: Schmilblick
    1. Cellular Telephone Service, Equipment and Supplies
  • 1. Cellular Telephone Service, Equipment and Supplies

    Say hello to the winner in the contest to aggravate consumers. The cell phone industry took first place last year too, although they had a few hundred more complaints this year to cement their status. As with Internet shopping, the number of complaints for this industry is increasing partly because the cell phone customer base is expanding. The Wall Street Journal points out that part of the problem here is also that billing practices have become more complicated. And when you factor in recent outbursts against companies like AT&T over shoddy service, it’s clear that the cell phone industry has a long way to go to appease consumers. Complaints Filed: 36,086 Complaints Left Unsettled: 1,585 Photo Credit: magerleagues
    Odd Complaints
  • Odd Complaints

    There were some big industries that didn’t quite make the top 10, including airlines (5,581 complaints) and hotels (4,519 complaints). But if you need proof that Americans will complain about anything, just look to the lower end of the BBB’s list. Consumers filed nearly 200 complaints against barbers (I hope they realize that everyone gets a bad haircut once in a while.) There were also complaints against sheet music (3), ice (3), gazebos (4) and mannequins (1). I would really love to meet the people who filed those complaints… They make the rest of us consumer activists look bad. Photo Credit: S Baker
    Consumer Outrage
  • Consumer Outrage

    The Better Business Bureau isn’t the only one cataloguing consumer complaints. We at MainStreet run a regular feature on consumer outrage. We’ve covered hotel horrors and cell phone complaints. If you’ve had a terrible experience with any of the businesses above, or want to clue us in to an industry you hate that has been left out, let us know in the comments section. Photo Credit: Getty Images
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