The Ripoff Editorial
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September 1, 1999
WHY I STARTED THE Ripoff Report
I started in business at the age of 17, and I soon learned in the world of business how even I justified (wrongly) to myself what I thought to be the right decision. I called it, "all business," when really it was an unethical and wrong decision. Actually, you could say, I was sometimes ripping them off! But those incidents were few and far between. As time went on, I seemed to get caught up in it all. I had difficulty trying to justify the unethical decisions that I made as I was conducting big business.
In the years that followed I had unfortunate experiences of interacting with unscrupulous corporations and retail establishments, unethical doctors and lawyers, corrupt police officers and dishonest city government employees. During this time I also became aware of others in similar predicaments, of other well intentioned citizens and consumers being lied to, mistreated and "screwed" by powerful people and groups.
I began to realize that unethical behavior was widespread. Something was very wrong with our value system.
"GO AHEAD...SUE ME."
I became infuriated as I witnessed these powerful people and groups engaging in despicable practices with impunity because of the knowledge and confidence that the sheer cost of combating them through the legal system protected them from all reprisals. On these occasions when I would mention the mere possibility of legal action, I would be sharply met with the smirking remark, "Go ahead and prove it," or "Go ahead ..Sue me."
It was those very comments that recently inspired me to provide a forum for people like me to fight back. I was in the midst of a battle with city bureaucrats when I pled my case to the city council, the mayor and the city manager for help. However, rather than assist me as I had hoped, they supported the powers organized against me, which I soon learned was headed up by the City Manager himself!
I enumerated the various outrageous actions against me to the city manager, and, believing I was powerless, he stated, "Go ahead, sue me." Rather that just attempt to "prove it" to the courts, I decided to "prove it" to the public.
Unfortunately, my experiences of getting "screwed" are numerous. At the age of 17, I enthusiastically created a nationwide flower company. The business was very successful. Before long my business had over one hundred retail outlets in cities throughout the country. Moreover, the flower business employed countless students and senior citizens coast to coast. My business served the community, employed citizens and was a benefit to all.....except my very powerful competitors.
As my business expanded, I encountered increasing difficulties with government bureaucrats. I was given the "run-around" by city administrators who imposed their arbitrary and personal interpretations of laws upon me. Needless to say, their interpretation of laws, ordinances, rules and regulations always served to impose more hardship and burdens on me and my business.
I soon came to realize that their assault upon me was rooted in a predisposed dislike for my business and its employees and was instigated by none other than the big retail florists. I did not always hire the clean shaven and well groomed prince charming representatives. I believed it was my obligation as a business owner to provide opportunities for those in our society who had the fewest opportunities to choose from.
Throughout my struggle, I amassed seven full scrap books detailing my fights with city bureaucracies over laws which I believed supported my positions.
On another venture in later years, I went to a poor county in one state answering a call for decent housing for state workers and the local residents. The need for the decent housing was due to expanding state prisons and mental hospitals in the poor county. Incredibly, when town officials got wind of my numerous property purchases, they became distrustful and paranoid and looked to cause me problems because I was an "outsider." First I was judged by my long hair. Then it seemed to be jealously, combined with, "I would have done that if he didn't" and "I could do that if he doesn't." I was then beset by improper roadblocks and illegal actions against me and my business.
For instance, I purchased an old 36 room hotel in a designated HUD area. This was a town landmark but the deteriorating hotel had been vacant for years and was a community eyesore. Because my building was in a designated HUD area, that meant I was automatically eligible for matching funds of up to $8,500 per apartment. Multiplied by 36 apartments, the matching funds would total a maximum of $306,000! That was $306,000 coming out of the total Federal Grant Money the town was given.
Since I was an outsider, however, the village council got together and moved the HUD line just to the other side of my property. This way there would be more money for the "Good Ole Boys" projects. This was illegal! HUD had already approved the plans and they could not move the HUD line under any circumstances. But they did! To add insult to costly injury, HUD was unwilling to enforce its regulations on my behalf because at that time HUD itself was being investigated for alleged improprieties somewhere else.
Again, local government doing what it wanted. Fight city hall? Anyone out there you know that has deep pockets?
The local mayor was then quoted in all the newspapers as saying at a village hall meeting that I was laundering Mafia money! He also said that they did not like the "type of people" I housed in one of my buildings. Unbelievable!
After the mayor's reprehensible remark that I was laundering Mafia money, in a nearby town where I also owned property, the local police began a constant program of stopping me in my car and harassing me, making ethnic slurs, detaining me in my car and violating my civil rights. The local judges and prosecutors were just as bad, as they are in many small towns,. If you're an outsider, and you're making money, you'd better watch it!
DISTRUST OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT
Not unlike our founding fathers, I had always maintained a healthy distrust of government. For much of my life, that distrust was directed towards the federal government. After all, the federal government has the tanks, bombs and guns and controls the military. However, I later learned that through arbitrary and mean-spirited enforcement of regulations and laws, local governments can be as dangerous or more dangerous to our freedoms than the federal government.
I learned the hard way that the failure to be included in the "Good Ole Boys" network can be hazardous to your freedom. A local prosecutor, who often has a monopoly on information, can simply withhold exculpatory information and thereby cause a wrongful conviction. This is very common and happens every day in America. Additionally, the mere prosecution of a person can destroy one's political career while greatly assisting another. I believe that inclusion in the "Good Ole Boys" network can certainly facilitate employment at the prosecutor's office or exempt a particular individual from being rightfully prosecuted.
I believe that our entire justice system is infected with people who engage in "bad business" practices and "rip-offs" for the unconnected or apolitical citizen. Generally, until now there was no adequate way to voice outrages which occur in this area. Police, prosecutors and judges have immense power. We need to hold them accountable when they stray from the principles which this country was founded upon. However, without an adequate forum to voice our concerns, we are hamstrung. Too many who stray receive no consequences for their actions. I hope to change that unfortunate situation.
I created the bad business bureau which publishes the "Ripoff Report" which can be found at www.ripoffreport.com and "Ripoff Revenge" which can be found at www.ripoffrevenge.com to empower otherwise powerless people who have honest and legitimate grievances to take action. The "Ripoff Report" serves people who are concerned about being cheated. This web site allows people to be armed with the opinions, comments and experiences of others like them so they can determine for themselves if they want to do business with certain listed companies or individuals.
Unfortunately, in our society today, many lawyers and business persons focus on what they can get away with rather than what is fair and just. I have often heard attempted justifications such as, "It's just business." Such attitudes have disturbed me for many years.
In fact, I believe such attitudes are reflective of the problems in our society today. So many people have lost touch with the personal values of honesty, integrity and mercy. Political correctness is not a substitute for genuine values as I too have learned.
The time has finally come for people who have been taken advantage of to receive the voice and attention that is appropriate, rather than to be lost in the sea of powerless people who have no chance of receiving justice. Many people have lost touch with their sense of justice. I believe often times when companies act inappropriately, they actually believe they have done nothing wrong. I want to be there to remind them that the right thing is not necessarily based on a temporary bottom line. Rather, it's based on honest business and traditional values.
Ripoffreport.com brings many problems the honest attention they deserve. When people are victimized, we provide them with a forum to share their opinions and experiences with others. Unlike the Better Business Bureau, the "Bad Business Bureau's" Ripoff Report is a consumer-oriented forum which identifies bad businesses.
Additionally, unlike the Better Business Bureau, all of the unedited, uncensored complaints are public to millions worldwide. Anyone can see the logged comments of a company's past. As such, the "Bad Business Bureau's" Ripoff Report is a critical resource to inform consumers of those with which they potentially trade. I expect and hope this site will be the last site any business wishes to be listed on.
I believe businesses that rip-off individuals take solace by hiding safely behind the "litigation jungle" which financially and emotionally intimidates many who would seek justice there. I have hacked and trenched a path through this jungle. In fact, I have already helped many victims of Ripoffs for free all across the country collect what is owed to them with help from the www.bad businessbureau.com. It is my hope the new standard demanded by my site will resemble the old standard which existed when we were more interested in wholesome values.
Maybe you could say this site is a reality check or the site to keep us in line, the web site to avoid, the web site to use as a tool to help you get justice and to warn other unsuspecting victims.
MY PERSONAL BELIEFS
Treat others as you would want them to treat you. ..I have always had a "live and let live" philosophy in dealing with people: tolerant and accepting of people whose culture, background or upbringing was different from my own. We are a melting pot in this country, and I always had a strong distaste for bigoted or derogatory remarks about other people based only on race, national origin, religion or even sexual orientation. Adherence to the Golden Rule and treating others fairly and squarely is a code of conduct that I practice in all business and personal endeavors. It's also common sense, because I believe narrow minded people often cut themselves off from their own potential for success.
Personal Quote: Great ideas have always Encountered Violent Opposition - ..Einstein
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Details of the Ripoff Report Come Together
We at the Bad Business Bureau have finally kicked off the grand opening of the Ripoff Report after many months of planning and preparation. And we are ready for it to be one of the most exciting and demanding sites for consumer advocacy.
Although, the Bad Business Bureau is a new company established exclusively to promote and maintain the Ripoff Report, we have been involved in helping people in various capacities for many years now as consumer advocates. Feeling that there were not enough resources for the common person who was mistreated, victimized, or just plainly ripped off, we wanted to create a forum that allows your voice to be heard.
World Wide Reports
What better place is there to get the word out to as many people as possible than the Internet? With this global communications tool, we feel that we will be able to expose bad business much quicker and with greater impact than ever imaginable. Publishing information worldwide is also perfect, as it puts the pressure on these businesses to clean up their act. No one wants to do business with someone who has a bad reputation. And, as our world expands to a global level, so do reputations,good or bad. Any company worth their salt will want to make sure they practice good business no matter where they are. The Ripoff Report is here to remind them about this.
Not Just Business
Although a majority of our reports deal with businesses, we are not limiting them to that. We feel that genuine reports can be made about any government agency, individual, or product that someone is either dissatisfied with and feel could do a better job.
Current Trends in Rip-offs: The Top Ten
Make sure you check out our Top Ten List of Current Rip-offs. Here is where we have reviewed and organized the most notable reports that we feel are worthy complaints and need coverage and immediate attention. These reports have been personally reviewed for authenticity by our staff and meet criteria for potential relevancy to others. We therefore have put them on our Top Ten List as a current trend in rip-offs. See our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about getting your report on this list.
That's all for now. Stay tuned for more in the coming months as our list of reports grows and The Ripoff Report becomes a driving force for consumer advocacy.
The Ripoff Report Staff