Are Consumers Disadvantaged or Vulnerable? An Examination of Consumer Complaints to the Better Business Bureau


  • The authors appreciate the support for this project from the Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin.


Questions have emerged recently about the appropriateness of defining disadvantaged consumers based on their membership in certain demographic categories, such as income, age, education, and race. This study assessed whether these traditional classifications are useful for understanding consumer complaining behavior with the Better Business Bureau. Results of analysis of more than 24,000 consumer complaints filed with a local BBB office during a 13-year period do not provide consistent support for this disadvantaged consumer perspective. Instead, the emerging vulnerable consumer perspective may provide a more promising basis for future research.