December 28, 2010 146 Comments
The other day, I wrote Review on Angie’s list (angieslist.com) – Angie’s list is not what it claims to be? about my own validation on whether I can trust the local business reviews I found on Angie’s list a few months ago. The answer is not exactly. To be fair though, my sample size is very small (3-4 contractors) based on my personal experience, so either Angie’s luck ran out at me, or I am extremely unlucky.
I have asked my friend to show me around the site trying to check the site out, read other people’s complaints and reviews. My friend wasn’t happy with it either, so after getting disappointed by AL, he decided to cancel the services. And it was another nightmare for him, I am very very glad that I didn’t have to go through that.
I think there are quite a few fundamental problems with the business model and the usability of the site.
Major Problems with Angie’s List
- Angie’s List is not exactly on the consumer’s side as they advertise
- Angie’s List isn’t on contractor or business’s side either
- Asking consumer to pay money $$$$ to write an review.
- Aggressive sales and bad customer service
- Once you pay, nearly impossible to get refund
- The major one, I don’t trust the business
Angie’s List problem #1 : Angie’s List is not exactly on the consumer’s side
Angie’s list emphasizes that they are on the side of consumers. They verify all the reviews, and they don’t let Business to create fake reviews by asking their families and friends to write about them. Their own answer to this problem is to make consumers to pay to write a review. The theory is that if people have to pay to write a fake review, bogus reviews won’t get written. Families of any contractor can still pay to write fake glowing reviews, the cost is not significant compare the the goods they can fake for the bad business.
If you are writing a first review, what exactly you are doing is that you are paying to do data entry for Angie’s list. To tell them about a new business, to tell them how to contact the business owner.
In addition, there are reviews that bad reviews by actual customers are not posted on Angie’s list. The consumers are chasing the Angie’s List customer service representatives about the missing bad reviews, but they were ignored. My guesses, and not only mine, is that Angie’s list is holding off these negative reviews for high paying customers. I can’t verify it, but there is no sane explanations.
I love to hear more stories around this.
Angie’s List Problem #2: Angie’s list is not exactly on Business or Local Business’ side
So, if you are a customer, you need to pay to write a review for your favorite contractors, or local business. But what would happen after you do that? What would happen is a Sales person from Angie’s List’s famous Customer service department is going to contact the business and tell them that a new review is written about it. They will tell you that you should now go to Angie’s list, look at the review, and start advertising with them. With Angie’s list, you can pay hundreds to thousands (whatever the customer service rep says) to put your company rank higher than others.
Angie’s list says that they only allow companies that have a good rating to advertise, but what if a company that treats its consumer bad, but want to pay for advertisement, would they stop you? I highly doubt it. There are online comments reporting that Angie’s List customer service rep gets a high percentage of first year membership fee as commission, so make your own sane judgment.
This reminds me of my another post Business Review & Rating firm BBB CEO Resigns after “Pay for Play” scheme revealed.
And I believe this may contribute to some of the problems we saw in #1 that negative reviews are disappearing, because it may cause issues to acquire new business(money) from non advertising members.
So, what it appears that Angie’s list is on the business side before they sign up for their advertising.
So, let’s say, you fell for it, you paid for the advertising. Now pray that there is no negative reviews because now Angie’s list has no reasons to be on your side. They would proudly publish all negative reviews they received because you are already on hook. And if you dare to stop advertising, you never know how your rating would change based on new bad reviews because you just don’t know.
It may be no change, or it may be a dramatic drop because you are not one of the favorite business.
My advice, stay away and keep yourself clean.
Angie’s List problem #3: Asking consumer to pay money $$$$ to write reviews.
This is one of the most common complaints and WTF about Angie’s list. They want Consumers to pay them maybe over $100 if they want to recommend a good business to others! really, WTF.
Why would you do that? you really like that business that much? if so, why don’t you just tip the business with the $100 you pay Angie’s List and write a reference letter somewhere else, or a letter to the business?
And for people who is new to an area, why you have to pay to get some (IMO) not trustworthy reviews based on Problem #1 and Problem #2?
I have moved and lived in 5 cities in the last few years, I always have the problem looking for contractor. I have a lot of experience getting referrals, research online, reading business reviews and complaints to locate a good contractors. I have a lot of successes, but at times not too successful as well. I realize there are lots of flaws in all these review sites and system and determined to find out why and how they can be improved. Nevertheless, What I try to point out here is that there isn’t any points to pay and write a review, or even to get a review from others.
Going back to problem #1, Angie’s List claims that they charge for writing reviews to get rid of the spammers and fakers. Either it is a big fat money sucking excuse to charge uninformed consumers lots of money, or the Angie’s List executive team is plain stupid. I would love to hear back and see what Angie picks. If you see her, ask her for me
OK. I am over my head, lets go back 2000 steps. Now you say, what if they really mean it and get it work? So, say Angie’s List does everything they can do to kick out fake reviews, and all reviews are good ones. Does it worth it?
My big answer is still NO. why? Because you only pay for advice from professionals. You pay for doctor’s advices, Accountant’s advices, and laywer’s time. But not a layman like your Aunt or the 20 years old kid next door for a highly skilled professional work.
The reason we pay for professional advice is because these people are educated and experience to provide feedback, judgments that we don’t have.
Would you ask your neighbor about a mechanic referral and pay him/her $5 for a year for that advices? Hell no. if your neighbor asks for $100 for telling you that her hair stylist is first class, you would probably say FuXk off.
It is the same deal with the reviewers on the internet, their opinions are only valuable within proper context and background. I think enough said for this point.
Angie’s List problem #4: Aggressive sales and bad customer service
I hear this point from my 2 contractor sources as well as online comments after doing some research. I just find out that there is no shortage of negative reviews online about Angie’s List. It indicates that the negative views on Angie’s list are simple issues.
From my interviews of the contractors, the aggressive sales approach and strategy of Angie’s List Salespersons are the most annoying experience they ever had. These sales calls them, push them to do advertisement, if you say no, they will keep calling back and repeat the scripts. From point 2 above, one way to get into this mess is that one of your customers write a review for you. So you better learn to hate your customer glowing reviews because of Angie’s list.
In my observation, it seems that Angie’s list’s sales get a large chuck of every business’s first year advertising fee, and the sales are making peanuts unless they make a sales. This is just like all other businesses and I don’t blame them. However, my rule of thumb is, If there is someone selling something very hard to you (super hard sell), it isn’t a very good product and stay away.
I Don’t see the genius in Apple store pushing me into the corner and try to make a sale. I don’t see Amazon Kindle sales department calling everyone to buy a kindle, but it still is the most popular product on Amazon.
I can’t say I can speak for everyone, but based on the facts and my experience, Angie’s List isn’t good at least through Word of Mouth and that is extremely important for a service that is trying to capitalize on Word of Mouth.
I will continue updating this post later on the following points.
Angie’s List problem #5: Once you pay, nearly impossible to get refund
I really don’t want to spend much efforts on this points because the amount of feedback online regarding this point is so overwhelming. This is the most common complaint from consumer. Yes, you are entitled to pay $10 a month for the service only, but you have to keep your subscription for a year. That is $120 a year!
What you hear online is “Impossible to cancel”, “No online cancellation channel”. People have been trying to cancel, sending email, calling customer services, but most of them have no luck. The renewal of the service is in the term of service.
so again, I am not going to spend more time on this topic, because it is a solid verdict online.
You can easily sign up and pay in 5 minutes, it will take you $X00 and months to cancel. Why do you want to get in in the first place?
Angie’s List problem #6: The major one, I don’t trust the business
Reason #6, simply I just don’t trust Angie’st List. I think the business model is flawed, because it doesn’t have good reasons to do a lot of things. All I see from the business model is money, money, and money. Not yours, or mine, but every consumers, businesses.
From A quote online:
A manager at Angie’s List told me that the CEO, Bill Osterle, told her that the company “is always for sale.” Maybe they should post an ad on Craig’s List.
Another Quote from a Former Angie’s List Employee:
He’ll sell out the company as soon as he can, but with all the revenue they generate and the $60 million in VC they have received in 2 years they cannot figure out how to turn a profit. They can’t sell a company that hemorrhages money millions of dollars at a time. It is bloated and operated poorly with a lot of waste.
The business model is not transparent enough, and a lot of harms has been done.
I think I will add more in the last two points when I have more energies, and feel it is worthy.
If you haven’t read my last review on Angie’s List, Don’t Miss it.