A Reverse Angie’s List

While sites like Angie’s List — customer reviews of local consumer-centric companies by region — get a fair amount of attention, no-one talks much about the consequences of pushing “intelligence” to the edge. For example, a relatively small number of negative reviews can have a huge impact on your likelihood of using a particular service. But, to a first approximation, negative comments arrive more or less stochastically, so it isn’t inconceivable for a busy service that you might see 30 negative comments before you saw the first positive comment.
Worse yet, there is the distorting influence a few malcontents can have. That point is made very clearly in the following comment that appeared today on a post of mine from April on the subject of such lists:

Just a comment from a company that is on Angies list, a 3 time award winner, which pretty much means nothing except you are at the mercy of some (not all) people with attitude to distroy a company from the ground up.
We have customers that posted low grades on our company ( B & C) and the deck looked beautiful, we called this cusomter …her reasoning for the low grades was “that she used to be a supervisor and never gave anyone a good review with all A’s”, and then call us back in 4 years to do her deck again and you are walking on egg shells.
And now Angies list members can post on a company even if work is not performed. So if you get 60 calls a day you had better make sure they are all returned as they can post you ignored the call and give you bad marks. Angies List members then see the F report and never read any further than the 1st repor they come to, and then you do not get calls for a month or so.
Angies List has not tried to resolve the problem with the member at all, even since the work is completed on this person and she has note changed her report. So our company sets with bad marks and a small comment from us as how it was resolved with no proof from the customer that all was well.
We used to enjoy being on Angies List, but that is looking pretty dim as I watch my season go down hill and my business drop to an all time low. Maybe companies should start a list of their own to put customers on that can not be satisfied in no way, no matter what you can do to please them. Pretty much a shame when a 10 year family business is down the tubes due to one person.

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Comments

  1. Gatorman says:

    This businessman said it all. This same thing happened to us. We got an “F” for being a little late for an appointment because of a traffic jamb. The customer slammed the door in my face and posted a rating. An Angies List Rep. told us we could respond and if we joined their Eagle Eye (will notify us of a rating) for $50.00, they would give us $25.00 for each new member we signed up and we could have them rate us and bring our average rating up. It’s a scam, I think, if not illegal.

  2. Mark says:

    I have a friend whose company got an F rating from a customer over a dispute on extra work they wanted done. He was told the to get 10 new members to sign up and have them give rate him an A rating. That would raise his score. He went out and paid 10 of his friends membership fee and had them give him an A rating. He’s back in business for now. This is not fair to good honest members and good hard working companies. It’s good for Angies List though. I think they want members to give bad reports. It makes the businesses work for them.

  3. MK says:

    Angie’s list is a scam that blackmail businesses. We have been in business for 14 years. ONE customer gives us a bad review on Angie’s list: He asked us to repair his printer. We did so in a timely manner and charged him the quoted price. Then he decided he would have rather gotten a new printer-after the fact! So he have us a bad mark because he regretted his well-informed decision! This kind of thing hurts small businesses tremendously. We did nothing wrong. Of course, people don’t PAY Angie’s list to give a business compliments. It is mainly for the disgruntled. Then a business has to pay thier friends to get a good rating again. That is blackmail.

  4. It is sad that an expensive and unfair (so it seems) business could hurt hardworking entrepreneurs.
    Is there a reason for this service? YES
    Could it be done much less expensively for consumer and biz owners? YES
    Free business idea (a la Paul Kedrosky ,…not nearly as brilliant of course) :
    Start an Angie’s List that allows businesses to reply to any complaints. Usually overly bitter clients will be spotlighted as exactly that and unhappy clients might have their problems solved…oh wait there is an actuall BIG business idea encrypted in there…whoops….

  5. MK says:

    Angie’s list does allow a business to reply. The only problem is that only complainers will tke the time to post. Customers do not take the time to post compliments to businesses because people expect good service.
    The companies on Angie’s list who have a lot of good posts have paid for thier good customers to subscribe and post! So typically it is the businesses who are paying to save thier own reputations. What a racket!!
    By the way, Angie’s list is owned by Brownstone Publications. The CEO is William S. (Bill) Oesterle. Prior to joining Brownstone, he was a general partner in CID Equity Partner, a Minwest-based venture capital firm.
    Angie is the CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER. The company was founded in Columbus, Ohio, in 1995 by Angie Hicks, an economics major who had recently graduated from DePauw University in Indiana.
    Brownstone Publications themselves are owned by a company called Cardinal Ventures (see http://www.cardvent.com) One of Cardinal Ventures pricipals, John F. Ackerman is also on the board of Brownstone Publishing.
    So the cute story about some house wives puttig together a list for their fellow neighbors is a bunch of bunk. Angies’s List is a company that makes money off the back of hard working contractors and small businesses who are defamed and then extorted by the Angie website.
    I just spoke to one of the Angie customer service people who told me that the company is not responsible for what people post on their website. Well, it’s their website and their business, so of course they are responsible for the content. As if we were born yesterday.

  6. gatorman says:

    Nice research MK. Now, where is that investigative reporter? This could be a great story. The Better Business Bureau is the best agency to find out about a company. They have over 2 million members (companies). Angie’s list has 186,000 paying members (buying consumers to rate companies). I want good reports on what a company has done, not a marketing scam.

  7. Jerry says:

    No to a reverse Angie’s List. Two wrongs won’t equal a right. How about this! A FREE List that allows ALL comsumers and businesses an equal opportunity to place their comments. Given identical comment space and an automatic email to both the businesses or consumers when a comment related to them is posted. There are a number of reasonablely priced ISP’s ($8.00 mo./2yr. contract) and it could use a freely available application such as phpBB. The cost would be minimal (setup and administration) and much less than the lost goodwill of one unanswered complaint. Put a positive spin rather than a Reverse List (honey vs. vinegar).

  8. Kim Dixon says:

    Angie is more “mascot” than Chief Marketing Officer. Bill Oesterle, CEO, is the brains. Bill is an attorney masquerading as an entrepreneur and a card carrying member of the Republican good old boys club.
    Don’t let him fool you. Mr. Oesterle’s VC firm funded Angie’s List. He is CEO simply to guard his former company’s investment. He was the campaign manager for Mitch Daniels, the recently elected Republican governor for Indiania. His political plum was a Board of Trustees seat at Purdue University.
    He is claiming his daughter has lead poisoning and will be leading a charge against service providers.

  9. This is a great perspective, and is exactly the type of concern that we are building into JudysBook, an online social network / local search company.
    Users shouldn’t need to pay to access reviews, and businesses should be able to respond to negative reviews in an open forum. In fact, all of the ratings provided by 1 writer should be accessible so that readers can evaluate comments in context (ie Bob the reviewer never gives 4+ stars). There is too much conflict of interest otherwise.
    These are exactly the types of ideas that we’re considering as we build out our site, and exchanges like these are helpful to us as we define our offerings.

  10. Jennifer H says:

    I appreciate this information. I WAS going to join Angie’s List because we are looking to install hardwood floors in our home. I know small business owners and am no longer interested in sites like Angie’s. Thank you.

  11. Rahul P. says:

    Jennifer,
    I’d suggest asking for a recommendation on Judy’s Book. We don’t charge businesses or consumers for reviews or responses.
    Good luck with your project. If you find someone you like, give them a good review on JB and hopefully we’ll send them some more business as a result.
    Cheers,
    Rahul

  12. Sue says:

    We subscribed to Angie’s list in Minnesota and one of the things we liked most was access to good reviews. We needed a pet sitter and called one of the businesses that everyone was raving about — even though they didn’t service our area. The owner referred us to someone who did work our area but wasn’t on the list. The service was better than wonderful. They now have an enthusiastically positive review on the list. We took the list as an opportunity to share info on businesses & services that we’d want to know about — especially the good ones!
    It takes common sense to use the list. Call a contractor in the busy season and it’s only fair to expect a call back lag when it’s a single, independent, contractor. You’ll seldom find an A on the pricing on some services such as veterinary because most people don’t understand their costs. Also, most people don’t shop an area for pet care and so they don’t have a good yardstick. We gave our vet an “A” across the board — just because the practice is near perfect.
    Also, there was a record of dispute resolution posted that seemed fair and timely. You always had the option of calling the contractor and checking for yourself.
    Maybe this is more about “Minnesota nice” and the members taking the share with your neighbor concept more seriously than in other places. It wasn’t all that hard to pick out the genuine rants. There isn’t really a lot to prevent stacking the reviews in either direction – positive or negative. The “paid” reviews are as bad as the vengeful postings. We approached limited numbers of negative reviews on Angie’s List relative to a business with a fair amount of ambivalence.
    Angie’s List served us well for the price we paid. We also double checked with the BBB. We found businesses that we’d never heard about or were likely not to have discovered on our own. “People stuff” never is perfect. This site does the same thing. A couple of negative experiences with the list and it’s trashed entirely. It would be nice if states information was included so that it would be easier to tell if this was a local problem or truly “list wide”. Maybe some one area isn’t doing its job rather than the list being anti-contractor as a whole?

  13. Jack Smith says:

    Well for all your reviews on Angie’s list. There is a man running a site and is doing well in columbus Ohio. His site is http://www.thedeadbeatlist.com. He lets the contractors or trades person blackball the homeowner. Plus you can Rate the homeowner. I plust for our city

  14. Lynn says:

    I’m a member of Angie’s List and I actually see a lot more positive reports than negative reports on the list. Members are happy to find good service and when they do, they want other members to know about that great service too. If you do get bad service from a company, Angie’s List helps you try to resolve it by contacting the company for you and trying to find a solution that makes both parties happy.
    Because Judy’s Book is free, you don’t get as good or accurate of information as you do with Angie’s List. Members of Angie’s List pay to be members because they want to get good service – and care enough about getting it, that they are willing to pay for it. Since Judy’s Book is free, anyone can post on it, so there’s nothing that holds them accountable for the information they put on there. I’m a member of Angie’s List because I trust that the reports people are submitting are accurate and honest. In turn, I submit accurate reports so that other members can learn from my experiences. The list works both ways – you have to give good information if you expect to get it back!

  15. Lynn Lopacinski says:

    I used to work for Angie’s, and believe me, the line they give, and the way it actually works on the inside are NOT the same. Don’t believe all the hype. In addition, they are a horrible company to work for. But, they can be a good resource to consumers, as long as you understand the information isn’t 100% accurate or without bias.

  16. Kerry Colip says:

    Angie’s List is nothing more than a place where people who don’t want to pay the bill have a place to go and complain to hold the contractor hostage so they don’t have to pay the bill. Angie’s List responds to this by saying they are only taking care of their customer, which says to hell with the contractor. I think it is time to start a web site that puts Angies List and anyone belonging to it to shame. There is a right way and a wrong way to go about this kind of business and it requires investigation on both parts. Angie’s List chooses to do nothing except read a few letters and then they go with their paying customers. I am willing to help put Angie’s List on the up and up or out of business. Either way I don’t care.

  17. Will Travis says:

    Wow! Thanks to everyones’ comments I will not be joining Angie’s List. I thought it might be a racket and everyone confirmed it. I just remodeled my house and I think I’ll spend $500 dollars and place an ad in the local newspaper thanking the good subcontractors and the outstanding general contractor that I worked with. I think this would do more good for these people than Angie’s list.

  18. Chad Gatz says:

    Im a small Business owner and wold have to say Angie’s List work ethics are Dishonest and a disgrace to the public . Avoid doing Business with Angie’s List.

  19. bob says:

    A lot of these comments on here don’t hold water. Complaining about a b and c rating? A C is average, not many companies are any better than average. Everyone understands that every business has one or two bad days, and also has bad customers. Your business goes downhill because of a negative post? Are you relying entirely on Angie for all your business? I have a construction business, I’m not in angies list or even the phone book, I have more business than I can handle. Poor guy has to stay on top of his business and do what he should be doing anyway. What really gets me is when he says “walking on eggshells” does he mean he has to give good service? It’s laughable. I do understand however that the system is not perfect. As such a few people are actually have access to the site, it ain’t going to affect the bottom line of a business that actually gives good service.