Monday, September 9, 2013

Lists that Recommend Contractors -- A Cautionary Tale

by Kate Collins

Update: I've been cautioned that if I use the name of this actual list, I may be in for some revenge, so I will refer to this as a Site that Recommends Contractors, or STRC.


I've never used a site like STRC, nor will I ever, after hearing what happened to my neighbor's daughter.

This young woman hunted for a contractor on such a List and found three names with excellent reviews. She called the first one, asked him some basic questions, and was completely turned off by his answers as well as his poor attitude. She told him no thanks and moved on to the next.

Later, she filled out the review that she was supposed to complete and was honest about her interview with the first contractor. Soon she received a call from the contractor who told her to change her review before it ruined his business (which, by the way, all came from STRC referrals.) She told him no, hung up, and he called right back. Not only did he continue to call her, but also emailed her, a constant barrage that got so threatening, she feared he would hurt her -- and so she took down her review.

She started investigating at that point and discovered that THIS LIST  sells their information to anyone who pays to list with them. So this deranged contractor bought the poor young woman's contact information so he could intimidate her into taking down her review. She also discovered a host of similar stories from STRC "survivors" on the Internet. Her experience was far from unique.

How many things do you see wrong with that picture?

First, I would call it an invasion of privacy to have STRC sell my private info to the very people I'm reviewing. Second, if someone pays to be listed on STRC and then can harass anyone who puts up a bad review, would you trust that you were hiring a reputable person, knowing his/her bad reviews may have been pulled? Third, the young woman should have called the police. But she feared retaliation, so she kept mum.  Isn't that sad?

I hire people based on word of mouth reviews. I would never trust a website that sells its private information to the business people I would be reviewing.

How do you feel?




14 comments:

Claire Nollet said...

Well ... no names listed, contractor not listed, place not listed ... it's probably true, but if there are no details, it's just a rumor. I don't like stories like this, where it's a "friend of a friend" saying things. It's too easy to slander people nowadays on the web.

Gayle Carline said...

Now I think I understand how they can afford TV commercials. That's horrible. I hope if it had ever happened to me, I'd have the strength to go to the police, but I understand how frightened that woman must have been.

The only times I've ever complained about service (either through a survey or a letter), I've gotten a phone call from upper management to apologize and assure me it wouldn't happen again. I may be one of the lucky ones.

Aurian said...

Well, that is scary. How are you supposed to find a trustworthy contractor if you can't rely on a website especially made for that purpose?

Leann Sweeney said...

I am sympathetic ... but you might expect a response from Angie's List because they are BIG and often a service like that has a web person who runs Google searches regularly looking for their name used by others on the internet. Right now we are using a roofer who is on Angie's List (but we also heard good things about him from a second independent source). He is doing an excellent job. Research for ANYTHING that costs a lot of money, IMHO, needs to come from various sources. The one thing that Angie's List does that I have used it for is to list whether a business is bonded and insured. Everyone has a contractor nightmare but that is the basic thing you need to know right off the bat. We eliminated calls to people we might have otherwise wasted our time with. But NEVER, ever would I rely on one source of information. The Better Business Bureau, reviews on websites, word of mouth, direct knowledge from people where you can see the work they did. The mason salesman took us to probably 15 houses to show us the various brick he sells, how it fared in weather, how it looked old and new, and we were very satisfied with the product. Every subcontractor we have used has been vetted by us by looking at work they have done for others (and most of them are not listed on Angie's List). It is a LOT of work to hire contractors and to find the right one, but for us, it is the only way to get this huge job of building a house done right. Someone on my facebook page mentioned Lowe's having good subcontractors. I agree wholeheartedly (and before we used them I hunted down reviews about Lowe's work and it took a while). I had a big house fully carpeted and they did an amazing job AND I had a new front door put in by them and it was a tricky install. The two subs were excellent. There are good people out there, but it does take some digging to find them.

Did this person who was harrassed file a complaint DIRECTLY to Angie's List customer service and confirm with them that they sell information? Because what she experienced seems like criminal harassment and the CEO should know about it.

Anonymous said...

My sister subscribed to Angie's List to help find a contractor. her problem wasn't with the contractor, but with AL itself. She wasn't impressed, and told them she wanted to cancel her membership. They kept billing her credit card for months. She let it go once as maybe they just didn't do it yet, but then she contested the amount with the credit card company, and called and e-mailed AL to get rid of the charges. Every time she was assured it would be taken care of, no problem, very sorry - but it took SIX MONTHS before they finally stopped.

Kate Collins said...

Claire, I would never reveal a source, especially one who feels she is still in jeopardy. Would you? Trust me, this is all true.

Kate Collins said...

No, she didn't, Leann. She made a big mistake by not doing that. Her father told me all about her story, and he acknowledged that she should have pursued it. But again, she was too afraid that the contractor would find out.

Kate Collins said...

Obviously, AL has problems. Perhaps they'll see these posts and do something about them!

Denise Z. said...

Just last week I checked out Angie's List to see about finding a drip system repair company. I was put off by the fact I had to PAY just to get into anything on the site. Now, I understand the need to make money, and I don't begrudge the company that, but I was uncomfortable, so I did not pursue the matter. Seeing this, I'm glad I didn't. I randomly called three vendors, got two quotes and am waiting on a response from the third. I also did random polling at my office on who was good. I think I can get what I need without paying to join a subscription service.

Katreader said...

I thought the whole point was that contractors couldn't pay to be on the site. I'd never pay for that type of information anyway. I feel bad for the woman. I know how hard it is to find reputable people, fortunately I've had some great recommendations by friends and good luck. I love my plumber, electrician, heating-cooling company, roofer, tree guy, snowplow guy, landscape guy. Now I need a general contractor! I know where NOT to look, lol.

NoraA said...

I feel sorry for that young woman. Not everyone has a son who is connected to Homeland Security and a cop for a son in law. Even without all that, I'd have grabbed the phone, called the local precinct and filed a complaint. Since I would have not only records of his calls, but also his e-mails it would be a slam dunk for them to prosecute.

I grew up in a family business (a real estate business) and we dealt with contractors all the time. You just can't let yourself be rolled over by the bad ones.

SueAnn said...

It is never too late to file a complaint with the police, and the BBB and with this "list" person too......I had the benefit of reading your original post early in the AM.....also, if she has a fear of the contractor...there are restraining orders....and protection orders...don't think he would want that against his name.....if you know the girl, and have influence with her, see if she will do these things...fear is NOT the way to live....help her....if you can. You can always tell her, you have back up bulldogs!! Me and LA!!!!

Anonymous said...

Are you aware that a contractor can pay to get to the top of Angie's List? This was announced on our local newscast a couple of days ago.

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