Why anyone would use a pay service for reviews in 2011 is beyond me. And why would any contractor use a service whose whole reason for being is to rip them instead of finding leads for contractors? Face it, more people use Angie’s List to bitch than they do to praise. In the final analysis, Angie’s List takes your money for the privilege of you having to someday defend yourself in the court of public opinion…which you NEVER win! Pass….
Below is a email marketing follow up I received just a few days after the above video post. If you are a contractor paying advertising dollars to AL, how do you feel when the very people you are giving money to to help promote your business is also forcing you to lower your prices? Let me ask you, is Angie’s List lowering their costs to help out contractors while the economy recovers? In a word…No!
So, I am leafing through this month’s issue of Inc. magazine, when I get to the advertising section, and what do my wondering eyes should appear? And ad for Angie’s List. If you read the ad, it says in the opening sentence, and I quote “Companies can’t pay to be on Angie’s List, so you can trust what your reading”. So I have to ask, what kind of spin-doctoring are we going to hear when someone from Angie’s List tries to clarify what that sentence means when Angie’s List DOES take money from companies to be on Angie’s List.
I am sure there is an explanation, but to you guys at Angie’s List, you realize that this all just looks bad don’t you?
38 thoughts on “The Angie’s List UnReview: Or Why I Hate Angie’s List For Contractors”
My name is Cas, and I work for Angie’s List. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on our service. I’m sorry you think Angie’s List is simply a place for bashing contractors.
While we do get our share of negative reviews, the majority of reviews on Angie’s List are positive. People come to us looking for good contractors. They hire top-rated companies, have a good experience and report back on that, so there’s a constant stream of positive reviews. We do encourage contractors to respond to all their reports, free of charge, in order to provide our members with both sides of a story–good or bad.
Regarding our advertising practices, we do allow companies and professionals that average an A or B rating to advertise in the form of a discount or coupon to members. Only companies that maintain an A or B rating are offered this privilege, and any time their rating falls below a B, the offer is revoked. They are not obligated to advertise, nor does their decision to advertise affect their Angie’s List rating. We’re audited annually to ensure we’re not giving preferential treatment to anyone.
I appreciate you sticking your hand up and stopping by. My issue is this; as someone who has a hand in roughly $4-$5 million a year in advertising either online or off, I have never had a good experience when dealing with Angie’s List. So, I want you to know that my opinion comes from a massive amount of exposure to all things marketing for contractors. And I don’t care for the fact that AL will take money from both sides of the house. Because you know as well as I do, that once a contractor get’s ripped on the site, he reputation is done for regardless of if he is right or not. After a home owner blasts a contractor, there is no way to put that genie back in the bottle, and that along with the double-dipping is what I don’t care for. But again, thanks for stopping by and commenting, and please let me know if I am off base somehow.
I think you hit the nail on the head here in regards to the ‘double dipping’. If AL was simply forthright and upfront in the fact that they take money from both sides (homeowners and business owners) I don’t think many would have a problem.
But they don’t make that clear. The typical homeowner is going to AL to get unbiased reviews. They are getting reviews but also paid ads as well. When someone does a search on Google it is very clear which results are organic and which are paid advertising.
Yeah, I don’t like the paying both ends against the middle at all, but no one is calling them out for it. Both contractors and consumers alike need to realize that to have a true community-based resource advertising needs to come second to the content.
Seriously? They make you offer a coupon or discount to their members? What if you are not a discount provider? We are not a low price vendor and we don’t offer coupons or discounts so then I couldn’t advertise? Great way to eliminate quality contractors from the pool.
Being in Canada, I am thankfully not dealing with Angie’s List. I keep hearing in forums that if you advertise with them they give you preferential treatment in dealing with complaints. Any truth to this?
Thank you for stopping by and commenting! There are a number of ways AL uses their muscle to “manage” contractors, this particular email I got was consumer-based, telling people that basically 8 out of 10 contractors (or other service providers) are willing to drop their prices. So to me, that says they survey their contractor or service provider clients, take the results and spin them, then spit them out over on the homeowner side of the house to go play hardball. I wonder if there is a study or survey that asks homeowners when are they willing to pay more????
Hi, Heidi (and Darren).
Instead of traditional advertising, A or B rated providers may advertise in the form of a coupon to our members.
To Chuck’s point above, advertisements appear in our search results with a different background color than non-advertisements, and we do spell out our advertising practices in the FAQ section of our site. Members may choose to sort their search results as they see fit. While the default setting does return advertisements/coupons from highly-rated providers first, members can choose to return eco-friendly companies first, or companies closest to their home, or companies with the most reviews, etc. There are several different ways to return results.
We absolutely do not give anyone preferential treatment, advertiser or not. We’re audited annually by an outside firm to ensure of this. There are many companies who benefit from having great reviews on Angie’s List who have never spent a dime advertising with us.
Darren, we poll our members and service providers frequently, and a member poll on what they’re willing to pay more for is a great idea. We’ve done something similar in the past. We recently polled members on services and projects they would much rather hire out than do themselves. As for the service provider poll cited in the email you received, we’re know 80% is surprising. We were surprised, too. No spinning necessary.
Thank you, again, for all the thoughts and questions on our service. I’m more than happy to stick my hand up to answer any questions/concerns.
Thanks for bringing this issue up Darren, I’ve been complaining about this for years.
If AL had any integrity they wouldn’t allow contractors to do any advertising. It’s ridiculous when you’re a top rated company in your category but almost never get a lead from AL because there are so many paid listings above you that no one even sees your company.
I also don’t grasp the concept of being required to offer a discount or coupon to AL users to run an add. If your services are priced honestly you really can’t afford to be running coupons. I guess you have to inflate your pricing to play the game.
First of all, thank you for reading and commenting! To your point, it is silly for AL to force contractors to compete on price. Too many of the contractors I work with try to maintain price by offering add-ons or spiffs to the HO, but when you are only as good as the discount you provide, you are fighting a zero-sum game. I hope they change some of their practices. I would bet the place is run by nothing but marketing people, not a contractor to be found…and I am a marketing guy. But there is a difference when you bite the hand that feeds you and you are too blind or oblivious to see it.
I appreciate Cas taking the time to reply and it is good to know the chatter I hear about dealing with complaints is mostly likely coming from contractors looking for excuses, but I still agree with you Darren that the advertising model they use is wrong and they are not servicing the homeowner or the contractor best.
I think review sites are incredibly important for third party reviews and I pay for a premium listing in Canada on Homestars. The premium gives me the advantage of adding photos, a logo and keeping competitors off my listing page but I am not forced to offer discounts or other coupons. The site is free for consumers to view and post and they don’t have to be a member (although they do have to register to post a review). It also provides me the added value of increasing my SEO exposure.
Interesting to note that the BBB is also adding a review feature to their website. And the BBB carries a high level of credibility with consumers.
I agree, Brian @ Hometars is doing a great job in a tough economy, in a tough industry, one city at a time. And to your point Heidi, I would be fine if one side or the other paid, I am a businessperson and I understand that bandwidth and people and offices cost money…just don’t be so #$)#@ greedy that you need to wet your beak from both sides.
exactly my complaint. Who exactly is Angie’s List customer?
Hello all. We are having this discussion on the painting forum and this blog was linked. Heidi , as you know I am a contractor but I am also an Angie’s List customer. I have had highly rated contractors bomb on me (late callbacks, showed for estimate but never gave proposal, etc) and have had great successes. Just as a note for comparison, every AL contractor was on the high side of pricing. I use reviews on just about every purchase I make, I can sort through the tripe and get an overall feel for a service or establishment.
Thanks for the compliment Heidi! As Darren mentioned, we’re slowly growing across the country. We don’t believe in charging on both sides, and as you I’m sure know, you, as a company, don’t get any special treatment on the reviews. We do our best to ensure those reviews are real and trusted reviews, and if it’s a bad one, it goes up there – premium or not.
Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Good to see you around here again. Way to keep it real!
As I understand it AL contractors hold an A or B rating (which they work their way up to) until one lunatic makes some left field complaint about something earth shattering like “The contractor let my cat get away!” (all contractors should have a contract clause covering this) and then, their hard earned rating goes away.
It certainly is a good thing the Internet doesn’t operate by the same criteria isn’t it, otherwise AL would have had their website “revoked” years ago!!
While I’m here, a short note on picking a contractor. Anyone who knows anything about picking a contractor knows that you NEVER pick the one with the lowest price since you just eliminated every honest legitimate operator out there! The lowest bidder by definition has to be the flake with a truck and a clipboard running around giving “free estimates”. He has no office, no overhead, no insurance, no registration & just you try to exercise your so called “guarantee” if he actually does the job. Pick a contractor that way and you deserve what you get, remember the old addage, “You get what you pay for”.
Forgive my rant Darren, this kind of crap pisses me off!
Dude, that’s why I’m here, rant away! Thanks for stopping by and commenting!
If the information is presented right (and I don’t spend much time looking at AL, so I’m probably not fully qualified) internet readers can tell reviews written by homeowners with, perhaps, unnecessarily high expectations. Even the best contractors on HomeStars do have some bad reviews. It happens. And, yes, it does affect their rating and ranking, but they also know that it helps build their credibility and honesty if they effectively respond to that review.
And I’d definitely agree to be wary of hiring the lowest price contractor. Picking a contractor is like dating. A whole lot of factors have to come together, from the ‘fit’ to their experience doing the particular type of job that the homeowner has. Sometimes the lowest price might be the right fit, but often not.
I am in complete agreement with you Darren. It’s actually kind of funny how I came about this article. I googled “I hate angie from angie’s list.” Not because of the company policy but because I have seen “Angie’s” face pop up on my compute screen a half a dozen times over the last week. Seriously, this has got to be one of the ugliest broads I have ever laid eyes on. It’s bad enough I’m consistently harassed by their telemarketing calls, now I have to deal with them on my computer screen as well.
Thanks for stopping by and commenting! That is funny! By the way, you are being followed…. behavioral marketing is why you are seeing her mug everywhere. Clear out your computer’s cache and it should go away. Try clearing your search history too. Thanks for stopping by!
The thing I noticed with Angie’s List is that the biggest problem tends to be the customers. In fact, my company has a policy in place that if a customer comes to us indicating they found us on Angie’s List, we turn them down immediately. Angie’s List is notorious for attracting very poor-quality customers. Our first review was from a happy customer who found us elsewhere and didn’t really use Angie’s List at all, but had a paid membership and was being kind; every subsequent review was from people who weren’t happy, for a variety of pitiful reasons (not calling back off a voice message within an unreasonably time frame, etc.), and one or two of them weren’t even customers of ours in the first place.
The bottom line is that it’s better to avoid getting involved with anyone who actually uses Angie’s List; they’ll likely be the most difficult and expensive people you will serve. I’ve even read reports of Angie’s List customers using the threat of an F-rating review to force contractors to do things outside of the originally requested scope of work. It does indeed seem that Angie’s List is to be avoided if one wishes to turn a consistent profit.
I have a Carpet Cleaning business on Angie’s List in Houston. We get some of the Better Customers in the Area. I am wondering if certain types of business get worse customers off Angie’s List? Also I am not liking that they are charging me a lot more to advertise with them on the upcoming contract!!!
I also have great experience with Angie’s List customers. I don’t agree that the customers are price shoppers. While AL has adopted Groupon style discounts, I choose not to participate in them. My closing rate with AL customers is very high and the margins on the contracts have all been where I needed them to be.
I am a legitimate licensed contractor and my company is registered with Angie’s List. All I get are GOOD reports and reviews, because my company does quality work for a low price. however, because my company is so small and has very limited revenue due to the fact that I recently started my company, I cannot afford to pay for ads with AL. Every time I get one of my customers to submit a positive report , Angie’s List refuses to accept it and calls it unverified and doesn’t allow it to be counted as a legitimate report, and they say its because the report is not from a paying member of AL. AL’s website and policies are misleading to small businesses like mine, because they state that you can collect reports for FREE and have them submitted, but they are not very clear that the customer submitting the report has to sign up with AL as a paying member in order for the report to have a positive effect on the company’s rating. If i had known this, I would have never registered my business with AL.
Give @homestars a try. We have tools to help build a good review base, as well as being free for homeowners to read and check out your reviews. Let me know if you need any assistance setting something up. It’s free.
Brian…I would love for you guys to do a guest post or two talking about your service. Let me know if you think that makes sense.
Always happy to do that. Just getting back from a busy period, but should have some time to create something in the next couple weeks.
I, too, found this site because I Googled, “I hate Angie’s List”. If I had any idea of how this awful, irresponsible company works I would never, ever have joined and will certainly not renew. It appears that our experience is not atypical in that we received several A ratings and then one F rating that was unbelievable. Without an opportunity to respond or address the customer’s ridiculous comments, his complaint was on AL. This customer had not even contacted us with any complaint or concerns and waited over a month to post this scathing, incredibly technical and detailed report. The bottom line was that the only way to have this report removed was to meet this customer’s demands for a nominal refund of the total price. If this is not the epitome of extortion I don’t what is. So, we could pay this extortion money (less than 10% of an already 10% discounted contract price) or the report would remain. The only other thing we could do was to post a reply with the report from this customer now simply marked ‘Unresolved’. What in the world does that mean? So, anyone can post anything whether it has merit or not, attempt to extort money from the contractor and win regardless. How in the world AL has become as popular as it is is simply beyond me. I will never use or rely on AL for anything or any purpose. What a disgrace!
Sorry to hear about what happened to you. I think overtime that these review sites will become less important to consumers. Consumers will come to realize that they can’t fully trust what is written on these sites. I
My spouse likes to read review sites for restaurants and hotels we plan to visit. I suggest to her to average out all the reviews and that may get to truer review.
It is too easy for a company to fabricate a positive review for themselves or even fabricate a negative review on their competitor.
Thanks for stopping by and commenting!
We, at HomeStars.com have seen a big growth in these review sites including ourtselves. The issue is we, as a review site, need to keep close tabs on making sure that reviews aren’t padded by companies themselves or bad reviews written on competitors. We try, as I’m sure Angies List does also. The difference is that Angies List does by paying customer, we do it by more sophisticated technology.
But you make a great point that you need to have a bunch of reviews for you to really take note of a company. It’s easy to fake a single bad review, but hard to fake a bunch.
And, to make mention of a prior comment, more savvy readers, like it sounds like your wife is, will know how to read a bad review and distinguish a bad customer from a bad review based on poor quality workmanship or customer service.
I run a professionl home improvement company (general contractor) that specializes in the small, quick repairs and maintenance (handyman) niche. I have been on Angie’s List for years, and have won 5 Super Service Awards. I also serve on the board of my State’s BBB Education Foundation and on the marketing committee of the board for the BBB. And I’ve been an Angie’s List member for years and have used them to choose service providers for my home.
“No one can pay to be on Angie’s List.” You also cannot pay to get OFF of Angie’s List. Any consumer can put you on there and say whatever they want.
As a contractor, I do not have to give AL any money. But if I don’t, I WILL NEVER BE FOUND
I agree and disagree with your premises.
I disagree about both consumers and contractors paying fees. Unlike Improvenet, now Service Magic, when the consumer has no “skin” in the game, they’ll want outragiously extensive and expensive projects estimated without regard for a contractor’s time and efforts.
I agree with you on the approach to the public that Angie’s LIst wants contractors to take when offering a discount. On a bid or estimated project, that would be a discount from what? Why is it so important that a consumer feels like he or she needs a “deal”? It’s a “come on” only and makes the intelligent and diligent contractor look foolish.
You know how it is, everyone always wants to feel like they got a deal. A one better than everyone else. That’s just how we are wired. I appreciate you stopping by and commenting!
I have a much smaller organization in the Dallas area, but I interview a lot of contractors and only speak to those that are referred by other high integrity contractors. What I found about Angie’s List is that the ones getting the most and best reviews are those that are good at selling to the homeowner. A contractor that just does their job and doesn’t spend a lot of time trying to “educate” the homeowner in order to upsell will not get many reviews on AL. However, if the contractor has a great sales team, they use “educational scare tactics” to get a heck of a lot more money from the cient than the client needs to pay, but they get great reviews. Integrity can be overcome by a great con man, I mean salesman. I have heard from many of the contractors how AL works to make sure they get the most from every person involved. It is true that “no contractor can pay to be on AL”, but what that means is that they can’t JUST pay to be on AL, they have to have at least one review. AL will call your clients for you and get the review for you, but the only reviews that count are from the ones that pay to be a member of AL. So, they solicit YOUR clients to pay to write a review so YOU can pay. If you are a smart contractor, you can offer to pay your clients membership so you can now advertise with AL. Once they have the review you are ready to pay to be on the list that people can see. There is nothing wrong with charging contractors to be on a list that will get them business, but misleading the public to believe that no contractor pays to be on AL is just wrong.
I have years of experience with Angie’s List as a local plumber in Seattle. They have gotten money out of me and gave nothing in return except much trouble from customers that tend to be pretty passive aggressive. Angie’s List get paid on both ends – Any contractor listing you see is only visible to you if the contractor is paying Angie’s List through the nose. My cost for Angie’s List “hot leads” was $300 each. Testing Angie’s List cost me $7000 over two years. While paying such high costs for leads may work for a major construction project , it won’t work for a service call where we charge by the 1/4 hour.
Google clicks have gotten as high as $38 per click here in Seattle when the search term used is “plumber” or “plumbing”. On the average it takes 15 clicks to get a call. Do the math on the cost to the guy ringing your doorbell.
Angie’s List cost per job performed was 75% of my company’s average invoice total (about $400). My company does over a thousand jobs a year.
Any homeowner service using this advertising method is paying way too much to maintain any integrity in the service. This type of advertising creating an incredible amount of pressure to convert to a commission-based high profit business model for basic traditional services. If I pay Angies List hundreds of dollars just to ring your doorbell how can I treat you fairly when your plumbing problem requires an hours work? I can’t so I cancelled my advertising contract with Angies List.
Angie’s List uses a unique money making model that actually is a kind of pyramid scheme. They put all the local harvested contractors into their listings but you only will call highly rated ones. In order to be highly rated you must pay Angie Thousands of dollars a year for position in order to be seen AND time in grade is required to accumulate favorable reviews. Only a dozen or so can be in that position. The homeowner only calls the ones at the top so all new advertisers must invest thousands on continuing annual contracts to play the game on Angie’s List.
My solution was to put up a free local business directory with the policy of no shills, no fake listings, no paid advertising just so my neighbors and the local small businesses here in Seattle could find each other. (www.SeattleOnly.com) It may take a while for the new directory to get any real traffic as it is dependent upon local participation by local businesses and consumers.
In my opinion, it is time for both local business and consumers to get control over how we find our services and customers as the marketers are hijacking the business to consumer relationship and forcing costs so high that nobody can bear the costs.
Question: Why should we need out-of-state corporations to connect homeowners to services down the street? Surely there is a simple, inexpensive way for us to know our neighbors and small businesses. We all need to put a little thought and effort in that direction.
My dad is an independent contractor, he started his own service called E.K. Services for work here around Denver. Around a year ago he started receiving emails from Angie’s List saying that either he pays and joins the site or he’ll be listed on there with really negative marks. It’s extortion, what the site is doing shouldn’t be permitted. We spread word of the company by word of mouth and flyers, we don’t want to be part of the site because it seems like an unnecessary additional expense, yet we don’t know of a way to get them to cease. DON’T USE ANGIE’S LIST, they are nothing but bullies.
I highly doubt that this is true at all. Seeing how if he had negative reviews he would not be eligible to advertise (as stated by the comments before). Paying does not remove the negative reviews. So, it’s not extortion nor is it bullying. Seriously, contractors need to stop blaming others for their negative reviews, grow up and quit doing shoddy work. Pretty simple business model.
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