Angie's List: a Colossal Scam?

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I hope this is the right forum for this type of a post.

I just want to post on my experience of using Angie's List, and what I have learned.

In summary, I believe that unlike what is advertized, Angie's List is not a Consumer Friendly Review Site. It operates a rather sophisticated marketing machinery, and primarily is a paid Yellow Pages type service, using internet and direct mail as marketing channels, while disguising itself as a consumer friendly website.

First, my experiences.

On three different occasions, in three different metropolitan areas (Minneapolis / St Paul, MN; Indianapolis, IN; and Northern NJ, NJ / NY), I signed up for Angie's List. In all three cases I was looking for local business reviews, and each case, a google search for a SPECIFIC business resulting in a link from Angie's List to be at the top, advertising (falsely, as I will find out) that Angie's List has reviews on THAT SPECIFIC local business. The businesses searched were: (a) gutter cleaner and mold cleaner in Minneapolis, for a really needed service, (b) kitchen contractor in Indianapolis, as a test, and (c) mortgage broker in Northern NJ, for really needed service.

In each of the three cases, based on Angie's List claim that they had reviews for a specific contractor, I signed up, paying for the 1-month fee ONLY, in order to have access to the full website. In all three cases, it turned out, that they did not have ANY reviews for the specific contractor, despite advertising so earlier. Bait and switch? You decide.

Having paid for the monthly service in the first two cases using a one-time credit card, I simply let the memberships expire (easy enough, right?). However, both during membership, and after membership, Angie's List relentlessly spammed my (already-spammed) e-mail account, sending tons of unsolicited ads from various businesses I had no interest in dealing with. In the first two cases (Minneapolis and Indianapolis), I had signed up for relatives (I myself live in NY / NJ). In the third case, I signed up with my own address.

In the third case, I had to make a phone call to cancel, as (a) the auto-renew option was forced on me, and (b) there was no easy way to cancel otherwise. I canceled within about 20 days of signing up. First of all, cancelation was not that easy. Second, they did not extend the courtesy of refunding the entire amount, but rather, only pro-rated for the remainder of the month, even though I explained to them that I got ZERO value from them. And third, after I told them that I firmly believed that they had done a bait-and-switch for the third time, they had nothing to say, kind of like it was not news to them at all.

About a month after canceling the third service, I received a paper brochure from Angies, "Angies List New York City and New Jersey Edition, May 2013", which is basically a collection of unsolicited advertising.

There are basically 2-3 completely USELESS "articles", and then after that, we have page, after page, after page of relentless advertising from local businesses I have ZERO interest in. You want some examples? Here we go:

- Laser Skin Rejuvenation from Dr Glenn K* of T* F*, NJ,
- Implants and Dentures from Dr. Edgar A*, DMD, of some town in Middlesex County, more than 50 miles away,
- tons of kitchen remodel advertisements (I have a brand new one),
- tons of painter advertisement (I don't need painting),
etc.

So my conclusion is as follows: Angie's List is a sort of a new age Yellow Pages / useless Entertainment Book type of service, but CHARGING consumers anywhere from single digit to double digit dollars per month, while claiming to be a consumer focused business review / referal system. I can't comment on the quality of actual reviews, but you are welcome to search the web with appropriate search terms, and reach your own conclusions.

I thought this would be useful for FWF community to know, given how much house maintenance / repair, mortgage broker discussion topics we have.

Member Summary
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xerty (Jan. 09, 2014 @ 12:14p) |

Joe Hadeed's motto is "if you stand on it, we stand behind it". Apparently, doesn't ring true all of the time.

fedguy (Jan. 14, 2014 @ 7:38p) |

Good point, xerty.  I wonder if Yelp (or other companies) can report something like:

4.3 out of 5 stars (12 visible revie... (more)

tolamapS (Mar. 23, 2014 @ 9:14a) |

Thanks for visiting FatWallet.com. Join for free to remove this ad.

I've never used them before but it may very well be a scam. People would do anything to earn money, scam or not.

Also, there is a FW Deals Discussion thread with similar content. In the interest of completeness, here is a link:

http://www.fatwallet.com/forums/deal-discussion/1270288/

YMMV. Well worth it to me, Northern VA and San Diego North, except for electricians who never respond to inquiries from me and thus use Service Magic (new name?).

tolamapS said:   Also, there is a FW Deals Discussion thread with similar content. In the interest of completeness, here is a link:

http://www.fatwallet.com/forums/deal-discussion/1270288/




If the discussion is there, then why did you post it here, particularly since it belongs there?

You pay to join their list so they can spam you & call you.

What can go wrong?!

soundtechie said:   tolamapS said:   Also, there is a FW Deals Discussion thread with similar content. In the interest of completeness, here is a link:

http://www.fatwallet.com/forums/deal-discussion/1270288/




If the discussion is there, then why did you post it here, particularly since it belongs there?


Good question. Here are my answers:

1. I did not find that discussion originally, because I only searched in Fat Wallet Finance. Then, later, I did google searches with Angie and FatWallet, and found that post, but AFTER I had written a lengthy post,

2. Original Posts that span more than 2 lines are far more informative, easier to search, and more likely to be looked at.

3. I can post whatever I want, wherever I want, however I want, as long as it is within the rules.

4. I can't really decide where it belongs, other than to state my opinion, that my post belongs here, FWF. Others might disagree.

I've had a similar experience - tons of spam with very little useful content from the website.

if you like Angie's List, you will LOVE pcmatic

I really like Angie's List and it has paid off many times over, plus their staff is very nice to work with whenever I need any support. I initially needed it for some plumbing work, because I bought a condo and wasn't sure how to pick a plumber. Some charged $80 just to come see the situation, while others didn't charge anything to take a look and give an inspection. The challenge is that if I paid $80 and then their estimate was overpriced and I said no, the $80 went down the drain and I'd have to find someone else with the risk of having the same issue. If I went with someone who didn't charge to take a look, but also gave a high quote, it would be a waste of my time taking time off from work, etc. and would quickly become a hassle.

I ended up signing up for Angie's List and found some reputable plumbers who came with tons of reviews and actually offered a discount to Angie's List customers. I got my membership cost back right there and the 1st plumber was also the right one - saved me time/effort/hassles/etc.

Google reviews, Yelp, and all the other sources online are good, but Angie's List seems to be able to provide the best ones in my area for the work I want to do and they come from like minded people. I actually appreciate that not everyone can browse the site - by paying up money, I think people tend to leave better reviews than other places, and they all even include how much people paid, what the services performed were, etc. and so it helps me judge what I should be expecting.

All that said... I used a coupon from retailmenot.com and suggest everyone check there when signing up.

My experience mirrored the OP, I found the worst contractor I have ever dealt with on Angie's List, and in my opinion their reviews are filtered and biased towards certain companies. I feel kind of foolish for signing up for such a service.

If you live in certain metropolitan areas, Consumers Checkbook http://checkbook.org is a non-profit site and publication containing reviews of local businesses and professionals (like a local version consumer reports). They also have well-written articles on selecting professionals (such as contractors) They're highly regarded in the Seattle area, and have higher quality & more objective than Angie's List.

While i have no idea about their advertising practices, my personal experience with Angie's List and the contractors I've hired through them have been excellent.

I've enjoyed my Angie's List subscription. Sounds like their advertising (by the way, there's no 'z' in that word) practices stink; I hate seeing an ads that describe exactly what you need but they turn out to be useless after you've paid.

Angie's List sounds like a pig in a poke. Do they guarantee satisfaction with the contractors they list?

If you have a larger project and not just handyman type fixes, you should try Lowes or HD. You pay a slight premium but you can cancel that out with their 10% coupons and buying gift cards.

If you have the time and patience, craigslist is pretty good for professional guys trying to pick up extra work. It's a lot of trial and error but craigslist is free.

Yesterday I had an electrician I found on craigslist do some work for around $300. He is licensed and insured and works for a legit electrical company, doing some extra work but still providing invoice and not adamant about taking cash. Finding those guys on CL is not easy. You'll have a lot of unlicensed and uninsured handyman types doing it on the cheap. Or they will be licensed but not have insurance for whatever reason.

I've used Angies List, but I never have paid full price as I don't think it is worth the full fee. However I have found decent vendors through their reviews. Their directory of contractors, services, etc. is impressive as it is very comprehensive. The reviews are only as good as members experiences and their ability to describe them so it is a huge YMMV. It is a challenge to sort through them when you find vendors that have lots of A's and F's in their reviews.

If you review a contractor, the contractor gets your full name and address, so this has made me less likely to share negative information, especially for contractors that I've never did business with (due to their unresponsivenes prior to signing with them, etc.).

They are masters at search engine optimization, which is why they are so prominently displayed in google search results for contractors, but it is pretty misleading if they actually don't have reviews for the contractors that appear from them. Even if you are logged into their website, google results for Angies will not show up on their paid side so it is obvious that the information they present to Google is not related to the actual content of their paid site.

Like Sirius/XM and many other Gotcha capitalism companies, they keep your credit card on file for "auto renewal." I've sent them requests via email to take me off auto renewal and they have been responsive. For these type of companies, I would highly recommend using prepaid or one time credit card numbers only, so they can't (gotcha!) bill you unexpectedly.

Consumers Checkbook magazine (if available for your area) is much better than Angie's and many libraries have subscriptions too.

On 3 different occasions, in different cities even, you signed up for Angies List and discovered that they didn't even have the review of the contractor they claimed they did in their Google Adwords advertising??

I could give you 2 tries of figuring it all out but 3? I guess let us know how the 4th try goes :/

Even though they did not have the review for the contractors you initially searched on Google. Did they have other contractors that service the areas you were in that had reviews? Couldn't you use one of them?

tchen811 said:   Even though they did not have the review for the contractors you initially searched on Google. Did they have other contractors that service the areas you were in that had reviews? Couldn't you use one of them?

Fair question. Answers:

1. They had almost no mortgage broker reviews, even though they had a list of more than two dozen. I don't remember the exact details, because I no longer have the membership,

2. In case of home improvement contractors, this was more than a year ago, but I remember being pissed that once the service was paid for, I did not get what was clearly promised in the initial landing page,

3. Yes, I was looking for reviews for specific businesses, contractors. I was not looking for what they would recommend. There are big conflicts of interest when reviews come from an advertising relationship recommendation. Like when one mortgage broker saying to me, ignore the gazzilion negative Yelp reviews; we have high rating on mortgage.zillow.com. I read some of zillow ones too, and while the verbiage in the review was negative, the reviewers still gave them 4 or 5 stars. I don't know if there was some sort of a "correction" going on by zillon after the fact to "massage" the numbers and the tone of the review, but there was clearly a red flag.

When the game is rigged, why play?

jasonatq1520radiocom said:   On 3 different occasions, in different cities even, you signed up for Angies List and discovered that they didn't even have the review of the contractor they claimed they did in their Google Adwords advertising??

I could give you 2 tries of figuring it all out but 3? I guess let us know how the 4th try goes :/


What are you trying to say? That I am naive? Or that I should have posted after one experience?

I would be hesitant to declare my opinion publically if it is based on 1 sample. But I am nearly convinced that my experience is representative of a pervasive trend after 3 experiences, and my opinion becomes more important for the general community here.

I use service magic..now called home advisor for all my needs....it's free, they call you, oftentimes right away, some gives estimates over the phone. From this website, I hired an electrician, a plumber, window repairer, A/C heater expert, flooring, cabinet installer, etc. Did I mention it's free? Plus they don't spam you, ever. They do call to follow up on your projects, but that's actually a nice thing, and not pushy. That's for Texas. My friend used them in California for some lighting install and they gave some really good prices. One of them quoted $1000 to install 15 recessed lights (we provided the recessed lights) but no wall or ceiling patchwork which was fine since we were doing the ceiling and wall texture ourselves anyway. Plus they have their own reviews from actual customers that you can read for free without signing up.

Just use Yelp. It's free, and more reliable than any of the other review sites. Yes they may have done some shady things with their advertising, but they got called out and it's past now.

Sounds just like consumer reports.

tolamapS said:   tchen811 said:   Even though they did not have the review for the contractors you initially searched on Google. Did they have other contractors that service the areas you were in that had reviews? Couldn't you use one of them?

Fair question. Answers:

1. They had almost no mortgage broker reviews, even though they had a list of more than two dozen. I don't remember the exact details, because I no longer have the membership,

2. In case of home improvement contractors, this was more than a year ago, but I remember being pissed that once the service was paid for, I did not get what was clearly promised in the initial landing page,

3. Yes, I was looking for reviews for specific businesses, contractors. I was not looking for what they would recommend. There are big conflicts of interest when reviews come from an advertising relationship recommendation. Like when one mortgage broker saying to me, ignore the gazzilion negative Yelp reviews; we have high rating on mortgage.zillow.com. I read some of zillow ones too, and while the verbiage in the review was negative, the reviewers still gave them 4 or 5 stars. I don't know if there was some sort of a "correction" going on by zillon after the fact to "massage" the numbers and the tone of the review, but there was clearly a red flag.

When the game is rigged, why play?

The challenge I've faced sometimes is what you saw - specific categories don't have as many reviews for whatever reason. I faced this with mortgage brokers and therapist reviews, because neither had any reviews to go off of. For something more common like a plumber or chimney sweeps, it had plenty of reviews and saved me plenty of time/money/headaches.

For the areas it's helpful, I've found that discounted memberships have worked well, and so that's why I continue to use them.

Sounds like the advertised "celebrity" content of most porn sites...

I never trust a paid/restricted access site that is buying advertising to tell you how great their restricted content is.

Yelp / Google / works better nowadays.

'Always thought "Angie's List" sounded too much like some abused child organization (a la "Megan's Law" or what have have you).

lewiswb said:   if you like Angie's List, you will LOVE pcmatic

I have Microsoft support calling me to fix my computer. I am that important. And yeah Angies reviews, if any, are junk.

In the old days before the Internet referrals were done strictly by word of mouth. You trusted the guy who refereed you because his credibility was on the line too. This is all gone with the modern day review sites such as Yelp and Angie's List. I read Yelp's reviews and clearly many of them are fake and are just trying to drum up more business.I had a guy on Angie's List offer $50 off if I provide a good review. I told him to take the $50 off or you'll be guaranteed to get a bad review. Sure enough he took $50 off. After that experience I have gone back to the old way where I only ask my trusted friends and family for referrals. It boils down to the fact that a few good data points is more valuable than a million bad data points.

I hate to pay for services that are freely available like Google and Yelp reviews.

However, I called and signed up for Angie’s list this year for some serious and reliable reviews I needed on contractors and inspectors.
I got the subscription at discounted rate of $20/year and asked the CSR to opt me out of auto-renewal. I won't be renewing it unless I need it again next year.

Reviews on Angie's List increased my confidence in the contractors/inspectors I hired this year and saved me few hundred dollars. I got great service from the recommended contractors for very reasonable price.

Even though the CSR told me that I can call and cancel anytime for FULL REFUN (only available for a year subscription), I choose to keep it for full year since it has already saved me lot of money.

In fact, I shared my Angie's List account with bunch of friends and they ended up signing up for their own accounts to purchase contractors coupons, get discounts, etc. for $20 a year since they called to sign up.

So in all, I am happy with my decision to sign up for Angie’s list and I think those are the best $20 spent this year.

adieuminusa said:   I use service magic..now called home advisor for all my needs....it's free, they call you, oftentimes right away, some gives estimates over the phone. From this website, I hired an electrician, a plumber, window repairer, A/C heater expert, flooring, cabinet installer, etc. Did I mention it's free? Plus they don't spam you, ever. They do call to follow up on your projects, but that's actually a nice thing, and not pushy. That's for Texas. My friend used them in California for some lighting install and they gave some really good prices. One of them quoted $1000 to install 15 recessed lights (we provided the recessed lights) but no wall or ceiling patchwork which was fine since we were doing the ceiling and wall texture ourselves anyway. Plus they have their own reviews from actual customers that you can read for free without signing up.
service magic or what it calls itself these days. im pretty sure id never use them and if i owned the best business in the world id never sign up with them.
they tame yojr phone call and sell it to 3,4,5 different contractors ... they have to pay whether or not u book with them. so your more apt to get brand new guys and fly by night bait n switch guys offering a low price. what honest bussiness with good word of mouth free advertising would ever pay for a lead that three oyher comp have already called.

I happen to like Angie's List. Owning rental apartments and a house, I infrequently need a service contractor on short notice. I helped my aging parents subscribe in their area to find lawn care people.

Perhaps Angie's List is just an "updated Yellow Pages." But the yellow pages never gave reviews, and some real pricks would take out full page ads, and there was little you could do after hiring one. With Angie's List your odds of reaching a competent contractor are much higher, and the reviews are solid. Not perfect, not impossible to fabricate, but generally better than other review sites out there.

Sure it would be possible to collect word of mouth reviews, conduct detailed interviews on each provider, then decide on one without Angie. Heck, I could do all the work myself for free. But I don't have the time, or rather, choose to spend my time doing other things. So the Angie's List subscription price is well worth the money to me.

I have several rentals. Even though I am a newbie at landlording, I never used Angie's List and never will. What I heard from other landlords is it is a scam. What I do instead is ask around my friends, real estate agents, neighbors and get their "honest" opinion and found "very good" contractors and 100% happy with them.
Save your monthly payments to them and use them to buy materials for your rentals instead!

I am a contractor that has numerous reviews, all positive, on Angie's List. I am not what they call an "Advertising Contractor" which means that contractors can pay to have their business placed higher on the recommended contractor list than non paying contractors. The sales people contact me several times a week hounding and trying to get me to pay to be on their site.

I have gotten a lot of business from Angie's List, but I do not like the fact that a contractor with zero reviews can be placed higher on the list than one with 15 positive reviews just because they pay to advertise !!!

Anyone try to chargeback? The chargeback code "Not as described" sounds like it fits the bill

dabigguy said:   I am a contractor that has numerous reviews, all positive, on Angie's List. I am not what they call an "Advertising Contractor" which means that contractors can pay to have their business placed higher on the recommended contractor list than non paying contractors. The sales people contact me several times a week hounding and trying to get me to pay to be on their site.

I have gotten a lot of business from Angie's List, but I do not like the fact that a contractor with zero reviews can be placed higher on the list than one with 15 positive reviews just because they pay to advertise !!!

This is not an inherent issue of Angie's List, but any capitalistic advertising medium. If you and I both start a chewing gum company, but only I have the budget to air TV ads, then I will reap the consequences (good or bad) of doing so. Maybe not the perfect system, but Angie's List can't pay bills without charging someone.

russ123 said:   I have several rentals. Even though I am a newbie at landlording, I never used Angie's List and never will. What I heard from other landlords is it is a scam. What I do instead is ask around my friends, real estate agents, neighbors and get their "honest" opinion and found "very good" contractors and 100% happy with them.
Save your monthly payments to them and use them to buy materials for your rentals instead!

$20/year is a major impact?

I'm confused why the issue of Angie's List is really being discussed - it's such a small amount to use and if you benefit even 1 or 2 times, you come out ahead. It can take years of "trial and error" to find good help and this helps me avoid a lot of the sources of error.

Maybe if you put in which area/region Angie's List has worked for you, it would help the others.

Let me start.

My experience with Angie's has been a hit and miss, similar to Yelp.
I'm in Austin, TX. Haven't had a chance to use Service Magic.
Word of Mouth and community/neighborhood forums have worked best for me so far.

Frankly, one good way to help determine whether a contractor may be good, be it contractor, excavator, etc., is to search the state court system where you live naming the particular party and discovering whether he/she/the company is a named party to a lawsuit. Check out the public documents. And go back five years, including archives.

Skipping 123 Messages...
xerty said:   
omarECD said:   The Yelp system isn't perfect, but none are. This is as good as it gets for reviews. You just have to learn which reviews to trust and which not to trust. For example, looking at the profile of the user and making sure they have multiple legitimate seeming reviews. Also if a business/restaurant has 100+ reviews, it's usually very reliable. Just like anything else, you need many data points. You can't draw a conclusion on a place with only a handful of reviews; that's your own fault if you do.
The problem is that all the bad reviews get hidden and often this leaves an inaccurately positive impression.  Take a look at this lawsuit against Yelp (users critical of a business were being personally ID'ed by the court in order for the business to tell whether or not they had been customers; only customers have a protected 1st amendment right to their opinion). 

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jan/8/court-rules-yelp-... 

A telling part of the article was how this business had 9 visible Yelp reviews, but nearly 100 "hidden" ones due to the business complaining about negative comments.  Yet another example of how an apparently customer-friendly business decides that their user base is the product and sells them out.
Hadeed Carpet, which advertises heavily throughout the D.C. area and in The Washington Times, has a two out of five star rating on Yelp, based on nine reviews. The ninth review was posted Wednesday and is a one-star condemnation of Hadeed ’s lawsuits.
But the review site also has a long, contentious history of hiding reviews, listing them as “not recommended.” Hadeed Carpet has 88 hidden reviews, the majority of them negative


  
Good point, xerty.  I wonder if Yelp (or other companies) can report something like:

4.3 out of 5 stars (12 visible reviews)
88 out of 100 reviews are invisible due to various issues.

If ratio of visible to invisible reviews is high, you know something stinky is being hidden.

But looking at the type of reviews that Hadeed Carpet has on Yelp, there is about 0.01% chance I would use their service.

It is pretty clear what is going on there:

7 reviews that average 1.5 out of 5 stars.
8 other reviews that are currently not recommended.  These include 1 star and 5 star reviews.  It is pretty clear that 5 star reviews (whether true or not) are not trustworthy.  Note that even true reviews may not be trustworthy.
4 additional reviews that violate the content guidelines.  All 1 star.

This is a solid business that needs to be avoided like the plague.

I think what would be a very valuable start-up idea is a bull-shit detector service.  You feed a bunch of reviews from different websites, and the service tells you which one are not trustworthy.

E.g., review of Hadeed from "George H" living in Springfield, VA: "...=14pxToday's society is full of companies and people who claim to know how to perform a service; however, it is a blessing that companies such as Hadeed Carpet actually follow through with that claim...".

I mean, why give Hadeed (or any other service) a public fellatio?  That just smells a like a rat.

 



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