Wednesday, January 28, 2015
An ugly little secret about Angie's List
Cookie would like to take the fun loving hat off of his head and put on a serious one for a second.
Waaaay back when - twenty plus years ago - in fact, Cookie signed up for a referral list called Angie's list that had just opened up in Columbus, Ohio - the center of midwest consumerism. My reasons were varied, but as a new homeowner, I didn't know who to call the stuff that was beyond skills.
I can sweat copper pipe and wield an acetylene torch, with the best of them. But I don't do sewer replacements. Installing a new toilet is a sinch, climbing on the roof, is not my forte.
So I joined Angie's List. For annual subscription fee, we could join, call and get referrals to businesses that passed muster.
In turn, we were told, that our information was kept confidential. The system was kept honest because subscribers paid to be in the system, which was supposed to dissuade false reviews. Good enough for me - I was in.
Over the years, Angie's List changed. The organization that vowed not to take ads from service providers started taking ads from A+ businesses. Then we started getting peppered with email ads. Deals of the Day that involved Angie's List as the pass-through payment system. The monthly magazine grew less chatty and useful and converted to general, mundane information that wasn't telling us anything about service providers. In other words, the things that made Angie's List special erroded away.
Well, two weeks ago I, after pestering emails from Angie's List that I had not left a review for Herb's General Amalgamated Contracting, I knuckled under just to stop the pestering emails. I left a glowing review for a contractor, with four out of five stars on the quality of their work on our old house. But I also said that an estimate for the new place came in way too high and that consumers considering using their expertise should be prepared $$$$$. We found a local contractor who did the same work for a fraction of their bid, and were happy. Case closed.
Or so I thought.
Last week I started getting calls from the vendor - their manager for social media, "reaching out, after my comments..." and the kicker was "because of the impact on social media..."
So, on a lark, I called Angie's List yesterday and asked: "How did the contractor get my name and phone number?"
And the answer was: "We provided all vendors with the names of people reviewing them."
And that was when my blood went cold.
Here's the thing, I have never written anything untrue about any vendor. But at the same time, I have a problem with a vendor calling me up and trying get my to change my review - especially a four out of five star one - so that it makes them look better.
I also have a problem with a company founded on keeping clients identifiable contact information confidential, all of sudden providing that information freely. Especially when they are goading me to write reviews, that they charge an annual fee to other people to access.
So, keep in mind that IF you write a review for Angie's List, they won't share your name with other members, but they certainly will share that information with the business. Knife+Your Back = Stabbing.
Cookie has cancelled the service, and instructed them not to send me anymore "electronic" promotions, sales, magazines or elsewise. All communication from Angie's List to me has to be sent in letter format.
Consider yourselves warned.