Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Angie's List Clarification

I feel compelled to say some more about Angie's List because I'm afraid that people will think I based my disappointment on one specific thing, and that's not it.

First of all, Angie's List is a great concept started by a woman who had been duped by contractors in the past. Her idea was to create a place on the web where people could candidly share their experiences so everyone could benefit from good and bad experiences with various service organizations. She decided to charge for the site and carefully moderate it to help prevent the site from being tainted by false reports. The site got a lot of publicity including a spot on ABC's 20/20 TV news magazine. Given that I have a lot of work that needs to be done by a variety of different specialties, I decided to sign-up last month right before I had the roof done.

Right off the bat, I detected some issues, particularly after reading the online discussion forum. There are coupons offered for services by certain companies to Angie's List subscribers. So right away there is at least the appearance that the service is being funded in some way by the contractors themselves. There is a magazine (which I called a "newsletter" in the last posting) that is distributed by mail that has ads by various contractors. In my opinion the service has expanded quite a bit beyond the original charter where it all began. While growth is good, in this case the emphasis needs to be on the original purpose which is to provide untainted, unbiased, candid opinions by people who have hired contractors.

Moreover, from a technical standpoint: I don't like getting HTML e-mail. I cannot get them to stop sending me e-mail that is HTML. Their online edition of the magazine requires Flash, which I have already established disliking from both a technical and ethical standpoint (see posting "It's time to trash 'Flash'" in September, 2007). Angie's List staff really does appreciate feedback on things like this, and I have intended to say something, but right now I'm having trouble getting the motivation to once again address these issues with someone given that it is usually poorly-received and results in no action.

The specific article that was the subject of my last posting is from an Angie's List magazine section titled "Confl!cts of Interest" ("technical difficulties" , February, 2008). These articles are stories from subscribers who have experienced problems. If the problem is not resolved or the contractor doesn't respond, the contractor goes to the "penalty box" and is no longer listed (good or bad) on the service. If the problem is resolved, then the company is reinstated. I will correct myself in that the service requested was a repair to a TV by a certain TV & Home Theater service company. The part that bothered me is that the service-person broke the "connector housing" on the DVD player when they unplugged the cables from the TV. Then they denied responsibility for the action. Angie's List pursued resolving the person's complaint with the company (the person wanted a refund for the repair cost to the DVD player). The article is marked as "Resolved" and indicated that the company has a "total overall grade of 'A' on the List."

In addition to being a highly technical person, my job involves dealing directly with people who I support in a network/system administration role. It is far better to admit a mistake and take steps to correct it than it is to deny it and resolve it out of "courtesy." If someone came to my home to service my TV and broke my DVD player in the process, I would not want that person back, particularly if they denied it. The whole reason I subscribed to Angie's List was to avoid circumstances like this. Even if the company eventually makes the person "whole" by "resolving" the complaint, there is the inconvenience of having to pursue these remedies (loss of time at work, loss of use of the item(s) broken). I understand others may have had outstanding service with the same company, resulting in the overall grade of "A," but to me just one experience like this makes me question what happened. Imagine if this were something more important like a car repair or a major appliance. An improper service of a washing machine, for example, could cause a flood in the house. Ten people could have had seemingly good service (maybe by accident), but if the company doesn't routinely take proper care and they foul-up just one time the results can be disastrous.

Also understand that I wrote the last posting right after watching an episode of "Holmes on Homes." Anyone who watches that show on a regular basis will become afraid of having anyone work on their house. If I hadn't seen the kind of wiring that was done in houses (mine in particular) by allegedly licensed electricians, and experienced the results of bad contractors my parents had do work in their house, the show wouldn't have had quite the impression that it does. I've been screwed-over before, and that was my motivation for subscribing to Angie's List. And, yes, for the record, I did submit the favorable report on my roofing contractor. I have not yet submitted the report on the bad wood rot repair/painting. I applaud the overall concept of Angie's List and the efforts that Angie put into making the service. However, what it is right now is not something I feel I can completely trust, and that is important for the kind of work I need done at my house.

I have learned something from the comment that was placed on that last blog entry, and that is that my readership here may expand to people who may not know me. While it's OK to rant and vent a little, it is important to make sure that the background for the rant is complete (at the expense of being a little long) so people have the opportunity to learn from it and form their own opinion. I also have learned that people really do listen to me sometimes (wow!). So I need to try to be kind to the world at large, even if I sometimes feel like being "beamed-up."

1 comment:

Kasey said...

Hi CPU,

My name is Kasey and I work at Angie's List. I came across your post and wanted to address some of the issues you brought up.

You were concerned about our practice of allowing companies to offer discount coupons to members. Only our most highly rated companies are given the opportunity to offer those discounts. If they choose to offer discounts and their overall grade dips below a B, they are no longer allowed to offer the coupons – and we have a team of people who regularly review the grades and take action when necessary to revoke the coupons. We don’t consider this a conflict at all, and our members tell us they really appreciate the extra cost savings.

Also, I'm really sorry to hear about your frustration in receiving HTML e-mails. If you would like to start receiving non-HTML e-mails, send me the e-mail address listed on your Angie's List account. You can reach me at kaseyb@angieslist.com - I would be happy to get it sorted out for you.

We really do appreciate the feedback, so let me know if you have any other concerns.

Have a great day!
-Kasey from Angie's List