Angie’s (Waste of Time) List

A few years ago (2013) I published a post entitled Why I Hate Angie’s List. (I would provide a link to the original but my blog is currently undergoing reorganization; once I’ve got it sorted out, I will link to that first review.)

While the post was rather short, it did cover the foundation for my intense dislike of Angie Hicks and her online abomination, also known as Angie’s List.  I literally cringe when I hear this woman’s voice on the television, hawking her cash cow and pretending that the intention behind it is to offer a beneficial service to consumers.

My dislike was largely based on the fact that Angie’s List was supposed to be a consumer-oriented, consumer-driven, crowd-sourced ‘review’ site that offered meaningful and informative reviews of local businesses to aid a potential consumer’s decision-making process.  It is anything but consumer-focused, because the very people it claims to want to help are forced to pay for a membership to the site before they can even read reviews about various businesses, much less post comments regarding their own experiences.

  • If I want to provide a statement of my experiences with a particular business in order to assist and possibly educate a future consumer of that business, I shouldn’t have to pay to do so.
  • If I want to read what other consumers have experienced at the hands of a company I am thinking about patronizing, I shouldn’t have to pay to do so.

A truly consumer-focused organization would espouse the cause of freely shared information to provide better experiences for potential consumers, enabling those consumers to avoid negative business-to-consumer interactions or to enter into an arrangement with a company armed with foreknowledge about what they might encounter (positive and negative).

In recent months, Angie’s List has begun offering free memberships.  I guess she has made enough money from gullible consumers to comfortably retire, so she can now offer reviews for what they should have been all along – free of charge.

At a glance while poking around on the How It Works page of Angie’s List, I noticed something right away that doesn’t sit right with anyone who actually knows how to use a computer and log on to the Internet.  Angie’s abomination claims that their data is certified and goes on to say:

With a review collection process certified annually by BPA Worldwide, Angie’s List prevents companies from reporting on themselves or their competitors – which means you get authentic feedback from fellow consumers.

Angie’s List is the simple, trusted way to get things done.

Does anyone actually believe this?  Since I am most certainly not going to pay money to join a consumer review website just to see how the review process works, I am assuming that a person signs up for a membership using their name, email address, and possibly a telephone number.  If more information than that is required, I like the site even less than before.

At any rate, the newly signed up individual is then free (after paying, of course) to find the listing for the business they wish to provide a review for, and they then write up and submit their review.  What “certification” is performed on the reviewer or the review content?

Anyone with a computer and Internet access can create an online identity (via an email address), join Angie’s List, and submit a positive review for his or her own company or a negative review for his or her competitors.  It isn’t like the Certification Gestapo arrive on your doorstep and verify your authenticity before you are permitted to post a review.  The only way that kind of self-reviewing and competitor-slamming could be avoided is if ‘members’ still need to provide credit card information (and/or pay for membership) when they create an account.  The requirement of a payment method via credit card would prevent someone from creating multiple accounts under different aliases and email addresses, and littering the List with false reviews.

Angie’s List offers a “fair price and service quality guarantee” that is stated as being ‘member-exclusive.’  Since everyone is now allegedly able to become a member via the ‘free’ membership, there is no longer any such thing as a ‘member-exclusive’ guarantee because, in essence, everyone on the planet is now a member (or has the opportunity to become one with very little effort and, allegedly, no cost).

After further review of the Guarantee FAQs, it is stated that members with a Basic or Green Plan are not eligible for the fair price and service quality guarantee.  I am assuming that a Basic or Green Plan is the free option, while other mentioned plans (like Silver and Gold) are the upgraded and paid-for memberships.  Still ridiculous, to pay for the ability to READ consumer reviews.  What a greed-inspired Internet black hole that is, and how prejudicial – to exclude certain ‘members’ just because they didn’t pay enough to join her pocket-lining, consumer-fleecing digital enterprise.  Oh, I’m sorry, but you aren’t the ‘right kind’ of member, so you don’t get the benefit of our ‘members only’ guarantees.  But we still want to make sure you have the best access to the best reviews for the best companies!

We want eligible members to get the benefits of the offer they purchased.

Eligible members.  Paying members.  Not the vagrant members, cheap members, poor members, or the members who just want to know they are picking a business that won’t screw them over since they can’t afford to choose a more costly option or pay again to have the work done over if it isn’t done right the first time.

The Terms and Conditions document relating to service providers contains numerous typographical errors.  Interesting to note, the T&C document states that Angie’s List is “solely an advertiser of the Service Provider’s goods and services,” and goes on to disclaim any liability in connection with a member’s purchase from a service provider.  This is essentially the same disclaimer that torrent sites use, that they are merely an advertiser of the existence of a torrent somewhere on someone’s personal computer, but they remain liable for any criminal or potentially criminal acts relating to the downloading of torrents.  Apples and oranges, I know, but the basic concept remains the same.

NOR ANY OF THEIR RESPECTIVE EMPLOYEES, AGENTS, MERCHANTS, THIRD-PARTY ONTENT PROVIDERS OR LIECENSORS, OR ANY OF THEIR OFFICERS, DIRECTORS, EMPLOYEES OR AGENTS SHALL BE RESPONSIBILE OR LIABILE WITH RESPECT TO ANY OF THE OFFER SERVICES

The above excerpt is from the Terms and Conditions document and is part of a single sentence.  There are FOUR incorrectly spelled words, just in that portion of the sentence (highlighted in bold green).  Has anyone provided a certified review of the inability of Angie’s List to provide a professional, diligent, and conscientious impression to the members and other interested persons?  Likely not.

Another interesting thing to note on the Terms and Conditions document – one of the main (and highlighted) special features offered by Angie’s Abomination is spelled wrong.  It’s a proper name for a proprietary special feature, and the person who wrote the document couldn’t even spell that correctly.  I’m surprised they were able to properly spell and punctuate “Angie’s List” throughout the entire document.  (The feature is LeadFeed, which is spelled “LeedFeed” in the T&C document.)

The Membership Bill of Rights is an interesting piece of fiction.  The very first sentence states that ‘our members come first.’  They need to change that so it reads, ‘our paying members come first.’  Also, as with other pages on the web site, there are typographical errors.

Would you really trust a business review located on a business review web site that is rife with so many unprofessional and sloppy typos?

The page is also alternately referred to as the “Membership” and “Member” Bill of Rights, and they claim it has ‘clear and easy-to-understand language,’ if you can overlook the typographical mistakes, I suppose.

The About Us page states that members are only permitted to report on a service experience once every six months, to prevent ‘stack[ing] the deck’ in favor of a particular company.  Another thing to dislike.  What if I patronize the same establishment on a monthly basis, or I had a string of car problems and had the same mechanic shop fix my car several times (for different reasons) in the span of six months?  As a member, especially if I am stupid enough to pay for the membership, I would expect to be able to report on whatever I choose and how often I choose to do it.

Unfortunately, the Careers page doesn’t show any openings for a Web Content Editor.  It is clearly a position that is desperately needed.

I am not the only Internet mouthpiece with a bone to pick against Angie’s Abomination.

The New York Times published an interesting article (A Complaint Registered, Then Expunged) about the Abomination in December 2013.  The article primarily focuses on the fact that a consumer’s negative review of a business is removed by Abominable Agents after the company has addressed the consumer’s grievance to some level of satisfaction, however grudgingly accepted the company’s resolution may have been.  After that, the consumer may submit another review – but it can only reflect a rating of A or B for the company, nothing less, and negative review commentary is not permitted.

Talk about one-sided and in the name of the almighty dollar.

The negative reviews are removed because over 60% of Angie’s List revenue comes from advertising dollars spent by those same companies that consumers are complaining about.  Wouldn’t want to piss off the money machine, would we?

In 2015, Angie’s List was the topic of a Forbes magazine article (regarding the allegations of fraud and ‘pay-to-play’ on the List), and a representative told Forbes:

Angie’s List’s policy is to not modify, suppress, or alter service provider ratings or member reviews, positive or negative.

We already know, from the 2013 article, that Angie’s List DOES in fact make it their ‘policy’ to modify, suppress, or alter service provider ratings.

Cheryl Reed, who – judging from her statements in the article – is likely the same person that wrote much of the inaccurately spelled content on the Angie’s List website, claims that the bad review, resolution (however pitiful it may be), removal of bad review, permission to file good review process is because they ‘want everybody to have as much information as they can have.’  Uh, say what?  Did that make sense to anyone?  Especially considering what we now know about disappearing reviews all in the name of making a buck?

If they wanted everybody to have as much information as they can have, then every single review ever posted, good or bad, would be provided on a company’s page, no matter what was done by the company to right the wrongs perpetrated against the disgruntled consumers.

The problem with removal of negative reviews, regardless of whether or not the company eventually ‘made good’ with the consumer, is that the initial problem no longer exists on the ‘crowd-sourced’ review site.  This means that a company that has pissed off hundreds of consumers in the past year can still have an A-plus rating simply because they offered up a paltry appeasement that appealed to Angie’s List executives as being acceptable (and likely also offered to buy some more advertising).  So you can find an A-plus company that actually has a terrible, horrible, worse-than-the-worst track record, but the ‘honest and reliable’ reviews on Angie’s List won’t reveal the dark side of your future dealings with the company from hell.

After some discourse with the Times writer, the Abomination’s inelegant and significantly less-than-eloquent mouthpiece said that they are ‘always taking feedback, and it has an impact on operations.’  That’s funny, because on the Angie’s List website, a message from the Abomination’s founder herself stated that they do not accept suggestions, criticism, feedback, creative ideas, or other types of SOP-modifying commentary because they do not want it, won’t use it, and generally don’t solicit it.  You’d think they would at least get their ducks in the same pond, since they are obviously, oh so obviously, not in a row whatsoever.

Angie’s List advertises that they offer thousands of ‘unbiased ratings and reviews.’  That is clearly not the case, if they delete negative reviews FOR ANY REASON other than that the consumer submitting the review was providing factually inaccurate or vengefully spiteful falsehoods.  The reviews are very much biased, often in favor of the company, especially since many of the listed companies are paying the bills for the website through advertising dollars.

Here’s the settlement agreement from a class action lawsuit filed against Angie’s List because, among other things, Angie claims that ‘businesses can’t pay’ to be on Angie’s List yet many businesses that are on the list pay via advertising dollars, and that those businesses receive favorably weighted reviews (including the deletion of negative reviews) because they do, in fact, ‘pay’ to be on Angie’s List (via advertising).

Like rats jumping from a sinking ship…

In the past year alone, over 200 employees at Angie’s List have sought out jobs at the Abomination’s rival, former Colorado-based company HomeAdvisor.  HomeAdvisor’s parent company offered to buy Angie’s List in November 2015 for over half a billion dollars with plans to merge it with HomeAdvisor, but the List executives declined the offer.  The funny thing is – Angie’s List is supposedly a flat-broke company.  Why would anyone want to buy it?  (In October 2015, the company reported its first profitable quarter, of a measly $82,000, in the entire 20 year history of the company’s operation.)

Wouldn’t it be easier to just create a competing company, do a better job at things like allowing consumers to post negative reviews, not kissing the asses of the companies that are getting bad reviews just because they buy advertising space, and spelling words correctly on the web site and technical documents – and then just let the S.S. Abomination slowly sink to the bottom of Internet infamy, soon to be as forgotten as Badger, Badger, All Your Base Are Belong To Us, and The End of the World (“fire ze missiles!!!”).  Actually, those things are pretty cool and just as cool as they were two decades ago.  The List has never been cool.

One disgruntled consumer who had his negative review of a company removed after the company provided him with a refund (as they should have), had this to say about Angie’s List:

I don’t know about you, but not knowing how many negative reviews were deleted from a business’s overall rating or how many positive reviews were the result of solicitation doesn’t make me trust their reviews anymore.

Exactly so.  The problem is, Angie herself – advocate of crowd-sourced and freely shared consumer reviews – defends the company’s removal of negative reviews.  No wonder her company is in the financial gutter, if that’s her benchmark business model.  I agree with the consumer quote.  Even if a company provides a refund, the consumer was still unhappy and had every right to leave a negative review and bad rating.  Not according to Angie and her godawful list, however.

In another article, this quote was found:

Fortune Magazine says Angie’s List is doing this not out of the goodness of its heart, but to expand its customer base and get more people to hire a contractor directly through Angie’s List. The company now makes most of its money through contractor advertising and getting a small cut each time someone hires a preferred contractor by going through the site.

That article’s author advocates not wasting your money on Angie’s List.

I advocate not wasting your money or your time, since you won’t receive truly unbiased reviews of any of the companies listed on the site.

At any rate, I still hate Angie’s List.  Even more so now that I’ve actually done more research on it since the last time I posted an article about my dislike of the abominable online list.

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