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Angie's List a Sham?

woodroe's picture

Have any of youu had any experience with Angie's List? My wife signed up awhile ago and I checked out our company as well as some others. Shortly there after I recieved an e-mail asking for negative feedback about one of the companies I inquired about. They didn't just ask about my experience with company X. They asked questions about problems I may have had with them. It really bothered me that they were fishing for the negative. I sent them an e-mail about it and recieved a "we'll look into it, we've never had any complaints" reply.

When I looked at the "report" on the company I work for they had two negative responses from people we never did any work for. One said the sales man was late for the appointment and didn't like the car he was driving! From this they determined we should get a negative rating from this person. No work was done, nothing. It obviously is not good to be late, but the guy called and told her he would be late!

I asked my boss about them and he said they had tried to get him to advertise in their magazine or whatever they call it. He had declined because he didn't feel it was a good value (they require discount coupons to accompany the ads) and because he felt they couldn't be objective because they accepted advertising.

Looks to me like he was right. We cancelled our subscription. Not exactly Consumer Reports.

(post #75556, reply #1 of 6)

I just joined earlier this week (free because they're new to the Bay area), as I need to get some roofing work done. From what I can see so far, they're not a scam. They're not Consumer Reports proper, either. They're something of a cross between Consumer Checkbook's ratings and Berkeley Parents' Network's descriptions of experiences.

Angie's has its visible limitations:
1. If a review is for a hodgepodge of work in different categories, an entry is made for each category. I found some plumbers (I'm also considering plumbing work) with the same review listed 5 or 6 times under different categories! The overall rating including all categories therefore seems to me to be skewed towards the experiences of a few who had multiple types of work done (although I don't know the weighting algorithm, so who knows?). Best to go with just the rating for the category you're interested, as far as I can tell.

2. As you noted, anyone with any contact with the tradesperson can write a review. Typically, those who decided not to get any work done but who felt strongly enough about the experience to submit a review, submitted negative reviews. Anyone looking at the reviews can see that, and adjust their conclusions accordingly. And Acording to the FAQ, Angie's List rates reviews of those who had work done more highly than of those who didn't. But again, I don't know the exact algorithm. They do note that they do some amount of investigation into negative reviewes, so maybe that's why they were contacting you with a negative slant to their questions.

3. The system seems prone to positive feedback loops that reinforce an early customer's impression of the tradesperson. That is, if someone gets a good rating and strongly favorable comments early on, more and more Angie's List users will use that tradesperson. If the tradesperson happens to get boring comments (even if a good rating) early on, let alone negative comments or worse yet negative comments and a poor rating, they tend not to get any new reviews at all, so that all future visitors see is the one mediocre or poor (even if baseless) review. So you tend to see two or three tradespeople with tons of reviews and all "A"s, and almost all of the rest have only one or two reviews.

I note that Consumer Checkbook only displays results for companies that have a minimum number of survey results, and they survey users once a year like Consumer Reports, by mail, so that individual opinions don't carry so much weight. I don't remember, but I think they also don't display the ones that fall below a certain rating.

Berkeley Parents' Network only allows members to post (and I'm not a Berkeley resident or a parent, so I haven't tried to join), and one of their rules is that you can't post a negative comment about someone except as a response to a previous post. Which has its own limitations. They don't do ratings, it's just a forum for members to exchange experiences and recommendations. They have some of the same tendency as Angie's to develop clusters of favored and shunned tradespsople, but it's slightly more interactive, with posters referring to each other's posts.

Anyway, there's a high degree of overlap among the top-rated roofers reviewed or rated by all three of these services.


(post #75556, reply #2 of 6)

When my wife subscribed, I thought "waste of $50!"  What we got was fantastic referrals.  We have received great results with the vendors/contractors we have selected from AL. I wish we had had them for some previous projects that did not go smoothly.   

When I compare my driveway/parking area with other peoples', I know I got more than my monies' worth. Five years old, no sags, no cracks, drains great! 

When the guys who did my house gutters finished they even offered to do the storage shed (30') for free.  I was impressed with all work, materials, and attitudes with every top-rated outfit.

Other regions may have different results. I'm southeast of Cleveland and am a pleased customer.  - Hey! We are rating Angie's List.


(post #75556, reply #3 of 6)


 that's an interesting perspective.

 Looking at angies list from the other side of the table( as a contractor)------- I consider their operation to approach " scam status"

 Here is why--------- Several years ago-----say maybe 8?---when Angies List entered the Akron market----from columbus----they contacted MY company and asked if I would like to be refered to their customer base.--- angies list  contacted me Via my yellow pages ad.

 so---in order to enter the akron market---- angie list customers--------in return for $50----got a list of companies culled from the yellow pages------some screening process

 now---to be fair--over the course of a couple months--they referred 4-5 prospective customers---actually "tire kickers" to me------none of these leads resulted in work----------- they DID result in long, drawn out sales calls, endless consultations----and a couple of suprisingly insulting "prospective customers"

that said----------- I am entirely sure that you are a great guy--------but in self defense after a couple months i was forced to contact angies list and ask them to take my company OFF their list. the 4-5 people they sent my way were very,Very un-pleasant------and i never felteasy with a company charging people $50 for companies culled from the Yellow pages.

 I AM glad that it has worked out for YOU, however:)

Best wishes, Stephen

(post #75556, reply #4 of 6)


I discussed Angie's List with two contractors I hired. They were very positive about their association with AL. Maybe they were "paying" for a favorable referral - who knows? I am satisfied enough with the local program to defend them from a customer viewpoint. I am sure I would feel differently about them if I had gone through your experiences with them.

With all the "Yellow Pages", business directories, associations, school and community publications that hit on contractors, a small outfit could go broke trying to cover the bases. My part time work relied on word of mouth referrals. Enough for my occasional jobs, but I never could have supported myself on that work. I would have had to advertise - and where do you draw the line?

I only ask for bids when I'm ready to buy. My time is important too. The what-if shoppers have to drive you crazy. Sometimes I think they get bids on work similar to neighbor's new work just to find out what the neighbor paid - I knew a fellow who did that - what a jerk.

Good luck!

(post #75556, reply #5 of 6)

RE: Angies List

This must be one of the biggest scams in America right now and noone is talking about it. AL bills itself as a consumer comment driven business when in fact they are all about selling advertising to contractors. Now I am not against advertising but I am against not disclosing it.

I have a small carpentry business and I received a positive report on AL. Shortly after that I got a call from and AL rep asking me to sign up for a $100 per month advertising plan that would place my company at the top of the list (I thought the best rated companies got to the top). I looked up on the AL website to see if I could find anywhere where they mention that both homeowners and some contractors pay, I found nothing. When the rep called me back 2 weeks latter I asked about this and he didn't have an answer for me.

So I do get some jobs from AL and perhaps I shouldn't bite the hand that feeds me but I tell anyone that will listen about AL scam.

(post #75556, reply #6 of 6)

wikipedia says this...


Angie's List

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Angie's List

Angie's List Logo.gif

Domestic Limited Liability Company (LLC)


Angie Hicks

1030 E. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46202

Key people
William S. (Bill) Oesterle (CEO), Angie Hicks (Chief Marketing Officer)

Information collection and delivery

$14 mil (est.)


Brownstone Publications



Angie's List old logo, no longer used.

Angie's List old logo, no longer used.

Angie's List is one of many companies which aggregate consumer reviews of local service companies and which have been described by the New York Times as "a glorified version of Yellow Page listings." [4] Based in Indianapolis, Indiana, the company was founded by Angie Hicks in 1995. The company modeled the list after Indianapolis' Unified Neighbors. As part of its public relations strategy, the company tells the story that Angie Hicks, who earned an MBA in 2000, went door-to-door in Columbus, Ohio signing up members and collecting ratings on local contractors.[3] In 1996, Angie's List purchased Unified Neighbors and relocated the company from Columbus to Indianapolis. As of January, 2007 the company serves 124 U.S cities[5] and provides reviews of companies in more than 250 categories.[6]

Angie's List grades companies using a report card style A through F scale using consumer reviews.[2] Revenue for Angie's List comes from fees paid by its members and from advertising. It claims to only accept advertising from companies that have a "B" rating or higher,[7] but Angie's List ultimately controls a contractor's rating since Angie's List decides which submissions to use. Contractors cannot directly pay to be on the list, add their own names, or report on their own companies.[8] In response to criticisms that contractors may easily use surrogates to give themselves positive reviews, Angie's List claims that an employee reads every report as they come in to check for abuse and inaccuracies.[3]

According to the New York Times, companies like Angie's List suffer from relatively few reviews per company listed.[4] Like many of its competitors, Angie's List has resorted to paying people to submit reviews through programs such as its Angie Cash fundraising program, which was discontinued in March of 2006.[9] According to the company, approximately 15,000 reports are submitted every month,[3] but it is unclear what percentage is used to grade contractors. Assuming it uses them all, at that rate it would take over 77 years for Angie's List to get, on average, a single review on each of the 14 million businesses in the United States.

[edit] Membership Data & Financial Information

As a non-public company, Angie's List is not required to release its financial or membership information. Thus, only information the company chooses to release to the public is available, and there is no way to confirm the information the company releases is accurate. The Indiana Business Journal states that Angie's List "generates revenue primarily through advertising in its newsletter and by charging customers $4.95 a month, or $47 annually." Angie's List claims to have more than 500,000 members and $14 million in revenues, yet, if accurate, that figure must include both paid and unpaid members since 500,000 members at $47 per year would generate at least $23.5 million ($47 X 500,000) in annual revenue, which is far less than the $14 million the company estimates to have generated in 2006, particularly when the $14 million in revenues includes revenues from both membership fees and advertising in its newsletter. The quote above from the Indiana Business Journal implies that revenues from advertising are comparable to revenues from membership fees thus paid memberships likely represent only a small percentage of the 500,000 members the company claims to have.

Angie's List does not release its expenses to the public, leaving one to only speculate about its financial health or viability of its business model. Yet based on its activities, expenses likely include salaries and related expenses for "about 200 employees" (which assuming these are all full time employees with no benefits and paying just the current minimum wage of $5.15 plus applicable payroll taxes would be more than $2 million per year), the costs of printing and mailing a monthly newsletter, cost of maintaining and improving its technological infrastucture, office rent and related expenses, credit card processing fees, marketing and advertising, legal and professional services, and other miscellaneous expenses.

Mike Smith Rhode Island : Design / Build / Repair / Restore

Mike Smith Rhode Island : Design / Build / Repair / Restore