In Gary Green’s Long Beach, L.I., neighborhood, everyone’s got an opinion. But Green, who expects to soon spend about $5,000 to replace the roof on his house, won’t rely solely on tips from friends when picking a contractor.
He plans to scroll through reports on Angie’s List, a Web directory that collects reviews from members and creates report cards on everything from plumbers to house cleaners to dentists.
“It’s a Consumer Reports for local services,” said Green, who works at the National Kidney Foundation in midtown. The ease of using the Web to check whether other customers are satisfied has meant an increasing number of people are turning to sites like Angie’s List.
The service now has 31,000 New York members and offers reports on more than 57,000 New York-area businesses.
“We help you find who to hire and who to avoid,” said Angie Hicks, who co-founded the company 14 years ago when her boss couldn’t find a contractor to fix his home.
Unlike other online consumer grapevines, such as yelp.com, insiderpages.com, kudzu.com and servicemagic.com, Angie’s List charges for its reports, which give businesses A to F grades. The cost in New York is $35.25 a year or $4.50 a month, plus a $10 signup fee.
Only paying members are allowed to submit reports, and they must identify themselves, though their names don’t appear online. Angie’s List vets reviews to try to root out imposters; for example, a plumber trying to post a positive report about himself or diss a competitor.
“The fact that they are charging people and eliminating anonymity raises the quality of the reviews,” said Lance Ulanoff, editor in chief of pcmag.com.
Businesses cannot pay to be on the list, though they can advertise if they get a grade of B or better. Green, who’s been an Angie’s List member for about a year, said he joined because he liked the level of detail in the reviews. In checking out local roofers — he found 18 on the list who got a grade of B or better — he was eager to see whether their estimates came close to the actual costs.
“I didn’t just want to go to the Better Business Bureau and see who had filed a complaint. That just shows you the worst of the worst,” Green said.
Businesses that get bad reviews can respond to the customer or on the site, a policy recently adopted by rival yelp.com and followed by other reviewers. “We give both sides of the story,” Hicks said.
Angie’s List also offers to help resolve disputes. Businesses that don’t respond are excluded from category searches.
On the flip side, businesses that get high marks say the positive anecdotes lure new customers. “It helps people make decisions quicker,” said Michael Agugliaro, co-owner of Gold Medal Services, an East Bruswick, N.J., plumbing and electrical contractor and Angie’s List advertiser.
Nonetheless, critics say referrals or free sites will do. One blogger on home improvement site houseblogs.net claimed there was no way Angie’s List could check all of its reports.
“There is no company that can satisfy people 100% of the time,” an Angie’s List rep said. “We are constantly reevaluating and trying to do better.”