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Category Archives: Peer Reviews


Angie’s List a pyramid scheme?

Interesting critique of Angie’s List on Screenwerk today from a plumber in Seattle.  Angie’s List recently pushed into Vermont where tens of thousands of households use Front Porch Forum for a variety of purposes, including plumber recommendations.

I have years of experience with Angie’s List as a local plumber in Seattle. They have gotten money out of me and gave nothing in return except much trouble from customers that tend to be pretty passive aggressive. Angie’s List get paid on both ends – Any contractor listing you see is only visible to you if the contractor is paying Angie’s List through the nose. My cost for Angie’s List “hot leads” was $300 each. Testing Angie’s List cost me $7000 over two years. While paying such high costs for leads may work for a major construction project , it won’t work for a service call where we charge by the 1/4 hour.

Google clicks have gotten as high as $38 per click here in Seattle when the search term used is “plumber” or “plumbing”. On the average it takes 15 clicks to get a call. Do the math on the cost to the guy ringing your doorbell.

Angie’s List cost per job performed was 75% of my company’s average invoice total (about $400). My company does over a thousand jobs a year.

Any homeowner service using this advertising method is paying way too much to maintain any integrity in the service. This type of advertising creating an incredible amount of pressure to convert to a commission-based high profit business model for basic traditional services. If I pay Angies List hundreds of dollars just to ring your doorbell how can I treat you fairly when your plumbing problem requires an hours work? I can’t so I cancelled my advertising contract with Angies List.

Angie’s List uses a unique money making model that actually is a kind of pyramid scheme. They put all the local harvested contractors into their listings but you only will call highly rated ones. In order to be highly rated you must pay Angie Thousands of dollars a year for position in order to be seen AND time in grade is required to accumulate favorable reviews. Only a dozen or so can be in that position. The homeowner only calls the ones at the top so all new advertisers must invest thousands on continuing annual contracts to play the game on Angie’s List…

In my opinion, it is time for both local business and consumers to get control over how we find our services and customers as the marketers are hijacking the business to consumer relationship and forcing costs so high that nobody can bear the costs.

Question: Why should we need out-of-state corporations to connect homeowners to services down the street? Surely there is a simple, inexpensive way for us to know our neighbors and small businesses. We all need to put a little thought and effort in that direction.


Search your FPF archive for past recommendations…

#VT - Hinesburg resident John Eastman just completed an electrical project for us and did an excellent job!  I found his name in the archives of our Front Porch Forum.

He was affordable, always showed up on time, handled my many questions with patience and the end result is exactly what we had in mind.

If you are looking for an electrician, I highly recommend him.

Posted by Brigitte today on the Hinesburg FPF.



How do you find a contractor?

Indeed, how does a person find a home improvement contractor?  From Greg Sterling today, a recent survey found that asking a friend is the top approach.   This jibes with our experience.

“Seeking plumber/mechanic/roofer/electrician/etc./contractor recommendations” is one of the most common postings on Front Porch Forum.


Duping by the crowd vs. building community among neighbors

Greg Sterling blogged today (in part)…

The Sunday Times in the UK writes that Yell employees wrote 6,700 reviews for the site (TrustedPlaces) in a month for an internal contest. According to secondary reports:

Staff at the firm’s Reading HQ were encouraged to write reviews for the company’s website Trusted Places – a site boasting user-generated recommendations of places to visit – by the offer of prizes such as an iPad and Amazon vouchers, according to the Sunday Times.

The article and information are presented as something of an expose or scandal. However I don’t necessarily agree. If the reviews are real and authentic they’re not illegitimate in my mind. But it’s a close call…

Well… I’m not sure how 6,700 reviews written by paid staff for some kind of internal contest could be considered “real and authentic.”  More importantly, this fuels a not uncommon suspicion that many online reviews are B.S.  It’s just too easy to stack the deck with reviews from people who have a stake in the business being reviewed or in the host site itself.

We often hear from people who place a high value on reviews read on Front Porch Forum.  They use terms like “real” and “authentic” because that’s what they are… postings from clearly identified nearby neighbors typically offered in response to a request from a neighbor… “can anyone recommend a good plumber?”

Also, each recommendation is seen by everyone in the neighborhood, not just those few who happen to be searching for a plumber.  This leads to  conversation among neighbors… sometimes on FPF, often via email, and even more commonly face-to-face.

So… a huge database of potentially bogus reviews from strangers… vs. a few reviews from clearly identified nearby neighbors that lead to conversations among neighbors on the sidewalk.  Two different propositions.



Angie’s List: “We’re direct marketers at heart”

Among its many uses, people use Front Porch Forum to find and recommend plumbers and dentists and all sorts of services in between.  This leads others to ask… “oh, so FPF is like Angie’s List?”  Well, yes and no.  Yes, in that both FPF (in our one pilot city) and Angie’s List (in its 250 cities) will help you find a roofer.  And, no, in that we have different missions.

Front Porch Forum’s mission is to help neighbors connect and build community… and we do that by facilitating conversation among clearly identified nearby neighbors about all sorts of topics.

I don’t know Angie’s List’s mission, but here’s a quote from The Local Onliner today…

Angie Hicks, the co-founder and namesake of Angie’s List, said she thinks of her company as a direct marketing machine. Speaking at ClickZ’s Online Marketing Summit in San Diego this morning, Hicks noted that “we’re direct marketers at heart. If it doesn’t perform, it’s out.”


Backdoor Bakery and Front Porch Forum

Quote seen on the website for the Backdoor Bakery in Huntington, VT…

“Also on my mind — the best almond croissant I’ve ever had in my life — last Saturday — hot out of the oven from the Backdoor Bakery (my stomach thanks Front Porch Forum).”  -Catherine

This is a “community supported bakery”… locals buy shares in advance and get regular doses of fresh baked yum yums… reduces the risk for the mom and pop owners of this treasured local small business.  Suzanne Podhaizer of Seven Days wrote about it recently.


Front Porch Forum in Two Slides

Here’s Front Porch Forum boiled down to two slides…