Don’t Waste Your Money: Online Rating Services

Posted at 5:26 PM, Nov 05, 2013
and last updated 2013-11-05 17:26:39-05

Hiring the right plumber, painter, or handyman can sometimes be hit or miss.

Angie`s List and other online rating services say they can help you find the best company.

But who can you really trust?

Consumer Reports` money experts checked how the rating services work and whether you can rely on them.

Doctor Judy Weisman wanted to hire a house cleaner, so she registered with Angie`s List. Like other rating services, Angie`s List says its grades are based on reviews from real customers.

“Angie`s List rated a business with an `A,` but I had to go behind them after they had left and dust areas that were supposed to have been cleaned. I would have to give it no better than a `B,” says Margot Gilman, a Consumer Reports money adviser.

Gilman says of course it`s not unusual to disagree with user reviews. But be wary of jumping on companies at the top of search results.

“We`ve found that businesses with A or B ratings who also pay for advertising rise to the top of default search results on Angie`s List. It`s a big advantage,” says Gilman.

Consumer Reports Money Adviser also checked out other rating services, including Yelp and Google Plus Local.

“Google Plus Local didn`t respond when we asked how it verifies that its reviews are from real customers. Yelp told us that they have a way to identify and delete bogus reviews but admitted that the system has not been objectively tested,” Gilman.

Yelp also allows businesses to buy their way to the top of the pack in search results. But unlike Angie`s List, Yelp clearly labels the ad.

“I think there`s really no substitute for using family and friends for references for this type of service,” says Weisman.

“Bottom line, ratings services aren`t perfect, and we saw ratings for the same business can vary significantly from site to site. But if you can`t get a recommendation from someone you know, it may be worth it to look up a business on several sites,” says Gilman.