(REVIEW SITES EXPOSED)
This article is purely advice and a result of frustration from the few poorly run and respected companies in the field. Please note that we have nothing to gain and have never had legitimate complaints on our company or staff; but when we are posed with a demand for money or our record could be damaged, it is unacceptable and should be exposed for all to see.
Over the years, review sites have popped up on virtually every computer/mobile device used in our daily lives, such sites as Yelp, Angie’s List and many others.
The grandfather of all was the Better Business Bureau, BBB, expected to “protect ” the consumer and businesses alike.
The intention of a review from a customer was to validate, praise or criticize a business they did business with. In this day of social media and unfiltered news/funny videos, a review can be an valuable tool on researching prospective dealings with a company.
But as with all great ideas or projects someone, somewhere, can abuse or copy its success. With all growth, the company has to protect its interest and stability by adding more people to help with the infrastructure (this comes at a cost: labor, taxes, training, all overhead, etc). So free review sites have to eventually get revenue from somewhere: the businesses that they contact. We at One Water Systems, although hold no grudge, find the level of “persuasiveness” at times unethical, and as consumers ourselves, try to understand what is a legitimate review and what is a paid sponsor review.
Angie’s List was a membership site to the consumer and we had the most “A” reviews compared with anyone in our field. As a result, we were given awards for every year that we were posted. We advertised in their monthly magazine and did well with their help. In 2015 they dropped the requirement of a monthly membership to the consumer and allowed more non-paying visitors to their site. Within months of this happening we were asked to pay more money and expand our advertising. The sales representative at the time from Angie’s List told me that if we didn’t advertise in the expanded area he would give the offer to our competitor, a company with four reviews and only one review with a “A” rating, compared with our fifty plus “A” rating reviews at the time. Ultimately I refused to be held hostage to a lesser respected company.
Within weeks, One Water Systems was black listed by Angie’s List (according to Angie’s List corporate sales department). We were listed as a plumbing company and as such should be categorized as that on their website. After being listed as a water softener company for over four years why the sudden change? The given reason from them was they did an audit and found references to plumbing in some of the reviews posted. As a result they took off our search listing and cut our review numbers down. Our competitor, within three months of being connected with Angie’s List, was given an award for the year. A calendar year has 12 months not 3; however, the company in question did advertise exclusively in the Angie’s List magazine, the same one that was offered to us. The loss of Angie’s List had no adverse affect to us, but as the saying goes: money talks, and this example seems to prove it.
On Yelp we have had many five star reviews and have also had many more in their “propriety” back door room, found on the bottom of our review page posted on their website.
Over the years we have been contacted to advertise on their website, we have been promised to have a “bigger” listing with more reviews posted, and we have been told by advertising with Yelp our competitors won’t show near our reviews. This sounds like bribery to me and again it seems to be revenue driven to have a boost of success to those who advertise. The “propriety” back door states on their website it is there to remove false or slanderous reviews from the front of the review page. It has obviously not been perfected as we have many true and legitimate customers posting honest reviews which end up not showing on the main page. Could this be a way of protecting the businesses who pay Yelp versus the ones who don’t?
Recently we have been contacted by a company who only works on Yelp reviews stating for a fee they will post “great” reviews from different people for as little as $40 each providing you buy in groups of 100 plus ($4000). You can even specify male or female reviews for an additional $2.00 each. This may not be a Yelp company doing this but trying to alert Yelp of such fraud is impossible. You cannot contact yelp directly, and telling a representative from the company falls on deaf ears.
The BBB, Better Business Bureau
We have been listed and very happy with their communication over the years, however now they too are lacking in help and ethics when it comes to local businesses.
Every month we used to get a newsletter mailed, and emailed to us, along with a postcard listing our visitors and questions consumers wanted. To help promote the awareness of the BBB they would send us promotional stickers and banners for us to display in our showroom. Those were the days; nowadays we get zero newsletters, emailed advice or statistics automatically sent to us about our customer inquires. This year we didn’t even get promotional materials or stickers to update our membership year.
What we do get is a yearly invoice for membership, mailed six months in advance and repeated many times before the renewal due date. I have complained both in email form and verbally to phone numbers provided. Until recently we would not get a response. Although a small issue, we just got our promotional stickers after repeated requests for 2017, we can use them for the next 10 weeks! Still we never received any in 2016.
While the premise and intent of the BBB is favorable from years past, what exactly has happened? We have noticed that new companies become accredited with an A+ rating within a year; in the past you had to prove length of satisfaction in the marketplace to be offered the level of accreditation (which took years). Perhaps it’s the need of revenue based membership that has shortened that window of need. We recently had a disgruntled customer who complained on a product we didn’t provide to the BBB, and after we responded, prior to the BBB posting details, the customer withdrew the complaint and apologized. The BBB, knowing this via emails and voice mails from us, decided to post a complaint on our record but informed me that they are non-biased and did not want to show details of the complaint, it’s against their company policy to remove any recorded remark from the consumer. This was only explained to me after demanding to speak to the president of their company. I explained that if someone purchase a Ford car and decided to complain on a Chevrolet this would apply? The response was yes! How does this example show a non-biased ethical relationship to want to do business!
The reader of this may think that I and my company are complaining over trivial things, but as said in this world of social media, where the world believes all sorts of things and follows trends posted, it’s important to speak up and help protect our purchasing needs and explain the way that marketing can persuade us to buy.
Anyone who would like to follow our information or get advice, we welcome it, as this manipulation of research needs to be corrected and customer service be brought back!
Kevin Worsfold, Owner