The January issue of the Angie’s List Magazine
reveals its annual lists of the country’s best and worst companies offering professional service to consumers.
While highlighting specific companies, the magazine also offers helpful tips to help consumers avoid other crooked or otherwise unreliable service providers. Angie's List, the nation’s leading consumer ratings
service, provides the monthly magazine to its members.
“The best contractors of 2009 had to go far beyond reaching Angie’s List’s standard for our internal Service Award (SSA), which is pretty tough to accomplish on its own” said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List.
Companies earning the “Best” designations come straight from Angie’s List and represent the top 1 percent of the more than 10,000 companies that qualified for this year’s Angie’s List Super Service Award. The Best Contractors have a flawless record (straight A grades from consumers), at least three Pages of Happiness nominations from their customers (an exclusive Angie’s List honor given by members), a minimum number of reports (based on market) and valid trade licenses, if required by law. Highlights include:
• A Charlotte painter
who sends a cleaning crew to tidy up after an interior paint job is complete and refuses any type of final payment until he’s had a chance to meet with the homeowner to review the finished work.
• A California electrician
continues to impress Angie’s List members as the only three-peat Best Contractor to make the list.
• A Chicago contractor
recycles or reuses as many items as possible and utilizes green building materials at no additional cost to the consumer. He’ll even pay for his employees’ gas if they carpool to work.
• Customers rave about an Indianapolis pet care company for the personalized care their pets receive. Clients say the owner leaves notes or sends e-mails with updates on their furred, feathered and scaled friends.
Companies earning the “Worst” designations come from member reports, Angie’s List Penalty Box cases (Angie’s List complaint resolution service), criminal and civil court records, attorneys general and licensing board offices, as well as interviews with scores of sources. Some of the “Worst” contractors are not rated on Angie’s List but were chosen based on the seriousness or volume of allegations and the amount of damage customers say they inflicted. Lowlights include:
• A Georgia contractor who promised to rebuild homes devastated by Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana but was sentenced to more than 21 years in prison for bilking 16 people out of half a million dollars. He was unlicensed to work in Louisiana.
• A Cincinnati-area housecleaner
and her son who may face the death penalty for kidnapping and murder. Police say they stole more than $200,000 from the victim and forged documents to gain power of attorney over his estate. The duo held the victim captive for about a week before burning and disposing his body. Police say the service provider first approached the victim while cleaning a house in his neighborhood, then later visited his home.
• The Colorado company that, according to court records and an Attorney General filing, send representatives door to door following a hailstorm, offering to help repair damaged roofs. The company allegedly took more than $1 million in insurance money to repair some 500 roofs, but did not follow through on the work they were hired to perform.
• A Portland, OR, contractor who has been charged with racketeering for allegedly committing theft by deception, wire and bank fraud – bilking homeowners and a bank out of nearly $400,000.
While the Worst scenarios may seem scary, separating good service providers from bad ones can be done with a little research – much of following the same principals whether you’re hiring a dog walker, a remodeler or a financial planner. With a bit of effort, you can save time, money and a lot of stress.
Angie’s List how to hire tips:
1. Do your research. Don’t just hire based on one conversation or an advertisement. Check the performance record of the service provider you plan to hire through Angie’s List.
2. Check references: Get names of previous customers and find out if they were pleased with the work and the timeline of the project, as well as if they’d hire the service provider again. If your service provider balks at providing references, move to the next one on your list.
3. License for hire: Some states or cities have no licensing requirements for service providers, which can make it difficult for homeowners to check up before they hire. Don’t rely on the service provider’s word to know whether his or her license is valid: check with local departments of commerce, consumer affairs or professional regulators.
4. Insured & bonded? In addition to licensure, ask for proof of bonding and insurance. At a minimum, all contractors should carry liability and workers’ compensation insurance. Consumers can contact their state’s insurance bureau to find out details.
5. Get estimates: Take the time to get at least a few different estimates for your job. And get it in writing – documentation is often the best ammunition you have if things go wrong.
6. Where can I reach you? Be cautious of service providers who give you a post office box with no street address, or use only an answering service.
7. Pay with a credit card: Use a credit card so you have recourse in case something goes wrong. Before you sign off and make the final payment, check that the work is complete and meets your standards.
8. Review all aspects of the contract before you sign. If a contract is involved, make sure all work is listed and you review each item before signing on the dotted line.
Angie’s List collects consumer reviews on local contractors and doctors in more than 500 service categories. Currently, more than 1 million consumers across the U.S. rely on Angie’s List to help them make the best hiring decisions. Members get unlimited access to local ratings via Internet or phone, exclusive discounts, the Angie’s List magazine and help from the Angie’s List complaint resolution service. Take a quick tour of Angie’s List and view the latest Angie’s List news.