Everyday Cheapskate: Whether you like it or not, you need a good credit score

You’ve seen the ads, received emails and perhaps even visited the website, but do you know who Angie is and why she has a list?

In 1995, Angie Hicks came up with an idea to deal with the frustration of trying to find reliable contractors and service people like housecleaners, gardeners, child care providers, plumbers and electricians. She came up with a list of local businesses and recruited members to submit reviews of companies they hired to do work for them.

Today, more than 1.5 million households nationwide pay to check the reviews on Angie’s List before they hire.

Since Angie’s List relies heavily on honest reviews from real people, I thought it was only fitting that someone should review Angie’s List. I am more than qualified, having been a paying member off and on for more than 10 years. I have also used HomeAdvisors.com as well as Yelp.com to find the kind of information I need when hiring service providers.

I’ll tell you right up front that I give Angie and her List an A-plus rating for the following reasons:

No anonymous reviews. Only paying members are allowed to submit reviews. A service-providing company cannot review itself, and it cannot pay to be listed at Angie’s List. I am confident that a great rating did not come from the company owner’s wife or that a bad rating wasn’t posted by a disgruntled employee.

User friendly. I’ve helped design more than a few websites over the years, so I know how important, yet challenging, it can be to make a site work. AngiesList.com just works. I can log on, input my zip code and find exactly what I need in a couple of minutes.

Service providers can respond. Once a member posts a review on a company, that company can respond with its side of the story and give an explanation or even an apology. I like this.

Yes, there is a fee. Annual membership is $29 for one list (either Angie’s List or Angie’s Health and Wellness listings, which rate doctors and health professionals). Human nature being what it is, I know that most people do not value what comes for free. I believe that members take Angie’s List more seriously because, as reasonable as it is, there is a fee involved.

While I would never pay to be a member of Yelp, for example, I gladly pay for AngiesList.com. I’ll take my chances on a restaurant meal while relying on review from Yelp. But re-piping my home or installing a new air conditioner? I need solid and reliable information I can trust — not, as in the case of HomeAdvisors.com which is free, a list of companies that have paid to get my email address and referral. That’s why I spent the extra money with Angie’s List when we were doing our big remodel. My Angie’s List membership bought me confidence, which brought peace of mind.

Mary Hunt is founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website.

You can email her at mary@everydaycheapskate.com, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630.

To find out more about Mary Hunt and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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