Money experts say online reivew services not perfect

5:06 PM, Sep 19, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) -- Dr. Judy Wiseman registered with Angie's List to hire a housecleaner.

Like other rating services, Angie's List says its grades are based on real customer reviews.

"Angie's List rated this 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."

Margot Gilman says it's not unusual to disagree with user reviews. 

But, be wary of going with companies at the top of the search results.

"We've found that businesses with "A" or "B" ratings also pay for advertising to rise to the top of the default search results on Angie's List.  It's a big advantage," says the Consumer Reports Money Adviser.

Other rating services, including Yelp and Google Plus Local were also checked out.

Gilman says, "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."

Yelp also allows businesses to buy their way to the top 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," Judy Wiseman says.

"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 Margot Gilman.

Do Online Review Services Deliver What They Promise

In most communities, Angie's List charges subscribers.  Yelp and Google Plus are free.

And, you can always go to the Better Business Bureau to check out a company.  It's a free service, too.

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