It’s time for contractors to turn the tables on Angie’s List with a website that rates clients

AL thumbs down A lot of contractors in the residential arena are steamed about the website Angie’s List, where homeowners can rate contractors on the quality of their work.

A bad review can shoot holes in a contractor’s marketing plan no matter how unfair or wrongheaded the reviewer. The home building magazines are full of articles on how to counter a bad review and whether or not contractors can sue Angie’s List or the reviewer.

That’s a tough problem. Information is powerful stuff, right or wrong.

My solution would be to turn the tables—start a national website where contractors could rate customers. Five stars for the best customers—people who are cordial, pay on time, understand the process; and zero stars for the sharpers, problem makers and skinflints.

In the heavy-civil construction world I report on today, this isn’t as big a problem as it is in residential construction. The engineering required for most jobs, contractual change order agreements and the huge sums of money involved make differences of opinions rare. But still, who among you hasn’t dug a sewer line, removed a pool, paved a driveway, built a pond or done some other type of work for an individual homeowner? And wouldn’t you like to know ahead of time if one of those customers might have a history of quarrels with contractors and a long list of mechanic’s liens?

When I worked in the construction industry, long before I became a journalist, I got an earful of complaints about customers. My favorite, laugh-out-loud advice:

“Never do a job for a lawyer.”

Seemed smart at the time. Back then I knew more than a few honest tradesmen who were shocked to find their rich customers haggling over the silliest details like they were negotiating a multi-million dollar corporate merger. Joe Contractor usually lost these battles against the Masters of the Universe.

But a website where you could rate bad customers? What better revenge than to know the next time one of them calls the plumber, electrician, roofer, painter or remodeler that the response would be a quick online search followed by “Sorry Bub… I guess I’m just too busy right now.”

Information is powerful stuff. No reason it can’t be a two-way street.