True story: A Wisconsin couple sued a major cabinet manufacturer over a failed kitchen cabinet remodel. The cabinets finish pealed soon after installation, and were replaced. When the replacement cabinets buckled and warped, the couple couldn't get further satisfaction from the cabinetry manufacturer, so they sued for $30,000. The trial dragged on for months, sullying the reputation of the manufacturer and the installer.

That story made headlines in the local papers in Wisconsin, where it took place. But it doesn't take a $30,000 lawsuit to besmirch a business reputation in the home improvement arena.

Cabinet makers, custom furniture crafters, and home storage and remodeling contractors are vulnerable to readily placed negative publicity from consumers, who post their unhappiness at services review sites like Yelp.

Yelp, with 53 million users, is free and just about everywhere: consumers weigh on on everything, comment on each others' comments. Sometimes they will set the record straight if they have complained about a cabinet job, for example, then received satisfaction afterward, as in this Yelp comment stream, mostly favorable, about a San Francisco kitchen cabinet firm.

Some folks complain to the Better Business Bureau, or express negative reports to places like Angie's List, the latter now one of the top sources for references in the home remodeling contractor trades.

Angie’s List collects consumer reviews on local contractors and doctors in more than 550 service categories and claims more than one million subscribers across the U.S. rely on it for hiring references. Members get access to local ratings via Internet or phone, online articles about home improvement projects, and can use the Angie’s List complaint resolution service.

Sample  Angies'
List Reviews

Hardwood Flooring

Flooring Refinishing

Garage Doors

Carpentry - Woodworking

Drywall

Doors

Countertops

Cabinet Making

Carpentry - Unfinished

Angie’s List consumers who have had poor experiences with contractors generally complain about not getting calls back, often when they call for estimates, but even more so when they hire the contractor and things go wrong, says the company.

Some consumers report their projects dragged out for months when the contractors went silent. Shoddy work is a common Angie's List complaint, and negative reviews on cabinets, flooring, carpentry and other services are generally not removed.

A bit like Consumer Reports, except covering services, Angie's List users pay a membership fee to join Angie's List - varying by region (it's $35 a year in New York and Chicago). Angie's List says because members pay it makes their reviews more reliable - unlike Yelp which has been criticized for flaming consumer complaints and fake criticums from competitors and fake compliments from businesses.

In some cities consumers can join Anglies' List for free where it is still developing a local following. Once the list is big enough, a membership fee is determined,  and members can renew at the regular membership price.

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