A Wisconsin couple sued a cabinet seller, installer, and the manufacturer for $30,000 over a failed kitchen remodeling when the finish peeled, and later cabinets buckled and warped. But it doesn’t take a $30,000 lawsuit to besmirch a business reputation in the home improvement arena.

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

With 53 million users, Yelp is free and just about everywhere: consumers weigh in on everything, and 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, which was the case in one recent Yelp comment stream. Most probably do not bother.

Seeking Made in America
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 says more than one million subscribers in the U.S. rely on it for hiring references.

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.

A bit like Consumer Reports for services, Angie’s List users pay a membership fee to join — 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. Angie Hickman, founder of the list, says once a bad comment appears, there’s generally no erasing it.

So the best strategy is to avoid negative experiences for clients.

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