Checking Out Your Customers Before You Take The Job

So far, when it comes to satisfaction in the world of business, things have been all one way—toward the consumer. Of course, there is nothing wrong with rating businesses. It can push marginal companies toward better service or products. The problem is that all of that is one-sided. Then came and information began to move the other way as well.

The website was created by Robert Bodi, an independent irrigation contractor in Venice, FL, when, after speaking with a colleague, he realized that both he and his friend—and later, a third contractor—had been stiffed by the same customer.

The website is a place where business owners can share stories about the deadbeats and impossible-to-please customers they have had to deal with. Like Rip-off Report, names names in order to help unsuspecting business owners avoid toxic clients. Since it opened for business, in June of 2008, the website has grown to around 650 members and has become a resource that many small business owners look to for guidance, especially in a recession when every invoice counts.

Membership on the site costs a whopping $5 to defray administrative costs. Bodi does not make money off the site. Members also have to provide their business license number. These requirements add to the site's legitimacy and help to cut down on spam and false claims—people just blowing off steam. "The first couple of months we had to delete stuff like crazy. I was worried about lawsuits," Bodi said in a recent interview with BusinessWeek. "Then we started charging a one-time $5 fee for people to become members. You would not believe how that reduced the number of crazy claims.”

Complaints come into from all over the US and parts of Canada. Members can search for records on prospective customers via Zip Code or county, state, or province name. A list of customers then comes up matching the search criteria. Also, registered customers can have a look at what contractors have written about them and respond with their side of the issue if need be.

If you are a contractor or a small business that works on invoices, may be a good fit for your operation. In these days of economic turmoil, being able to screen your potential clients could well save you a lot of headaches down the road.