It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that reviews on the Internet should always be read with a grain of salt. (Check if there are a string of them written on the same day.) But everyone should also be careful of the supposed neighborhood guides as well. We bought a new house a few months ago–our first–and all the direct mail targeting recent home-buyers continues to trickle in every day. We received one yesterday from a company that has tried to get Dwyer to purchase advertising in which masquerades as something containing recommendations from Fairfax County. The “Research and Ratings” are from EBSCO Research. EBSCO is a name that people who’ve been to college in the last decade will recognize, as they provide academic databases. The ratings appear to be a side business.
Frankly, I don’t remember how much EBSCO wanted us to pay to be included among their recommendations. It wasn’t cheap. Frankly, anything is too much for this type of publication. It’s taking advantage of individuals who think that the “research” publications are unbiased. As one contributor on a thread on fairfaxunderground.com rightly remarks, “Somewhere that actually does objective research wouldn’t be able to give the results away for free. Consumer Reports isn’t free for that very reason.”
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the companies included are some of the region’s largest; those that pump tons of money into marketing, purchasing stadium naming, sports radio time, news channel spots, etc. This isn’t to say that you won’t have a decent experience from one of these companies. Surely, there are companies included that will provide acceptable service. I’m not about to check though. None of the contractors we recommend for services that we don’t provide are there; many that we don’t care for are “best picks.”
We don’t pay for reviews. Never have; never will. We are very cautious with our marketing, and frankly don’t do much of it. If you heard about us, chances are it was a recommendation from a friend, a neighbor, a mom’s group, or a church. We’re also highly recommended on Angie’s List, but we didn’t pay to join. Customers started writing reviews many years ago, and last year we decided to pay them a little bit of money every month to offer coupons, etc., on there. Angie’s List is a strangely run company, as for some reason Angie decided to take it public long before it was ready. But, it’s a product that has spread our respected reputation and for that we’re happy, so it’s worth spending some money to try and keep them afloat.