The good and the evil of online complaint sites
By:   //  Consumer News

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Before the age of the Internet, a consumer taking issue with a product or service had to write a letter of complaint and mail it off via the US Postal Service or call a customer complaint line. Family and friends may have known about the complaint, however, it didn’t spread across the continent on 0.5 seconds.

Today there are numerous complaint websites where consumers can share their horror stories with the world. And while some of these sites are abused by astrosurfers, who set out to destroy the reputation of a company, there are instances when online complaints have resulted in a satisfactory outcome.

Beyond Yelp and Facebook, there are sites specific to consumer products and services. The website covers the airline industry and Angie’s List provides a place to air gripes about service-oriented companies and professionals. serves as an intermediary between consumers and many service-oriented companies where you can ask questions, post reviews and ask for help. The site claims that thousands of businesses use it to respond to customers and protect and build their reputation.

TripAdvisor is a travel website where consumers share their experiences with hotels, restaurants, vacation rentals, and attractions.

According to Consumer Reports when posting a comment online, “it’s important to establish your credibility” and be sure to first check the site’s terms and conditions.

“Make your comment as brief as possible, and include facts. If you’re being critical, mentioning the good along with the bad lets readers know you’re a consumer, not a competitor out to drive up your own sales.”

Consumer Reports also offers advice if you want to leave a good review. “The opposite applies if you’re being particularly glowing, especially in a product review. No matter how good a product is, surely you can find something that could have been done better or that readers should be aware of. If your post is one big swoon, you’ll come off as a company shill, pushover, or neophyte.”

Posting to a company’s Twitter site can be a good way to get a company’s attention. Sears reportedly responds to complaints posted to their account, as do other businesses.

Consumer organizations say the best way to resolve a complaint is to contact the company directly before leaving negative feedback.

Image: Flickr/Weis van Erp












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