In a world seemingly dominated by crowd-sourced reviews on sites like Angie's List, one local man has created a forum where business owners can turn the tables on armchair critics.
Nasty Client, the brainchild of Feasterville's Matt Stachel, bills itself as "the anti-Yelp." The site allows business owners to file reports against customers who have stiffed them, stolen from them or otherwise screwed them, creating a searchable database against which other companies can check potential clients.
"The straw that broke the camel's back wasn't one particular story of mine," Stachel said on Monday. "It was more the frustration of always seeing the other side of the story being told in the media."
"You always see on the news 'another deadbeat contractor takes a deposit from a homeowner and doesn't do any work' or see reviews on Angie's List or Yelp where the person is just ripping a business to shreds, but you never get the business's side of the story and you never get to hear, 'Hey, that customer that's ripping on the business, maybe the customer's really the jerk.'"
Stachel founded the site nearly two years ago after spending more than 20 years heading up a landscaping company. It has since grown to include more than 2,000 members who have posted over 4,000 "nasty clients." An estimated 50 to 60 percent of them are located in the Tri-State Area.
He said he hopes Nasty Client will hold consumers to the same level of accountability to which businesses are now subject.
"The goal in my head for the website is, in same way a business owner now says to themselves, 'You know what? Maybe I shouldn't do shoddy work because I don't want to end up on Angie's List and I don't want a comment on the Better Business Bureau,'" he said. "I want the consumer to say, 'You know what? I better pay my plumber because I don't want to end up on Nasty Client. I don't want to be calling heating guys in January because my house has no heat, but everyone is saying they're don't want to work for me because I have three reports filed against me.'"
A one-year membership to Nasty Client will usually set you back $15.99, but Stachel is offering – for a limited time – to waive the fee for Metro readers who mention this article.
Stachel will also be giving free demonstrations of Nasty Client next Monday, Jan. 14 at coworking space Benjamin's Desk, where he rented an office as he developed the site. The address is 1701 Walnut Street and the event will run from 4 to 6 p.m.
Wall of shame
Here are some excerpts of reports filed on some of Nasty Client's nastiest clients:
– A landscaping client in Lahaska, Pa. accused of nonpayment of services:
"He got me to drop my guard by being extremely nice and polite in the beginning, only to change once additional work was done without a contract. This very crafted scheme was taken out on several other contractors that worked on the property during our time and after we were thrown off the property. He was very careful not to sign things and be conveniently absent or very busy when asked. We are out tens of thousands of dollars along with others totaling approximately $80,000 or more."
– A lawn maintenance client in Sussex, N.J. accused of ceasing to pay his bills:
"He was always a late payer but ended up at one point or another paying. He always had talk about big install jobs because he just purchased the house so I didn’t want to lose the customer. Then he decided he would just stop paying but then got mad when I did not plow his driveway. Stay away from him."
– A wall installation client in Bensalem accused of being abusive:
"He asked repeatedly how we were doing everything, even though it was all spelled out in his contract. When the job was done he called me and said that the wall I built on the property line of his house and the neighbors was now making his lawn a big puddle. ... He then said that he wanted me to lay sod down where I put grass seed. Even though it does state in my contract that grass seed will be installed in the damaged areas of the lawn. When I said no to the sod he threatened to sue me and let the 'whole' township know not to use my company."
In defense of Yelp
Yelp's team said on Monday that the site doesn't stack the deck against business owners. "I think it's important to note that 80 percent of reviews on Yelp are three stars or higher, so, statistically speaking, Yelpers are more inclined to write about their positive experiences," public relations manager Kristen Whisenand said in an email.
She said an automated filter weeds out fake and malicious reviews, comments that violate the site's Terms of Services – including those that aren't based on firsthand experiences – can be flagged for removal and business owners can access free tools that allow them to take some ownership of their pages.
"We encourage business owners to use Yelp's free tools to respond diplomatically to both positive and critical reviews," she said.