When I need some home repair, I use Angie's List. I think I'm paying dearly for it.

Angie's List is founded on the idea that customer experiences are the best gauge of a company's performance. The membership organization functions as the intermediary between vendors, usually home-repair oriented, and those who hire their services. Members provide feedback about their experiences, and using this data, Angie's List rates local service companies. Members in turn look to this list when they need a service, so a good rating can drive a great deal of business. The List also acts as ombudsman in looking for resolution of disputes.

I have no quibble about the quality demands that the List puts on vendors. The companies I've hired from the list have been very professional and attentive.

The reason I'm an agnostic is that my experience suggests I pay through the nose for using the service. For example, a few weeks ago, I had a leak in a two-part toilet. With an injured arm, I was unable to do the simple plumbing myself, so I called a plumber with a top Angie's List rating, one that promised a savings for List members.This plumber determined that the seal between the tank and bowl was leaking. The charge to replace it, and the line from the bowl to the water tap? $185. Or, he said, rather sheepishly, he could do a complete toilet rebuild for $385.

$385 freakin' dollars? A rebuild involved replacing the float and flap mechanisms in the tank ($20 and 20 minutes), pulling the tank and replacing the seal ($10, 20 minutes), and running a new line from the water line to the tank ($10, 5 minutes). It's not rocket science. It's not even science 101. And it certainly isn't worth $385.

My suspicion is that when I tell a service person I found his company on Angie's List, he figures that I'm already determined to hire his company due to the promise of quality work. Consequently, he highballs his estimate.

I paid the plumber $65 for his visit and ended up fixing the toilet myself. I figure the $65 is worth it to teach me to keep my mouth shut about Angie's List the next time I call a service company. Let them think I'm shopping on price. Maybe then I'll get a quote that makes sense.

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