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Philbomb
Level 6

I believe that Thumbtacks "Ranking" system is unethical

I'm having a problem, and I don't seem to be able to get the Thumbtack administration to consider that their algorithm system is unethical.  I have been a Thumbtack Dog Training Professional with Thumbttack since 2015.  In July of 2015 I started a Training business in Clemson, S.C.  When January 2016 came, I was named one of the "Top Ten Trainers" in the Clemson/Greenville area.  During that time I maintained a 5 Star review average.  In July of 2016 I was named a "Top Pro ".   I maintained a 5 Star review average, and in January of 2017, I was again named a "Top Pro", and again had maintained a 5 star average.    In January of 2017, I moved my business from Clemson, S.C., to San Juan Capistrano, Ca.  In July of 2017, and January 2018, again "Top Pro"; again 5 star average maintained.  Earlier this year, Thumbtack entirely changed the framework of the their "lead" process.  Between 2015, and 2019, Thumbtack increased the cost of answering "leads" from$3 - $5 to around an average cost of $15.  Thumbtack also initiated the "Promote" and "Insta-quote" concepts.  These concepts are heavily marketed, but are not mandatory or required to use Thumbtack.  I initially promoted and insta-quoted.  I'm a one man operation, and can only cover a limited area geographically.  My travel radius is 25 miles or the area of zip code 92675.  I set my travel preferences at 25 miles.  Thumbtack somehow was not going by my selected mileage preferrences, but was Insta-quoting leads as far away as L.A., San Bernadino, and Riverside counties.  I spoke with customer support several times and was told to set my travel perameters.  I was already doing that probably at least twice a week, but "somehow" they would never stay set at 25 miles.  Thumbtack mysteriously couldn't figure out why that was happening, while whey continued to get paid for insta-quotes in areas that I had no hope of covering.  This issue has never stopped even to this day.   I deactivated "Promote", and "insta-quote", still get leads as far as 100 miles away round trip.  Around Feb 2019, while updating my profile, when I searched for my profile, I saw that despite my 5 star review rating, my profile showed up on page three of the trainers available in this area.  *Please note that I have 28 Thumbtack hires, and 26 - Verified 5 star reviews. I am a two consecutive year "Top Pro".  I immediatly noticed that the majority of the business showing ahead of mine had nowhere near the amount of riviews, or the 5 star review average.  When I spoke with Thumbtack Support I was told that these pros were "ranked" higher than me because they were "promoting", and insta-quoting".  Flash forward to May 2019, and now my profile doesn't even show up as a trainer in my operating area.  When I address this with Customer Support, I told that my profile is visible (it's not), and that to be "ranked higer" and to have my business profile visible to customers, I "need" to "promote" and "insta quote".  I pointed out to the reps that I spoke with that I was a two time "Top Pro", who has NEVER recieved a review that wasn't "5 stars" in the history of my business.  I asked what that did to influence my "ranking" and was basically told "not much".  If I look in the area that I service now, my profile doesn't show at all.  There are Pros that have a 4.0 review average with 1 review that that are based in Huntington Beach that Thumbtack has ranked ahead of me.  I'm being told by Thumbtack that the only way that I can get my profile to "show" is to "Promote" and "Auto-quote".  I've said over and over again to rep after rep, that if the policies aren't "Mandatory" or "Required" in order to use Thumbtacks services, it's "unethical" for Thumbtack to not allow my business profile to be seen based on their "ranking" priorities.  I chatted with three reps yesterday, and had a phone consult with a rep this morning.  The gist is Thumbtack is "..moving towards requiring that businesses promote, and auto-quote..", but that is not a mandatory or a requirement at this time.  Basically I'm being told that because I won't shell out $ on leads and insta-quotes for jobs in areas that I don't cover, Thumbtack's algorithim will not allow my profile to be seen by potential customers.  Does anyone else see any "unethicallity" in this, or is it just me?  I'm a disabled veteran, and have over come much to eatablish and maintain my business.  What I'm seeing; from my perspective, just isn't right.  I'd really like to get some other opinions.

 

 

 

 

 

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18 responses
NFS
Level 1

Re: I believe that Thumbtacks "Ranking" system is unethical

Hi Phil, This  doesn't feel right to me either, but business is business and lead platforms can pretty much do as they wish.

Philbomb
Level 6

Re: I believe that Thumbtacks "Ranking" system is unethical

I guess "Business is business....." but If that's what their doing to me, it's also what they will and are doing to others.  I would have no problem Auto-quoting if Thumbtack would honor my parameters, but as I said, "Mysteriously" they can't seem to do that, or explain why they don't.  The Thumbtack approach is to tell me that I must not have saved my parameters.... Yeah right; every one of th over 100 times that I've set my parameters, I somehow didn't save them....   I'm a "fighter".   I'm going to do everything that I can to get my profile available for clients to see; but I won't "promote' or "auto-quote."  I know a "money-grab"when see one.

Moderator Kameron
Moderator

Re: I believe that Thumbtacks "Ranking" system is unethical

You’ve got a long history of success on Thumbtack with some great reviews and even being a repeat Top Pro. That type of success is always something that we hope pros are able to continue and it’s hard to hear that hasn’t been as much of the case for you thus far after the recent changes. We’re here to partner and work with you to see how we can help you get back to that success.
 

As far as ethics go, Thumbtack offers a use as you please service with no contracts to keep users locked in (not to say other sites that do are unethical). We do our best to explain and educate to pros how the site works and when they’ll be charged. The system we now have in place is a similar system used widely across many different marketing platform sites where businesses pay and compete to be shown to potential clients, except for on Thumbtack you only pay when a customer reaches out to you.


After reading the entirety of your post thoroughly, it seems like you’d be more inclined to keep your preferences set and continue Promoting if there were no mix-ups in leads from outside of your desired travel area.

I understand you’re not inclined at the moment to use promote, but if you change your mind... While promoting you will only be charged automatically for leads within the travel area you set, if someone does contact you from outside of that set area we’ll allow you to review the lead and choose to accept or decline. Setting your preferences and promoting will go a long way to help you continue getting leads, hires, and achieving Top Pro again. IF you do choose to promote and are charged for a lead outside of your preferences you can contact our support staff and they’ll be happy to look into it with you.
 

Aside from actual leads we’ll let you know of secondary opportunities through the Jobs tab at up to 150 miles from you. These aren’t customers that contacted you directly, but another pro. However, we list these jobs in that window for pros to express interest in as well and will only charge if the customer responds.

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Philbomb
Level 6

Re: I believe that Thumbtacks "Ranking" system is unethical

I'd like to give you a little more information.  If I send out 7 quotes, my hire average is 1 "hire" on Thumbtack.  If I sign a 6 week contract agreement, I make $450.  7x15=105 which I subtract from the total of the contract.  If I auto-quote on Thumbtack the return that I get back on labor is  $345.  Unless I auto-quote, and give Thumbtack $105 out or each $450 contract, Thumbtack will not allow my profile to be seen by clients.   I'm very interested to read your response when the issue is presented in this way.  I used $15 as my figure, but the quotes sometimes at over $16.  If I auto-quote, I could be automatically quoting 3-10 leads a day.   That could be over $100 aday in quotes.  

Moderator Kameron
Moderator

Re: I believe that Thumbtacks "Ranking" system is unethical

@Philbomb thanks for adding that additional context. I'll note that when quoting manually, if the customer responds you'll be paying full price for that lead. If you set your preferences and promote you'll receive a 20% discount on that lead when a customer reaches out to you directly. 

I also want to add that Thumbtack no longer sends quotes on your behalf. Instead, customers search and find you through search results if your listed preferences match with their project. If they're interested enough then they can choose to reach out to you.

In order to help you control how much you spend on leads each week we created the pro budget. This article explains in more detail: Budget.

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Philbomb
Level 6

Re: I believe that Thumbtacks "Ranking" system is unethical

If I quote manually, I can be selective and quote the jobs that I have the best chance of being hired for.  This makes working with Thumbtack good for me and good for Thumbtack, because as you can see from my history, I do get jobs and deliver outstanding service and value to the customer.  If I auto-quote, even with a 20% discount, the end result is detrimental to my business, and favorable for thumbtack.  Financially working with Thumbtack is a negative for me and a win for Thumbtack.  Thumbtack theoretically would be generating profit from me 7x to the 1x that I profit, and that profit is reduced.  My business profit hemorrahges a significant part of revenue to Thumbtack.  At 7-1 on hires, that's "suicide" for my business.  Not hard to see why I don't want to do it, but you all are forcing business to do it, or forcing them off of your platform by not exposing them to potential customers unless they do it.    Your response to me will be that I have a choice as to whether to use thumbtack or not.  My response to you is again at this time neither of the policies are "Mandatory" in order to use Thumbtack.  If it's not mandatory for use, them fill in the blanks.

Re: I believe that Thumbtacks "Ranking" system is unethical

@Kameron: Thumbtack IS automatically sending out a $quote EVERY time I accept a lead from my inbox. I have asked support not to, but they refuse. I have only 2 quote numbers available for each of my services. I require about 12 options, or even better, leave it blank and I will happily fill it in when I accept the lead. As it is, If a customer picks me for an event that I would like to quote at a different price than is listed in my services, I look foolish. This has made me reluctant to accept these leads. 

Moderator Meckell
Moderator

Re: I believe that Thumbtacks "Ranking" system is unethical

@ChefOfAllSeason when you accept a lead in your inbox, it's up to you to send a quote to the customer. Nothing is sent automatically. Please let me know if you have any questions about this! 

0 Kudos

Re: I believe that Thumbtacks "Ranking" system is unethical

@Meckell: What I am saying is that the quote amount in dollars appears automatically at the top right of any lead that is accepted from the inbox. I hVe no choice in the matter. When I contacted support, they confirmed this. TT takes one of my prices as a default and puts it onto the lead that is sent back to the customer once it is accepted. My point is that it would be better TT not do this at all. No two projects are identical and therefore can not have exactly identical quotes. Leads from the jobs tab are different; I can put it in any number I please. My suggestion make the accepted leads from the inbox the same. As it is, I am less than enthusiastic to accept the inbox leads as the current system of an auto quote on my leads creates confusion and mixed messages. If the default quote is set at $100, for example, and my message to the customer is a different quote, it is an awkward situation. I want to accept more leads from the inbox but can not until this us changed. That’s all.