"The customer is not always right," says Malvernite Peter Robideau.
As a small business owner himself, Robideau has his own blacklist of customers who have failed to pay for services his tech company provided and he's not alone.
He’s heard horror stories from other entrepreneurs like Mike H., a third-generation family business owner in northern New Jersey whose company installs alarms and security systems.
“His father and grandfather built the company on the simple premise of good service at a good price," Robideau says. "But Mike now has a small but continuous stream of consumers who repeatedly don’t show up for scheduled service appointments at their homes."
The no-shows cost his company time, money spent on travel, and lost opportunities elsewhere. When combined with those who fail to pay for services they have been provided, some months, Mike can see as much as a 20 percent loss in his financial picture.
Until now, customers who wanted to report businesses that have wronged them have had plenty of outlets through online resources like Angie's List and Yelp to do so, but small businesses -- many which are struggling to stay afloat in a weak economy --have had to shoulder the costs of unscrupulous customers in silence.
"Too often, bad consumers are repeat offenders who calculate that small business can’t afford the time and expense of legal action,” says Robideau, but with the launch of BadConsumers.com earlier this month, he hopes to level the playing field.
Although Robideau admits that most consumers do honor their committments and pay their bills, he says, “all small businesses have a list of bad consumers ... who look to rip off small businesses [and] know they can and will get away with it.” He's essentially created a platform for these businesses to share their internal "blacklists" to help each other out.
By signing up for BadConsumers.com, business owners can report, track and search an every-growing database of customers who have a habit of gouging small businesses, making unreasonable demands, or not paying when they do receive quality service. Before serving a new customer, a member of the site can search BadConsumers.com to see if another business has reported that person, read the complaints lodged against him or her, and decide whether they want to take a chance on this person. (Consumers can clear their name by resolving whatever complaints have been made.)
“Even a handful of bad consumers can shake up a small business’s ability to sink or swim,” Robideau explains.
For instance, he tells the story of Lee M., a carpenter and electrician in Westchester County, who was forced to shutter his business last spring after a series of no-show and no-pay consumers caused his cash flow to seize and he came close to not meeting his own financial commitments.
Robideau adds, “He remains proud of the fact they he never stiffed any of his suppliers and he’s considering having the last word by reporting those bad consumers who helped put him out of business.”
To sign-up for BadConsumers.com businesses must have a valid Tax ID number. The site is currently offering a six-month trial membership. After that ends, there will be a nominal annual membership fee.