Thumbtack… service or rip-off?

I’ve been a user of Thumbtack as a professional for several several months now and have spent a decent amount of money on credits.  I have sent lots of quotes and have gotten a few replies but none of my leads has resulted in any work.  Now, I know it’s not me.  I know that I cannot expect to get every job out there, but based on my work and reasonable prices, I should be getting at least some jobs.  The closest I have come is one man who was ready to hire me but we put it on hold because the weather started getting bad, and the woman that flat out said “yes, I want you to do my wedding” but then failed to send in her contract and deposit.

Honestly, I’ve wondered how many real professionals use this site.  Of course, the ones with a lot of bookings don’t need to nor do they have the time, I’m sure.  After talking to him about it, a friend of mine submitted a request for work in my area because he was curious the types of quotes he’d get.  He got back one.  ONE.  From a photographer who, to be honest, was not any good and who lived 80 miles away.  (Think underexposed, over-processed pictures.)

I started to look around the web.  I found that a lot of other people also have this complaint and there is a camp of people out there that believe that Thumbtack actually generates false requests for work to make it look like they have a productive site and get professionals to pay to bid on these fake jobs.  One man even proved this, as far as he was concerned, by asking the “client” baited questions where he knew the answer was “that place does not exist” and the client answered as if they had no idea of the venue in which they were supposedly getting married.  He also posted how when he had credits that he’d purchased that he could use for quotes, he would get a lot more leads than when he did not have credits.  I hadn’t thought about until that point, but that’s completely true.  It’s a way to keep you buying.  (Editing to add, one month later, I exhausted my credits out and I think I am down to 1, which you can’t do anything with.  Since I wrote this post, I have received maybe 3-5 lead emails, when they were once coming several times a day when I had credits.)

Here’s one thing that’s really waving red flags at me: the complete and utter disregard for any kind of consistency.  Case in point: asking questions.  You pay credits to send a quote but you can ask some public questions if you need a bit more info before giving a quote.  I have done this very few times, but 90% or more of the time that I have, my questions have been deleted and/or removed because they were somehow deemed inappropriate.  Of course, I have NEVER asked an inappropriate question.

About a month or so ago, a lead came up asking for someone to do professional head shots in an office setting.  The user stated their budget was “more than $1,000.”  With this info, I was thinking this must be a pretty big company needing to update some kind of directory be it a website or whatever.  So I asked “how many people?”  As a photographer, this is essential information.  If I am going to go to an office and set up lights and a backdrop, it makes a big difference whether there are 5 people to be photographed or 500.  There’s even a big difference between 5 and 50.  It all adds up to time spent and, as we all know, time is money, Jack.  So, really, not an inappropriate question at all as it would give me an idea how much time it would take to shoot and edit/prepare and therefore would help determine my price.  Of course, in typical Thumbtack style, my question was deleted for being inappropriate.  The email telling me this invited me to respond if I had questions.  I basically said, “what up?”  This is where I mention that I had seen other photographers ask this question many times before, and had it answered.  (If you get a lead, you will also get public asked and answered questions when the client answers them.)  Thumbtack responded, after about 5 days, with some lame form letter sounding bull about maintaining the best quality of the site and that the client is given the chance to answer that question when they first fill out the form.  Um, OKAY?  Well the client did not answer that question in the first place, so it needed to be answered; even a range such as 30-40 would have been fine.  Then?  Less than two weeks later, I get another email of a publicly answered question… you guessed it, the question was “how many people?”  (Editing to add that my friend who submitted the request for work said that the form did NOT ask specifically “how many people.”  So I was flat out lied to by the Thumbtack employee.  The form basically had a spot for “anything else you want to add.”)

In reading other people’s accounts of their experience with Thumbtack and questions being deleted or edited, it seems that a lot of questions that might have answers that lead you to realize a lead is fake are the ones targeted.

I know that a friend of mine has gotten some actual jobs from Thumbtack, so I know it can’t be all fake.  But I feel like I have been taken.  I am not laying blame of course, but I joined and spent my money because my friend was getting actual jobs.  So then it begs the question, why can’t I?  Are all the real people who want quotes really that cheap?  I do have to say that one of the responses I got to a quote on a wedding sounded hopeful; they were asking me questions and what not, then suddenly, they told me thanks for my time but they’d decided to go with someone who was “portfolio building” AKA free.

I am done with that site until they can make some changes to better the service and prove that the leads are not fake, such as providing the professional with the client’s info like email address, phone number, etc., so the professional can really follow up with a quote they have sent in.

18 Comments

  1. Hey Val! I am right there with ya! I have tried about 8-10 times to have someone respond to me. I even complained to the site stating that I think it is odd that I am the only one bidding and they never respond. My rates are great, but I am not giving my services away. I did get two responses…both seemed like they may work out. I thought, well, maybe I was wrong. Maybe what people are saying is incorrect. The woman asked me when I would be available for a consult-I answered, and then NOTHING. Never heard back, even after replying again (in case she didn’t receive it). I don’t know what to think. That is why I did a search and found your info. But, you said your friend did receive jobs? I think that is amazing and almost unheard of…

  2. Hi Melanie – yes she got jobs right away so then she told me about the site. She did kind of mention that she was doing a lot for cheap at the time because she was desperate for some work. So that might have helped. I never did quote anyone for much less than what my website advertises, which is more than reasonable to begin with. I’ll have to ask her how it’s going now. But I keep hearing more and more stories like yours, including my own!

  3. There is no question in my mind that this site is a fraud. Don’t use it! I purposely made quotes that could not be refused, just to see what happened, and I never got a response. Also, i started noticing the same unusual names with different last initials showing up time and time again. Don’t use this site! They are ripping people off! Shame on them!

  4. Hi Steve! Thanks for your comment. I didn’t think of trying that, good idea. I kind of also have since noticed the same thing about the names.

  5. Ken Griffiths |

    Avoid this sleaze ball operation like the plague. Thumbtack should be investigated for sending out fake/fraudulent “leads” Here are some facts you may or may now know. #1 Thumbtack does not have any sort of age gate system in place. Any 10 year old with a computer,iPad, smart phone etc could submit a request. #2 Thumbtack does not make their customers aware (those shopping for services) that service providers have to pay a referral fee. #3 Thumbtack does not check for state licensing, bonding and or insurance for general contractors etc signed up on their site. #4 Thumbtack averages 3 complaints a week with the BBB (they will dispute this) but you can google “thumbtack BBB” if you want.
    Bottom line is this, between the endless complaints all over the internet, the onslaught of complaints (some very aggressive) on both their Facebook pages, it defies me how this company stays in business…Oh and one other detail when a customer requests service it (they) are reviewed by call center employees in the Philippines.

  6. I’m a Pro Photographer but new to Florida and was looking for local clients. I completely agree this is fake. I have googled all my quotes names to look them up on facebook and 90% of them could not be found. Its strange models and actors could not be found on google. Strange. I never made a dime on the site and spent a lot.

  7. Ken I hadn’t really thought about placing a BBB complaint. You’re right, too, on the age of “clients,” hadn’t thought about that before. There’s really no verification or anything to any of it… except the professional’s credit card info. I wonder how far back I can go and do charge backs? I’m sure it’s been way too long now.
    Sorry, TheEllsworth, I understand. I hadn’t thought of putting many of them into Facebook either. I usually only do that if someone has officially booked me and I haven’t met them yet.

    Here’s something new. I’ve started getting a few quote requests via email now and I have locked down my area to a 25 mile radius. Thumbtack keeps sending me “leads” on $100 jobs that are 50 or more miles away.

  8. Annnnnd now I get one that’s closer to me but supposedly for a birthday party at 6 am on the day after July 4th? Um, okay…

  9. Ken Griffiths |

    Check out thumbtack complaints on Facebook. It loaded with personal experiences from service providers etc.Thumbtack has been deleting and blocking pretty much everyone who leaves negative feedback on their Facebook pages.

  10. Ken Griffiths |

    I meant that literally “Thumbtack complaints” do a search on Facebook.

  11. Well I have been declining every lead I’ve gotten, usually putting stupid remarks in the comments section, for about 4 months now… today they email me with 18 free credits.

  12. First off, I’ll disclaim some important things. There are dozens of major tweaks that thimbtack has been less than expedient to rectify. It can be agrevating. Side note: this is an Entirely new framework. It takes time to perfect.

    To those of you who genuinely believe in false lead postings or question how it’s possible no one’s hiring you. This may come as a shocker, so hold on.
    -People are better at what you do than you are OR, MORE IMPORTANTLY, have a better branding identity, tone of voice, or virtual presence than you do.
    There is always competition. People are not judging you on your skill set, but your PERCEIVED IDENTITY.
    I get hired to nearly every bid I make.

    You can not expect 20th century methodology to apply to thumbtack. Gear up, re-start, re-new, re-verb. Shameless plug. Because it’s the truth.

  13. Montana Rose |

    I think it also depends on the type of job you’re doing on there. It seems as though if you’re a photographer, this isn’t the best site for you, as I’ve read complaints from mostly other photographers.

    As an English tutor/vocal coach who just joined the site a few weeks ago, I’ve booked both jobs I’ve sent quotes in for (funny enough, I was gifted 12 credits somehow. I don’t know why, cause I sure as hell didn’t pay for them.) I’m very careful with those 12 credits, only sending a quote when I have a very good feeling that I’m the best one who will apply. So technically, I have a 100% success rate as of right now, making $300 a month between my two clients (in cash, beautifully, as neither of us feels like going through the process of paying through the site. So I don’t have to worry about a percentage being taken out of it, either).

    So yeah, I think it just depends on what kind of work you’re doing and where you’re doing it. Because so far, I’ve had a great deal of success. So much so that when my free credits run out, I may actually consider buying more, and I NEVER buy things like that online. The profit way outweighs the cost in my case.

    Good luck though, honestly. I’m sorry you’re having such a crap time with this website.

  14. Thanks for the comment, Montana Rose, I’m glad you’re having a good time/success with the site!
    As for me, I deleted my account a couple of weeks ago, I believe. The only leads I was getting were absolutely ridiculous. :)

  15. This thread emerges consistently throughout the web… I only found it because I had traffic coming from this link and I was curious.

    In short, Thumbtack is not perfect. There are several issues, on both client and professional side.

    THAT SAID, For quality professionals, that have Quality websites, Make Quality work, and Have a Quality profile.. There is currently NO BETTER ALTERNATIVE OUT THERE.
    Ive been a professional on thumbtack for 3 months. I get on average 15 work requests today. Of the requests I submit quotes on, I land the job approximately 40% of the time.

    In the course of a month, thumbtack went from representing 10% of my business to 60%.

    SO PLEASE, WILL A PROFESSIONAL WITH SERIOUS COMPLAINTS POST A LINK TO THEIR PROFILE AND WEBSITE??

    Let’s establish the definitive cause behind the lack of business, and identify if Thumbtack or Poor Branding is to blame. The only thing that is absolutely ridiculous is people jumping on the hate band-wagon without clear and objective analytics.

  16. So none of the people here are professionals with serious complaints? Really?

    Professional or not, I think it’s a serious complaint that the person sending the bid does not get information for the person requesting the bid. Anyone can submit anything they want to, we know, we’ve tried it. That’s a pretty big chink in the armor right there. There are other sites that DO, therefore, there ARE better alternatives out there than Thumbtack.

    Also without reading back, I don’t think anyone here said they had a lack of business overall, I don’t think anyone is relying on Thumbtack for all their business. I’m doing just fine, thanks, without Thumbtack.

    Just because people disagree with you doesn’t mean that they are jumping on any bandwagons or aren’t professionals or aren’t serious or aren’t without information, etc. etc. etc. So good for you, glad it’s working out for you. I, however, refuse to work for the ridiculous rates that Thumbtack people expect all while driving 100 miles to a job. So my best Thumbtack decision ever was to delete my account. Go, me.

  17. I dont mean to imply the professionals in this specific thread have insignificant or baseless complaints. Some one brought up “Facebook complaints”; I had mentioned the re-emerging of this discussion consistently through out the web..(Goes for noting, I hadn’t realized the reason this thread seemed familiar was because I had commented on it months earlier and forgot).
    And granted, by no other reason than it’s popularity, there are obvious problems with the thumbtack model.

    I don’t dispute that, I can think of several things Id like to see changed off the top of my head: lack of work request info, token pricing, etc…
    The common complaint I suppose I was responding to was regarding claims of fake work requests, that Thumbtack is a scam, and as a rebuttal to professional complaints of submitting dozens of quotes and never being hired….
    I think if anyone finds themselves in that position, they should look inward before venting outward for a culprit. So when I see conspiracies developing on the web, not so much here, but say in facebook complaints, of thumbtack being an elaborate scam, I’m compelled to ask to see their particular circumstances.

    All in all, I agree with whomever said it depends on the industry. I dont know what your industry is specifically, but I have the choice to limit my requests to not travel at all, or in some cases, a short distance. Their are still an abundance of requests even with the strictest of filters…for me… Is this unique? I dont know, I honestly don’t know what other peoples request inbox looks like, Id be interested to see.

    But I can only imagine that it differs based on the quality of one’s digital presence.
    A yelp campaign is MINIMUM $350 a month last time I checked. What would you recommend as a superior alternative?

  18. I agree with the statement I just read I think they generate fake leads to make money from you. I have never gotten a job from this site but about 50 to 60 leads a day come on now.