Should You Post on a Gripe Site?

Category: Shopping

When consumers have a complaint about a company, they often resort to the power of public opinion for support. But the Internet makes it possible to do much more than simply tell all your friends about a ripoff or poor customer service you've experienced. Online 'gripe sites' and complaint forums abound, but some may do as much harm as good. They may even be designed to malign. Here's my analysis and advice...

Should You Post on a Gripe Site?

Do-it-yourself types use social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to air their grievances, hoping that their tales will go viral and bring pressure on companies to do “the right thing,” meaning whatever the aggrieved parties want them to do. Any many web-savvy companies do monitor these sites for any mention of their names.

Many newspapers and TV stations have “consumer advocate” reporters who specialize in making inquiries on behalf of people who feel they’ve been ripped off or treated shabbily. But news outlets receive more requests for help than they have story slots to fill. Some people don’t have enough of the right kind of social media contacts. Still others have grievances that nobody else seems to care about. That’s where online consumer grievance services – a.k.a. “gripe sites” – find a profitable market. was co-founded by Dave Caroll, creator of the famously effective United Airlines Breaks Guitars YouTube video. They help consumers describe their grievances and desired resolutions effectively, then get their presentations to the real decision-makers in a company. If that doesn’t work, Gripevine will help you spread the word to your social media contacts. Consumers can rate their customer service experiences and give each other tips in Gripevine forums.

Gripe Sites'

Gripevine makes money from ads on its site and annual membership dues for businesses. It offers businesses “a civilized environment where your company can proactively engage with your customers in public without fear of being sullied by brand-damaging profanities or obscenities.” Besides requiring polite language, Gripevine lets a company challenge the authenticity of a complainant to weed out malicious fakers and competitors. Sadly, the website seems to have very little happening in recent months, except for ads posted by companies. You might be better off writing a song about your complaint and posting it on YouTube. doesn’t seem to care if complaints are polite or genuine. It makes money by selling reputation protection to businesses. Scambook has an "NR" rating and a 1-star review with the Better Business Bureau, and according to quite a few online reviews, the business model goes something like this:

SCAMBOOK: “Hello, we have received a complaint about your company.”
COMPANY: “Put me in touch with the customer and I’ll try to resolve it.”
SCAMBOOK: “Give us money and we will.”
COMPANY: “No, thanks.”
SCAMBOOK: “Then we’ll just leave the complaint on our site and tell the world it’s there.”

Yelp, which hosts both positive and negative reviews of companies, is widely accused of a similar extortion scheme. Hundreds of business owners say that good reviews disappear, bad reviews rise to the top of their Yelp pages, and Yelp salesmen call to say they can make all those problems go away for the price of a monthly ad. Those who refuse to pay say the problems quickly get worse.

It's sometimes hard to tell if these gripe sites exist for a noble purpose (to help consumers) or if they're actually in the business of monetizing other peoples' pain. bills itself as "a leading consumer advocacy and review platform by the people and for the people." The site helps consumers with an axe to grind by amplifying their complaints via Youtube and other social media channels. But gripes can fly in both directions. Often, the companies being targetted by allegedly aggrieved consumers believe that they have been falsely accused. Unfortunately, all gripe sites are prone to complaints posted by competitors pretending to be a customer. So PissedConsumer does have a process called the Legitimacy Verification Program, in which a neutral third-party will review a consumer complaint (on behalf of a business) and remove a posting if it is deemed to be without merit. But it costs $1200 to initiate the process -- ouch. TrustPilot rates PissedConsumer as "Poor" with an 79% negative rating.

The Ripoff Report is another site which seems to have as many complaints about it, as there are complaints logged there. The site has a checkered history of lawsuits and countersuits, and some vocal critics who liken it to extortion. Ripoff Report allows anyone to post any type of complaint, and does not investigate, confirm, or corroborate the accuracy of any claims. They do allow a business to post a reponse or rebuttal, but will not remove complaints. To have false complaints removed, a VIP Arbitration option is available, with costs starting at $2000. Somehow this reminds me of the time when my Dad took us to a baseball game, and we found all four tires flat upon returning to our car, which was parked next to ... a tire repair shop.

Don't Feed the Monster

All too often, consumers turn to these anonymous and dubious complaint outlets instead of going directly to the merchant they feel has somehow wronged them. Most merchants want to do the right thing, because it's good business to do so. Repeat customers are the life-blood of thriving companies, and businesses who are serious about satisfied customers will listen and do their best to resolve complaints fairly.

For consumers who feel powerless in conflicts with companies, gripe sites offer hope of power. To companies, gripe sites offer the threat of reputation damage. The ancient Romans said that 90% of the things we fear never happen; the same can be said of things for which we hope.

My advice might sound old-school, but here goes. If you have a problem, pick up the phone and talk to a real person. Be polite and pleasant while describing your issue. It's a proven fact that in negotiations, you'll get more by being pleasant and non-threatening. If you're emailing, calmly provide all the relevant facts, documents and photos.

Some companies have online chat facilities where you can explain your problem and get a resolution. I recently had a problem with a delivery from Amazon, and this channel proved useful. My shop light came without the chains to hang it, so I logged into my Amazon account and contacted a rep via chat. The rep suggested that I return the product for a refund, and re-order it. "That's a hassle," I said, and asked how the rep could assure me that the replacement wouldn't have the same problem. After a bit of back and forth, I was offered a $5 credit, which I accepted. I'm sure I can find a bit of chain and 2 hooks at the hardware store for less.

If the merchant is not responsive, or unfairly refusing to help with a legitimate complaint, resorting to third-party online gripe forums might make you feel better, but it probably won't do much to help you resolve the problem. Contacting your bank, or opening a Paypal dispute is more likely to get results. In cases where you suspect fraud or criminal wrongdoing, contact the police or a local office of consumer protection.

Have you posted a complaint online? Tell me about your experience by posting your comment below...

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Most recent comments on "Should You Post on a Gripe Site?"

Posted by:

02 Sep 2022

never used gripevine or anything like it, and don't plan using one. i do comment on product site, and better business bureau. but mostly boycott and word of mouth works best.

Posted by:

02 Sep 2022

"... pick up the phone and talk to a real person." Even with the tricks of pressing "0", waiting silently, etc., nowadays it's often impossible to ever get to a real person. Email addresses that are not monitored also don't help. "Canned responses" that do not apply to the situation and questions for information that was included in the original email are infuriating. Sometimes the company deserves to be publicly called out.

Posted by:

02 Sep 2022

I've found that often a "chat" is completely useless unless it is a chat with an actual person. Many companies don't want to use time with you talking with a real person so they have a virtual person which is just a waste of our time. When/if I only have that as an option after they have directed me to a FAQ which I'm not going to waste my time reading a bunch of useless info that has nothing to do with my questions. I just keep saying agent agent agent. They then say "In a few words please tell us what you are calling about" agent is less than a few words so it usually works. Sometimes I select the sales option in a menu which guarantees you will speak to a real person then go from there. I once had a dispute with a cable company which I won't name but we went back and forth and when they said they could take it to court, my response was "Bring it on, I'm ready anytime any day, lets go" they finally changed their tune and after contacting the attorney generals office in my state they contacted me within 24 hours and decided in my favor. I have many times used the BBB or banking and insurance commission in my state as well. The critical thing in doing any of this is KEEPING RECORDS AND DOCUMENT EVERYTHING!. Messages, email, text or phone calls. Keep notes on EVERYTHING. Many times if they realize that you keep notes they back down because they realize they cannot bully you easily. The biggest negative about most of the sites you mention and especially fb is that now they have all of your information. I have no problem taking on city hall as they say. My late wife said I should have been a lawyer LOL

Posted by:

Bob Wasson
02 Sep 2022

I went to the BBB in the city where the company I was having issues with is based and within a week was contacted - long story short...
The company sent repairmen who repaired our solar panels and things are as they should be.
Too bad it came to that, but, it worked!

Posted by:

Allan Brunner
02 Sep 2022

In the UK, we have a good service

I had occasion to use it once. My complaint was immediately escalated to the CEO's office. Although it took a few months to sort out (it was a website issue - an update hadn't been properly thought out & tested), I received a number of credits to my account as an apology whilst the issue was being dealth with.

They don't charge either party. Have a look at the website.

PS. Sorry to hear of your ongoing internet problems; hope they get sorted out satisfactorily.

Posted by:

03 Sep 2022

I had a legitimate complaint about an exterminating company with which I had 2 separate contracts. One was an annual contract for monthly pest control spraying that I had been renewing for over a decade. In south Florida, that's a necessary evil. I also had a one-year contract for the removal of rats in my attic. They were unable to fix the rat problem and left me in the lurch with over a month remaining on my contract. I hired someone else who located the problem and fixed it in one day. Because I was displeased with the company's handling of the rat problem, I did not renew my usual monthly spraying contract, but asked them to come back to finish the dead rat cleanup and disinfection of the attic to which I was entitled. They insisted that I had canceled that contract along with the annual spray contract, which was not true. I had my written notice of the cancelation of only one contract.
I contacted the Better Business Bureau hoping they would mediate. They notified me that they had tried to reach the exterminating company in every way possible, phone, email and US Mail, but got no response, so were obliged therefore to consider the case closed. The bottom line is the BBB is toothless, if the offending party doesn't choose to participate.

Posted by:

03 Sep 2022

I can't over-emphasize the importance of documenting very contact you have when dealing with a complaint, including how difficult it may be to get to a real human being. Whenever I'm dealing with a complaint I always have date, time, who I spoke to, what the substance of the complaint is, how I expect it to be resolved. I'm not afraid to go up the food chain if I'm not satisfied with the first contact.

Posted by:

03 Sep 2022

Thank you Bob for another informative article! I agree with Sylvia that the BBB is toothless. I had some front end work done by a car mechanic, and, several months later, I encountered additional difficulties. Upon a recommendation from a friend, I went to a different mechanic, and they had to do complete rework, because of the shoddy work done. When I communicated with the BBB, they said "the business is under no obligation to reply." Naturally, they "closed" the case. I did post negative comments on Yelp about that shoddy work involving that car mechanic. With that, I also want to be fair; therefore, I also posted 5 positive reviews on Yelp about 5 local restaurants that I eat at regularly for their good quality of food and great customer service.

Posted by:

04 Sep 2022

Reply to Sylvia and Wolf. You are right to a degree. The BBB has no authority to enforce anything. They are only a go between. Unfortunately many people feel they are advocates which they are not but if you file a complaint it is on record. And if they close the case often saying that the company made a ""Good faith effort to resolve"" it makes it sound like you are the unreasonable one but if that happens just keep messaging them about the ""UNRESOLVED ONGOING COMPLAINT"" because every message you send gets sent to the company you have the complaint against. I did that with Sears and finally I got a call and the man told me he had a stack of papers on his desk and wanted to know what I wanted to end it. I also notified the BBB local to Sears headquarters that by their own rules Sears could not be a member in good standing and if they closed it I would file a complaint with the Federal BBB for them breaking their own rules. I knew this because I was an A+ accredited business myself. That got a change of tune. But if the company doesn't respond at all there is always the Attorney Generals office and in most states their are some form of consumer protection division that does have teeth.

Posted by:

Chris Wrang
04 Sep 2022

Of course one should post gripes with corps. online. I've had many very negative interactions with corps. – small and big ones - over the years, times when a business deceived, lied or stole my money. No exaggeration. No business should be free from criticism. Courts don’t always help, justice requires time and a lot of money. The BBB is a joke. So use consumer sites to get the word out. How else can the little guy get satisfaction? Want to call it revenge, so be it.

Posted by:

08 Sep 2022

I like the advice about contacting the company, but sometimes you have to try a few times, and a few different contact methods, to be lucky to talk to the "right person."
I've had VERY good luck with TWITTER--I send a direct message about and issue I'm having, and often times, I get a satisfactory resolution. I often recommend to family, "Did you try the Twitter team?" I could be wrong, but my thinking is that companies assume that Twitter users will be more likely to complain publicly, so they have a strong presence there to try and catch issues before they blow up.

Also, we recently hit a wall with our BANK about an issue with our credit card, and a year later I decided to post about it on CFPB --CONSUMERFINANCE dot gov, and we got our money back! I made sure to check the box that said my complaint would be public, so maybe that had something to do with it.

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