Top 10 Consumer Complaints of 2015

This year over 17 million consumers used Sitejabber to check the reputations of over 50,000 businesses. Since 2008, over 46 million consumers have used the service and over 750,000 people have joined our reviewer community. Starting last year, our data science team has begun to compile a list of the most common complaints of the year from our community.

In 2015, we saw strong growth in issues relating to the “sharing economy” with complaints rising over 100% from 2014. But surprisingly the strongest growth came from the travel sector, with complaints on travel websites increasing by 157% from the previous year, perhaps due in part to a proliferation of smaller niche travel sites with aggressive business models. Newly popular categories of complaints that nearly made our list but fell just short include drones, hoverboards and online legal services.

Without further ado, please find below Sitejabber’s list of the top complaints of 2015, along with our tips on how to prevent these problems from happening to you.

#10: Senior scams

Senior scams

1,435 complaints. It’s hard to imagine how people could target the elderly, but it sadly happens all the time. Complaints range from senior housing referrals that appear unbiased but are really fee-based, to unscrupulous caregivers and medical equipment suppliers.

Tip: All seniors should learn to be highly skeptical online, checking reviews and double checking all decisions with at least one other family member (which is good advice for everyone!). If you have a senior in your life, help them check their credit card and bank statements.

#9: Sharing economy snafus

Airbnb customer service is closed

1,441 complaints. The world is no doubt being changed by the likes of Uber, Airbnb, Lyft, Etsy and many others, but with great change and growth come great problems. With these new services, customer service seems often to fall short of expectations. On-site reviews (e.g., an apartment rental or a hand-made bracelet) can be inaccurate. And prices may not be what they seem.

Tip: Be aware that should something go wrong, many “shared” services may not be able to provide you with the support you would otherwise expect from a traditional hotel, taxi company or store. Read reviews with a grain of salt knowing that many “sharing” platforms have an incentive for you to transact. Also, look carefully at prices before buying—hidden charges may be lurking.    

#8: Hidden subscriptions

Hidden costs

2,025 complaints. One of the business models that seems to have “won” online is the secret subscription. It works like this: You buy something that seems like a great deal, but you are forced to join some sort of a “club” or “membership” in which you are then forced (or strongly nudged) to buy something every month forever and ever. This could be clothes, food, music or really anything and the fees are typically buried in the fine print.

Tip: Whenever you buy something online that seems to be a very good deal from an unknown site, have a look at the terms on the site and the bad reviews to see if there are any hidden charges. If you elect to buy, make sure you understand what and when you will be charged and how you can cancel. Also keep a close eye on your credit card statement for recurring charges.

#7: Pet problems

Sad dog

2,673 complaints. We love our pets. But our pets are expensive. This is where the internet comes in—there are lots of cheap places to buy pet supplies, pet medication and even pets themselves online. It turns out a lot of these places are not so good: merchandise doesn’t ship, medication is not as advertised and is sometimes even dangerous. And, very sadly, sometimes even puppies are sold that are not well.

Tip: if your pet is ill, use only trusted online pet pharmacies. Check reviews carefully. Also if your pet is ill beware shipping delays that could affect your pet’s health.  

#6: Bogus event tickets

Too many ticket vendors

2,968 complaints. Imagine buying tickets to the big game or a concert for all your friends and then showing up with everyone only to find someone else sitting in your seats. The story of unsuspecting consumers being tricked into buying counterfeit or otherwise bogus tickets has been told again and again on Sitejabber along with a host of other issues associated with online event ticket sales.

Tip: Use reputable ticket vendors and, before the day of the event, call the venue or ticket issuer in advance to confirm the validity of your tickets.

#5: Job seeking complications

Too many people not enough dream jobs

4,038 complaints. Economists keep telling us the job market is getting better, but it doesn’t feel that way for millions of out-of-work Americans. Not helping: Some online job sites are charging hidden recurring fees, forcing job-seekers to pay for services they could get for free and charging for a host of other “work-from-home” services that prey on people looking for work.

Tip: watch out for recurring fees on resume and job-help websites. Look for free, government or non-profit run services before paying for help. Be very wary of jobs or services that charge you upfront with a promise of future work or payment. And as always, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

#4: Wedding disasters

Wedding surprises are usually not good

5,254 complaints. The biggest day of many people’s lives is being ruined by bad online vendors. From wedding dresses that fall apart to diamond rings that turn out to be fakes, wedding scams leave a trail of tears.

Tip: While finding deals online is a great way to save money on a wedding, if you’re buying from an unfamiliar site or from overseas, do it *well* in advance so if anything goes wrong you can fix it. And for really critical items (e.g., a wedding dress) you might want to just buy local where you can really make sure it’s the one you want.

#3: Overseas customer non-service

Bad service

6,046 complaints. An explosion of cheap merchandise is available to Western consumers from around the world and especially from Asia. Many good deals are there to be had, but there is a preponderance of low-quality products, counterfeits and scams. The complaint most often lodged is the low-quality or non-existence of customer service. Expect no phone support, infrequent email communication, costly returns and poor English.

Tip: If you order from overseas, don’t expect much help if something goes wrong. Always use a major credit card and read all the bad reviews very carefully to isolate the most common issues.

#2: Online dating heartbreak

Real profile?

6,323 complaints. It turns out Mr. and Mrs. Rights are all over the internet, but only a fraction of them are real—the rest being fake online dating profiles puppeteered by dodgy dating sites and scammers. This along with surreptitious monthly billing and stolen personal details make finding the right person even more challenging.

Tip: Be skeptical of all strangers online but especially those with too-perfect looking pictures and profiles. Check your credit card statements frequently for charges from supposedly “free” dating sites.

#1: Travel travails

No rooms available

11,530 complaints. It doesn’t get much more frustrating than booking your dream vacation only to arrive at your destination to discover your hotel reservation has been “lost” or your plane tickets don’t really exist. Believe it or not, this happens regularly on some shady travel websites. You pay upfront online and then the hotel or airline has never heard of you. Also excessive hidden fees abound when it comes to reservation changes and cancellations.

Tip: Use reputable travel websites, read terms carefully for hidden fees and always confirm reservations directly with hotels and airlines.

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