What got your consumer blood boiling this year? Chances are you were pretty frustrated by one or more travel sites because that category earned top honors for consumer gripes this year, according to complaints logged on SiteJabber.com. But a wide range of problems rounded out the top 10 categories of businesses that generated the most ire.
More than 40,000 complaints filled the list, which SiteJabber provided exclusively to CBS MoneyWatch, highlighting issues that proved most problematic. As consumers move toward ride-sharing and renting space in other people's homes, complaints related to the sharing economy doubled this year, SiteJabber co-founder Jeremy Gin said.
An even sharper rise in travel complaints, he said, was particularly surprising and appears to be due to an increase in niche travel sites with "aggressive business models." Some newer issues that saw big jumps, Gin said, but didn't quite make the cut include drones, hoverboards and online legal services.
"By keeping on top of the most common complaints, consumers can prevent these things from happening to them," he said.
Here are the top 10 types of businesses most complained about this year on SiteJabber and some advice from the site about how avoid such woes:
Travel sites: Consumers logged nearly 12,000 complaints about "lost" reservations and being sold phony plane tickets. Other complaints include hidden fees and nonexistent customer service.
SiteJabber's tip: Use reputable sites and confirm your reservations directly with airlines and hotels.
Online dating: A lot of consumers were looking for love in all the wrong places, generating more than 6,000 complaints about being scammed on sites with phony profiles. Some set up monthly billing and delivered nothing in return.
SiteJabber's tip: Read site reviews, be skeptical of too-good-to-be-true profiles and check credit card statements regularly when signing up for "free" sites that require a card number.
Foreign websites: Lousy merchandise and counterfeits, combined with little to no customer service proved to be a problematic combination.
SiteJabber's tip: When ordering from overseas, don't expect helpful customer service. Use a major credit card and pay attention to negative reviews.
Online wedding vendors: Complaints included wedding dresses that fell apart and "diamond" engagement rings that were phony.
SiteJabber's tip: Do your research, order long in advance and consider buying locally for anything deemed critical to the wedding.
Job hunting sites: Hidden fees, being charged for services available for free and other scams preying on those out of work were common complaints.
SiteJabber's tip: Watch out for job-search or work-at-home sites that require upfront payments. Look first at sites run by the government and nonprofits.
Phony event tickets: About 3,000 users complained about paying for tickets to concerts and sporting events and ending up with tickets rejected at the gate for being fake.
SiteJabber's tip: Only purchase tickets through an established ticket seller.
Pet products: Shady sites selling pet medication and pet supplies, which can be quite expensive, proved to be a big problem for consumers looking for deals. Common complaints include getting the wrong or expired medicine and orders that don't ship.
SiteJabber's tip: Use established pet pharmacies and pay close attention to reviews.
Hidden subscription charges: You appear to have won a subscription or get pressed to sign up for a membership to get a supposed deal. What follows are recurring monthly charges.
SiteJabber's tip: If you're offered what appears to be a great deal from an unfamiliar site, check out the site before providing credit card information. And be sure to read the terms about when you'll be charged and how you can cancel.
Sharing-economy issues: From Uber to Airbnb, consumers experienced problems dealing with things connected to the sharing economy, often frustrating customer service issues.
SiteJabber's tip: Understand that customer service isn't likely to be the same level as at a traditional service, like a hotel, and that fake reviews aren't unusual. Watch out for hidden charges.
Senior scams: Complaints range from housing referrals to shady caregivers to medical equipment suppliers. Seniors are a popular target.
SiteJabber's tip: Seniors should work with a family member before signing up for any services, and credit card statements should be checked regularly.
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