ThumbtackThumbtack is a website designed to help workplaces and individuals hire experienced folks easily. Thing is, Thumbtack is not good at its job. Thumbtack was a great idea and it sucks.

So why does Thumbtack suck?

Thumbtack posts jobs such as “plumber needed to replace sink.” OK, that isn’t so difficult, right? And yet … how can a plumber make an estimate on replacing a sink without actually speaking to the customer? Thumbtack has a device for this. You ask the customer questions, he or she answers, and so forth. These days I believe you have 48 hours to complete a dialogue with someone looking for a service before the “order” is no longer available to you. That’s fine. It’s also great that Thumbtack was trying to connect writers and other communications professionals to potential customers. I threw $35 at it to see how it worked or, in this case, didn’t work. Problem is … the customer doesn’t answer the questions. OR, which is worse, Thumbtack decides not to pass your questions to the prospective customer. Once I even tried to help a prospective customer who had posted for a “copywriter” but really wanted a “copyright person.” I was quickly slapped on the hand by Thumbtack “officials” (whose age, I am guessing was about 19). Here’s what I wrote to the prospective client:

Hey, Dave (name has been changed). Thanks for posting. From what I can tell what you need is someone to help you copyright your music. Bravo! The person I usually recommend may actually not be available right now. So I recommend googling intellectual property attorneys (thumbtack won’t let me include an actual link).

Hope this helps you, Dave, and best with your music!

The strange, quite ungrammatical response I got back from Thumbtack was this:

Hi Susan, A public question that you asked did not meet our guidelines because it was not a question, asked the client if they are willing to do things a certain way, and Did not address the client’s specific needs.. Your question was not sent to the client.

And, after I followed up, the response was this:

Hi Susan,

Thanks for getting in touch with Thumbtack.

Please allow me a moment to explain a bit more about our guidelines on public questions.

We acknowledge the fact that sometimes the information on the request is incomplete. We launched the Public Questions feature to allow you to ask the client more information to determine if you’re qualified for the job and help you come up with an accurate quote.

In addition to meeting these goals, we have a set of guidelines to help us maintain a fair marketplace for our community of Service Pros and a positive experience for our clients. You can view them here: Additionally, you can find more information about Thumbtack and how it works on our website:

I assure you we are doing our best to continue to improve Thumbtack to fit both your needs and the client’s needs. Please let us know if you have questions or suggestions on how we can improve. What you have to say is very important to us as you are a valued service professional on our site.

Thanks for reaching out to us, Jaqueline

Next (April 8, 2014) I wrote to Thumbtack about a student who was looking for someone to write a paper for her.

Elise C. wants someone to write her graduate paper. Not edit it. Write it, from what I can tell. This seems unethical … both on her part and on the part of anyone who bids on it.

Funny, your team “took me down” once for trying to help someone who was actually looking for copyrighting services, not copywriting services.

So I’m not sure who is at the helm here. But I thought you should consider this.

The response was:

Melissa Owens (Thumbtack Support)

Apr 09 22:23

Hi Susan,

Thank you for getting in touch with us! My name is Melissa, one of the Customer Support Advocates here at Thumbtack and I truly appreciate you telling us that you had receive a lead request that was not appropriate on what you do. My apologies for what happened and please allow me to somehow straighten things out.

First of all, I admire that you stood up based on what you believed in. I personally agree that the request that you receive was not right since I believe that for a person to learn, he/she needs to take personal responsibility to improve his/her self despite the challenges and difficulties of the things he/she need to do or accomplish.

With what happened, I sincerely apologize. Unfortunately, sometimes we ask questions on the request form that our system does not use to filter leads and for the time being, we cannot filter your leads more granularly than the service subcategories that are associated with your category.

You can find the service subcategories by going to your Dashboard and clicking on the “Adjust leads” button. From there you will be able to see what subcategories that are associated with your service.

The option that I can offer you now is to encourage you to you to self-filter. You should only bid on leads that you think will turn into viable clients and leads that will meet your expectations and principles, and this may mean not bidding on a few leads.

I know how had it is to write a graduate paper but I personally believe that writing you own paper will test how much you’ve grown as a person and as a student. Again, I am proud that we have someone like you, Susan because this shows that you’re not only focused on doing the right thing but you’re concerned on your fellow Service professionals as well. I salute you for that!

Thanks so much for using Thumbtack, Susan and please let us know if you have any other questions or concerns.

By the way, you might receive a system generated e-mail to rate the services that I have given you. Please remember that you will be rating me and the assistance I provided to you. The choices will be: Bad (Not satisfied), and Good (I’m satisfied).

Please feel free to choose what your heart says. Any feedback or comments for my service/assistance will be greatly appreciated.

I wish you great success and I hope you’ll have a lovely day!

Take care, Susan! 🙂

Best regards, ~Melissa Owens Thumbtack Customer Advocate

Nearly all of my other issues over the course of four months were requests like these:

  • Looking for a video. We know exactly what we want. How much? (lots of these)
  • Want a writer for a book (no mention of subject matter or pages)

Most of the time my specific questions (and we weren’t allowed very many) went unanswered. So, this is a service that I don’t think will ever rank very high until good people are hired to handle the traffic and better estimate forms and strategies are created. Wouldn’t be SUCH a problem if Thumbtack were free, but it’s not. Customers post for free, and the rest of us are expected to pay using points (usually three) when responding to an ad. Don’t.

Thumbtack was a great idea and it sucks

by susan time to read: 5 min

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