User reviews are an essential part of our screening process. With your permission we share your insights, so the businesses can provide a better service.
Having trouble finding a service you need? We’ve gathered thousands of referrals, and we’re happy to share them with you.
Promoting the Art of Service
When we started neighbor2neighbor in 2005, we wanted to provide a valuable resource for people looking for reliable services in a fly-by-night world.
We’ve learned that exceptional businesses share two things in common: they’re passionate about their craft, and they truly care about their customers. From attorneys to woodworkers, we find inspiration in the integrity and creativity that go into running successful small businesses.
Mara Schoner & Mark Yardas, publishers
neighbor2neighbor is a network of small businesses, nonprofits and neighbors exploring best practices in the home, in commerce and in the environment. The businesses hold themselves accountable to the highest standards of their craft and customer service. The neighbors recognize the value of such work and support it by paying a fair price and sharing honest, constructive feedback. Together we make the Los Angeles area a more sustainable, equitable and neighborly place to live.
Mara: For starters, neighbor2neighbor is a small, locally based business, not a big publicly traded online enterprise. We are committed to providing Angelenos with a reliable directory of great services. We’ve personally researched each one of the handpicked services in our guide, checked their licensing, spoken with their customers, interviewed the business owners. You get a much more intimate picture of the company.
Mark: And we only list companies we believe in. You don’t need to weed through a ton of reviews trying to figure out which ones are authentic, and which ones were written by the plumber’s wife. 90 percent of the time we speak with the references directly on the phone for 10-30 minutes each. You get a good sense of who’s real and what their experience with the company was like.
Mara: And people have tried to fool us! Once I called the references for a landscape company, and all of them started getting cagey as I went through my list of questions. I went back to the owner and told him that his references weren’t working out. He got mad at me, and said that was impossible because he’d given me the numbers of his brother-in-law, his cousin and so on! It just seemed so odd that he would try something like that and then even admit it! But this is the kind of stuff you run into.
Mara: We recommend getting as many bids as you have time for, and including at least one neighbor2neighbor handpicked service in your bidding process. We’ve taken a lot of care in screening these companies, so you can’t lose by getting a quote from them.
Mark: But also, be as informed as possible about the specific service you need. Interview as many service providers as your time allows, especially for critical services such as your foundation or a living trust.
Mara: In your interview be sure to gauge how knowledgeable the person is about their field. And just as important, ask your gut: Do I trust this person? Is this someone I really want to do business with?
Mark: After you’ve collected your bids, sit down and compare them, apples to apples. Look carefully at what each company is offering you, and make sure everything they offered you is in writing. If your job requires a licensed professional, make sure their license is active by visiting the California State Licensing Board’s website.
Mara: And if you don’t choose one of our handpicked services, and you have a great experience with another company, we hope you’ll let us know about them!
Mark: We always check with former customers to make sure that a business’ pricing is fair and that the homeowners feel they got plenty of “bang for their buck.” People won’t endorse a business they feel overcharged them.
Mara: But we don’t recommend choosing a business just because they give you the lowest bid. I’ve spoken with many people over the years who took this route and then had to redo the work. Very costly!
Mark: Yes, and the other side is that paying fair prices for services allows local companies in turn to pay their employees a living wage. And that’s good for the economy all around!
With your permission, we pass along all feedback directly to the company owner. You may also agree to have your feedback printed with the company's review in our handbooks and online. We monitor all feedback to make sure our handpicked companies continue to provide a high level of service.
Mara: (laughs) It’s true! Anytime a complaint comes in—and thankfully, it’s not often—Mark freaks out.
Mark: I think 'Oh no, we picked a lemon!!!' Fortunately, Mara’s approach is more levelheaded.
Mara: Yes, well, first I’ll contact the reader to verify what happened. Then I contact the business owner to relay the complaint. 99 percent of the time it’s an honest mistake: a call was missed by an answering service, or some paperwork slipped through the cracks. A good business owner wants to hear this feedback, so they can improve their company’s service. They’ll contact the customer to take care of the mistake. And then I follow up to make sure the reader is satisfied with the results. In eleven years we have listed maybe five businesses in the directory that did not belong. Once we learned of our mistakes, these businesses were immediately removed from the website, as well as from subsequent editions of the handbook.
Mara: Each of the for-profit handpicked service companies pays a modest membership fee to be listed with neighbor2neighbor. This income allows us to provide the service to LA area residents at no cost and support local nonprofits that we believe in.
Mark: We know there are other business models out there, but we see no reason why our readers should have to pay to find a good business, let alone pay to write reviews about them.
Mara: And because we’re a small Mom and Pop ourselves with low overhead, we’re able to charge our handpicked service providers a fraction of what they pay the big national online services to get boosted to the top of their lists.
Mara: First, we believe it’s in our interest and, for that matter, everybody’s interest to follow a strict screening process and only promote great services. It’s in our interest because our success depends entirely on our reputation. If you were to try one of our handpicked services for the first time and you had a bad experience, you’d be done with us. You’d complain to your community, and our reputation would suffer. We owe it to our readers and to the great businesspeople in our community to keep the standards as high as possible.
Mark: That said, we recognize the potential for conflict of interest, since the businesses pay to join neighbor2neighbor. So we built in a system for handling legitimate, verifiable complaints. If a neighbor has a poor experience with one of our handpicked services, she can get them removed from the neighbor2neighbor community if the company does not take reasonable steps toward correcting the situation. We really want to make sure this works for everyone involved.
Mark: Not exactly. Our primary goal is to produce a guide to the very best local businesses. “Green-ness” does not automatically ensure quality service. We find, though, that the more conscientious companies gravitate towards environmentally and socially responsible business practices. And we support the ecology through our donations to local nonprofits, as well as by printing our handbooks using only FSC chain-of-custody paper and printers. It’s the highest standard available for printed materials. Learn more about the Forest Stewardship Council.
Mara: Since our first edition in 2005 we’ve donated free pages of advertising in our handbooks to locally based nonprofit organizations, like Heal the Bay, TreePeople, the Theodore Payne Foundation and Habitat for Humanity. The idea is to give them a platform to educate our readers about ways they might improve their impact on the local ecology—both environmentally and socially.
In case you missed it on the slideshow above, here is our 6-step screening process:
1. Referrals. We begin with referrals from readers, neighbors and industry professionals. We ask people to refer only those businesses they can refer without reservation.
2. Research. We scrutinize each company for proper licensing, pricing, professional affiliations, history of complaints, and reputation in the community.
3. References. We speak directly with at least six of each company’s previous clients. We ask about adherences to timeline and budget, quality of work, customer service, pricing and reliability.
4. Interview. We conduct in-depth interviews with business owners. Are they personable and knowledgeable? Do they have a passion for their work and a sense of responsibility towards their community? Would we feel comfortable with them in our own homes?
5. Evaluation. Reader response closes the loop. We communicate all feedback to the business owners. When complaints arise, we contact the company on the reader’s behalf.
6. Accountability. We drop any business that receives legitimate, verifiable complaints from our readers and fails to show good faith in honoring its commitments.