Savvy Shopper: Researching a Pool Cleaning Service Company

I was recently searching for a pool management company to take care of weekly pool cleanings on two rent houses in Austin and San Antonio. Naturally I assumed I would be hiring two different companies, because most pool businesses are local to the city. I mean I certainly can’t think of a brand name in the pool service industry. However I discovered Blue Science which services Dallas, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio, so I proceeded to do some customer footprinting and check their history. In doing so I reminded myself how it’s wise to manage review expectations depending on the site you are reading from. For example, Yelp reviewers are notoriously negative towards local service businesses. Yelpers are looking for enchanting restaurant experiences to detail to the world and they forget that a home services company can’t meet them in that ethereal space. A pool company for example, deserves a five star review if they show up, do the job, and clean up before they leave; because most can’t even do that. Anyway, here are some thoughts on Blue Science reviews from different sources.

Yahoo: Generally more positive sentiments, so don’t become too assured by a five star rating, but read for details to understand the customer service.

Blue Science Austin on Yahoo Local Reviews
Blue Science San Antonio on Yahoo Local Reviews

Google Places: Expect far less reviews than seen on Yahoo do to more strict filtering and the annoyance of needing to join Google Plus to contribute one. Beware of narrow, short one-star reviews as it is often a competitor of the company trying to drop damage where they know it will be most visible – Google Search and Google Maps.

Google Business Listing for Blue Science Austin
Google Business Listing for Blue Science San Antonio

Kudzu: Good mix of positive/negative reviewers, but low traffic so don’t read too much into a situation where a company has only one poor review or one great review.

Blue Science Austin on Kudzu
Blue Science San Antonio on Kudzu

Zillow: These listings came up in my research for Blue Science but I don’t see Zillow being a popular review source, especially for non-real estate companies. However it does help to show that they are a legit company because Zillow doesn’t allow just anyone to list on their directory.

Zillow: Blue Science Austin, TX
Zillow: Blue Science San Antonio, TX
Zillow: Blue Science Pool Service Dallas, TX

Judy’s Book: Similar to Kudzu but with more traffic, so expect more reviews to both extremes.

Judy’s Book: Blue Science Austin
Judy’s Book: Blue Science San Antonio

So after this bit of due diligence I felt comfortable giving Blue Science a shot and they gave me reasonable quotes for both the Austin and San Antonio rent houses. They are currently servicing the homes weekly!

Know this before signing up for Earth Class Mail

Today I canceled my Earth Class Mail account. When I signed up last year, my needs were simple.  I just needed a place to see online who I am getting mail from. Most often I didn’t even need to open/scan the mail (which saved me $1.50 a pop). I could easily discern what mail needed what response just from knowing who sent it. As the weeks rolled on I was updating my address in more and places. Then I suddenly stopped to consider the cost to wean myself off of the service or to simply convert to another virtual post office (should a better company arise or Earth Class Mail decides to hike their rates). So what forwarding options do they provide to ex-customers? I searched their site and was shocked to read:

“If we receive mail for you after you’ve closed your account, US postal regulations require us to continue accepting it until six months after your closure date. Within the first two months, we hold onto this mail in case you decide to reopen your account. Once two months have passed, we’ll recycle any existing and incoming mail. At the end of the mandated six months, we’ll begin to refuse the new mail and return it to sender. As with all Commercial Mail Receiving Agencies (CMRAs), you will be unable to fill out a Change of Address form with the USPS when ending your service with us. Because of these policies and limitations, it’s important to directly contact anyone who’s sending mail to your Earth Class Mail address before you close it.”

Basically you can’t forward mail period, not through them, not through USPS. There’s no system in place to notify senders of your new address. Good luck remembering all the places you updated it.

They do a great job of making it sound like they are merely obeying US postal regulations. But these regulations were not designed with virtual postal mailboxes in mind, these companies didn’t exist until recently. So Earth Class Mail could devise their own forwarding solution to give customers like me peace of mind about furthering my dependence on their service. Alas this company and the industry as a whole are not at that stage yet. Virtual mailboxes are just a cool toy, not a real utility.

So I got out while the damage is still minimal. Thankfully I did not use my virtual address on any printed materials!