WARNING: Thumbtack is a scam.

Let me be right up front with this. Stay away from Thumbtack! Thumbtack is a lead generation company that is charging work-seekers exorbitant amounts of money for every contact. That alone would be fine and merely a case of caveat emptor, but they are completely misrepresenting their fees and what they are charging you for. Most of the leads you get are completely misleading and it seems to be a very common experience that the leads are not actually genuine or looking for what they advertise in actuality. Thumbtack also leads you to believe through misleading messages that you don’t pay for a lead until there is a contact. This is not the case. They charge you up front for the contact – $30 in most cases – and what you actually sign up for with the “instant quote” feature is for them to shotgun quotes to requests that you have not reviewed and have not authorized. I’m sorry, but why would anyone want that at $30 a pop.

Consider the amount of money this company is taking in from one referral at $30 for each of them! The average response has got to be 10 or more.

The way that Thumbtack verifies the “interactions” between requests is very dubious also. There is no accounting in their systems of the quotes you have submitted after you submit them so beware. It’s also plausible that the replies you are getting are merely bots and no way to verify otherwise.  And remember, once there is a reply in the instant quote case (the ones they submit on your behalf without your knowledge – and I assure you its every case) they charge you whether it’s positive or not. In most cases, it appears to be negative. Take this list for instance from Consumer Affairs. 92 complaints in one year.

After less than 24 hours on the system, I had been charged more than a hundred dollars without any knowledge. In that time I had received two responses – both of which made clear that the requestor was not genuine in their request and was looking for something completely different than I quoted on and was advertised. I complained to help desk for more than an hour for a refund based on that experience and was stonewalled with a “no refund policy” and that they will only give store credit – that is credit you for more quotes.

California law is pretty clear. “In California, retailers that won’t give a full refund or credit, … within seven days of purchase when goods are returned … must clearly display their policy …(https://oag.ca.gov/consumers/general/refunds). Thumbtacks terms nor their forms when you submit a quote state clearly that there is a “No Refund Policy.” There is no “Refund Policy” heading in their Terms and Policies.

So be warned, Thumbtack will steal your money.

Removing a Zombie Google Chrome Extension

After needlessly wasting a bunch of time to track down this issue I thought I would share this as it may help someone. Be aware that some Google extensions are now starting to import malware into your computer and behave in the same manner. I know of two very popular extensions Read Later and the Evernote Snipping Tool that install javascript from a company called snapfish and this thing injects all kinds of banners and popups of suggested purchases based on the content in the screen. Very annoying, very obtrusive, and very INTRUSIVE from a privacy perspective. This is how to get rid of a zombie Chrome Extension that just keeps coming back from the dead:
http://www.howtogeek.com/140464/how-to-manually-uninstall-a-globally-installed-chrome-extension/

Developer as Commodity

Did I ever pick the right career! I just came across an ad for Developer Auction and was pleasantly surprised and reasonably worried to find that people with my skills are being auctioned to the highest bidder. Mostly this is a good thing and will inevitably drive up the base price for the services, but it is a little scary to compete on such a global level, especially against people that make in a month what I make in an hour. Check this site out – If you’re a technologist, you might find it very interesting / useful.