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Jamaican attorney launches rating website for tradesmen

Published:Sunday | June 14, 2015 | 6:00 AMTameka Gordon
A screen grab of Firstrateserviceproviders.com, a rating site for tradesmen and women started by commercial lawyer Narda Graham.
Commercial lawyer Narda Graham.
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A Kingston attorney has created a directory and ratings website for skilled workers and service providers who may now advertise their profiles to prospective customers.

In turn, customers who use the services of the listed firms on firstrateserviceproviders.com can place short anecdotes on the experience, expertise and satisfaction with service delivery, which may assist others "to make wiser hires and avoid less desirable contractors".

Commercial lawyer Narda Graham developed the site after her family members suffered financial loss and other setbacks from dealing with shifty and incompetent tradesmen during the process of building a house.

"They had a roofer who disappeared with $600,000 after having taken their money to buy material, and they had to go and hire other persons to complete the work," Graham said. And a contractor passed away during construction, leaving myriad construction errors that the family had to spend extra funds to correct, she said.

"So I was thinking about the wisdom of crowds. If you can get everybody to pool their information, then you have a better chance of finding better ones - service providers - because a lot of these things you don't hear about until it's too late. It's after the person has burned you that you hear about what they did other people," Graham said.

The site is intended to be both a directory and a review site for service providers, contractors, and workmen such as mechanics, carpenters, manicurists, architects, videographers, cleaners, among others, and specifically targets individuals such as HEART Trust/NTA graduates and self-employed trades people over the larger registered companies, she said.

"We are thinking of persons who might not be in the phone book, who don't have companies, or who just recently graduated from a training institution like HEART Trust," she said.

Firstrateserviceproviders.com was launched in mid-May and currently has 25 members. The company is on a drive to increase visibility and listing.

The site is free to both customers and service providers. Graham plans to earn revenue from advertisements she hopes to solicit from companies.

"I would not accept advertisements from service providers of the type that we are trying to get rated on here, but what I'm trying to do is get advertisements from persons who have related services such as hardware stores and beauty-supply stores who would be supplying goods and services that would be complimentary to the services listed on the site," said Graham.

She said, while not foolproof, Firstrateserviceproviders.com hopes to offer a resource tool that allows individuals to escape terrible workmen, a common experience, in her view to which many Jamaicans can relate to.

"People should be able to go on and see the reviews that have been left on a particular service provider. Obviously, this is not a foolproof system, but we are hoping that with reviews, there will be some amount of quality control, in that, we won't keep anybody on the site who has an average review rating of less than three stars," she said.

Individuals who register on the site must also fill out the 'referee' field, allowing past clients or bosses to recommend them.

All the currently listed service providers were referred by persons Graham herself knows, she told Sunday Business, while noting that she also handles the verifications herself.

"But depending on how big it gets, it will be limited to calling the persons that they list as their referee. In terms of verifying persons' identity, we wouldn't do that," she added.

Graham declined comment on the size of the investment she is making into the rating site.

tameka.gordon@gleanerjm.com