There's no longer any need to ask co-workers to recommend a good mechanic. Or barber, doctor or painter, for that matter.
PalmettoBizBuzz.com, an online directory of businesses in South Carolina, is expanding into the Rock Hill area with its Yellow Pages-style business listings. But unlike the traditional directory, PalmettoBizBuzz.com allows consumers to leave feedback about the service they received and rate businesses on a scale of one to five stars.
"Anyone who's grown up online or learned to use the Internet, this is a natural extension. You're already online looking up local businesses, and now you can read about the experiences of other consumers," said Ward Lassoe, founder of PalmettoBizBuzz.com. He said the site is similar to Amazon.com or TripAdvisor.com, Web sites where readers or travelers can post feedback about their purchases and encounters.
Lassoe said he created the Web site while restoring an old house after moving to Charleston. He found himself constantly asking friends, co-workers and neighbors to recommend plumbers, electricians and other service companies.
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"I said, 'There has got to be a better way to do this,'" he said. So he pitched the idea for PalmettoBizBuzz to his bosses at Evening Post Digital, the multimedia branch of The Post & Courier newspaper in Charleston.
After launching the site this fall in the Lowcountry, better-than-expected results have pushed Lassoe to expand the site across the state ahead of schedule, he said. He already has more than 200,000 businesses listed statewide from a national directory service and is asking businesses to check their listings to make sure they're accurate. Basic listings on the site are free, Lassoe said, and premium listings that allow businesses to create a "mini Web site" with pictures cost about $15 a month.
Businesses can be searched for by keyword, category or location.
PalmettoBizBuzz is monitored regularly to make sure comments are tasteful and legitimate, Lassoe said, noting each comment is reviewed before it is published online. While the potential exists for a business to receive negative reviews, Lassoe said most comments so far have been positive.
"We don't want it to be a business-bashing Web site," he said, adding some businesses may be able to use the reviews as a learning tool. "As a business owner, you may read a review and learn someone at your front counter isn't providing good service."
More than 10,000 reviews have been posted statewide. In York County, about 60 reviews have been posted since the site was expanded in November.
A user called "desiree22" recently reviewed an experience at a Rock Hill gym: "The energy and atmosphere here is really high and i like that when i work out," the review states.
Lassoe said he hopes the Web site will become as common as the local phone book or Google for consumers looking for a service.
"It's designed to bring businesses and consumers together," he said. "I think it could really change the way people do business in this state."