Alan's Company and Product Reviews

One of many web pages by Alan Silverstein.
Last update: May 24, 2011

Contents:

This webpage contains mini-reviews, basically thumbs up/down, for various companies or products where I've had personal experience. I was motivated to create it after my wife used the Web to find and research a company with whom to do business, and then we had a very poor experience with them anyway. Maybe a web page like this one would have given us advance warning.

This webpage is a private, non-commercial, expression of my own opinions, and nothing more.

The newest reviews more or less appear first below.


Carolina Westers, ReMax, May 2011

Thumbs up: Carolina is an absolutely amazing Realtor who helped me sell my house in Fort Collins, CO. She has a lot of experience, and stayed busy despite the real estate downturn. She is astonishingly competent, unusually patient, and a superb "people person" too.

Carolina demonstrates remarkable attention to details. Her skills manifest in subtle ways, like attractive folded-over advertising brochures (not just plain old flat sheets of paper) presented in spring-top boxes so they aren't likely to be ruined in the rain, and long house-features lists available for interested buyers. She dove in and moved furniture to help me "stage" it for showings. She recommended house and carpet cleaners who did great work fast. She is prompt and complete in answering phone calls and emails. Overall I feel very lucky to have found her.


Esteem Carpet Cleaning, April 2011

Thumbs up: I needed quick service to prepare a house for sale, also hoping to improve 20-year-old carpets enough to avoid having to replace them. Esteem responded the next morning to my message with a call, visit, and estimate. The cost was somewhat higher than I expected, but I learned later that it was not out of line for people doing good work with quality equipment.

Esteem got the job done extremely well, on time, as scheduled, and for the price quoted. I was very pleased (and relieved). I decided in hindsight that hiring them was a great investment in helping my house sell quickly for the full asking price. They even removed some stubborn dents and old stains. They're located in Loveland, CO, with this website.


Pop-Ins Custom Cleaning, April 2011

Thumbs up: I needed quick service to prepare a house for sale. The Pop-Ins manager was available soon after I called, showed up on time and did a thorough inspection, offered me an acceptable estimate, and had a team over as promised, actually early, a few days later. I was disappointed at first that it would cost around $240 for the service, but after seeing the great work that three people did in about four hours, I was very pleased and relieved.


Peace River Campground and Canoe Outpost, December 2010

Thumbs up: Recently while visiting Florida, I spent time in and near Arcadia, roughly half an hour east of Sarasota. I camped overnight in the "wilderness" section of the Peace River Campground, and floated eight miles of the Peace River in a cockpit kayak rented from Canoe Outpost.

I was pleased by and impressed with both outfits. They were both busy, but gave personal service with lots of amenities.

Peace River Campground: I didn't want any hookups for tent camping, so I was glad to pay just $15 for a nice, private grassy/sandy campsite. I also got a good map, a hot shower, and for $5 more, a decent hot breakfast before hitting the river. The campground included lots of comforts, such as a small general store, a swimming pool, a dance hall, a huge trash dumpster, and even some humorously named features.

Canoe Outpost: An attractive, rustic setting, well-maintained and operated; laid-back but competent, with an elegant website. The kayak and paddle were perfect, along with the bus ride to the put-in at Brownville. I did wish to have a (wearable) vest-style lifejacket, but an orange horse-collar type (the only kind found on the bus when we got to the put-in) that I just parked next to me in the boat was entirely sufficient. They loaned me a shovel and mesh sifter for the day at no extra charge. The price was fair for my enjoyable day on the river.


Help Around the House, July 2009

Thumbs WAY up: Doug Brobst, proprietor of Help Around the House in Fort Collins, CO, repaired and painted the house next door a couple of years ago. We were impressed by the quality of his work, so we hired him later to do trim/siding repairs and repaint a couple of other houses we own. He subcontracted to Aaron Kluding, proprietor of Alpine Painting Inc.

We were extremely impressed and pleased by the high quality work done by both of these guys (and their occasional helpers). It was simply top-notch service, with great expertise, patience, and attention to detail. Aaron leak-sealed and painted our houses with painstaking perfection.

Neither of them advertises publically because they don't need to, they are kept busy through referrals. As a result of this, and some wet-weather delays, although we first called Doug in late March, the second house was not completed until early in July... So it goes. Plan ahead I guess. Also expect to pay a high (but fair) price for their top-quality work. We could have found run-of-the-mill painters for perhaps 70% as much, but some of them did quick, shoddy work on some other houses in the neighborhood.


Steve Rivoire, PT, February 2009

Thumbs up: Unfortunately, I broke a bone in my foot and needed surgery. Fortunately, five weeks later when I was ready to start walking on it (in a boot), and got a prescription for PT (physical therapy), I found Steve, whose office is nearby in the Miramont Family Medicine building in southeast Fort Collins, CO.

Steve has been an ideal PT. He's competent, patient, listens well, and also communicates needed information just right. His sessions have been full-length and attentive. He literally helped me to get back on my feet ASAP.

Steve also created a very pleasant patient environment in his "office".


Poudre Valley Foot & Ankle Clinic Fort Collins, CO, January 2009

Mixed! Dr. Anderson took good care of me years ago with increasingly serious ankle sprains. More recently, when I broke a bone in my foot, Dr. Thomas was my surgeon and adviser. I'm impressed with nearly everyone at this little medical practice, and especially amazed at the surgery center the two docs created for themselves. It's off to one side, and I never realized what was over there -- until I needed it.

Both doctors are competent, caring, and patient.

Minor annoyances (which I plan to tell them about) include:

Later: I'm not so fond of them any more. Their billing system is atrocious, and when I tried to contact them about issues, I was ignored. They outsourced the billing, the main office ignored my phone message, and the biller has ignored a couple of phone calls too.


Roll-A-Bout crutch replacement, January 2009

Thumbs up: Unfortunately after breaking a bone in my foot, I had reason to be on crutches for a while. Fortunately my podiatrist had bought (for around $600) and had available for rental (for $25/week) several Roll-A-Bout SW-500 carts. I was dubious at first, took one home to try for a week, and now I realize how lucky I was!

This device allowed me remarkable mobility and agility with low pain or risk. I could pick it up by the bar under the seat with one hand (while standing on one foot), and it balanced neatly to put into or take out of the back of my Subaru wagon.

The cart didn't help much with steps, in fact it was a little harder than crutches going up, although 1-2 steps were not bad. But on relatively flat smooth surfaces, it let me go fast and far!

The carts are well-built, solid, and easy to use. My only real (minor) complaint was that if the basket was a little more square, and a smidge bigger, it would accept a folder/binder, which didn't quite fit.

I didn't receive any directions. I had to learn for myself that if you hit a bump or a small step, lift up (using your good leg), don't push down and forward trying to force your way over it, that can lead to a face plant (grin).

Also, some interesting information is stuck underneath the cart, where you might not think to look for it.


Big Lots (chain of stores), December 2008

Thumbs up: This is a positive recommendation for a place where I shop relatively often, have done so for years, and have been mostly pleased. Big Lots (previously MacFrugals) is a product/odd-lot liquidator. They are kind of like a dollar store, but without a fixed price, and without many "store brand" items, although they do have a few. What they offer is a wide, odd, varied collection of you-name-it goods ranging from food to clothing.

Hunting and foraging at BL is an adventure because you never know what you'll find. One day it might be name-brand chocolate-covered coffee beans, other day fake-chocolate Santa Clauses. Buyer beware, read the ingredients labels on food (for example to avoid hydrogenated junk) and check expiration dates (although most items are surprisingly current). If you find a product you like, in most cases you'll want to return soon and buy out their supply while it's available.


Coby MP3 player, December 2008

Thumbs up: I bought a 1 Gb player for $10 at Big Lots. Supposedly cheap junk, but so far it works great and I'm impressed with it in several ways: Form factor, usability, documentation. The only gotcha was having to hold the button for 3 sec to turn it on as well as off.


Continental Airlines, October 2008

Thumbs down: My wife and I did a round trip with them. For odd reasons, we had separate tickets. The airline's rules said no baggage fees would be due because of when we bought tickets (Aug 2008), and none were applied on the outbound leg. But an unexpected $15.00 credit card charge showed up from the return leg, for me only.

I tried to contact Continental to inquire and straighten this out. Their answering system said to take it up with the credit card vendor. I got an email address from their voice message, but email to them was ignored for 3+ weeks, then they said, "dispute with the credit card company".

This turns out to be a pain in the a**. You must fill out paper forms and mail or fax them back, then wait a long time for resolution.

Continental Airlines customer service -- not.


ADM Fencing, Summer 2008

Thumbs up: We had this Denver (Aurora) company replace 180' of fence on a corner lot. They did a good job. Two years later, one fence post had warped and bent over badly. They agreed to replace it free of charge. (Although I had to nag/remind them a few times.)

Later a car slid into and wrecked part of the fence. The driver fessed up and made good repairs, but John at ADM reviewed the work and tweaked a few things, at no charge.


Real Property Management of Colorado (Denver), 2007 - Aug 2008

Thumbs down: We used this company for one year to help manage a rental house. We had a very poor experience with the tenants they found for us, and then with the company in dealing with the tenants.

First, beware, nothing sticks unless it's in writing. But our written instructions said, "no smokers, 1 small dog." RPM placed a family of smokers and two pit bulls.

Then they failed to collect a full one-month security deposit. No, that item was not in writing, but we were told verbally it would be normal practice. A few months into the tenancy, RPM's agent told us, "we're still trying to collect the balance."

RPM advertised, and was supposed to do, 90-day inspections, but apparently did not. When confronted with various issues after the tenants were evicted, RPM weaseled out saying nothing counts unless it's in writing, but even stuff in writing doesn't count because they can't ensure the tenants didn't lie.

RPM questioned our readiness to be landlords. When they were reminded of our long experience acting without a property management company, then they suggested that we shouldn't have hired one in the first place!


Debra Porter, attorney, Fairfield and Woods, Denver, spring 2008

Thumbs up: My wife and I have paid Ms. Porter for legal consulting service by the hour on an estate/probate case. We have been very pleased with her competence, communication skills and responsiveness, patience, and interest in our situation. In particular, it's been easy and productive to interact with her using email.

About the only negative is that she has not consistently predicted for us the total monthly hours/charges pending that we've racked up, but for some reason this seems to be very typical of many professionals who submit their billable hours to an accounting department.


Angies List, spring 2008

Thumbs down: After hearing Angie's List frequently mentioned on NPR as a sponsor, I decided to sign up for it. I was very put off by the "sleaze factor" where they gathered a lot of my personal information before informing me of an unacceptably high monthly cost to subscribe -- this is not a free or cheap service. I quit rather than proceed, but found myself receiving many followup emails from them. Beware.


TurboTax, spring 2008 and later

Mostly thumbs up: I used TurboTax Premier, rather than doing our taxes longhand or paying a CPA, for the first time in 2008. I wrong a lengthy review of my experience, and updates for future years too, which you can read here.