Trustpilot and Affirm

I have been following the discussion on Affirm and the ethics of BNPL generally. While I have the resources to pay for what I need, I have used Klarna twice to either buy first and pay 30 days later in one sum, or pay in a few, zero interest installments. I didn’t seek out Klarna; the choice was presented to me at checkout. The first time I used it was mostly out of curiosity, just to see how it worked, when I bought shoes from a European company.

I just looked at Trustpilot to see reviews for Affirm (I don’t believe this has been brought up yet here). While the overall rating is high (4.3), there’s been a recent onslaught of rotten (1 and 2 star) reviews. These two (both 3 stars) stood out and speak to some of the discussion here:

I have used Affirm many many times and I have decided it’s time write a review because I have long track record and can be reasonably objective. I have always gotten my refunds, not had any technical issues and have a reasonably high credit limit based on what I can tell, but I find myself shifting to klarna for a couple of significant reasons. One, their return process is lacking. If I make a return there is no way to pause payments or reduce payments until the merchant processes. Not so unusual except klarna does allow this. Second and most important affirm charges the same high rate no matter how long or how many loans you have had. Therefore I only use them for the free - no interest 3 payment option. I always paid them off early because of the interest but have found the interest never lowers. They are convenient and again I’ve never had issues but like I mentioned they appear to have a one size fits all interest model and therefore will lose me as a customer.

And

I use Affirm with some regularity. I have decided to write a review because I have established a fairly long and stable relationship with Affirm and while the amount of my line of credit increases, the interest rate never does. it is high. That is the reason for the 3 stars. I have always gotten my refunds when I pay off early. I have never had any technical problems with Affirm and they are reliable in those aspects from my own experience; however, when taking out a considerable amount and the interest is at 26% basically, it is not a show of good faith and fair dealings. Affirm happily attests to my credit worthiness in their willingness to loan me whatever I want, but chooses to fleece me with a higher interest rate because of the inequality of the relationship. In other words, no matter how long or how stellar your track record with Affirm gets, you will never result in fair consideration. You will get a sub-prime deal because that is how they view their demographic pool of customers. It is regrettable.

Here’s a link: https://www.trustpilot.com/review/affirm.com

I have no position in Affirm.

37 Likes

Thank you so much for bringing this to our attention.
These reviews always have to be taken with a grain of salt, but it seems that they had a lot of very short positive 5 star reviews until May of this year.
However, since then it’s hard to find a positie review. I’ve stopped reading after few pages, but those reviews are horrible.

Interesting, looking at those rare positive 5-star reviews only.
September: 2
August: 1
July: 1
June: 2
May: 94 of which 35 on day 14! This looks like click farm work to me.

I have had a lot of doubt already, but this pulls the trigger for me. I’m leaving my position in AFRM.

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Thanks penzar. You inspired me to follow the link to Trustpilot. I’ve never been there before.

For Affirm, one of the most recent three was this:

Affirm: The Worst Service I’ve Ever Experienced

Affirm is sloppy, sketchy, uncommunicative, and egregiously slow.

Affirm made me feel terrible. Affirm made me feel anxious. Affirm made me feel frustrated. Affirm made me feel exhausted. Don’t use them ever. And if you’re a merchant, don’t trust them as a payment provider.

If you need to know why they’re so bad, here’s my experience:

I ordered something that was $1000+ and decided I’d try Affirm to split the payments up. I had the money but thought it might be nice to try to spread it out over awhile and get to spend my money on other things too; I was so naive.

For some reason, my order didn’t go through with the merchant, but it did with Affirm. And yet, even though the merchant had no record of my order after contacting them, they still gave me a loan for an item I didn’t even buy! Now this could be a non-issue if Affirm had been easy to get in touch with and simply cancelled the loan. In that case, I would have been very happy and would have probably tried using them again. But it was very far from that.

I kept trying to get in touch with them. I had to submit multiple tickets to even get through, and the ‘Help Center’ isn’t at all helpful. Not only could I not specify the details of the issues I was facing in their generic options, I couldn’t get a hold of a person at all. As soon as I made a ticket, it was responded to with an automated message and closed with no actual resolution, and sometimes had very little to do with the issues I was facing. So I wanted to talk to a person, but their phone number is next to impossible to find.

Affirm put $1000+ in credit in my name and yet I couldn’t even talk to a person, it was like they wanted to ghost me. After all of that, I finally got through to someone on the phone. They opened a case to dispute the loan. I had to call again a week later because nothing had changed with my loan online, and I learned that their dispute resolution time is 30 days! I had already given all of the evidence they asked for when I first got in touch, but 2 weeks after opening my dispute, they asked me for the same evidence again, even though they already had it. Don’t get me wrong, everyone I interacted with was polite, but that doesn’t matter when you can’t help me out with a problem you created in the first place.

I’ll say it again: Affirm made me feel terrible. Affirm made me feel anxious. Affirm made me feel frustrated. Affirm made me feel exhausted. Don’t use them ever. And if you’re a merchant, don’t trust them as a payment provider.

Okay, so I looked over at Upstart. What a difference! They have an incredible 97% of five star reviews. 97%!!! And 2% more were four star. That makes 99%. And this is out of 16,300 reviews. And the three, two and one star added up to the last 1%. You don’t get better than that!

On the other hand Affirm had had 10% in one star alone (the worst category).

What a difference!!! After reading the reviews and thinking about it, I think I can understand why the experiences are so different.

Upstart is dealing with people borrowing lots of thousands of dollars. One of the reviews I read was something like “This let me consolidate my loans, get a reduced rate of interest and pay off some of my credit card debt.”

It’s straight forward, the customers are just dealing with Upstart, not a merchant too!!! A relatively small proportion of Upstart’s customers will need customer support after the loan. Upstart can afford to hire and pay bright competent people for their customer support.

Affirm on the other hand is dealing with the general public, many times more people buying things from assorted merchants, some of which send the wrong items, clothes that don’t fit, things that are damaged, etc. Customers don’t want to have to keep paying Affirm for merchandise that they have returned. Affirm has many, many more customer problems to deal with. They can’t afford to hire the bright competent people that Upstart can because of the sheer volume of calls they will get dealing with small amounts of money.

Upstart and Affirm have completely different business models. (Which is good news for us Upstart investors!)

Best,

Saul

102 Likes

A relatively small proportion of Upstart’s customers will need customer support after the loan. Upstart can afford to hire and pay bright competent people for their customer support.

Saul,

Something that has continually perplexed me everyday I read through a new batch of Trustpilot reviews for Upstart, is that it is very clear Upstart is often swamped with huge volumes of calls and insufficient numbers of support staff. Customers are routinely on hold for 1 to 2 hours at a time, or more. Response times to customer support emails are taking several days to over a week! And yet, customer reviews are extremely positive and glowing in spite of this.

This implies two things:

  1. Like you said, Upstart can afford to pay smart and very competent support staff. Thus the quality of care provided, far outweighs the long hold times for a phone call. (But Upstart probably should still hire more customer support! Which they are trying to, upon looking at the careers page)

  2. Business is probably booming like crazy compared to Q2. I previously never encountered Trustpilot reviews talking about the long customer support wait times, until the Q3 and now Q4 time period.
    Here is a twitter example, dated 10/21/2021:
    I applied for a loan on Oct 13 and have yet to hear anything back. I’ve called customer service a few times and was on hold for over an hour & a half. Each time told that my application is in the review mode because of a lot of applications being submitted at once.”
    https://mobile.twitter.com/carrionaudrey/status/145121315739…

Other examples:

Ashley Slade was excellent! Definitely turned my opinion around. I was on hold for 24 hours waiting on several reps to reach back to me and Ashley got on the phone the next day and helped me in 10 minutes. A disaster adverted because of this. Thank you so much.
Reviewer gave 5 stars
https://trstp.lt/0r5Czo8PE

In addition to the attractive rate and term, I need to discuss my experience with the application process since it took way longer to review and approve my loan than the 1-3 calender days they state on their website. All in all it took approximately 10 calender days for my loan to be approved. The reason however, was due to having completed the phone verification process from a phone number that was not the same as the one I put in my application. This was a bone head move on my part. That said, it took 8 days to resolve this issue because hold times to speak with a live representative TAKE FOREVER. This would be the only negative for Upstart. The wait times can take up to 2 hours. They also never responded to my email during all that time. I probably sent 7 emails asking for an update on my application and I always received an automated response stating that someone would contact me shortly, which never happened. So if you ever run into problems during the application process, I suggest carving out some time to wait and speak with someone.
They still gave 5 stars!
https://trstp.lt/VysBwNB8u

Easy process. GREAT customer service. The only negative is long wait times on the phone but they do have a callback feature where they will call you back instead of being on hold.
Gave 5 stars
https://trstp.lt/TE0p1mjW6

Process was easy and quick. I had to call customer service and the wait was 30 minutes but they at least had the estimated wait time announced occasionally so that I knew how much longer I had to wait. Overall good experience.
5 stars
https://trstp.lt/Tahq3hhL1

By far one of the easiest routes for debt consolidation loans thus far! I’ve looked at a handful of options, but qualifying and then talking with their customer service team was very easy. The do charge a loan fee, but all in all their APR was the lowest and still came under other offers. Expect some long hold times for calling in, I guess that’s the trouble of the times with short staffing but worth it for my needs.
5 stars
https://trstp.lt/4Ibj7KArL

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Hi Jonwayne,

I think the reasons they are still giving Upstart five stars are, first, if they went to a bank the process might take 7 to 10 DAYS instead of a half hour or an hour on the phone, and second, they are very happy with the loan they got and its terms.

And remember that the person I quoted learned that Affirm’s dispute resolution time was 30 days.

With times like that to compare with, a half hour or hour on the phone is nothing. And Upstart is doubling they numbers of employees, but has to train them first. Hard to keep up with the growth of their business.

Saul

22 Likes

the bad- clearly customer support is a significant problem for Upstart. True of many other companies too but still not a good thing. And one that can not be fixed quickly. Maybe they need to use AI oh this . So that less humans need need be involved The good- probably they are having a rapid influx of new customers, which hopefully should show up as surprisingly good revenues in the next earnings report

But why are all those customers needing help? That indicates flaws in the present process which should be quick and painless for almost everybody . Hopefully Upstart will listen (many companies do not) and use this as a reminder of what needs to be fixed.

while on the subject- I frequently get user surveys. Almost all of them are so long that likely the only ones completed are by people with nothing else to do. And they often seem to be designed more to please the CEO than to find any real problems .
Part of digital transformation is to make companies more customer centric and looks like Upstart has a way to go on this.

7 Likes

I wanted a little more perspective on all these ‘bad’ percentages so I checked the TrustPilot ratings for a series of retail and credit card/companies.

It reinforces the relative strength of UPST and AFTERPAY and while AFRM definitely needs to improve, the data doesn’t condemn it at least compared to the really big dogs in town.

Here are the ‘BAD’ %ages (BAD is the worst rating on a 5 point scale)

UPST 1%, AfterPay 1%, TREE 4%, AFRM 10%, KLARNA 16%

GLBE 46%, AMEX 72%, SHOP 83%, MA 84%, V 84%, PYPL 86%

Frankly I think that certain types of business are more likely to generate negative comments than others but I don’t know how one could factor that in.

27 Likes

I work for a construction contractor in the Chicago/NWIN corridor. We are trained, more like hammered, into asking each and every prospect/client for a 5-star Google/BBB/Yelp review before I leave their home after presenting our proposal. In fact, I could set a sales record year after year, but I would get ZERO bonus unless I generate X-number of reviews (ironically, they count the bad with the good). We get plenty of bad reviews, but the overwhelming amount of 5-Star ones drown out the 1 and 2 star reviews.

I hate it. Then again, I don’t work for a publicly traded company either.

UPST is asking each prospect/client for the same, if I’ve read these posts correctly. It doesn’t sound like AFRM is doing the same. If left to the masses, the natural trend is for only the unhappy clients to give them a review, skewing the #'s.

I’ll give AFRM a pass (for now) on this issue. If the world could give a review for Facebook, what would their rating be? I know mine would be a zero lol, but would that impact the stock?

R4M (Long UPST and AFRM)

47 Likes

Trustpilot is unworthy of mention. Reviews are readily faked (bought). OTOH, companies can request reviews be removed.

On BBB, Trustpilot reviews average 1.3/5.

Plain and simple, this is a junk site. I would not waste time here.

More:
https://www.quora.com/Can-trustpilot-be-trusted

🆁🅶🅱
post tenebras lux
For not in my bow do I trust, nor can my sword save me.

34 Likes

One of the great things about this board is that it’s a “hive mind”. That means some of us “bees” might fly off and find pollen in places (sites) that others haven’t been. Potentially useful information might show up in unexpected places. To quote Ted Lasso, “Be curious, not judgmental”. A Google search about Affirm’s business practices led me to Trustpilot. I am glad I didn’t have a preexisting prejudice against it because I would have missed the two reviews I chose to share here. I thought they plainly corroborated some of the problems with Affirm so now I don’t have to waste time further considering it as an investment. Trustpilot might have issues. And, the folks who shared there probably didn’t know where else to voice their concerns in order to help (or warn) others. That doesn’t mean their concerns are illegitimate. If there are better review sites out there, please share!

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Yea I have to agree that these rating need to be taken with a big grain of salt. Whenever I see a perfect score, a chiropractor, a restaurant, whatever, it’s often a sign of stuffing the ballot box so to speak. I’ve seen small businesses do this before on Yelp, putting signs up in their business asking clients to post 5 star reviews.
For comparison, take a look at some of the other much loved companies on this board. ZoomInfo for example, although a much smaller sample size, gets horrific reviews.

If we are going to base ownership of shares of a company based on Tristpilots reviews, then we need to be consistent across the board on this. If you sell your shares of AFRM based on these customer reviews, then you better also sell your shares of ZI as well.

No position for now in AFRM.

TMB

23 Likes

I examined enough of the negative Affirm reviews on Trustpilot to get a feel for what they were about.

Far above and beyond anything, they are from people who were denied a loan. These were 43% of the complaints. Ok, we can discount those imo - one was even from a person who had had loans from Affirm before but thought that a recent delinquency with another company shouldn’t affect their decision to get another loan with Affirm!

Next largest by far was issues with returns. These were about 30% of the complaints. This is a known problem with the BNPL space - you return the item but the loan has to removed. That’s because the return and the loan are separate, unlike when you buy directly from the company and charge it, where the company itself removes the loan. I imagine they have purchased returnly to improve this…? This does seem like an area that needs to be improved.

Then, there are issues with hold times and customer service. This is a pretty small percentage of the total (if you add customer support about returns the numbers go up, but if you tease them out, then this is pretty small).

Beyond that there are a tiny portion of other items, a couple of people angry about the interest rates but this was not a large number (BNPL does not hook back into the credit bureaus, they should, and I imagine this will get changed over time. ). One person claiming to have a huge FICO but offered a high interest rate. There is something else there because when I checked my rate with Affirm, it was quite low compared to a credit card rate.

My conclusion: Disgruntled users who did not get a loan and growing pains especially in the area of returns, which is a tricky area for BNPL. For now, they need to add more staff to customer support and train them better to handle the problems. I am sure they are trying, at least they have “work from anywhere” job postings. They also need chorus.ai to train them better haha just a plug for ZI there….

They need to come up with a better solution to the return problem, which I imagine they will do.

I’m holding for now.

30 Likes

Based on Consumer Research I have done in the past… there is a high correlation between dissatisfaction and readiness to respond to surveys/provide feedback. In recent years, I’d guess the relationship has grown stronger, given that we are bombarded with taking surveys. Some of these take 15-30 minutes! I can’t go to the dentist… eat at a restaurant… order from a website… without the obligatory survey. My solution: ignore them all!

That is, UNLESS I am mad about something. And yes, that is quite consistent with the academic studies. Consumers have a far greater propensity to respond to surveys when they didn’t get what they wanted, and boy, can they go into great detail about their displeasure! Make that double for a disgruntled (former) employee!!

What about satisfied customers? The incentive is not nearly as strong to respond. Why? because the business is doing what it is supposed to be doing. Does that mean satisfied customers do not participate? Of course not. When a business does an unexpectedly superior job, there is a small group of consumers who will take the time to “reward” the business with a public acknowledgement.

Bottom line: with few exceptions, the results from self-selected respondents to survey-type or other feedback data is really not very useful these days. For one, the survey questions are often subtly biased so as to practically guarantee a positive response. For another, it’s too easy to cherry pick responses for what you want to find, and I’d guess that’s what many businesses do with the data. Just be cautious when you read too much into all this “objective” feedback!

just a thought,
breezyday

20 Likes

Twilio has a 1 star rating. So 250 people bellyache. They have 12M developers using it and are widely considered the industry standard of CPaaS.

Twilio is rated “Bad”
https://www.trustpilot.com/review/www.twilio.com

Cloudflare is rated “Poor”
https://www.trustpilot.com/review/cloudflare.com

Nutanix - who still yak about their allegedly miraculous Net Promoter Score is a 4.5. If anyone thinks Nutanix is a better run company than Cloudflare I have some memorabilia I’d like to sell them.

We can read company docs, watch interviews with and talks by leaders, track actual business performance. These give direct insight whereas review sites, most notably that monstrosity of complaint, Yelp are suspect at best. I have no doubt whiners, competitors post negative reviews while some companies monitor and incentivize positive ones.

For me, these sites are no longer legit sources.

BD

43 Likes

I agree that Trustpilot should not be trusted.

BD’s examples of Twilio and Cloudflare suggest that neither company checks Upstart reviews, has them removed or pays Trustpilot to suppress negative reviews. Both companies only have “organic” reviews, that is, they do not solicit reviews unlike Upstart.

Twilio: https://www.trustpilot.com/review/www.twilio.com/transparenc…

Cloudflarehttps://www.trustpilot.com/review/cloudflare.com/transparenc…

“Organic” means people write a review of their own volition and are not solicited by the company to be reviewed. Research has shown that nothing motivates consumers more to write a review than a bad experience. They rarely bother to write a positive review. Manual or automated invitations will produce generally positive reviews, especially if reviewers are paid.

Trustpilot’s details on Affirm show that in the last 12 months only 226 reviews were “organic” and 981 were manual invitations explaining the relatively high rating. If you use the filter of “New reviews by star rating,” there were no manual invitations after May of 2021, https://www.trustpilot.com/review/affirm.com/transparency. From June through October the reviews are entirely organic and as expected, negative.

If you look at Upstart, you’ll see the ultimate example of an aggressive pursuit of Trustpilot’s Automated Invitations. I checked Upstart’s ratings twice in August 2021. On August 11, with a rating of 4.9*/5*, of a total of 5,339 reviews only 270 were “organic”, 328 were manual invitations, 4,740 were automated invitations. By August 29, 2021, total reviews were 6,484: 296 organic, 328 manual, and 5,859 automated invitations, that means over 95% of the reviews were solicited by Upstart, only 5% were organic. If you look at the graph you’ll see that automated invitations were especially aggressively issued between July and October, https://www.trustpilot.com/review/www.upstart.com/transparen….

The Upstart reviews are not quite as glowing when you check WalletHub. 205 total Upstart ratings are 4.2*/5*, still pretty good, https://wallethub.com/profile/pl/upstart-13950649i though WalletHub editor’s rating is only 3.4*/5*, https://wallethub.com/edu/pl/upstart-loans-review/62201, fairly low compared to the comparative rating of another online lender, SoFi Technologies, of 4.7*/5*.

On the trustworthiness of Trustpilot, see Wikipedia’s criticism which includes fake reviews, payments to access Trustpilots marketing services, filtering reviews, suppressing negative reviews which can be up to the company being reviewed(!), etc., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trustpilot.

Any ratings by any company has to be taken with a giant grain of salt as I discovered when I gave a one-star review on Amazon after they shipped me a baby carrier instead of supply for my iRobot Braava. I returned it that very day but it took several emails, a phone call and more than three months to get my money back. Amazon refused to post my negative review stating they would “take it up with the company.” I haven’t used Amazon for nearly three years–luckily I have been able to order what I needed elsewhere.

And Yelp refused to publish the positive review of my eye doctor I had seen for more than six years even after I phoned them. They told me my review was “suspect.” I later found out about a 2010 class-action lawsuit filed against Yelp by small businesses in Los Angeles, CA accusing them of extortion. It turns out, Yelp solicited restaurants and other small, local businesses to sell ads, then threatened to hide positive customer reviews when those businesses declined to buy ads. I guess my eye doc refused to pay. After 2045 complaints were filed with the FTC, they eventually investigated Yelp but closed the investigation in 2015 without taking action. However, in a separate investigation the FTC imposed a $450,000 civil penalty for Yelp’s data collection practices regarding minors, https://consumerist.com/2015/01/06/yelp-says-that-the-ftc-in….

To trust any rating you need to know if reviews were solicited (Upstart), if there is a policy to suppress either positive reviews (Yelp) or negative reviews (Trustpilot) or if reviewers are paid by companies to be rated. Some companies will indicate if a reviewer is paid but most do not. In some cases the rating has nothing to do with the product itself. The last few months I have seen a number of one-star ratings at Costco because of extremely slow USPS service while the product itself was enthusiastically praised.

Take all ratings with a giant pinch of salt!

I. M. Young
Long UPST but worried by all the Upstart hype with nary a negative assessment and some posters holding 50% or more in their portfolios! It scares me.

12 Likes