I've always had reservations about hiring freelance workers online. oDesk.com has solidified to me that hiring people online without the benefit of a face-to-face meeting is a very foolish practice. Never again. I opened an account on oDesk and posted a profile. I had several small (7 days or less) graphic design projects that I needed done on a shoe string budget. I'm against outsourcing work to third world countries, so I decided to look for American workers, on oDesk with the skills required for the work I needed done. I limited my search to workers with a rating of 4 out of 5 or above. Sounds good, right? WRONG. The oDesk rating system is skewered. Here's how: Workers only receive ratings when they are paid more than $1 for a job. If a worker is fired and no money is paid upfront, the employer CANNOT leave VISIBLE feedback for that individual. It is not a pure ratings system. You can leave feedback but it will not be visible to other employers. So, what is the point?
So, I find a person "John David" whose profile stated that he is in Phoenix, Arizona. He has 4 out of 5 stars and all positive comments. Great! I hire him. What a fiasco. He promises work on a certain day and then disappears. That day comes and goes and no word or work from this person. I email him. No response. I email him a second time, giving him the benefit of the doubt that the first message did not get through--no response. I email him back and say that I am going to cancel the contract. He responds IMMEDIATELY. I tell him that I'm under a deadline for the job and that I cannot deal with a lack of communication, missed deadlines, or no/slow work. He sends concepts. They're pretty good. From that point on he is Johnny on the spot. He responds to every email INSTANTLY. The work progresses at a quick pace and is completed.
I post my second job and I offer it to this contractor first. Another mistake. I should have thanked God that I squeaked through the first job with him and moved on. I post the second job at a fixed price to avoid being bilked at an hourly rate. He makes a counter offer that included a request for an upfront payment of 50%. The job was very small (under $50) so I agreed. NEVER EVER DO THIS--NOT FOR ANY AMOUNT. It is not required or even suggested by oDesk. I was told in so many words by their support that it is not a good idea. I asked oDesk why they allow this if they know it is a tool for scammers to rip people off. I get no response and the subject is changed by their support person. Typical.
The contractor promises the designs two days later on Sunday. Two days later--nothing. I email him. No response. The next day I check my mail. No response. I contact oDesk support and tell them this guy got a partial upfront payment from me and has disappeared. I'm told that they do not become involved in complaints where an upfront payment has been made. BUT, they can put a freeze on his account until he contacts them/me. I say, okay, please do that. Then the oDesk rep tries to talk me out of it..."Are you sure you want to do this?" I ask them what I should do. "Wait another day." If he does not contact me by day 3 (2 days after he agreed to send work and 4 days from the end of the contract) then they will freeze the account.
Day 3--no work, no communication, no email. I email the contractor and tell him I want my money refunded and that I am canceling the contract. I email oDesk and ask them to freeze his account. He responds IMMEDIATELY. At this point it becomes evident that this person IS NOT an American and is NOT in the United States. His barely literate email references UTC time and he tells me that the work was due a day later than we originally agreed because he is on UTC time. Huh? Last I checked Phoenix, Arizona is in the Mountain Time zone.
In the email he proceeds to tell me that I have treated him badly because I contacted oDesk and asked for a refund. Whatever, just give me my money back. I cancel the contract and email him back telling him to not contact me anymore. I contact oDesk and ask them how to block him from emailing me as I do not see a way to do so. I'm told I'm not allowed to block him. They ask me why I want to block him. I tell them. I'm told they're sending my request to their quality control people and they will put a stop to his emails. Today I get three emails at the account linked to oDesk. They're all from him. More unintelligible ramblings about how he has been wronged and how he broke my anti-spam filter by emailing me three times. He calls me a dog in the email and attaches a file that I'm sure he hoped I would click. No viruses or trojans for me, thank you. I do not click the attachment link.
I contact oDesk support again. I tell them I want to close the account and that this goon is still emailing me. No response other than "We'll close the account once all the money you owe is paid." Nothing about this idiot emailing me and trying to send me what I'm sure is a virus.
They only have two customer support people. I've chatted with them numerous times and it is always the same two people. They always pretend to contact different departments but ironically no one is ever in those departments so the two support people have to email them and then they get back to you days later. These people have a California address, but I'm not sure if they are truly a U.S. run company at all. I mention this because their whole operation raises the scam alert flags pretty high to me.
This is NOT a rant against foreign workers. For those who choose to outsource, that's your choice. However, oDesk is a breeding ground for liars, scammers, and thieves who misrepresent themselves and their work. This is a warning to those of you who stumble on oDesk, like I did, and lay out a lot of money like some of the other complainants here have. I have not lost any money (a penny) but I have lost a lot of time and now I have a loon contacting me and they do nothing to put a stop to it. oDesk is all about the money--your money. They do not care about you, your business, or your experience at their website. They will not help you with or protect you from the people they allow to list there. Their vetting process for these people is pretty much zilch. They can claim anything they want and you are none the wiser. oDesk does not care. They all rate themselves as being 5/5 in speaking, understand, and reading English. If you want to avoid the hassles and potential of being ripped off, stalked, or having your time wasted--stay away from oDesk. Yes, there are people on there literally working for next to nothing--it's cheap. But I'd rather pay more for the security, peace of mind, and savings in time. Also, it is good to support American workers here at home.
One more thing people should know: If you get a refund from a contractor oDesk holds on to it in your "account" and it will not go back to your credit card unless you tell them to.
I do not do business with operations like this. I did not do my due diligence and check here and other places about oDesk before I jumped in. If you are reading this before yous sign up with them--make sure you know what you're doing. DO NOT make any payments outside of oDesk. DO NOT make any partial upfront payments. MAKE SURE you get any written agreements and paperwork such as copyright agreements to the work signed BEFORE you start a job with any of these people. MAKE SURE you watch your financial account like a hawk. Go with your gut and pull the plug on a bad contractor sooner than later. I personally will never use them or any other service like them ever again. If the loon keeps emailing me from their system I am going to file a complaint with the Attorney General's Office in California to ask them to intervene and to make them aware of how oDesk operates.