Is your ISP churning you for extra cash? Would you know if they were?
The online business is a cut-throat business. Early on, they had to give it away so cheap they now have to invent new ways to add charges and make more money. All the feel-good stuff about free this or free that and 24-hour support and over and over are all masks to hide the knife. Since retiring, the stuff I’m discovering is alarming.
Once upon a time, nearly 40 years in business, someone else got all the charge card bills. I never really had to deal with them that much. We built the business, and life was good. I’ve retired, sold the building, and life is good — except now I’m discovering I was getting stabbed in the back, and didn’t even know it.
The fat cow is getting fatter
After retiring I took along my web sites and web holdings. Now, I get all the bills and updates. To my astonishment I discover one host for several key websites (including UGNN.com) has been sticking me for $100 per month for nothing — to the tune of well over a thousand bucks! In trying to straighten things out, I discovered a little known technique they use to churn more money. I was “opted in” to a situation that was my responsibility to opt out of. Which I didn’t even know about. $2.99 per month hosting turned into $129 per month.
The Temple of Gold
Then I discover Media Temple, my main host, has been charging me $20 a month for “burst” over charges. Now get this : when I signed up for this host nearly a decade ago, the storage was unlimited, the throughput was unlimited and the email was unlimited. It was a fairly expensive hosting plan, but the Design Center was averaging anywhere from a quarter to a full million visitors per month.
Those were good times. At some point, Media Temple calls and says they’re going to have to charge another $20 per month to handle “bursts” in traffic. I went ballistic. What happened to unlimited? They had a policy change, and there’s no such thing as “grandfathered” so, you can like it or move to another host. The supervisor assured me . . .
This will relieve the grid of the extra traffic, and when your traffic settles back down, the surcharge will be lifted. You will only be charged in the months which have overages.
So for a month, I paid the $20. Then off, then on. But then it was every single month. I’m thinking life is good, I’m getting so much traffic to the web site, and all was gung-ho.
Five years later, the replicators and knock-offs coupled with Google’s relentless throttling techniques, the Design Center’s traffic began a gentle curve downward. We dropped down to less than a hundred-thousand a month. Now, I discover we’re still paying the $20 surcharge. WTF ???
Living in an ‘Opt Out’ world
I call in to find out what’s going on, and the tech support guy says he has no idea, that I signed on for the service and I’ve been getting billed for it. I got hold of a supervisor. Supervisor says :
Mr. Showker, you signed up for the additional traffic, and never opted out when your traffic went below the threshold. I’ve only been here a year, and have no idea what the service was nearly nine years ago, but the current policy says once you’ve gone into extra traffic you stay there until you turn it off. No, it was not our responsibility to turn it off. Sorry.
So Media Temple had been ripping me off for nearly five years to the tune of an extra $20 per month on top of an already big hosting bill! Running a Drupal site with more than 37,000 individual items (docs, images, files, etc.) is not a laughing matter to move to another host, and they know that. The knife has been twisted, again.
Churning, changing TOS and twisting the knife
Today I get an email from GoDaddy that my services are about to expire! Oh NO … ! That sinking feeling you get when threatened of losing your domain. (Sidebar: At the dawn of domains, when they were free and completely American, I lost the domain “jumpstation.com” to a German porn cartel. Lesson learned.) So, quick, I go there and call support.
Can you believe they’re alerting me of expiring domains, urging me to renew more than a YEAR before expiring? Check your records, have you been paying the renewal a month or two before it is really due? Then they’ve been gaining. After 12 years, they’ve gained an extra whole year of revenue. But wait :
Oh no, Mr. Showker, your domain is good until 2018. But here, I see you’re about to expire on your two GoCentral Business Plans. I can help you renew those today.
Excuse me? I don’t have any business plans. This domain was registered years ago for a nonprofit chapter of a national organization. Its only purpose is to show a domain, and an email, which are required by the national org. There’s no web site there. All the services we use are free. Why am I being asked to renew two business plans?
Yes, Mr. Showker, these services were extended to you for free when you signed up, and now they’ve reached the end of their terms, even if they’re not used.
So I opted out and dropped the services. Here’s the stab: had there been an active, current charge card on file, I would have automatically been charged.
Kill your charge card, get a new one
The Fatcow debacle above wasn’t over and there was no help from “Help” so I initiated a charge-back through my Costco charge card. Those guys are wonderful and they said ‘No problem, Mr. Showker, we’ve taken it off your billing, and it’s been charged back to Fatcow.” But it did require me to get a new charge card. Game over, end of story. Not quite.
A week later I get a canned email from the host stating that the service had been cancelled and they have charged the amount of the chargeback to my new card. WHAT? Hacked? If I didn’t give them the new card and the bank didn’t give them the new card, how did they get the new card? I was intentionally not giving them the new card.
Ah, wooops! I call the bank and learn the bank actually DID give them the new number! What? I learn they have a service to big “auto charge” accounts to automatically update the account anytime a new card is issued. I opted OUT of that, and shut them down — but had to get yet another charge card.
The moral of this story is pay attention, opt OUT of everything
- OPT OUT of any auto update policies with your charge card bank
- OPT OUT of any serivces that can be used to churn more money
- DO NOT THINK by killing a charge card, it will kill the account
- Make screen captures of sales pitches and offerings when you first sign up for any web service. What you sign up for will be contested later as their policy changes and people are replaced. You need to prove what you bought, how much and what the perks were. One day, you’ll wake up and all that’s been changed.
- Remember that it is a FELONY to charge your charge card for a service you have a) not approved, and/or b) not received . Unfortunately, companies configure their terms to cleverly make them immune to the law — and besides, they know you won’t litigate and they can easily out-last you in court.
In the connected, online world, where everything is free or dirt cheap, these big companies have to make a profit. So they come up with all kinds of ingenious ways to churn your account for more money. One of the above companies boasts a million web sites. If they steal an extra twenty bucks from each site this year, that sounds like twenty-million dollars to me.
Watch out for yourself, because nobody else is going to do it for you.
… and thanks for reading. Good day!
FOLLOWUP: I have now learned about “Opt Out” and you should too! Go see : thebillfold.com/did-you-know-that-optoutprescreen-com-was-a-thing