Archive for September, 2005

Dissatisfied Customers, Part 4

Tuesday, September 20th, 2005

Just a quick note to tell everybody the obvious. HostCentric/Bizland decided to not give me the $224 credit as a check despite the terms and conditions I showed them.

Why? They claimed I never paid them that money so they didn’t have to give it back to me. The $224 credit, as it was described to me in an email from HC, was to pay me back for the problems a few of my websites had. As in I paid money and now they’re giving me that back.

These people will make themselves extinct with service like this. Don’t forget that I never heard back from the Vice President, who was supposed to contact me at all points. Some staff I spoke to were surprised that low level people were seeming to make decisions about my refund and my situation.

I stopped being surprised at things this company did a LONG time ago.


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Dissatisfied Customers, Part 3

Tuesday, September 20th, 2005

If you’ve read the last week of posts, you are up to date about my 3-month battle with a web hosting company. After they gave me a credit but wouldn’t give me a refund, I knew I would find something that would basically force them to refund me without me threatening. I don’t like to threaten. I like for companies to see that it’s the right thing to do. Here’s the email I sent a few hours after the one I posted yesterday.

By the way, in case you weren’t going to send me a check out of goodwill, here’s why you’re going to send me a check:

1.2. Termination Policy If you terminate your receipt of the Services prior to the end of the Initial Term or the Renewal Term, whichever is then applicable, (a) Hostcentric will not refund to you any fees paid in advance of such termination and (b) you shall be required to pay 100% of Hostcentric’s standard monthly charge for each month remaining in the term, unless otherwise expressly provided in this Agreement. Notwithstanding the foregoing, if you terminate your receipt of Shared Hosting Services prior to the end of the first thirty (30) days of the Initial Term, you are entitled to a refund of the fees you paid in advance for the monthly Services, not including any set-up fees. Your termination request or notice must be submitted to Hostcentric in the manner described in Section 1.1. Hostcentric may terminate this Agreement at any time and for any reason by providing to you written notice thirty (30) days prior to the date of termination. If Hostcentric terminates this Agreement, Hostcentric will refund to you the pro-rata portion of pre-paid fees attributable to Services (excluding set-up fees) not yet rendered as of the termination date unless otherwise expressly provided in this Agreement.

Yes, that’s chapter and verse from the HostCentric terms and conditions to which I agreed. Remember, I’m dealing with HOSTCENTRIC and you’re them now, so we’re all subject to their terms and conditions.

Let me break this down to make this really simple for you.

The T&C indicate that if I terminate my relationship with you after my first 30 days with you, which were in the late 1990s so I’m surely past my Initial Term, I am entitled to a refund of fees I paid in advance for the services. I have just over $224 pre-paid in your system for services. You have admitted that to me, so you can’t deny that now. I have $224 in the system that would be charged against if I were staying with you. Therefore, that money has been pre-paid for services you would be rendering if I were staying with you.

I’m not staying with you. I have terminated most of my accounts, and my master reseller account will be terminated next week. So as per the terms and conditions to which we are both subject, you must refund to me what is pre-paid for services.

You can send the check to:

(address edited out)

Thanks.

Isn’t that interesting? I knew that if I looked back in time, I’d find that HC did NOT put into their T&C that if I cancel, they don’t have to refund me anything. They HAVE to refund me. "I’m entitled" to it, which means they’re obligated to repay me.

Thank you, www.archive.org, the greatest website on the internet. You lead me to the old HostCentric terms and conditions, which interestingly also say that no changes can be made without both parties agreeing in writing… which hasn’t happened. I’ll of course let you know if HC fulfills their legal obligation to repay me.


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Dissatisfied Customers, Part 2

Monday, September 19th, 2005

Remember about a week ago, a company offered me an in-house credit of $224 AFTER I had completely cancelled everything with them? Well that was HostCentric, the company you just read about in the last 5 posts. I told them they can send me a check for that $224 since they surely owe me that and more. They wrote me back that I technically have no unused portion of the credit, and they won’t cut me a check. They told me the credit was a goodwill gesture.

I decide to reply to that:

You will send me a check for the credit. Otherwise, your goodwill gesture will be seen for what it is: a scam. It is completely a scam to offer me a credit nearly 12 weeks after I started having problems. It’s a scam to offer me a credit after I cancelled ALL of my accounts with you (or scheduled them to be cancelled – the last two are going next week). It’s a scam to pretend that you don’t OWE me that money because of what you did to my accounts, forcing me to have to leave your service.

Why don’t you look back at my last 12 weeks of trouble tickets? Notice that NOT ONE was ever fixed. Not one. Tens of tickets, nothing was EVER fixed. Many of these sites had problems for weeks and you didn’t fix them. They only started working again when they moved off your server. Yet, you happily charged me for your service as if your service were worth the money. You OWE me. You shouldn’t have charged me for the last 3-4 months, and you should be REFUNDING me, not presenting me with a completely fake goodwill gesture. If it were really a goodwill gesture, you’d give me my money back.

All you have to do is look at all of my trouble tickets, see that you never fixed any of them but continued billing me and charging my credit card, and then write me back and tell me that the VP of Client Services has decided that I don’t deserve a $224 refund. I’d like to hear from him. I’d like to know that you escalated this, and that someone high up decided that the goodwill gesture SHOULD be a thinly-veiled scam, and you really don’t want to pay me what you owe me. You guys are so lucky I haven’t sued you. If my insurance company can recommend that I get insurance in case of my client sues me for the website going down, I bet I can sue you.

Maybe I’m just misunderstanding your definition of goodwill. Please tell me what you mean by goodwill because I actually thought that you meant that you wanted to try to apologise for the problems you caused. I thought you realised that I shouldn’t have been charged all summer for the lack of service and support that I got, and I should have my money back. I thought you meant THAT. What did you mean by goodwill?

What would you do if that email came into your company? What if it weren’t the only one? Between what I found online and what I heard from nameless tier 1 techs, HostCentric clients have been leaving like crazy. Wouldn’t you take that to mean that one or more things were wrong with your operations management?

One HC staffer told me that the VP of Client Services reads the emails that get sent in when you respond to the auto email that’s shot out after you cancel an account. I’ve cancelled 24 so far, and I’ve written long emails every time. Never heard from him! What does that say about how this company cares about "client services"?

To me, complaint letters are like negative eBay feedback. :) If you’re looking at an eBay seller, and they have a great record with 2 negatives, you might think that it’s a great company who had two wacky buyers. When you see eBay feedback with some positives but a LOT of negatives that make the same complaint over and over, it’s self-deceptive to think that all the buyers you happened to have are wacky. It’s better to think that there are one or more things wrong with your operations. Work with those customers as best you can, and whether or not it’s too late for them, use their comments to improve your business.

It’s said that for every complaint, there are 26 customers who feel the same way but didn’t bother writing. HostCentric/Bizland, do the math. You need operations management help, but I’ll not be making my company available to you for that!

More bad marketing from HC/Bizland. Tune in tomorrow for the follow-up email I sent them about why they’re going to cut me a check.


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One Company, Many Names, Part 2

Friday, September 16th, 2005

It’s a busy day today on this blog. This is the third post, so if you’re looking for part 1 of "One Company, Many Names" or perhaps part 5 of "Worst Customer Service of My Life," just scroll to earlier posts from today.

When last we left off on "One Company, Many Names," we had climbed to the top of the HostCentric food chain to find that Fat Cow was behind all of this rotten service. This was easy to find using Yahoo searches, but Fat Cow made it even easier by emailing me thinking they were emailing someone else.

Hello Mitchell,

Thank you for contacting Support.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you. We are glad to know that, you are all set.

You can manage the application using this username and password.

http://pgawines.fatcow.com/sugar/index.php

The problem before with the sessions, so I created a custom php.ini for this user with the session.save_path = /home/users/web/b1996/moo.pgawines/sugar/cgi-bin/tmp

Please do not to delete the /sugar/cgi-bin/tmp folder.

Also If the you are not happy with the installations Please drop all the tables from mysql and reinstall the product. We just installed to check the application is working or not.

If you have any further questions, you can e-mail us seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

Sincerely,
(name removed)

FatCow Moo Crew

Moo crew. And I’m not Mitchell nor am I pgawines.com. This was an oops, but it was great since it’s evidence. I email "HostCentric" support and I hear from Fat Cow support.

It explains everything, but doesn’t excuse anything. So next week, we’ll look at more fun and interesting interactions with HostCentric as I try to get my refund. I’m hoping they will choose to do the right thing, but you’ll have to tune in Tuesday to find out what that is. :)


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One Company, Many Names

Friday, September 16th, 2005

In my last post from a few hours ago today, we learned that HostCentric, a company with whom I’ve had many problems since it was bought out, is now Bizland. But the fun didn’t stop there.

The following are only SOME of the names this company is using. In no particular order…

.Com Hosting (dcomhosting.com and aboveworld.com)
AccountSupport
Bizland
Comprotex (comprotex.com and comprotexusa.com)
CyberStateFair
DomainHost
eHost
EltecUSA
EntryHost
FreeYellow (freeyellow.com and freeyellow-inc.com)
HostCentric
Hypermart (hypermart.net)
HostYourSite
IM Outdoors (imoutdoors.com and imoutdoorshosting.com)
Net//works! (nwrks.com)
FirstClassHosting.net (seems to be defunct)
NPSites
PremiumWebHost
UnitedMinds
USAnetHosting
Virtual Avenue (virtualave.net)
WebSysTek
Xeran Technologies
YourHostingAccount
And many MANY more. Thousands of results in Google.

Why so many names? Because they are all buying resold hosting from Fat Cow. That explains the time a "HostCentric" tech emailed me a URL that included fatcow.com. I was so sidetracked by the problem they weren’t fixing that I didn’t even follow up on that oddity. All of these companies are just names someone is using to collect money from you, but the hosting and I would imagine the support comes from Fat Cow. In a few hours, we’ll look at that email. :) I’m enjoying dragging Friday out and putting up a few new posts, plus more coming next week!

Therefore, as I would suggest not doing business with HostCentric or Bizland, I’m recommending against all of these companies as they are one and the same. A rose by any other name still smells as sweetly as a fat cow. I’m sure there are names I didn’t find, so search your web hosting company’s website for any reference to AccountSupport in email, terms of service, or FAQ. Update: I found that the parent company is Endurance International, so look out for that name as well.

By the way, isn’t it neat that I can get to the stats for sites hosted by these people? I guess these got spidered.

All these people just want to make money, and quality isn’t important. That’s a shame, and that’s bad marketing.


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Worst Customer Service of My Life, Part 5 of Many

Friday, September 16th, 2005

Welcome to the fifth installment of "Worst Customer Service of My Life," a multi-part series about my company’s dealings with HostCentric. You can read previous back story and details by going back in time in this blog.

On Sept 7, I got an email that HC was trying to charge my credit card, which was no longer on file, for an account that was no longer on their servers and had been cancelled by HC billing. Interesting revenue-generation idea! The email included:

Please let us know if there is a reason for cancellation and confirm if you wish to upgrade your membership or cancel account.

I should tell them the reason for my cancellation and confirm if I wish to upgrade OR cancel a cancelled account? I don’t do enough drugs to make sense of HostCentric emails. I actually don’t do any drugs, but reading these emails… well anyway.

Let’s analyze one of the best emails I got from HC. They were ALWAYS asking me why I’m leaving, won’t I stay, what can they do. I’d always write back a long and specific email, and get NO reply. I got another of those emails, but this one was different:

I have gone through the support tickets placed for you but we would like to work out on it. We surely do not wish to lose a customer like you. Is there anyway we can make you continue hosting your accounts with us? I realize that it is not possible to credit you for the downtime of your websites and the time you have taken to rebuild your sites. But we would like to find a way to make you stay with us.

They don’t want to lose a customer like me. Who is like me? Who else has had ZERO of tens of trouble tickets fixed and resolved? I sure hope nobody. Two sentences in the above paragraph refer to "making" me stay or continue. What an abusive relationship! You can’t MAKE me stay. They know my websites were down and they know I had to rebuild sites, but they won’t give me a credit. In fact, they kept charging me, including for things I didn’t order. They want to "work out on it?" What does that even mean?

It sounds like HC is really saying, "Please give us more time so we can find what will make you stay with us. We tried responding to your tickets really slowly to make you hang on longer, but you saw through that! We gave you a Reseller Account Rep and a special support number, but damn, you noticed that the rep stopped calling you and the reseller support phone number loved to hang up on you… when they weren’t busy mis-describing your problems to tier 2, who enjoyed closing your tickets when they weren’t really fixed. We’re not going to take responsibility for what we did. We’re not going to credit you for things we caused, even though I’m admitting right now that we caused you a lot of problems. Please stay and give us more time to try and figure out how we can further string you along."

That’s what that email says to me.

As I like to say, it’s not slander if it’s true. HC staff can read my support tickets and see that none of them were ever fixed. Not one. They’ll see that I tried. I gave them many chances to fix things. I gave a lot of good and technical information. Nothing ever got fixed.

I predict that HC will be toast within 6 months because they will change the HC name to, oh say, Bizland. Why Bizland? Because isn’t that who bought HostCentric? Isn’t that who I’ve been dealing with these last two months? They’re in the 781 area code. My Reseller Account Rep is in the 781 area code. He once called me and the caller ID said "Bizland." I got an email saying HC would be undergoing server maintenance on the EXACT same dates and times that Bizland is undergoing maintenance. Wow, the email and Bizland notice are worded IDENTICALLY except my email says HostCentric where the Bizland message says Bizland. Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have a winner.

They said HostCentric was being sold to Interland, but I had heard that it was sold to two companies. One company took the large, dedicated server accounts. Another took the smaller, shared accounts. I think that I’ve been dealing with Bizland, and I think I have enough evidence to support that. I’ve also done some online searching of these two company names together. My first search result was a website that angrily moved off the "new" Hostcentric after being messed up by Bizland, who evidently even went as far as going into this company’s website and removing comments they’d written about their experience with the hosting company. Nasty!

Expect Bizland to phase out the HostCentric name. But don’t forget who’s been giving me this experience ALL this time.

BIZLAND.

Tune in later for more. Much more.


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Worst Customer Service of My Life, Part 4 of Many

Thursday, September 15th, 2005

Welcome to the fourth installment of "Worst Customer Service of My Life," a multi-part series about my company’s dealings with HostCentric. You can read previous back story and details by going back in time in this blog.

On August 14, I was told a senior management executive would contact me about my problems. I never heard from that person (and I’m blogging this a month later). Never heard back from my reseller account manager. Never heard back from a lot of people at HostCentric.

In mid-August, one of my client accounts decided it would be too much trouble to move, so he’d stay with HC. I wanted him about the kind of service he could expect. I had to then "move" his account out from under my reseller account. I was emailed instructions asking me to click on a link that didn’t exist on the page they specified. Follow-up emails to me made it sound like I was an idiot for not being able to find this link. I had to call, be on hold, and then have the support people move the account. Oh, the move link was somewhere OTHER than the original instruction email had said. Thanks!

Here’s another great email snipet from mid-August regarding the $45 of charges on the service I never ordered… the service a tech was giving me temporarily for free to patch up a problem.

If you provide the poof that you had asked to cancel it we can investigate further.

I don’t provide poofs, thank you. Now I have to provide proof that I cancelled a service that I never ordered? That’s like, "When did you stop beating your wife."

I love all the emails I got saying that my ticket would be looked at in a day or two by a specialist. What kind of person is that? Someone who actually fixes problems? I would then say that no specialist ever saw any of my tickets as none of them got fixed. Sites and email that eventually worked only worked because I moved them to another server company.

Ah, over a week later, another email saying a specialist will get in touch with me. I never heard from any specialist, or at least the people who called didn’t say they’re a specialist.

Life with HC was already sucking. I had moved most of my accounts off their server and cancelled them by early September. It then got really interesting. I tried to FTP into my largest account, a web discussion forum with over 4500 members and thousands of posts over 5+ years. I logged in and saw NONE of my files. I saw someone else’s account. I emailed support telling them I needed to FTP in to see MY files, and where are all of my files and folders?

A few days later, I got an email back.

We have resolved your issue. Now you can access all your files and folders using FTP. Please check.

Turns out they had MOVED my website again so that I could see my own files. Huh? They just moved it weeks before when everything got migrated to the new company. But they moved it again, but this time sloppily. Nobody cared that the discussion forum works via cgi scripts and files that have to have certain permissions set. None of the permissions were set, and the forum was giving error messages. No pages could be accessed, so nothing could be read or posted. I knew they moved it since when I went to the control panel of the forum, it acted like I was setting it up brand new. Well, no I’m not!

I launched a trouble ticket, but was feeling OK about nobody being able to post. I started backing up the site to move it since I was really done with HC. Time to move my biggest account. HC would fix ONE script, leave the rest, and tell me it was all fixed. I’d log in, do something that triggered a second script, and it was all botched again since they had ONLY repaired the one script.

That’s what these people are like. We’ll just focus on fixing the ONE file that made it in the trouble ticket when our client copied and pasted an error msg. We’ll then pretend that everything’s fine. We don’t have to test it! Just TELL her it’s fine! She’ll have to believe us!

The next day, I tried to call HC to talk about my trouble ticket. Well they must have caller ID! They hung up on me around 10 times in a row. My favorite was the guy who answered, "Hello?" instead of the whole "Thanks for calling HostCentric" script. He then hung up on me too. That was fun. Nooo, the best was when they picked up the phone, I quickly said, "DON’T HANG UP ON ME! DON’T HANG UP ON ME!" and then CLICK.

When I finally got someone who didn’t hang up on me, I told him about my hanging up adventures. He said he would let someone know about it. I later got this email.

Since the volume of e-mails and phone calls coming in are high, your call might have been put on hold.

In that case, I guess HostCentric has very unique hold music… some sort of loud, distorted fast busy signal. You know, the kind you get when the other party has hung up but you’re still on the phone? They said I was on hold, so surely they know better than I do! Go, customer service, go!

Tomorrow, we’ll look at what I hope is the final installment of this fiasco. And this is the short version! HostCentric. The company who never fixed a single of tens of trouble tickets I launched over a two-month period.


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Worst Customer Service of My Life, Part 3 of Many

Wednesday, September 14th, 2005

Welcome to the third installment of "Worst Customer Service of My Life," a multi-part series about my company’s dealings with HostCentric. You can read previous back story and details by going back in time in this blog.

During the second week of August, they told me one of my accounts was over quota for storage spage. That meant that when I went to update it and upload files, it actually took down the files I was trying to overwrite… as in taking down the page that is most visited on this client’s site. I tried to use the web control panel to upgrade the account to a higher package rather than just adding the "1G of storage" as the higher package would cost me less monthly. The website wouldn’t work, so I couldn’t upgrade. I got into a text chat with support, who understood my problem. He said he’d give me the 1G of space for free (temporarily) so that my site could be back up, and I could work out the upgrade with billing on Monday. They’d then cancel the 1G of extra space. OK, sounds great – thanks!

It’s over a month later, and this never got worked out. Billing thought I had ORDERED the extra space, and charged my credit card $45 for it. This was interesting since the week before, they told me that I had a $184 credit with their company. So why are they charging my card?

Oh I did get an email on September 7th, a month later, saying that they wanted to upgrade the account as I had requested but they had no credit card on file to charge me.

Thank the lord for the HC employee who called me the day before that. I told her that I had no faith that HC wouldn’t keep charging my card, especially since they never refunded me for the $45 they charged for the 1G of space I didn’t order… the 1G I was supposed to get temporarily for free. The space got taken away, the home page went down again, and I was told I’d get a refund of around $12 for the "unused" portion of the $45. Yet it was nearly a month later and I never got that $12 refund. This employee arranged for a refund of the FULL $45, and then took my credit card out of their system. If she hadn’t, they would have charged me again.

That would have been extremely interesting since while speaking to that employee the day before, I CANCELLED THAT ACCOUNT. So HostCentric was trying to charge my credit card on an upgrade on a cancelled account that had already been moved to another server company.

That’s bad marketing.

On August 10, I got an email saying that I owed them $25 for that upgrade I didn’t order. Why they didn’t put this against the "credit" I had on file, I’ll never understand. I was being threatened with an "interruption in my service."

Tune in tomorrow for more bad marketing adventures with HostCentric, the company that never fixed a single trouble ticket I launched over a two-month period.


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Worst Customer Service of My Life, Part 2 of Many

Tuesday, September 13th, 2005

Welcome to the second installment of "Worst Customer Service of My Life," a multi-part series about my company’s dealings with HostCentric. You can read previous back story and details by going back in time in this blog.

Today, we’ll start looking at how HostCentric deals with problems. Remember this gem? That was my HC sales guy the day he quit and wouldn’t even have my emails forwarded. I was eventually contacted by Eric, who said he was in charge of resellers (of which I was one). I didn’t have much contact with Eric. After a while, I’d write to him or leave him a voice mail, and someone else would call me back. I guess my reseller account manager didn’t want to work with me.

That’s bad marketing.

After my database website wasn’t working for all of July, affecting a number of client websites AND not being fixed by HC techs even given WEEKS to do it, I moved that domain away from their servers. I then got this email.

Please give us one last chance to serve you. As we were in the process of upgrading the servers, you were experiencing issues with your website. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you. We assure that you will not have such issues with our service in future. We do not want to lose a valued customer like you.

I wish I could have believed them… that I’d have NO more problems. By then, I’d already moved aswas.com because of having no email for a week and a problem with my email that NOBODY on any level could fix. So not having more problems was already a lie.

What would make me feel like a valued customer? How about fixing my problems in a reasonable amount of time. Is it OK for an entire domain to have no email for 7 days? Is it OK for a database site that feeds a handful of other sites to be down for a month? Evidently, it is. That’s the good service they offer!

I emailed them an angry letter that they would not be able to satisfy me since they’ve brought me endless problems that they don’t fix. I told them that I’ll be moving my sites away from their servers and cancelling them once each has moved. This was the response I got:

We are sorry to hear that you wish to terminate your account with us.

Huh? That’s not what I said. I then had to basically beg them to not cancel every account I had immediately. OK, they wrote back. We won’t cancel all of your accounts right now. Gee thanks! They had already cancelled two of my accounts without me asking them to do that. That was FUN.

Right after that, one of my clients got an email that they were nearly over bandwidth for the month, and HC reserved the right to stop serving their website (as in take it offline). That was a couple of days into August, where this client had used maybe 1% of their month’s allotted bandwidth. HC later apologized for that email.

HostCentric. Where none of tens of trouble tickets I launched over 2 weeks ever got resolved. Tune in tomorrow for more.


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Worst Customer Service of My Life, Part 1 of Many

Monday, September 12th, 2005

Welcome to the first installment of "Worst Customer Service of My Life," a multi-part series about my company’s dealings with HostCentric. I’m hoping that my blog posts about them will wake companies up to how they treat customers while providing a cathartic release of my anger. :)

HostCentric is a web hosting company. I joined them probably in 1998 when my next door neighbour was the CEO and suggested I check them out. I did, I stayed, and I brought my clients and hobby websites.

Recently, they were bought out, and in late June, migrations began. All HC accounts were moved to the new server company. That’s when my problems began.

The migration was one of the worst-planned and worst-executed. My corporate As Was email was non-working for an entire week right after we exhibited at the biggest trade show of the year. HC techs kept closing my trouble ticket claiming my email worked fine. ?!?!? Website files for other clients were moved on June 30 but then the June 30 files were sent live on July 7… killing 7 days of blog-style activity we couldn’t get back. That happened to two sites. A site with a central database called by MULTIPLE sites went down.

The most interesting fact about the TENS (if not more) of trouble tickets that I launched with HostCentric from early June through early September is that not a single one ever got FIXED. Trouble tickets certainly got closed, but no problem I ever had got resolved. All website and email issues got resolved by moving the domain to a new server.

So ends Part 1. Tomorrow, more on dealing with HostCentric, which will be greatly informative for those who’d like to improve customer service in their companies.


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