How Not to End a Customer Relationship

February 26, 2021

For more than eight years all of my sites, and my wife’s sites, were hosted at WebFaction. For $102 a year we had reliable, relatively straight forward to setup and use, web hosting and domain email. I originally signed up there as they would let you run Django or Ruby on Rails apps, and I was wanting to experiment.

About a year or so after signing up, I read an article online about tracking your own location using your phone, a database, and some mapping service I no longer remember the name of. I set it up, using PostgreSQL for the database (more experimenting), and once I had it working never really used it.

About two years ago WebFaction announced that their parent company had been bought by GoDaddy. I waited to see what kind of changes would result from this change of ownership. In October I learned that all the WebFaction sites would be migrated to tsoHost. Two days later I was told that might site would not be migrated, it would be terminated on December 9th. The reason given was PostgreSQL wasn’t supported on tsoHost.

A quick email to ask, “Hey, that PostgreSQL database you have that hasn’t seen any activity in years, can that go away? Otherwise we won’t be able to keep you as a customer.”, would have kept my business, at least for a while.

I spent a couple weeks in November preparing and then moving all our domains to Pair Networks. After backing up all the files on my WebFaction account, I deleted everything and let the account expire on December 9th.

The email telling me my account would be closed said that a refund for the unused portion of my annual fee would be refunded, and that this refund would take about 45 days to process. I created a calendar reminder and forgot about it.

When day 45 rolled around and I still hadn’t received any refund I contacted WebFaction. Their refund process requires PayPal. I don’t have, and don’t want, a PayPal account. Apparently they are unable to refund it to the credit card I used through PayPal’s payment portal. I asked if they could send me a check. Nope. Can’t do checks.

Today I got an email saying the could maybe do a wire transfer. They need the bank’s name, the account number, the BIC/Swift code, and the account name. Oh, and a screen shot of this information from the bank’s site. Any fees incurred for accepting the wire transfer, which I believe is coming from England, are on me.

I always liked WebFaction, but the way this account termination and refund have been handled have left me with a sour taste in my mouth. I’d advise against signing up with them, but they no longer exists, at least by that name.

Tomorrow I’ll gather all the numbers they need and send them off. I am not going to provide a screen shot of those details from the bank. And I’ll eat what ever fee my bank charges me for accepting an overseas wire transfer.

Online trolls exist because they can be anonymous. Companies, especially those that exist solely online, have some of the same characteristics. I can’t go to the WebFaction building and get my money, there isn’t a phone number, or a mail address. Just a URL that leads to a page with information posted pre-December 9th on it. Since there is little consequence, it is easy for a company to abuse their physical and metaphorical distance. All to their customer’s detriment.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.