Tag Archives: dreamhost

DreamHost made mistake and fixed it; Lunarpages spreads lies

Earlier this week, DreamHost made a billing mistake that inadvertently billed some customers for a year or two’s worth of hosting. They acknowledged their mistake and apologized profusely for it as they cleaned up after the mess. Some people took issue with the joking tone of the blog post. I’m used to their silly humor so I was okay with it but can totally understand people being upset especially if their finances took a hit as a result of the mistake. The following day, they wrote a more serious post which also detailed how they would reimburse people who suffered bank fees as a result of the overcharge.

What was the response of Lunarpages, my former webhost, to this? They wrote a blog post accusing Dreamhost of robbing their customers. (They’ve since changed the title, content, and tone of the post to be less accusatory and libelous since I first saw it. The permalink url remains to prove the original title and intent.) Hmm… call me crazy but I think stealing is when someone intentionally takes something belonging to another person with no intention of returning it. Dreamhost made a technical error with an unintended consequence, and refunded customers for the overcharge, as well as any fees incurred by the customers. They’re even letting people cancel web hosting accounts and refunding them.

It seems Lunarpages lacks its own moral compass to recognize right and wrong and so couldn’t figure out that what happened at DreamHost was not theft. What Lunarpages did with the spammy 404 pages it imposed on paying customers was an actual unethical act. Lunarpages has not officially acknowledged this error in judgment nor apologized for it. They just quietly reversed what they did. It would be hard to do otherwise since they did not tell their customers what they were doing behind their backs. They also banned helpful/long-time forum members who spoke up against what they did and deleted/censored attempts at exposing the truth. That alienated other long-time forum members, like myself. Now there’s one LP moderator who impresses people at how prolific he is at responding to forum posts. If they hadn’t banned nor alienated so many people, that one person wouldn’t have to be responsible for answering so many forum threads.

Anyway, I just wanted to point out/recall Lunarpages misdeeds to people who want to take up LP’s $40 offer to move from DreamHost. Both web hosts made mistakes but the manner in which they handled mistakes are completely different and tells me how trustworthy or not they are. If you still want to leave DreamHost, be careful about choosing to go with Lunarpages. Also note that the Lunarpages blog is very one-sided in the comments. Dreamhost’s blog and forum have both sides of the situation, regardless of how bad the negative comments made Dreamhost to appear.

Update:

Here’s a well written detailed post about this story:
Lunarpages Lies About DreamHost’s Billing Fiasco

Update 2008-01-20:

A former Lunarpages employee wrote about the current situation and provided a behind-the-scenes look at LP’s tactics:
Dreamhost and Lunarpages

A former customer of Lunarpages shared his thoughts on the differences between Dreamhost and Lunarpages:
Dreamhost, Lunarpages, $$$, and integrity
It seems the reason my account wasn’t affected was because I have a two-year contract so that it wouldn’t have been up for renewal in 12-2008.

Why I Left Lunarpages Web Hosting

I really don’t want to be negative toward Lunarpages, but I felt that people need to know what’s going on with Lunarpages to save them from future agony at the hands of a company with poor customer service and that has little respect toward its customers.

I have been a customer since 2003. I left my previous host because I didn’t like having to email someone when I wanted to make changes to my account. Lunarpages used cPanel, which gave me a lot more control over my site. I was really satisfied with them and they were the first paid host I stayed with after leaving two other hosts.

The following year, I discovered and joined their support forum, Lunarforums.com. That was the beginning of a very long and prolific involvement with the community. I enjoyed helping out other users, learning from them, and participating in off-the-wall sometimes inane chats. Their support staff were great, too, with quick response times and competent handling of issues or requests.

Then in the past couple of years, support quality made a noticeable turn for the worse. When I submitted a ticket, I got a request for verification although I had included it in my initial request. The careless reading of the message resulting in me having to go through the queue again. That’s annoying but not horrible. What was horrible was when I requested them to change MX records so I can have my email handled elsewhere and they somehow messed up the settings. That resulted in my email going into a blackhole during the hours after they made the change and before I discovered it. Fortunately, I was able to get quick help from someone outside of the official support system. So that was just one of many examples of why I became hesitant to ever ask for support from their technical support staff. This has been going on for over a year, but it wasn’t enough for me to think about leaving.

A few months ago, they changed their affiliate policy so that people got paid after three sales. (I was going to link to the thread discussing this change in the forums but they either deleted it or moved it to the moderator-only forum). Yes, I was an affiliate since I had really believed in the company and was happy to refer them to others. It didn’t hurt to recoup some money to help pay for hosting. The thing was that I made one sale a year. That would have meant I wouldn’t get paid for three years after the first one went through. It felt like a slap in the face toward people who had been their biggest fans. A lot of people complained about this. Lunarpages refused to listen to feedback. I decided that I wasn’t going to help them make money while I might get a delayed payment or maybe never get it. The incident also reminded me about their declining support quality and I could not in good conscience refer people to them any longer.

The last straw was when it was discovered that Lunarpages had changed the server settings so sites that did not have a custom 404 would display spammy advertisements. Fortunately, I had custom error pages already so this change didn’t affect my site. It did affect me in that I lost trust in Lunarpages. Unlike other big changes they made, there was no announcement. The worse part was that the spammy pages included the domain’s name, as well as a section called the domain’s Favorites which linked to sites like online dating. There was no link for the lost visitor to return to the site. They would only get whisked away to other sites that had nothing to do with the site owner.

In the forum thread that started in response to this change, there was a lot of customer outrage. The reason why people got paid hosting is so we don’t have to put up with advertisements or the host’s intrusion into the site. Lunarpages’ justification for the spam pages was that their free hosting for US K-12 schools was getting expensive so that they wanted to use the money made from customers’ error pages to help pay for costs of the charity program. If one can believe that explanation, it can’t be argued that it’s not noble of them. However, it wasn’t enough to calm down all upset customers. Lunarpages did this behind customers’ backs, and not all customers would have chosen this particular cause, especially those outside the US. I’m for helping to improve the US education system but honestly, is web hosting the answer to helping schools when there are so many other things that could be improved?

Lunarpages started to censor forum posts that questioned what they did. News of this spread around and Lunarpages customers went elsewhere to vent their frustrations since their voices were being silenced by Lunarpages. They even banned longtime and beloved members of the forum.

Web Hosting Forum: Lunarpages client’s 404 error pages issue. The discussion went on for 16 pages. It was closed by a moderator after Lunarpages scrapped the program. It was pretty sketchy to lock the thread. It made it appear as if WHF was either in bed with LP, or in its pocket.

Merlin’s Minute: When a Web Host Goes Bad. Particularly, check out a comment written by a Lunarpages employee, a.ka. LP Fan. It’s not an official proclamation from the company, but it gives insight into the disregard and hostility directed toward their customers possessed by staff.

Unofficial DreamHost Blog: Free Hosting to Lunarpages Refugees. This includes some more details on the fiasco, as well as a screenshot of one of the pages, which had a lot of templates.

DreamHost Web Hosting Blog: Robbing Your Customers. DreamHost offered to give free hosting for a year for Lunarpages refugees. Too bad for me that I had signed up the day before this promo was announced, but I had already saved money from one of their affiliates. As many commenters in the blog post bashed Lunarpages, someone representing LP finally added this:

ok, so here’s the deal. what was well intentioned turned out to be ill thought out. if ANYONE thinks it is sleazy, we want no part of it. It was meant to come out of testing tomorrow and go live with announcements on Friday.The 404 error program has been scraped.

That was good news for customers who were still with LP. However, it’s still a BS answer. We had already told them in the forums that what they did was unethical. It took public shaming outside of their bubble to finally back down. They had never told us that it was a test. Why would they not say that if it were? Since then, there has been no announcement in lunarforums nor the company blog to let people know what they did and to apologize for it. It’s kind of hard to apologize for something when a lot of customers weren’t informed about it.

After all this badness, it worked out well in the end. It made me look around for another host, which turned out to be so much better. With its control panel that was built in-house, I could do even more at DreamHost without having to contact support. Speaking of which, here’s the exchange when I requested LP unlock my domain in order for me to change the nameservers to DreamHost.

From me:

Hello,

Could you please unlock my domain: takethu.com ?

Verification:
{snipped}

Thank you.

Support:

Hello,

Are you trying to transfer your domain, it seems that takethu.com is resolving for me, please shed some light to your query.

Thank you for your time and patience.

Me:

Hello,

I don’t have any issues with the domain. I would like to make a change that requires the domain to be unlocked. I’m sorry, but I don’t see why I need to explain the reason for my request when unlocking a domain is something I can easily do with any other registrar.

Thank you.

Doesn’t that show a quota system that results in people responding with unhelpful replies in order to inflate their numbers? Finally, a veteran staff member unlocked my domain, no questions asked. Despite my unhappiness with current state of Lunarpages support, I still respect the veteran staff members, whose names I am always happy to see in my support tickets because I know they will do things competently.

Whew! I think this is one of the longest posts I’ve written, if not the longest.

BTW, you’ll probably see my DreamHost ads in the sidebar and maybe question my credibility or motives. I didn’t post this to make any sales. I provided information on how to get an even better deal from DreamHost’s promo. :)