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January 15, 2008 11:14 AM   Subscribe

Million-dollar mistake at Dreamhost. A $7.5 million error this morning at the world's 15th largest hosting company has left most of it customers short by hundreds and even thousands of dollars. Discussion boards are reporting a litany of overdrafts, credit card overlimit fees, and bounced checks.
posted by chips ahoy (125 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Jason Levine's wrap-up here perfectly captures the irony of their jokey newsletter (a style that annoys me) biting them in the ass with this mistake.
posted by mathowie at 11:19 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I like the jokey style... but yeah, I think everybody who deals with recurring customer billing to credit cards has a nightmare of something like this going down.
posted by ph00dz at 11:21 AM on January 15, 2008


It's certainly frustrating that 10 hours into the 'crisis' they still haven't sent out a single email about what's going on. I first saw the story on digg, then got a phone call from my bank's fraud department.
Annoying as that is, I just can't see giving up the 700+gb of storage I get thanks to being with them since forever. I've yet to see another host with anywhere near as liberal a drive-space policy.
posted by nomisxid at 11:21 AM on January 15, 2008


One of my clients is in the process of moving the last of their resources off of DH, they've just been getting increasingly unreliable for the last six months or so. I can't wait until I never have to see that panel again.
posted by Skorgu at 11:21 AM on January 15, 2008


I appreciate the half-naked MySpace/Yahoo! Dating pic of the dude who caused the problem.
posted by goatdog at 11:22 AM on January 15, 2008


I have two accounts with them (one through work and one at home). The work one did receive the correction email, the other one didn't. For my personal account, they tried to charge a card I had lost a while ago so no overdrafts, but I was fuming until I realized they had probably made the same mistake for everybody.
posted by drezdn at 11:26 AM on January 15, 2008


I have had nothing but problems with Dreamhost since I started using them 2 years ago. Frequent outages, etc. And yet I stay with them because I just don't know how easy it would be to move 50 different sites, all running various flavors of wordpress/mediawiki/homebrew to a new provider. It's really irksome. Luckily it's more of a staging ground or side-project host for me and some friends but still, sorry to say, they suck.
posted by cell divide at 11:27 AM on January 15, 2008


I trust DreamHost with a lot of things, but I never trusted them with Auto-Pay. Hell, I never trusted ANYONE with Auto-Pay; what few recurring monthly/annual charges I have I handle myself. Does that make me luddite, paranoid or just responsible?
posted by wendell at 11:28 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Holy shit this happened to me! Thanks Mefi
posted by bonaldi at 11:29 AM on January 15, 2008


I have been getting billing emails all morning. From the FUTURE. Dated 2009. This is why I always use credit cards that are near expiration for Domain purchases.

I can't be charitible about this kind of fuck up.

I am switching.
posted by tkchrist at 11:29 AM on January 15, 2008


It goes to show that you should try as much as possible to shop locally for hosting... at least if something goes FUBAR there's a place where you can go yell at someone in person.
posted by clevershark at 11:30 AM on January 15, 2008


Lucky for me, I recently turned off their auto-pay feature. It seems really dumb that they haven't sent out an email to all customers to let them know what's going on. At least, I haven't received one yet.
posted by teg at 11:31 AM on January 15, 2008


"Discussion boards are reporting a litany of overdrafts, credit card overlimit fees, and bounced checks."

Hmm. I've had suppliers mistakenly double-charge both debit cards and credit cards last year; in all cases, there were no consequences whatsoever once the transactions were rolled back.

(the more I read about how credit cards/ratings work over there, I more I wonder how you guys manage to keep your economy running ;-)

(coincidentally, a US company sent me a $50 check today, because their US bank couldn't wire the money since they failed to verify my local bank's street address. there's a non-ASCII character in that address, you know, which means that they're probably some kind of terrorist outfit. and it'll cost me $25-$30 to cash the check...)
posted by effbot at 11:32 AM on January 15, 2008


Now wonder why I don't use dreamhost, and never will!! I'm really, really happy with my current host, Lunarpages!!!
posted by webgurl at 11:32 AM on January 15, 2008


The most troubling thing about this is not the billing issue itself -- obviously Dreamhost is intent on nullifying all the bogus charges, but the lack of safeguards in the U.S. banking system and the paltry consumer protections. It's really alarming that all it takes is a billing error or a little malicious activity by a small merchant to destroy someone's FICO score. You can sort things out with your credit card company, perhaps, but there's no assurance they won't report a bunch of bullshit to Equifax when you tried all along to do The Right Thing.

Also as noted this billing error appears to be hitting people that had "auto bill" OFF.
posted by crapmatic at 11:33 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


effbot said: Hmm. I've had suppliers mistakenly double-charge both debit cards and credit cards last year; in all cases, there were no consequences whatsoever once the transactions were rolled back.

effbot, here in the US there can be a mess of secondary effects when checks bounce, even if you fix the accounts after-the-fact. We don't enjoy the banking protections a lot of other countries offer.
posted by crapmatic at 11:35 AM on January 15, 2008


in all cases, there were no consequences whatsoever once the transactions were rolled back.

The problems are usually due to someone being near empty in their checking account. So Dreamhost charges $200, but they only had $500 in the account, and now their $400 rent check bounces.

Of course, using a debit card for auto-billing is really scary dangerous, so maybe they'll learn. At least with a credit card you have a billing cycle to figure things out.
posted by smackfu at 11:39 AM on January 15, 2008


I have been getting billing emails all morning. From the FUTURE. Dated 2009.

This happened to me this morning... I replied to the e-mail, as instructed, and just now I got a response saying "sorry for the mixup; we've corrected the problem." That was the crisis I endured from Dreamhost.

Apparently, some other people, if I'm reading the message boards correctly, experienced the September 11 attacks all over again. Dreamhost had a day-long downtime problem last year and it was just amazing the bile that they were getting on their support board- as if site downtime was a crime equivalent to child rape or something.

I've suffered the rare moment or two of downtime with Dreamhost before, and granted I don't run a vastly high-traffic commercial site, but I don't really see why people are so vehemently hateful of them. They have generally effective and attentive support, they've never screwed me over like some other companies I've used, and their service, especially at the price they charge, is pretty damn good.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:39 AM on January 15, 2008 [6 favorites]


BTW, I did get an apology email a few minutes ago.
posted by smackfu at 11:40 AM on January 15, 2008


Thanks to Metafilter I went back and re-read the billing email I got from DH this morning. I want to throttle the dumbass who screwed this up. Guess I'll have to settle for a new hosting service.

Anyone have a good one they've been using for some time without this kind of fuckery?
posted by jsavimbi at 11:42 AM on January 15, 2008


Me and some others had a webzine that went defunct last year. The domain was registered with Dreamhost. Now I'm happy that we forgot to renew the registration last year.
posted by Kattullus at 11:43 AM on January 15, 2008


Dreamhost is pretty good, as providers go. Excellent UI, great customer service, fun & forward-thinking site managers and great customer communication.

This was a pretty major fuck-up, but it was entirely a human-based error, and freely admitted. I have no doubt they'll make good on any problems they've caused. Can you imagine the response from another provider being any better? I can imagine it being quite worse.
posted by Aquaman at 11:44 AM on January 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


I got an email this morning, which I thought was odd, but since I'm paid up for 2 years, they billed me $0. That's quite a fuck up.
posted by chunking express at 11:48 AM on January 15, 2008


Ugh. Luckily I moved off DH a while back (to Nearly Free Speech, who I love, and who are dirt cheap for the sort of ultra-low-traffic pages I have) before things started going south. I can't say I really ever had any problems with them, but they were overkill for my needs.

I guess if I was still there, the real make-or-break point would be their response to the screwup, rather than the screwup itself. Okay, so they really blew it -- now what? Do they put all the money back and offer to immediately refund anyone who had overdraft fees, plus compensate them for their trouble? That might actually make me think better of them as a company. But if they just say 'oops' and backcharge, then I think it's time to say sayonara.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:51 AM on January 15, 2008


The most troubling thing about this is not the billing issue itself -- obviously Dreamhost is intent on nullifying all the bogus charges, but the lack of safeguards in the U.S. banking system and the paltry consumer protections. It's really alarming that all it takes is a billing error or a little malicious activity by a small merchant to destroy someone's FICO score.

It seems that a lot more anger is directed toward potential financial/credit problems than technical issues in the scope of Dreamhost's capability.

Obviously I'm not excusing Dreamhost vis-a-vis the technical side of the screwup, but it really, really, really does seem like putting automatic payment on an account that you rarely maintain enough of a balance on to cover yourself for overdrafts that has terms in which overdrafts could severely fine you and/or damage your credit rating is a tremendously awful idea, and certainly not worth the convenience of not simply turning auto-payment off and marking "pay Dreamhost" on your calendar.

I think auto-payment, as opposed to simply an automatic reminder (which Dreamhost is GREAT with, BTW) is a bad idea altogether. In the long run, I tend to think anything that reduces the amount of attention you pay to your day-to-day finances is not something you should consider a benefit.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:51 AM on January 15, 2008


Boy am I glad I had the foresight to remove my credit card from my account after loggin in to pay a bill.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:52 AM on January 15, 2008


This is why whenver I pay for anything online, it's with a one-use-only virtual Visa card.
posted by signal at 11:53 AM on January 15, 2008


This is why I pay for everything through gold ingots.
posted by drezdn at 11:55 AM on January 15, 2008 [6 favorites]


I'm quite curious how they'll handle the secondary effects. I'm not bouncing any checks, but my banks fraud-auto-detector thingy is suspending my card. I wonder if they have some sort of insurance that will cover those people with secondary fallout, or if they'll have to pay it out of pocket, or just tell people 'thems the break for using a debit card instead of a proper credit card'.
posted by nomisxid at 11:55 AM on January 15, 2008


I'll be staying with Dreamhost as long as they don't make this sort of mistake again. They've been helpful when ever I've had questions, my sites seem to mostly stay up and their pricing seems reasonable to me.
posted by drezdn at 11:56 AM on January 15, 2008


Luckily I wasn't affected by this latest screw-up, but they do seem to have a knack for stupid mistakes.

But then again, every hosting firm I've had dealings with, no matter what their price or reputation, has had a broadly similar level of reliability. One firm repeatedly billed me for things I'd cancelled, a high-end dedicated hosting firm didn't have anyone who knew what reverse DNS was, another was incapable of setting server clocks correctly, another deleted all hidden files (including .htaccess) then denied it, and so on. It seems there are so many aspects involved that virtually no one avoids disasters and has comprehensive knowledge.
posted by malevolent at 11:57 AM on January 15, 2008


XQUZYPHYR: Actually some of the links do show that people who did not select auto-bill were getting debited anyway. Making the wise billing choice would not have helped here... your credit rating could still be impacted. As others have said, a one-time VISA or hell, paper checks or perhaps Paypal (as a buffer) might have been the only thing that helped. Luck seems to be working for some, thankfully.
posted by crapmatic at 12:00 PM on January 15, 2008


Also as noted this billing error appears to be hitting people that had "auto bill" OFF.

For the record, I am a Dreamhost customer who has ALWAYS had Auto-Bill OFF and I have had ZERO charges from them to day.
*I did NOT have "the foresight to remove my credit card from my account after logging in to pay a bill"
*Their record of my card does not include the "card security code" (good for them)
*My card on file does expire before 12/08 (good for me)
posted by wendell at 12:03 PM on January 15, 2008


Also, I like Dreamhost. They are cheap as siin and give you more bandwidth and disk space than you could ever use. (I suppose that's a gimmick, but it's a nice one.)
posted by chunking express at 12:04 PM on January 15, 2008


The two Dreamhost blogs were pretty funny. Hundreds of people talking about class action suits and huge domino-like chains of financial misfortune all started by being accidentally billed an extra hundred dollars.

Are people not allowed to make mistakes anymore (sitting Presidents excepted)?
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:04 PM on January 15, 2008


This explains that mysterious double-charge email I got this morning. Aw, Dreamhost, you little rascal.

From the sounds of things in the Dreamhost Status comments and discussion forum, despite the fact that the webhosting company is already trying to work through the mistaken charges and reverse them, it’s going to lose a bunch of business over the fiasco

All else aside, I think it's worth pointing out to those unfamiliar with the Dreamhost Status Blog that every single time anything happens it sounds like DH is going to lose a bunch of business. There are people who, as far as I can tell, have the blog set to their homepage so they can be sure to threaten to take their business elsewhere in every new post.
posted by cortex at 12:14 PM on January 15, 2008 [11 favorites]


Holy shit. This is the worst screw-up I've seen in the world of webhosting, at least in terms of affecting individual users. A small part of me feels really, really sorry for the DH team, 'cuz they are gonna pay and pay and pay for this.
posted by davidmsc at 12:14 PM on January 15, 2008


I'll throw in that if you absolutely must have auto-pay for anything, for the sake of your FICO score, use a credit card. The first time I signed up for a gym I didn't have a CC, so I used my debit card. Once I had a credit card I tried several times to move the monthly charge from one card to the other with no luck. I finally just became disgusted with the gym's service and cancelled my membership.
posted by Talanvor at 12:15 PM on January 15, 2008


I don't endorse any kind of retribution or renumeration above what a customer loses but I can't forgive this kind of thing. Hosting service is all about trust. I have to know they are as secure and rigorous as they can be. I have to look out for MY clients. DH is getting kicked to the curb.
posted by tkchrist at 12:18 PM on January 15, 2008


Are people not allowed to make mistakes anymore (sitting Presidents excepted)?

Not when those mistakes could result in your having to pay an extra couple of hundred bucks a month on a mortgage a year from now, no.
posted by clevershark at 12:19 PM on January 15, 2008


Someone call me if this results in DH lowering sign-ups fees...
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:22 PM on January 15, 2008


This is so funny. We got this message this morning, without having seen any bank charges or whatnot:

Ack. Through a COMPLETE bumbling on our part, we've accidentally attempted
to charge you for the ENTIRE year of 2008 (and probably 2009!) ALREADY
(it was all due to a fat finger)!

We're really really realllly embarassed about this, but you have nothing
to worry about. Please ignore any confusing billing messages you may have
received recently; we've already removed all those bum future charges on
your account (#XXXXXX) and fixed everything up.

Thank you very very much for your patience with this.. we PROMISE
this won't happen again. There's no need to reply to this message unless
of course you have any other questions at all!

Sincerely,
The Foolish DreamHost Billing Team!


So we thought it was some weird phishing thing, and were talking about forwarding it to their security, and then here this was.

The whole thing is just freaky. It's a big error, but the manic, totally unprofessional tone is just totally off-putting. If we had actually been out some cash the last thing I would have wanted was some acking oopsing CAPSING horseshit like this. It is the very opposite of reassuring.

Before this I'd never read the Dreamhost blog but now that I have it's clear they've taken the whole youthful breeziness business blogging thing a mile too far. They should maintain a grip on clarity and basic decorum. Sending out screwball emails like this the moment something goes seriously awry is not such a hot strategy for boosting customer confidence. It doesn't read like honesty. Well, maybe the kind of honesty that makes someone who is drunk scream "I'm sorry! I love you!" in your driveway at three in the morning. Hilarious maybe, but you wouldn't send that dude down the road with 5 bucks to get you some tacos, much less hand him your credit card.
posted by melissa may at 12:33 PM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


As one who posted this thread in the first place and is out $279, I am actually going to stay, believe it or not. I've been with them 3 years and the service has been stable... certainly better than Verio and some other hosts I tried. There's just too much shitty hosting out there that I think I'm bound to jump into one pig trough and landing in another. I think this crisis is going to put the hammer down for security and service and they're going to have to keep a clean nose for awhile.
posted by chips ahoy at 12:34 PM on January 15, 2008


jump OUT of one pig trough and land in another.... I'm sounding like Borat today.
posted by chips ahoy at 12:36 PM on January 15, 2008


This is why I pay for all my online purchases with a convex combination of mathowie's, cortex's, and jessamyn's credit cards.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:40 PM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Jesus Christ, some people are living really close to the bone if a $200 hosting charge means eviction.
posted by unixrat at 12:42 PM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


wendell writes "I trust DreamHost with a lot of things, but I never trusted them with Auto-Pay. Hell, I never trusted ANYONE with Auto-Pay; what few recurring monthly/annual charges I have I handle myself. Does that make me luddite, paranoid or just responsible?"

I'm a computer tech. I've also done web development. The company I currently work for has auto pay as an option. I never do auto pay, but I do pay almost all my monthly bills online.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:46 PM on January 15, 2008


Per the DH blog:

A new service is running right now (in parallel on all the controllers) that fixes all those future charges, re-enables your account if it was erroneously suspended, and if your credit card was automatically rebilled, refunds the payment automatically. You don’t have to contact us or your bank, and you’ll get an email when your account is finished fixing up. It’s going to take several more hours to complete. There are (or were, after this incident) a lot of you these days!

If, because of this billing mistake, you somehow incurred some fees from your bank or credit card company, please let us know after tomorrow (today we are just replying to all 10,000+ billing messages with a generic explanation) and we’ll do our best to make it right for you.


So, yes, it looks like they're going to take steps to try and alleviate some of the credit fee problems.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:48 PM on January 15, 2008


This may actually affect DreamHost's business more than any of their previous downtime and other problems since a loss of service represents lost 'opportunity costs' (which for most users of very-low-cost hosts is not much), but this hit many of them directly in the bank account. And those of us who don't earn diddly from our websites are most easily hurt by surprise charges. (Yes, unixrat, some folks are living really close to the bone, and some of them have what SHOULD be a decent income. Welcome to the 21st Century.)

Then again, nothing happened to me. And if a lot of people leave DH because of this, there'll be more room on their servers and in their pipes for me. (Just remember to back it all up offline more frequently in case they go totally belly-up... still unlikely)
posted by wendell at 12:48 PM on January 15, 2008


Jesus Christ, some people are living really close to the bone if a $200 hosting charge means eviction.

A $200 hosting charge, double billed, twelve months in advance, is a lot of money for someone just starting out who's confidence has been shaken by this situation.

I don't know how close you need to live "to the bone", as you so eloquently put it, but January is usually my slowest month after Xmas/holidays, so I wasn't expecting this to happen out of the blue.

Yes, people freak out when someone dickers with their bank account. It's a fact of life, and when you're in the business of automatically billing people, you might want to be a little more careful when you run your scripts.

That being said, it looks like the half of their company who are not busy fixing the problem and are out posting damage control in multiple forums have reported back to their superiors that they need to tone down the jokiness of response and maybe make a call to PR firm that can handle that end from now on.
posted by jsavimbi at 12:50 PM on January 15, 2008


I never do auto pay, but I do pay almost all my monthly bills online.
Yes, that is one of the upsides of 21st Century Internet Economics. I wonder if my landlord notices when he gets consecutive check numbers for two months' rent.
posted by wendell at 12:51 PM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


are people not allowed to make mistakes anymore (sitting presidents excepted)?

people are not allowed to take money out of my account that they aren't entitled to, and when they do, i mount a full-court civil and criminal press.
posted by bruce at 1:02 PM on January 15, 2008


jsavimbi: One of their old blog posts was about how they used to employ a PR firm…

Turns out PR firms are absolutely terrible at web stuff.
posted by blasdelf at 1:06 PM on January 15, 2008


I've had an account with them -- on autopay -- since 2001. Had this happened in 2001 I would be in a world of shit personal finance-wise since I was pretty poor then. Fortunately, I have a few more bucks in the bank these days, but I can feel the pain of those in a lesser position. But I also know, in terms of fuckupery, a good bank will reverse any bounce charges if you have the merchant tell them.

DH did something wacky with my account a few years ago and ended up giving me several months for free as a way of saying they were sorry. It will be interesting if they do something like that now. Of course it was easier when they were much smaller and the impacted people were just a few dozen. This one is going to sting.
posted by birdherder at 1:08 PM on January 15, 2008


Eh, for most people it's just a credit card charge that got reversed.

Although those can go bad too... I paid a large doctor's bill with a credit card, and they typed in the charge wrong, adding an extra digit at the beginning. So it was about 11x larger than expected. Thousands instead of hundreds. The crazy thing was that Chase put the charge through, then charged an overlimit fee, then said I had to pay the overlimit amount IMMEDIATELY. It was stupid. Of course it all got reversed, but it was a little stressful, and I had to call to get the overlimit charge removed.

What I got charged, $400, not so stressful.
posted by smackfu at 1:11 PM on January 15, 2008


wendell writes "I wonder if my landlord notices when he gets consecutive check numbers for two months' rent."

Yeah, that's about the only time I have to write a check anymore. That, and propane ...
posted by krinklyfig at 1:13 PM on January 15, 2008


Why does the figure 7.5 million dollars for "virtually 100% of their clients" being charged for one-or-more years of service NOT sound right to me? Do they run their business on $7.5million a year in revenue?

Fallible human beings should never do business with people like bruce. Thank you for NOT treating your doctor that way, smackfu.
posted by wendell at 1:15 PM on January 15, 2008


Metafilter: acking oopsing CAPSING horseshit

Jesus Christ, some people are living really close to the bone if a $200 hosting charge means eviction.

Well, yeah. Living paycheck to paycheck is a reality for a lot of people, some of whom nonethless have the audacity to maintain websites.
posted by cortex at 1:23 PM on January 15, 2008 [4 favorites]


Plus, this is Dreamhost. They sell a lot of plans for $10 first year, $120 after that. Most of those people plan to cancel it and never pay $120.
posted by smackfu at 1:25 PM on January 15, 2008


fallible human beings should never do business with people like bruce...

stupid and careless human beings...you're right. it's foreseeable when running an autopay system that if you make a mistake, you will take more money out of your customers accounts, and they will get overlimit fees, and their checks will bounce, and they'll have to spend time on the phone with their other creditors. my time is valuable, wendell, and the law provides me the right to recover damages for something like this. if you have no objection to being a volunteer quality control officer for the companies you deal with, that's your business. customers like me make life easier for customers like you, because we do the heavy lifting to raise the corporate bar that you are unwilling or unable to do yourself.
posted by bruce at 1:26 PM on January 15, 2008


I canceled my service with them three months ago and STILL got dinged with a big giant charge this month. I'm glad I left, but I'd be even happier if I had never started with them. My two years with them were an enormous mistake that cost me an enormous amount of lost traffic and wasted time.
posted by luriete at 1:27 PM on January 15, 2008


I still don't understand how I was charged twice though. The rest of the story makes some stupid sense, but not that bit.
posted by smackfu at 1:27 PM on January 15, 2008


I was one of the unfortunate ones hit with an overdraft; luckily my bank told me not to worry about it. From the blog:

If, because of this billing mistake, you somehow incurred some fees from your bank or credit card company, please let us know after tomorrow (today we are just replying to all 10,000+ billing messages with a generic explanation) and we’ll do our best to make it right for you.

So, that's nice.

Between the status blog, the official blog, and the message board, there are some horror stories. Someone was mistakenly charged $9085. IT'S OVER NINE THOUSAAAAND
posted by danb at 1:30 PM on January 15, 2008


Well, yeah. Living paycheck to paycheck is a reality for a lot of people, some of whom nonethless have the audacity to maintain websites.

Is this some sort of Snow Crash-ian dystopia where people will live in poverty to maintain a link to the internet? It ain't that important.

Newsflash: Put down the blog and find a job and place to live that doesn't have you teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. Then you can afford to host your WoW clan's website.
posted by unixrat at 1:42 PM on January 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


Hey, it's not their fault their mom won't let them have a credit card.
posted by smackfu at 1:44 PM on January 15, 2008


So I have to find out from Metafilter why I was charged for a full year this morning.

Never did like their jokey, unprofessional mailshots.
posted by prolific at 1:45 PM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


unixrat: Newsflash: many people make their living with a website.
posted by zsazsa at 1:48 PM on January 15, 2008


Some of us are living paycheck-to-paycheck and using our dreamhost accounts to develop web development skills so we can get paid more so we can stop living paycheck-to-paycheck.
posted by drezdn at 1:53 PM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Is this some sort of Snow Crash-ian dystopia where people will live in poverty to maintain a link to the internet? It ain't that important.

I'm going to gently suggest that (a) there are many, many worse things a person in poverty could do with their money than run a website and that (b) if the paycheck-to-paycheck thing really strikes you as odd, it might not be a great idea to be so dismissive about how people live their lives and maintain their morale and their sanity. I don't think you mean any harm, but what your saying seems to stack up approximately to you being able to decide what is and isn't okay for a financially-insecure person to care about or be interested in.
posted by cortex at 2:07 PM on January 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


They worked out what they did wrong, they apologized, and they promised to fix it. That's rare, in my experience. Usually you have to work out what they've done wrong and document it beyond a shadow of doubt, they will blame you anyway, and then they have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the point of refunding you, let alone taking any responsibility at all for any secondary effects on you.

This over-the-top HANG THE OUTLAWS response is understandable, but unnecessary. As effbot pointed out, the unwarranted consequences are due to the stupid US consumer credit tracking system, which apparently every single merchant in the USA feels entitled to use as their own personal gang of legbreakers. Billing fuck-ups happen, and they happen far more often with auto-pay. That's the nature of things. You can't legislate against people making errors. You can legislate how they fix those errors.

The real issue here is the consumer credit score system's total acceptance of anything and everything merchants say, terrible error correction protocol, and its expanded uses beyond mere credit assessment. It shouldn't be possible to put anything on a consumer's credit score without waiting a month after a provable, good-faith effort at notification of the consumer is made. It should be illegal to use credit scores to refuse transactions where payment in full is made at the time of transaction, for services billed on an on-going basis eg phone connections or rent, or for employment or marital prospects or similar non-credit-related purposes. If payment for a bill (or a legal judgment saying the bill is invalid) is received, a merchant who has reported it to a credit scoring agency should be required to notify the consumer and the agency, and proof of the payment (or invalidating judgment) submitted by either the merchant or the consumer should be sufficient to have it removed from the credit score. Any time anything new is added to a consumer's credit report, the agency should be required to make a good-faith effort to contact the consumer, and provide their credit report to them in writing if requested.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:11 PM on January 15, 2008 [7 favorites]


x-posted from the blog comments:

I think that one of the reasons why everyone is so upset is the reason that dreamhost is so great: their openness and their community.

I've had "cheap" webhosts before, and none of them had an active community blog, detailed status updates that allowed comments or a staff that was so helpful and open when needed.

If this blog didn't exist, and dreamhost hadn't been so forthright with the situation, you would have a big charge, you would email dreamhost, they would say "we apologize, it was an accounting error, and you have been refunded" and you would go on with your day. Yes, it may burn for them to make light of what has caused you a worrisome day, but from what I understand there has been no permanent financial damage done (other than the ill will towards dreamhost).

If it wasn't dreamhost, to all of us, it would just be a bad morning, not a 7.5mil disaster.
posted by CharlesV42 at 2:13 PM on January 15, 2008


Is this some sort of Snow Crash-ian dystopia where people will live in poverty to maintain a link to the internet?

cortex forgot c) Holy shit, you could actually read Snow Crash?
posted by sleepy pete at 2:26 PM on January 15, 2008


Holy shit, you could actually read Snow Crash?

Oh we will have words, mister.
posted by cortex at 2:30 PM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Jesus Christ, some people are living really close to the bone if a $200 hosting charge means eviction.
posted by unixrat at 3:42 PM on January 15 [1 favorite +] [!]


fuck you very much. For many people, life is that close to the bone. Count yourself very fucking fortunate that $200 has never been an important amount for you to worry about.

people are not allowed to take money out of my account that they aren't entitled to, and when they do, i mount a full-court civil and criminal press.
posted by bruce at 4:02 PM on January 15 [+] [!]


That's because you're an idiot. It was an error that they have unreservedly explained and apologized for--no waffling, no buck-passing. The person who made the mistake spelled out clearly how he made it.

People like you are a large part of why your country has such a fucked up level of civil litigation. Mistakes happen. They are making good faith attempts to ameliorate any damage their error caused. Life goes on. Suing them is fucking stupid.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:40 PM on January 15, 2008 [7 favorites]


I somewhat share unixrat's amazement...not that I'm saying people for whom $200 is a big deal aren't allowed to have websites, but from the perspective that someone for whom $200 is a big deal, doesn't seem like they should be using direct withdrawls from their account. It's right in the paperwork you 'sign', that errors could happen. I know when I've been in close-to-the-wire times, I didn't let anyone auto-debit something from me.
CharlesV42 makes an excellent point, that we overchargees would not have even realized it was a company-wide screwup, with most hosts. Suddenly Phil's comments about the dangers of transparency seem a little less deranged.
posted by nomisxid at 2:59 PM on January 15, 2008


my time is valuable

just out of curiosity, last time you "mount[ed] a full-court civil and criminal press", how much time did you spend doing that and how much money did you recover (above the value of the overcharge, that is)?
posted by russm at 3:00 PM on January 15, 2008


Honestly, I freaked out a bit when I got the mail. Responded to the mail, asking for it to be reversed, and refunded. Turns out they got it before it hit my bank.

That being said, I agree it was a fuckup. But as mentioned, it was immediately noticed, they're working on correcting it, and they have stated they will make any overage fees right. If that's not at least a good start, I submit that your expectations about customer service might be a bit out of whack.

Dreamhost PS plus their huge allotments of bandwidth and disk space make it an attractive middle ground between shared hosting and buying your own box, and collocating. My only complaint is that I cannot yet get a BT seed running, and they won't let me run EggDrop.
posted by Cathedral at 3:07 PM on January 15, 2008


not that I'm saying people for whom $200 is a big deal aren't allowed to have websites, but from the perspective that someone for whom $200 is a big deal, doesn't seem like they should be using direct withdrawls from their account. It's right in the paperwork you 'sign', that errors could happen. I know when I've been in close-to-the-wire times, I didn't let anyone auto-debit something from me.

Thanks, much more eloquent than I was stammering out.

If you truly are living paycheck to paycheck, you need to be a lot more careful and a lot more discerning about your money. Hosting a website is just not that important. Certainly not when you're teetering.
posted by unixrat at 3:18 PM on January 15, 2008


Yeah, a past-due-double-bill from the future was not a particularly nice way to start the day. And hey! Come to think of it, AskMetafilter was where I first saw Dreamhost recommended! I'll be willing to bet there's a hedge-fund veteran involved in this somewhere.

(Kidding aside, I've been happy with Dreamhost and will weather this one out.)
posted by Otis at 3:20 PM on January 15, 2008


Seconding CharlesV42. I've been using DreamHost since 2001. They fuck up a lot -- sometimes too often -- but they fuck up in plain view, and they're honest about it. I've never had a problem that they didn't fix, rather than pretend it wasn't there. That's worth something.
posted by mcwetboy at 3:23 PM on January 15, 2008


Also as noted this billing error appears to be hitting people that had "auto bill" OFF.

Can someone point me at this? I've looked at the links but couldn't find it.
posted by Gary at 3:31 PM on January 15, 2008


people like you are a large part of why your country has such a fucked up level of civil litigation...

could you please elaborate on this? what metric are you, a foreigner, applying to whatever you know about american civil litigation to determine it as you stated? are you aware of the massive campaign by insurance/corporate/defense bar to instill this notion in the minds of the masses? can you identify any place on earth where capital can be held to account for the misdeeds of its servants more advantageously than an american courtroom? are you aware that the "fast track" concept in trial court administration actually consumes more judicial resources than it saves due to forcing cases to trial that otherwise may have been resolved or abandoned?

when you become a lawyer, you're faced with a number of choices. one of those choices is whether you're going to serve the capital, or serve the people. guess which i chose?

russm, thank you for your question. in september, i was passing an overloaded gravel truck on highway 101. a gust of wind blew some gravel off the truck and i had 6-7 immediate sharp impacts on my windshield. it did not shatter as i had feared, but it left some craters. i got the license # of the truck and the name of the contractor off its driver side door. new windshield estimate a tad under $500. demand letter to contractor. letter back from his insurance company inviting me to call. claims rep says in call "if you have no witnesses, we're forced to treat this like it didn't happen." small claims suit, set for trial at 8:30 a.m. on 1/2, the first business day of the new year. judgment for the plaintiff, full amount of the claim plus court costs. insurance check arrived in mail next day!

i logged about two billable hours doing this, if i had been representing my imaginary twin brother instead of myself. was it worth it? there's an additional social benefit weighing in: the roads will get ever so slightly more safe when the knowledge percolates out through the gravel-hauling community that they might have to pay for overloads. it felt good driving home from court knowing that other drivers were safer because of me, and that i was 1-0 on the year.
posted by bruce at 3:44 PM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Dreamhost's lack of professionalism in customer communications annoys me as a long time customer more than anything else. It's especially annoying following a monumental fuck-up like this one. I mean, if there's ever a mistake that demands a serious response on their part, it's this one. Seriously. Are there any adults working there? Or have they all left in disgust by now?

Thankfully, I didn't suffer any charges... the credit card I had on file had been recently re-issued with a new expiration date, and I had yet to update it in the system. Apparently, the old expiration date was enough to prevent the charge from going through. Of course, being a credit card (as opposed to my checking account), it wouldn't have been all that big a deal if it had. This is why I don't allow automatic withdrawals from my checking account. That's just asking for trouble.

Still, getting a "you owe us a bunch of money" e-mail immediately after stumbling out of bed this morning was a crappy way to start the day.
posted by jal0021 at 4:00 PM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Meh, I've been with them for a while and have never had cause to complain. I like their UI, the staff I've been in contact with have always been friendly and helpful, and their prices are great. And as to "professionalism", I'd much rather get jokey-but-informative emails that read like a human being wrote them than business lingo written by automatons who use terms like "action item" any day.
posted by biscotti at 4:36 PM on January 15, 2008


FWIW been using DH just over a year - host 10ish sites there. No outages. Excellent response to a number of customer service questions. Couldn't be more satisifed.

Yesterday they billed my credit card USD60ish and then credited it the same amount. Ho-hum.

I think this is where if I was a US citizen I would say "movie at 10" ... but I'm never sure what that means ... so I won't.
posted by southof40 at 4:39 PM on January 15, 2008


russm, thank you for your question. in september, i was passing an overloaded gravel truck on highway 101. a gust of wind blew some gravel off the truck and i had 6-7 immediate sharp impacts on my windshield. ...

So, for an overloaded gravel truck you go through the proper channels first and make sure insurance won't cover it. But a website overcharges and you're calling for criminal charges even while they are actively making sure everyone gets refunded? You can't see how that might rub some people the wrong way?
posted by Gary at 4:55 PM on January 15, 2008


I think this is where if I was a US citizen I would say "movie at 10" ... but I'm never sure what that means ... so I won't.

It's "film at 11", actually. Used to be, with breaking news, you'd have word coming down the wire pretty quick but the development and distribution of film footage took more time. So, initial report at six; followup with film at eleven.

Or roughly that.
posted by cortex at 5:00 PM on January 15, 2008


I'm a DH customer and I got e-mails similar to the ones described in the thread. In my case, the e-mail explained that DH attempted to bill me through the end of 2009, that my bank had rejected the transactions (like a good bank should), and that if this matter wasn't cleared up by the end of 2009, DH might close my account.

By early this afternoon, I received an e-mail that explained the situation and apologized.

No. Big. Deal. For a "$7.5 million error" that in my case wasn't really an error at all because it didn't process, I'll take a sub-24 hour fix, complete with a prompt e-mail explanation.

For you who posted "Thank God I'm no longer/never was with DH" comments, let me know when you find the company (hosting or otherwise) that never makes a mistake, never mind one that corrects it as quickly and as openly as DH did. My e-mail is in my profile.
posted by 27 at 5:33 PM on January 15, 2008


I've been slowly moving stuff hosted on Dreamhost to Media Temple over the past few months after one too many problems with DH for my liking. They're cute and funny and all, and offer some pretty big promises for the price, but they're leaving a bad taste in my mouth lately. I've only ever used hosts like this as a staging ground for stuff or side projects, but still, that doesn't mean I want them to suck. MT has been pretty good for the past few months. I'd recommend them for someone looking for a host for many domains.
posted by stephthegeek at 5:38 PM on January 15, 2008


i logged about two billable hours doing this...

Sounds like you're underbilling your client. Also, a jackass.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 5:39 PM on January 15, 2008


Count me in as another person who likes DH's service and is unconcerned about this. For what little that's worth.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:07 PM on January 15, 2008


can you identify any place on earth where capital can be held to account for the misdeeds of its servants more advantageously than an american courtroom?

I'll take that one. A European courtroom. The inquisitorial system levels the resources of parties in a way that the adversarial system does not.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:20 PM on January 15, 2008


Nthing the opinion that a friendly, open demeanor in a big hosting business coupled with their stellar attitude towards customer service is a rare and beautiful thing. They're taking care of their mistake quickly and with no excuses.

I dare you to find a PR firm that would have handled this situation with anything like the aplomb DH is showing.
posted by Aquaman at 6:24 PM on January 15, 2008


portmanteau: Hundreds of people talking about class action suits and huge domino-like chains of financial misfortune all started by being accidentally billed an extra hundred dollars.

Are people not allowed to make mistakes anymore (sitting Presidents excepted)?


With my money? The answer is no. And before you think "woo, couple hundred bucks on hosting, no biggie", I can tell you if this happened to me at my colocation facility it would most certainly have been a problem. See, my monthly colo bills are in the $600 range, and if I suddenly got whacked for $7200 that would be bad. I'm completing the purchase of a house this week and if that money just vanished, I'd be scrambling to replenish that much of my down payment from other sources (like my investments - at a penalty undoubtedly) before that fuck-up sewered my house purchase.

So in closing, thank God I have nothing to do with Dreamhost.
posted by barc0001 at 6:40 PM on January 15, 2008


Count me in as another person who likes DH's service and is unconcerned about this.

And another here. But still I read the endless carping and sky-is-fallings on the DH status blog. It's the only online soap opera I've found that's better than MetaTalk.
posted by gleuschk at 6:47 PM on January 15, 2008


Yeah I'm with Nearly Free Speech as well, and their greatest advantage in light of fuck-ups like this at Dreamhost is that you pay in advance then get notified by email if your account happens to be running low.
posted by Jimbob at 7:19 PM on January 15, 2008


I got the DH email also, and I've seen their fuckups, but I have other equipment in the same Metro-Colo building... they're open, and I like that. When they've gone OMGWTF, I'm sitting at home going OMGWTF... I'm not too concerned, I've nuked /usr/local on hundreds of machines by hitting 'Enter' without thinking 3x about it, my fat finger could take out half of California, coming clean and going "OMG I fucked up" as soon as possible is the best route. I keep my DH account just because of that.
posted by zengargoyle at 7:30 PM on January 15, 2008


barc0001 With my money? The answer is no.

People do not make mistakes on purpose, by definition. Being "allowed" is not a concept that applies to mistakes. The appropriate thing to do having made a mistake is to fix up the consequences, including financial penalties and whatever that banks have charged people, and that seems to be what they are doing; and also, to make sure the mistake can't be repeated in the same way again.

So in closing, thank God I have nothing to do with Dreamhost.

If you think no-one else you do business with can possibly make a mistake that screws you over, you might be in for a nasty surprise. Also, having made this particular mistake once, Dreamhost should, if they learn from it, be less likely to repeat it.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:36 PM on January 15, 2008


If you truly are living paycheck to paycheck, you need to be a lot more careful and a lot more discerning about your money. Hosting a website is just not that important. Certainly not when you're teetering.

cortex's comment bears repeating.

You might have something of point when it comes to the suggestion that it's wise to be especially careful about giving out permission to debit an account when you're close to the bone. But it takes some balls and severely addled thinking to suggest that someone with as little as a $10/month discretionary income shouldn't be able to spend it on running a website if that's how they so choose, or that failing to expect to be charged something other than the advertised rate for a given service somehow translates into a severe error in judgment.

And while I'll grant you that it's almost certainly less common, it may also have come to your attention that there's other things to do with websites beyond hosting WoW clan updates, some of which can actually have real returns for a fairly small cash investment. There are some people who probably genuinely feel like that's something to keep the low-class/low-income folk out of, but I'd rather believe there's a more charitable explanation for your thoughtless comment.
posted by weston at 7:58 PM on January 15, 2008


With my money? The answer is no. And before you think "woo, couple hundred bucks on hosting, no biggie" ... See, my monthly colo bills are in the $600 range ...

I'm speculating, but let's assume that even despite this, Dreamhost was still smart enough to fix the big accounts before the small accounts. All of the complaints on their blog were in the $200 price range, not the people paying for dedicated servers.
posted by Gary at 8:03 PM on January 15, 2008


could you please elaborate on this? what metric are you, a foreigner, applying to whatever you know about american civil litigation to determine it as you stated?

Right, yes, because it's impossible for a foreigner to know anything about MURICA THE GREAT. Tsk, bruce, your xenophobia is showing again.

Anyway, the metric I'm applying? The sheer life-sucking number of civil suits we hear about every fucking day coming from your country. I'm not saying that ridiculous litigation doesn't happen up here--the woman suing her drug dealer comes to mind--but you folks have taken it to a whole 'nother level. The idea of personal responsibility seems to elude vast swathes of the American consciousness, and the answer is always, it would seem, to sue. Ate too much fast food? Sue. Smoked too many cigarettes (becoming addicted after the health risks had been well documented)? Sue. Don't get into the college of your choice because your marks aren't good enough? Sue. Spill (admittedly overly) hot coffee in your lap, where no fucking rational person would ever put a cup of coffee they could surely feel was hot through the cup? Sue.

Of course, Dreamhost is taking responsibility. Unabashedly, unashamedly, and without reservation they have said mea culpa and are making amends. And people like you, vile parasitic growths on what should be a noble institution, advocate suing. For what, exactly? They goofed, they're fixing it. I fail to see what rational basis you could have for pursuing litigation. I'm sure there's some tortured legal justification--there always is--but in the real world, bruce (I know, I know, you're not really comfortable with reality as it is, and would prefer to return to the 1950's), what possible justification could there be for suing an entity that is making good on their mistake?

new windshield estimate a tad under $500. demand letter to contractor. letter back from his insurance company inviting me to call.

Why do I have the feeling that this letter didn't read: "Dear $contractor. So I was driving past your work site today, and a bunch of gravel from your trucks damaged my windshield. It's kind of an expensive repair, so here's the estimate I got, how about we work something out?"

monju_bosatsu: Sounds like you're underoverbilling your client. Also, a gigantic pompous xenophobic windbag of a jackass.

Fixed that for you.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:09 PM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Currency conversion is where the real fun billing errors come in. If you ever switch billing currency and local currency, you might end up with a fun 100x error.
posted by smackfu at 8:14 PM on January 15, 2008


I've been with Dreamhost for 5+ years and I much prefer the open "sorry, we fucked up" method to the tortured doublespeak most companies would employ in a similar situation. They're great about tech support, fixing things that have gone goofy and overall, they're cheap as hell due to the number of referrals I've made over the years to friends and clients. I've made mistakes. We've all made mistakes. It's how we handle them that counts.

For example, I'm in California right now. The airline fucked up bigtime and lost my luggage, causing me to lose income because I couldn't teach one of the classes I had been hired to do here (it's hard to do a hands-on class with no materials, and I can't put them into carryon because of the sharp stuff). Am I suing them? No. Did I ask to be upgraded to first class on the way home? Hell yes. I am willing to bet Dreamhost will be offering plenty of goodies to those of us affected by the problem, without any lawsuits or unnecessary b.s.

I used to work for a lawyer. Billable hours, hell. As I see it, many lawyers spend most of their damn day dreaming up pointless bullshit they can bill to clients with more money than sense. dirtynumbangelboy has it right.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:10 PM on January 15, 2008


And while I'll grant you that it's almost certainly less common, it may also have come to your attention that there's other things to do with websites beyond hosting WoW clan updates, some of which can actually have real returns for a fairly small cash investment.

Look, that's all well and good, but anyone truly making money on the internet isn't going to be crying "permanent credit damage" over a $200 mistake.

1) People can make money on the internet.
2) The people getting evicted because DH auto-billed them $200 have no money.
3) Therefore these people are not using the internet to make money.
4) These people are therefore hosting WoW clan sites with money they cannot afford to spend.
5) These people should not do these things.

Look, it's all 'should' and 'shouldn't'. No one is suggesting legislation preventing Joe Poorperson from doing this. There are a number of people pointing out that Joe Poorperson should probably not be spending his precious little money this way.

The bumper sticker has it right for once: Shit Happens. It's happened before and it will absolutely happen in the future. If you do not have enough money to cover the rent (or a blown tire + tow, or a leak in your waterheater, or whatever else that comes out of the blue and requires $200+ to fix) you certainly should not be spending what little money you have hosting a web site for your cat.

Honest to God, I have no idea why that is a controversial idea.
posted by unixrat at 9:41 PM on January 15, 2008


unixrat - because you're telling people how they should spend their money. objectively, you might be right, you might be wrong, but people don't like being told they're idiots for spending their money how they want to spend it. that's why it's controversial.
posted by russm at 10:24 PM on January 15, 2008


unixrat, the reason I am now spending $600 a month on colocation was in no small part due to me spending a tiny amount on webhosting back when I could barely afford it to help grow my business into something profitable. At that time I started, I was working for a paycheck elsewhere and getting billed an extra $200 unexpectedly would have probably screwed me up quite nicely. So by your logic I just shouldn't have bothered, right?
posted by barc0001 at 11:18 PM on January 15, 2008


Still, getting a "you owe us a bunch of money" e-mail immediately after stumbling out of bed this morning was a crappy way to start the day.

You should get out of bed even earlier. I got the e-mail at something like 3:00, and was bleary enough that I was like "Hrm? 12-31-2008? It'll sort itself out." Lo and behold, it did.

I've been with DreamHost for a while, and I'm absolutely staying with them. I've actually found their customer service to be good for my level of messing-with-the-internet, and their prices are really good. Even more than that, though, is that I firmly believe that transparency and authenticity are good things, and DreamHost has them in spades. One of the biggest reasons I didn't worry when I got the e-mail yesterday was because it was DreamHost.
posted by Alt F4 at 3:28 AM on January 16, 2008


Another highly satisfied DH customer for 5+ years here. I would MUCH rather have the kind of responsive, professional support I've always gotten than some cog-in-machine anonymous Metroplis-esque company that are dime-a-dozen out there. The human element - including fuckups and honest owning up thereof, is 50% of what makes DH the best host for my money. The other 50% is that they know and like what they're doing, which means happy employees, which means good service that comes across to people like me and aquaman and dirtynumbbagelboy and bitter-girl.com.

Steady as she goes, mates.
posted by yoga at 5:31 AM on January 16, 2008


Oh, as for the humor in DH newsletters, blogs, etc, including the email yesterday about the billing snafu, it's a welcome change of pace from both scripted service rep schpiel and starched underwear suit-speak that dominated the 60's.

DH knows the difference between stand up for a living and webhosting, and knows it's possible to have fun and do a good job simultaneously. Kudos to them for having the balls to inject some style & character into the daily grind without sacrificing quality.
posted by yoga at 5:45 AM on January 16, 2008


I guess we all need to hold guns a lil and see how it developes, because it appears they are fixing their fuckup. That is going to make some lawyer unhappy as some of them really want you to litigate forever and pay their seldom unexpensive bill.

What I really want is to be able to set a single transaction, maximum billable amount without my confirmation. Yet again I think some banks would like that much, they'd rather have you pay 15% on debts.
posted by elpapacito at 6:24 AM on January 16, 2008


Also the finger-pointing over the 'billing dates in the future' bug should not be focused on the programmer, but rather the team tasked with designing the billing system. In a proper system a feature list is drawn up, things are sketched out, a design document is written, and other parameters are set. Then the work is handed off to the programmer(s) with a 'build this' command. If the designers specified that the billing date entry system should accept any date, then it's not the programmer's fault that it does so.
posted by unixrat at 6:29 AM on January 16, 2008


Presumably you would also have a QA team that exists to test random crap like billing in the future.

As others have said, the way they communicate to their customers is a welcome change of pace from the way most companies do. If this had happened to 1&1 I am sure I would have seen nothing posted anywhere on their site about it. I might send an email out and get a reply a couple weeks later, letting me know it was sorted out, and that would be that. Dreamhost are very open about when they fuck up. Their support staff are also very friendly. People need to calm down a bit.

And bruce is a dick: why do people feel obliged to pretend he isn't and argue with him?
posted by chunking express at 6:47 AM on January 16, 2008


bruce writes "can you identify any place on earth where capital can be held to account for the misdeeds of its servants more advantageously than an american courtroom?"

I know this is something we'll never agree on because our basic philosphy of living is different; however, you guys are so good at holding capital accountable it costs thousands to tens of thousands of even weak US dollars to have an uncomplicated delivery and that's assuming you can find an OB in the first place. By the way how did you know the truck was overloaded as load ratings are done by mass? Sounds like he had an insecure load which is something else entirely.

Jimbob writes "Yeah I'm with Nearly Free Speech as well, and their greatest advantage in light of fuck-ups like this at Dreamhost is that you pay in advance then get notified by email if your account happens to be running low."

One pays Dreamhost in advance too (at least I and my clients do). But this was a billing error caused by a human running the bill processing routine as if it was Dec 2008. Unless you pay for bandwidth only (IE: no monthly charge of any kind) the exact same thing could happen with Nearly Free Speech.

Mark me down as another one who will continue to use DH unless a pattern develops specifically because they are so open and responsive.
posted by Mitheral at 6:59 AM on January 16, 2008


I have been with DH since 03.
I was not impacted by the billing error (I hate auto-bill with the fervor of a conspiracy theorist).

I am moving my site.

I am moving my site not just because of the billing debacle, but because of the same kind of tone and attitude evidenced in a recent support issue. I am not upset they couldn't (or wouldn't) troubleshoot the problem, I am upset because their attitude was inappropriate.

Call me old; call me old-fashioned; call me a boring old fart. I don't care. I am so far to the left I am almost a communist. I am a shit-kicking feminist punk rocker who has four tattoos.

But I'm also a grownup who knows the time and place for expressing your individuality and personality. When you are fucking with people's MONEY and livelihood (let's remember that they also took down people's sites yesterday because of the billing error, and this might impact their site and sites belonging to clients, AND the control panel was down, ditto).

For me, it all comes down to tone and attitude. There is a world of difference between IBM-Corporate-speak and devil-may-care-hipster-ness. Maybe this tone is appropriate for their newsletters. It was not the appropriate tone to take when you are dealing with someone's MONEY.
posted by micawber at 9:47 AM on January 16, 2008


I am way too lazy to move my sites.
posted by smackfu at 10:11 AM on January 16, 2008


DH '02 here. For shared hosting, I have no complaints. Sure, I might mutter once in a while about this or that and it iturns out those damn kids on my lawn *are* my webhost. So as long as they clean up after their raves or their crunking or whatever it is that they do, I guess it's OK.
posted by cairnish at 11:49 AM on January 16, 2008


yoga: 0133; it's a welcome change of pace from both scripted service rep schpiel and starched underwear suit-speak that dominated the 60's.

Yeah man, webhosts in the 1960s where total squaresville.
posted by signal at 12:55 PM on January 16, 2008


^ heh. All I could think of was Darren Stevens on the job at the ad agency.
posted by yoga at 4:37 PM on January 16, 2008


Their follow up today. Everyone's been paid back, they're willing to pay back overdraft fees, and they are letting people out of pre-paid contracts if they want to cancel.

He's even using his big boy voice for the old, old-fashioned, boring old farts who can't handle a picture of Homer.
posted by Gary at 4:58 PM on January 16, 2008


Unless you pay for bandwidth only (IE: no monthly charge of any kind) the exact same thing could happen with Nearly Free Speech.

I don't want to turn this into a total derail about NFS, but yeah that's how they work. You pay something like $1/GB of transfer and 1¢/MB-month of disk storage, debited from a prepaid account, computed daily in fractions of a cent. I think the only services that cost a flat rate regardless of use are SQL instances (the justification being that they tie up resources pretty much continuously).

When the account starts to run low, they send you an email reminding you to go and re-up, which you can do via a credit card or PayPal. To my knowledge, there's no auto-billing at all, and there's really no concept of a monthly 'billing period' that would cause everyone to be invoiced at the same time. It's totally demand-driven. I guess they could implement auto-debit and store your credit card number, and then would have the opportunity to bone things up, but perhaps that's why they don't.

It's obviously a very different pricing and business model than Dreamhost's, but I think it's one that maybe the big players ought to take a closer look at. (Though for the sake of the NFS guys I kinda hope they don't.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:05 PM on January 16, 2008


Yeah, I was going to say what Kadin2048 just said. There's no "monthly billing" with NFS, and there's no "auto-debit" feature. They don't store your credit card. You just charge up the credit on your account whenever you need to, and they subtract your hosting costs from it day by day.

NFS spell out why the big players don't take this billing route; they want to charge you $x a month for $y data, in the knowledge that if you don't need $y data, if you only use a fraction of it, then they make a nice profit. But if you do suddenly need $y data, they can make a tidy profit from the over-bandwidth-allocation charges, or by you changing up to the next rung in their account structure where, once again, most of the time you will probably use nowhere near the $y data allocation each month.

NFS's system just seems eminently fair; we have the ability, with web hosting, to meter exactly how much storage is used each day, exactly how much bandwidth is used each day. If you want, even exactly how much processor load was used. Therefore, any scheme that relies on a few fixed, monthly, pre-defined plans can only ever be to the disadvantage of the customer.
posted by Jimbob at 9:19 PM on January 16, 2008


So it's because they don't store a credit card and don't allow auto-debit that prevents some of the fall out of this situation. Keeping the numbers small let's say 200MB hosted (IE: $2 per month in disk use) and $15 in your account. If NFS had DH's brain fade that resulted in them billing as if it was December of this year your sites would still be down until NFS fixed their billing as they don't allow you to run a deficit.

Essentially the same impact as everyone on DH paying by CC and most people paying by direct debit even if they have auto billing turned on.

Even more exciting is accounts on NFS with $0 balance for more than 30 days are automatically deleted (per the FAQ) along with all the content. Here's hoping a similar mistake the fat fingers at DH made can't happen at NFS.
posted by Mitheral at 11:04 PM on January 16, 2008


Mitheral, I imagine from a practical standpoint, since your NFS balance is reduced each day based exactly on that day's usage, telling the system to process the whole of 2008 wouldn't do much, because there has been no usage recorded for the rest of 2008 yet. No bandwidth used. Maybe it would process the SQL charge, which is $0.01 a day, because that's the only fixed thing.

Where as with a monthly system, you can process the months ahead because there is a fixed monthly charge no matter what.

Of course I may be talking out my ass because I don't know the internal workings of NFS's accounting system, and I'm sure there is potential for mistakes. I just feel that paying for a limited amount of credit, an amount fixed by me, in advance, beats giving someone my credit card so they can recharge it any amount they wish.
posted by Jimbob at 12:32 AM on January 17, 2008


Holy shit. I thought this was more or less over, but it seems to be getting worse every day.

They first claimed to have issued refunds on Tuesday, and in a mass email they said we'd see them "almost immediately, within a day or two max." Wednesday, in another mass email, they changed their tune and said that the refunds "in some cases may take 5-7 business days to show up." Thursday (yesterday) a blog post said there was a glitch that caused about 3/16ths of their customers to not get their refunds, but now everything is cool and you should see them "for REALs this time."

Today, I (and others) had the bogus charges confirmed. My bank said that there is not a refund pending.

Now I'm debating whether I should file a claim or not.
posted by danb at 9:36 AM on January 18, 2008


I am sympathetic to everyone who has significant web hosting bills to think about and was hit hard by this, but as a more casual "vanity domain" Dreamhost customer, and a happy one at that, my attitude is to chill the fuck out and give them a chance to work things out. It was a royal fuck-up, a one-time pooch-screwing that arose from more or less a typo. And - big surprise - it's proven a little more complicated to undo than irate customers would hope. But don't let your reaction hinge on the stupid homer ad of all things. I'm willing to live with a mistake from a carbon-neutral company who's always delivered a good product to me at a good price. It's cool to point and laugh and jump on the bandwagon and it makes you look like a wide eyed, naive asshole to give them the benefit of the doubt, but I guess that's what I'm doing.
posted by scarabic at 11:21 PM on January 18, 2008


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