BlueHost Customer Relations

Editor's Note: In an effort to help our readers understand why we had recently moved hosting companies we are cross-posting this entry from my personal site, Temporarily Me. Our intentions being that the hosting company should be held accountable for their actions and to let it be known that when dealing with smaller sites, the repercussions can be similar, if not greater than that of a large website.  It's important for corporations to note that a little compassion is exceedingly more beneficial than forgetting about the 'little guy', because eventually? That 'little guy' may not be so little and could turn into a political nightmare. Compassion and understanding can mean far more than money or policies never will. Sam ***** It's normal to hear varying degrees of discord from clients of different hosting companies, that's really the nature of the beast. It goes for pretty much everything in life. Some love it and some hate it. We make our assumptions based on our personal feelings of someone else's situation. You can choose to draw your own conclusions from this post I have no control over swaying your decision one way or another. This is merely a one three six -sided account of what we've experienced while dealing with BlueHost regarding this one particular account. For full disclosure I will tell you that I have not paid a red cent to BlueHost for service. I have had a site hosted through their web hosting via an account belonging to someone else. Also, I waited to post this until said site - as well as both Heather and Mike's sites were removed from BlueHost service. Now that the business is out of the way, let's discuss. I hate to go back to this day, but that's where the story begins.... April 7th, the day that sweet Madeline passed away and the news was making waves around the internet, her parent's sites were inundated with comments and visits of support from concerned people around the globe; so much so that BlueHost - their web hosting provider - couldn't handle the amount of traffic arriving at The Spohrs Are Multiplying. Their only option was to suspend the account in order to re-instate service to the other sites on the shared hosting server. When Meghan called trying get somewhere with a BlueHost support technician, she was told that the site was running outdated scripts (Heather had Wordpress 2.5+ running on her site at the time) and that it needed Super Cache. The plugin was apparently then installed by a BlueHost support technician then the site re-instated. Success! But it was very short lived as the amount of load on the server increased, BlueHost again locked down the sites. Friends of the Spohrs swooped in hoping to help out by contacting BlueHost directly and asking, pleading that something be done for their sites so people could offer their condolences. A number of people were inundating their call lines and live chat with requests, which were all met with a cool "No" since none were able to provide the vital information needed for BlueHost to allow access to the account. I, as well as Meghan, had that information - so I tried my hand at getting some help and made a call to their customer support. The support technician was for the most part, polite but not at all understanding of the situation. There was no way they were able to re-instate the Spohrs' account. No way. No how. Not until all the traffic was diverted from the BlueHost server would they even consider turning the account back on. By this time both Heather and Mike's site had been shut down for the second time. I said to the lady, "Please? Anything? It's not like they're email spammers. They've lost a child and we're trying to have the site available even just as a condolence page. Just the last post would be fine as a static page so people could still comment and leave a note for Heather and Mike. Something." The response was they cannot do that. Sorry. That's the rules. So you're aware. BlueHost has a 'three strikes you're out' policy when it comes to the number of times your site is suspended. Regardless of the reason for suspension you will be required to find hosting elsewhere after the third time the site adversely affects the other users on the same shared server. Despite our best efforts to get something up and running for Mike and Heather - or even the reason for the spike in traffic - BlueHost verbally notified me they would terminate the account based on this 'three strikes' rule should the surge of traffic crash the server again therefore could not activate the account. I tried to purchase a package upgrade by changing the account's credit card information to my own but was denied as they didn't have another package option to offer. I tried to buy dedicated hosting, a virtual private server, even a chunk of a shared server - something - to move their sites to keep them up and running. I was coldly informed that BlueHost doesn't offer those service and our only option was to find Heather's site service elsewhere. Section 7.02 Paragraph 3 of BlueHost.Com terms and services reads:
BlueHost.Com will make every commercially reasonable effort to provide additional resources to Subscribers who are using their website(s) consistent with these Terms, including moving Subscribers to newer and bigger shared servers as necessary. However, in order to ensure a consistent and quality experience for all Subscribers, BlueHost.Com does place automated safeguards to protect against any one site growing too quickly and adversely impacting the system until BlueHost.Com can evaluate said sites resource needs.
As far as I'm concerned they did not efficiently evaluate the site resources nor the previous years service Heather has had with their company. Based on the telephone conversation I had with the technician they were not even willing to attempt any rectification. Prior to Maddie's passing, Heather's blog was a small to medium sized site with approximately 500 - 800 page views per day. Two days prior to April 7th there was 233 page views. I'm simply telling you this because Heather's site was by no means a drain on their system, but under these extenuating circumstances BlueHost simply washed their hands of the site and their client, leaving Heather stranded without the only means she's been able to express herself - to help herself grieve the loss of her daughter. (Thankfully two wonderful people stepped in and offered their own dedicated server to host Heather's site, for as long as it was needed, in order to allow Heather to post and friends and family to send love and support from afar.) In the meantime, BlueHost's political blunder and sloppy handling of this situation had been broadcast across Twitter leaving their president to try and pick up some pieces. Pieces such as this one from Gary:  (the highlighted part was done by me)
From: Gary Dawkins, Bluehost Support Team <support@bluehost.com> Date: Wed, Apr 8, 2009 at 7:07 PM Subject: Re: [#YDF-67126-157] outraged
To: XXXXXXXXXX The employee's here at bluehost followed the correct procedures for an account that was causing problems on the server. Once a supervisor was notified of the "situation" that was going on that's when they went out of their way to help by reactivating the account and even fixing the outdated version of wordpress that the customer had set up. The (sic) surely didn't have to do this but did so because they had compassion for the customer's circumstances. I'm sorry if other technicians were not as compassionate as you would have liked them to be, but they did follow company policies about the technical difficulties that were occurring at the time. Please have a great day and we are sorry for any misunderstanding.
They went out of their way? They were not as compassionate as you would have liked them to be? Really? Way to save face Gary. And for the record: "when the supervisor was notified of the 'situation' and went out of their way to help by reactivating the site and even fixing the out-dated version of Wordpress...." that was NOT done by BlueHost staff but instead by Jennifer and Bil when they moved Heather's site to their personal dedicated server. Not only did BlueHost misrepresent their "help" by taking credit for someone else's work, they LIED about it. They presumably thought they were talking to people who were not all that tech savvy and would be able to get away with misrepresenting their "support" of the site. Additionally, when I logged into Heather's site via FTP (file transfer protocol) I found that the SuperCache had not been installed either, just the .zip file of the plugin had been dumped in the root file of their domain (for non-techies: They did nothing except upload a file. It wasn't even activated). The DAY AFTER Maddie passed, the president of BlueHost (who is Matt Heaton, though Heather can't confirm for sure if he is in fact the person that called, because well, she was a little pre-occupied - but KNOWS he identified himself as the President) called her at home. Though his call may have been made with good intentions, it was cold and based solely on a sad attempt to right their social blunder. Based on what Heather's told me, Matt's cold, canned response was a typical public relations nightmare recovery speech. It was a sorry-to-see-you-go-but-we're-really-not-that-bad type call. Even though Heather had decided she was no longer using BlueHost's service, this ill-timed phone call was final the deal breaker. I understand that there are rules in place to protect the users of the shared server. These rules are typically meant to protect BlueHost subscribers from email spammers, as well as sites which have grown too large to be located on a small insufficient shared server. Heather's site had grown in astonishing magnitude in a matter of hours due to Maddie's passing, and though she had been a loyal subscriber for the better part of two years and had no previous issues with any of their domains, both Heather and Mike were treated as a nuisance and hindrance on BlueHost; Heather and I wholeheartedly believe that they paid any attention to this "situation" (as Gary called it) simply because of the negative comments flooding twitter and other social media sites. Had we not voiced our dissatisfaction with their handling of the site and service I truly believe they would not have thought twice about their hasty decision to shut down the sites of parents, who only hours before, had lost their daughter. Why am I telling you all this? BlueHost should be held accountable for their actions. Not only did they provide inconsistent service to their clients, they lied: they made assumptions and, for the most part, misconstrued information. As a community it is our duty to make fellow users aware of these attempts at taking advantage of us. Due to the amount of traffic Heather's site has seen over the past month and a half, BlueHost would not have been able to handle the traffic anyway. The site had to be moved to accommodate the more than 10.7 MILLION hits and over 2 MILLION page views it's seen since Maddie passed away. Regardless of this fact, the way BlueHost went about handling the situation was still less than stellar. They could have been upfront about the fact that they were no longer able to support the site, or maybe moved it to an empty or less populated server in the meantime while an alternative arrangement was made. Maybe offered SUPPORT rather than wash their hands of the issue. Would it have truly killed them to take a more compassionate route to fixing the issue? Probably not. Sure, there are rules - but rules are meant to be broken: and if the President of the company is going to take time out of his day to call and "apologize" for their mishandling of this account maybe he could have taken a moment to try and right it by allowing their site to move to a different server with less load or subscribers. How about reimbursing the Spohrs' their fees for the trouble?  Even some sort of condolence would have likely been appreciated had it not been made out of desperation to stop the hateful twitters and negative reviews of BlueHost's service.
Posted by sam {temptingmama} on May 22, 2009 @ 2:47 pm  

8 Responses to “BlueHost Customer Relations”

  1. Shae Says:

    I’m going to be completely honest, and probably very rude – but as a reader of this blog, this information seems vastly out of place. Sure, the hosting company shut down websites, but they did what was better for their business. Rather than shutting down a large number, they chose to shut down just a few. The world is all about compromise, and in order to run a successful business they need to make decisions based on hard facts rather than emotions.

    Less blind links (links on twitter posted by this blog and many other users with no information just a blanket message of “you must visit” or “please help.”) might have helped the traffic site problem. The death of a child is an emotional experience, but expecting a company to completely change their policies on a case by case basis just isn’t a smart and efficient use of time.

    Ann Reply:

    Successful businesses provide great customer service even when customers are in a difficult situation, or simply difficult.

    There are a gazillion companies in the world providing hosting, development, design, seo and all other things internet-related. Most are at least competent and most won’t be around in five years.

    The ones that fix problems without a lot of defensiveness and attitude will thrive in the long run. People will pay more for good customer service and will go out of their way to hire the company that provides it.

  2. Karen Sugarpants Says:

    While I see your point Shae, I don’t agree with it completely. Our friends’ child passed away and this community that Sam & I are a part of, rallied around Heather and Mike.

  3. Headless Mom (21 comments.) Says:

    Sam-Thanks for posting this here. I may not have seen it otherwise. I was certainly curious about all that had happened in those days following Maddie’s passing. That is a BlueHost#FAIL

    Headless Mom’s last blog post..Blended Families

  4. candace trew camling (134 comments.) Says:

    man, I totally had mixed emotions about this… but I really DO feel that Blue Host could have been more thoughtful in their handling of the situation.

  5. Hilly (12 comments.) Says:

    This is actually not the first time I’ve heard bad things about BlueHost. I recently had a bunch of people leave their service because they will suspend a site that uses swear words, I kid you not. They suspended my friend’s site (and he only mildly uses cuss words) with no warning whatsoever then treated him like crap when he called in to find out what was going on.

    As for Shae, I don’t think this post is out of place at all. Getting the word out about a company that “does what’s better for their business” and not for their customers? Well, that’s important.

    Hilly’s last blog post..Jinkies! It’s Retro Saturday Again!

  6. Andie (11 comments.) Says:

    Good god. Poor people! Just because a company is looking out for itself is NO excuse for lack of customer service! What has this world come to?

    I know that companies have rules, but in every case there may be extenuating circumstances which should be looked at closely to provide the customer with the best service possible. If they had taken a few moments to view previous history and the content of the site and showed just a LITTLE compassion, they may have been able to avoid bad press like this. Even the simple request for a static page could have been temporarily put in place as a stop-gap measure until the family was able to find a new home for their site. Even if BlueHost knew they may lose this customer due to high volume, it gives them no right to treat them in this manner. Everyone deserves a little respect. Give people something GOOD to talk about.

    Andie’s last blog post..April showers bring May flowers…and weeds.

  7. Sue Says:

    I have also heard a lot of negative about Bluehost other than this particular situation. (A quick search on google for ‘bluehost bad experiences’ is quite an eye-opener)

    Companies need to remember that without customers there is no business at all. Good customer service, positive attention, and common sense are far more valuable assets than policies and terms of service. Considering that Bluehost’s problems seem to center around conflicts related to their inept handling of inquiries, it wouldn’t surprise me if they saw less business to ‘save’ in the future.

    Anyway, if one situation brings attention to a consumer-wide issue, maybe the policy should be changed.

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