Experiences – Good and Bad – With Online Group Coupons

Like most other people who I know, I latched on to the group coupon craze last year, buying coupons for things that I probably didn’t need at prices that seemed to be a good deal. I’ve slowed down considerably from my initial rush, although I still have a few coupons to use up from those heady days, and I’ve learned a huge lesson: some online group coupon sites are reputable, while others are not. One enormous issue is that the sketchier sites don’t check out their vendors very well, with the result that you might end up buying a coupon that the vendor makes it nearly impossible for you to reimburse, or tries to switch the product that you thought you bought for something else. When you have to deal with those sketchy sites’ customer service, they do everything possible to refuse the refund to which you are entitled, and sometimes are downright rude about it.

I’ve had some great experiences, where I’ve bought quality goods or services, and continue to be a customer of a business that I might never have tried otherwise. A great example of this is WineOnline.ca, who offered discounts through TeamBuy and DealFind; I used all of my coupons, and I’m now a regular customer for ordering wine by the case, delivered directly to my home by their always-friendly team. I’ve purchased other coupons through TeamBuy, too: Toronto Airport Express (which I still use occasionally), the One of a Kind show, Mankind Grooming Studio (great gift for a friend), Booster Juice (too sweet for me, but good to try it out), Smoke’s Poutinerie (yum!), Best Limousine (not as convenient as my current airport limo service) and Rock Candy Life (nice shower curtain). The only problem that I had was a failed delivery from Rock Candy Life that appears to have been a pure shipping error, and was corrected immediately with a new shipment. In other words, TeamBuy definitely falls into my “reputable” classification, since they appear to be offering goods or services from companies that are in turn reputable, hence provide an overall good experience both for buying and using coupons.

Groupon has also worked well for me, including their instant coupons via the iPhone app. I discovered a new tea shop in my neighbourhood, Herbal Infusions (great selection and nice staff), went on a ride with Toronto Helicopter Tours (highly recommended), and tried out Front Door Organics’ home delivery (didn’t work for me because of their delivery schedules, although the food was great). I also bought a Bixi membership that I plan to kick off in the spring, and will likely continue with after the first year if I’m using it enough to justify. I also have a couple of coupons to use for restaurants that I’m eager to try out.

I’ve had mixed results with Living Social: I bought a mani/pedi at Soho Spa, booked the appointment for the day before I was leaving for a Florida vacation, then had the spa call to cancel that morning – after they had marked the coupon as used. I had to contact Living Social to have the coupon reinstated, which they did immediately, so they get points for customer service but could provide better instructions to their vendors about marking coupons before they are actually used. On most sites, the customer marks the coupons as used on the site merely as a convenience, and the vendor doesn’t have the opportunity to mark them used; there’s significant room for abuse here if you don’t track your own coupons but rely on the Living Social site to do it for you. TeamSave, similarly, has “disappeared” vouchers from my account; if I hadn’t been tracking them myself, I would have lost coupons that I had already paid for. DealFind, although I had luck with them on the WineOnline and other vouchers, recently sold one for a 32GB SD card from a vendor that appears unable to process an order, and I’m having trouble even contacting the vendor to find out what it happening. I think that DealFind, like a few other deal sites, have lowered their standards considerably in the vendors that they promote, and they’re likely to see a big backlash from that.

In the “not so good” category, we have DealTicker. I’ve only bought one thing from them, and it’s been a massive fail both from a vendor product standpoint and customer service. In mid-November, I bought a coupon for touchscreen gloves – the vendor site showed some brightly-coloured striped gloves that I really liked. The coupon was not valid until November 30th; the day before, I checked the vendor website and the striped gloves were still there, but after the 30th, when I went in to place my order, they had removed all the striped ones and only have plain grey gloves left. I contacted the vendor; they replied:

A variety of colours were available, however, as an online retailer, we experience a high volume of sales (outside of group-buy deals) especially for this popular seasonal item. Our suppliers no longer carry the colours previously advertised on our site. Therefore we are not able to stock the same colours.

A pure bait-and-switch scam: sell the customer one thing, then attempt to substitute something else. I contacted DealTicker, who gave me a completely different response:

We have investigated your complaint, and have been assured that Lifestyl.info will restock any items currently sold out. As they received a great deal of response to this deal, some models inevitably ran out. As your voucher is valid for one year, there is plenty of time to allow them to restock any item that is currently sold out.

Obviously, no real communication going on between DealTicker and the vendor, in spite of what DealTicker claimed. I requested a refund; DealTicker responded that it would be processed by December 29th, almost a month later. Unhappy with this, I tweeted that DealTicker should be ashamed to sell a bogus coupon, then take almost a month to refund me for it. The following Twitter conversation, in which they stated that their really horrible customer service is “awesome” and I am “miserable”, ensued (read from the bottom up):

DealTicker fail

At the very least, whoever posts to their Twitter account should be moved to a position where they don’t interact with customers.

Also in the truly horrible category is WebPiggy, which took part in The Butchers scam. I bought two different deals from them – an airport limo company that wouldn’t even return my calls, and the Butchers – and had to have both of them refunded since I couldn’t get what I paid for. The airport limo refund came right away, along with a code for an additional discount on my next WebPiggy order, but I had to send several emails and make phone calls to the customer services director with accusations of fraud before he made the larger refund for the Butchers.

The upshot of all this is that I’m more careful about the sites that I will even consider purchasing from, and the specific deals that I will purchase. TeamBuy, Groupon and a few others are definitely on my list, while DealTicker and WebPiggy emails go straight to my spam folder. I also avoid deals from websites that appear to be pushing junky products purely through internet sales, like Lifestyl.info and xsv360.com deals that have proved quite unsatisfactory, and where the same goods can be found at a similar regular price at more reputable online retailers such as TigerDirect and Canada Computers. Instead, I now focus on deals for local businesses that I just need a bit of an excuse to try out, and of which I will potentially become a regular customer.

In my business, if I sold a service then tried to bait and switch to something else that wasn’t what the customer wanted, or was deficient/rude in my customer service, I’d be out of business. By that measure, some of the online coupon sites should definitely not be in business, and won’t be getting any of mine in the future.

Don’t fuck with my finances

We all know that Intuit (the maker of Quicken) treats its customers like crap, yet there are few alternatives for a Canadian wanting to maintain proper personal financial records, especially when they are multi-currency. I’m sure that Microsoft Money would also do this, but the time spent converting my 10+ years of records just doesn’t seem worth it, and there’s really no guarantee that I’m not going to have a whole raft of other problems with MS Money.

In their latest "screw the customer" ploy, Intuit forced me to upgrade from my reliable old 2002 version of Quicken, which did everything that I need it to do, by stating that after the end of the year, bank downloads and securities/fund price updates would no longer work. Bank downloads I can live with, since I could have just blocked Quicken from getting through my firewall and used the old .QIF format for downloading instead of the online exchange format, but I really need to have my securities and fund prices updated so that I know how my portfolio’s doing.

Shortly after updating, I noticed that it had downloaded some historical pricing data from around August — even though I had not requested any historical price downloads — that were totally screwed up: most of the Canadian equities were 10x what they should have been. Note that my old version of Quicken, which I had been using at the time of the faulty prices, had not picked up the bogus prices; I checked the Quicken forums for a discussion on that topic, and found that it is only the recent Quicken versions that are having this problem. I hand-deleted all the bogus prices in order to get my historical numbers back where they should be, completely unimpressed.

Today, I did my usual update in Quicken, and imagine my surprise to see that my portfolio had jumped by a huge amount overnight. Again, it looks like most of the Canadian equity prices are downloading at 10x what they should be.

The only response on the post on the Quicken forum is from an Intuit employee from June 22nd — presumably when the problem first appeared — who stated:

Hello All,
We are aware of the recent issue with the Canadian security prices and are investigating the cause of this issue. We hope to have this corrected as soon as possible–
Thanks for your patience–

Okay, I don’t have any patience left for this, so don’t bother thanking me. The other 7 pages of posts on this topic are filled with people who also don’t have patience for this. A single message from Intuit, left five months ago, as the only feedback on this recurring problem is completely inadequate. These are my finances, you idiots, not my recipe file! I’m extremely concerned with accuracy, and you should be even more concerned than I am about said accuracy.

I’ve just sent Intuit customer support an email, which they claim that they’ll respond to within two business days:

Canadian investment prices that are downloaded to Quicken are 10x what they should be in today’s update. This same error occurred a few months ago, which did not impact the 2002 version of Quicken that I was using at the time, but did get downloaded as historical price errors once I "upgraded" to the 2008 version. I had to hand-delete all of the bad price data from my portfolio and manually type in with prices from my brokerage.

Considering that I was forced to upgrade from 2002 under threat of losing the ability to update stock prices, the fact that the prices are broken is a bit ironic.

Let’s see what happens.

Update: they appear to have fixed the problem of today’s prices, and have downloaded price data that overwrites the previous 10x numbers. I’m still concerned about the larger issue of what they’re doing to prevent this obviously recurring problem in the future.

Screwed 2.0

You know that a Web 2.0 company is likely in trouble when their new and improved monetization scheme is to nuke their free basic accounts without notice, holding their users’ data hostage pending a signup to a paid premium account. That’s exactly what happened today with Eventbrite, an event registration service that I’ve used in the past and heavily endorsed.

Getting screwed by Eventbrite

Eventbrite’s original line, like most Web 2.0 companies, was that they would always offer a free basic service and a paid premium service, with some nice features on the premium versions. Features that, unfortunately, now include logging on.

Until quite recently, I managed the website and event registration for a not-for-profit club (as a volunteer). A couple of years ago, I convinced the board that we really needed to accept credit cards, and eventually moved event registration and membership renewals to Eventbrite with PayPal for credit card payments. I stepped down from the board this summer, and had a call a few weeks ago from the person who is now managing the event registrations to say that she could no longer add more than one type of ticket to an event — the club had always used a member price and non-member price for tickets. I checked it out, and sure enough, they had actually retracted functionality that had been part of the basic service all along.

The real kicker came today, when she called me again to say that Eventbrite had cut off all access to the wine club’s account unless they upgraded to a premium membership, because of a new rule that says that you can’t collect more than $1000 in ticket sales (in total? per month? per event? unknown) with a basic account, but have to upgrade to a premium account. No advance notice about this so that the club could prepare alternatives, just the inability to login as of today. That means that the two events that they have in progress right now have been hijacked by Eventbrite: the club is unable to access the list of attendees that have signed up to date, or even to shut down the event altogether if they no longer wish to use Eventbrite — which I’m pretty sure that they don’t, given the completely unacceptable behaviour of Eventbrite so far. The event still shows up for people to buy tickets, but the club can’t access it in any way.

Getting screwed by Eventbrite

In their help section, pictured above, they state “we have shifted Eventbrite to a one level service that offers these new features to all accounts at a low fee. With that initiative in mind, we are phasing out our Basic (Free) service”. So much for a perpetual free basic service. Furthermore, this likely prices them out of range of most small not-for-profit clubs (like the one that I used to volunteer for) because that extra 2.5% on top of the ticket price — in addition to the 2.9% charged by PayPal for credit card processing — does make a difference for the little guys. What’s really needed is an event registration service at a lower cost, or maybe a good open source solution that can be run on a small organization’s hosted website directly.

Eventbrite appears to be offering a “free” upgrade to the premium service for events that are already in your account, so the club could sign up and presumably get access to the data that’s trapped in there for the current events, but would you really trust these people with your credit card information?

Drop in quality at Fresh on Spadina

I’ve been a big fan of Fresh on Spadina since they opened a couple of years ago: it’s right around the corner from me, and the food is both great-tasting and healthy. We’re usually in there at least once a week, either brunch on Sunday or lunch during the week.

In the past couple of months, however we’ve noticed a decline in service. The wait staff have moved from efficient and friendly (in an “I’m cool so can’t be too friendly” sort of way) to ditzy and poorly-trained. The kitchen has slowed to the point where a brunch of one order of pancakes and one order of fruit/granola/yogurt takes over 30 minutes to deliver, and that’s well before the Sunday rush starts around 12:30.

Today was the last straw, however, when the food quality declined to meet the level of service. The server put in the wrong pancake order, forgot my cutlery, didn’t bother to ask at any time if everything was okay, and didn’t even stop back at our table until Damir literally waved his credit card in front of her face in order to prompt the bill. The kitchen took forever to deliver our order, and when it arrived, the banana-nut pancakes were thin, misshapen, overcooked and missing the nuts (which we found out later was due to the server putting in the wrong order) instead of the usual plump and delicious confection. We were both starving by this point and Damir, having run 6km this morning, wolfed the pancakes down anyway. I was luckier with the fruit/granola/yogurt — it’s sort of hard to screw up.

He mentioned that he had lunch there a few times while I’ve been travelling lately, and that the food and service was equally disappointing.

We’re now in search of another healthy brunch location in our neighbourhood. Fressen is a possibility, their dinner menu is great but the only time that we went there for brunch they were sold out of most of what was on their menu. Since they started the tapas menu for dinner, however, they no longer serve the pancakes and waffles for brunch. I’ve also heard about a new vegetarian place opening on Adelaide near Portland. We’re only part-time vegetarians, but favour vegetarian (or even vegan) places for brunch because they tend to be a lot healthier than the usual high-fat and high-sugar brunches.

Any suggestions are welcome.

Another on-time arrival with Air Canada

The good news: we landed 15 minutes early today on the flight from Moncton to Toronto on Air Canada Jazz. The bad news: we hit hard, bounced high, then hit even harder, collapsing the rear landing gear. Oxygen masks dangling and a slight smell of burning rubber in the cabin, the plane literally dragged its tail off the runway to the taxiway and stopped. Fire trucks arrived to foam us down, and emergency vehicles of all sorts converged — with unusually light flight schedules due to the holiday tomorrow, this was the most excitement that they were going to see today.

After 15 minutes, it was clear that fire was not imminent, and the flight attendant popped the front stairs (this was a Bombardier CRJ, low to the ground with the stairs built into the front door) and ordered us all off. Her only instruction: leave everything behind. Sitting in the front bulkhead seat, my friend Pat and I had our purses and everything else in the overhead bin, so while the rest of the passengers ignored her instructions and went ahead and grabbed their bags from beneath the seat in front of them, we left with nothing in our hands, although I luckily had my Blackberry in my pocket.

The plane was a sad sight, with the wing flaps and tail scraping the pavement (that explains the sound that we heard while limping off the runway) although the nose gear was still intact. We stood around watching the emergency vehicles for a while, then a bus arrived and we hopped on to get out of the chill wind. The flight attendant told us that we would be allowed back on to get our carry-on bags as soon as they determined that there was no danger, or that they would go on and get them for us, but she was clearly clued out about post-crash procedure since we were bussed off to the unused infield terminal without them. Although I didn’t really care about my jacket, book and DSLR camera, my purse was still on board with my wallet and passport; in other words, my whole life, and the only thing that was going to get me on a plane on Wednesday to Las Vegas to speak at a conference later this week.

Much waiting ensued, during which they offered medical treatment (none of the 37 passengers or 3 crew had any injuries), gave us a bottle of water and a $15 food voucher, and collected names and addresses. Several police showed up to assist with this — I’m sure that people move from scared to angry pretty quickly in these situations — so by now we had more ground staff than passengers milling around, although many of them didn’t seem to be doing all that much. Finally, we were bussed over to Terminal 1 where we could redeem our vouchers (as if $15 gets you very far with airport food, and we had no other cash because of the missing purses) and check with a desk that they had set up to handle the situation.

Thankfully, Damir was there to meet us, and had hung around for what was now a couple of hours; we were able to exit security and meet up with him. An hour later, we were at the desk checking out the situation, and were told that Transport Canada would be another hour with our luggage; apparently, they had to weigh it all, presumably to see if it had any bearing on the incident. Yeah, right: they have no idea how much we all weighed, which was certainly many times more than our carry-on luggage, and many people had taken their carry-on items with them, including laptop computers. I started fussing about what kind of security would be around the carry-on bags when they arrived, since anyone could just walk off with my purse, and was told that each bag would be checked for ID and only handed over to the rightful owner.

Another hour passed, and we finally were led down to the arrivals area to get our luggage. All carry-on items were in large plastic bags that were just being pulled out and dumped on a cart by baggage handlers; no security, no control, not even any separation from other arriving flights since it was right beside an active luggage carousel. Luckily, I showed up just as they were pulling out my purse and camera; I grabbed those then rooted around for my book and jacket before locating my checked luggage.

At the end of it all, we finally left the airport almost 4 hours after our “landing”, with a $21 parking fee and a sunny holiday afternoon that I’ll never get back.

What did I learn from this?

First of all (and I know that I’m going to get a huge amount of flak for this) unless there is imminent danger of fire, ignore the flight attendants’ instructions and grab at least the bag containing your wallet, passport and other essentials before departing. Like a complete fucking idiot, I followed the instructions, and was stranded with nothing. If I hadn’t stuffed my Blackberry in my pocket before landing and if Damir hadn’t been there to meet us, I would have been totally screwed.

Second, when you’re sitting in a bulkhead seat — the ones that we all covet for the extra leg room and absence of passengers in front of us that recline their seat backs into our faces — it’s tough to grab that essential bag since it’s in the overhead bin; that’s certainly going to have me rethink the bulkhead decision, or move to wearing something with pockets so that I can stash my wallet and passport. Maybe a photographer’s vest with multiple pockets. Or a bat-belt.

Third, when something like this happens and you ask a question that the airline staff doesn’t know the answer to, they will almost certainly lie to you rather than tell you that they don’t know. Or maybe they’re just incredibly misinformed, or undertrained. Or maybe there’s some other reason why both the flight attendant and the ground crew told me outright untruths about how my carry-on bags were going to be handled.

What could Air Canada learn from this?

First, if there’s no imminent danger, tell us to grab our purses or wallets, and leave everything else behind. Most people are going to ignore the instruction to leave everything behind anyway, so why penalize those who actually follow the instructions?

Second, provide better information, or say that you don’t know if you don’t know. At one point, we were told that we would be stuck in the infield terminal a “little while”, which Pat challenged by asking how long a little while was; they then admitted that it would be an hour, which was all that we wanted to know.

Third, cough up cash instead of vouchers, and more of it. We paid $21 in parking instead of $0 (usually Damir arrives and waits for me outside without parking), and I have to decide if it’s worthwhile to nag Air Canada to send me $21 in compensation. If they just handed over, say, $50 in cash to each person, we’d all be a lot happier.

Lastly, provide better security for carry-on bags when you finally get them back to people. These are things that passengers did not intend to leave their control, so they likely contain valuables and identification that can’t easily be replaced. Dumping them all out in the common baggage claim area was a total fuck-up.

A breath of fresh air in customer service

There’s often times when the customer service part of an organization can’t solve our problems, but the experience of the customer is impacted as much by the attitude and response of the customer service person as they are by whether the problem actually is resolved.

Earlier this week, I blogged about how I used ZoneEdit to get around the limitations of DomainsAtCost, namely, that they don’t have custom DNS, so can’t natively support my web site being hosted at GoDaddy and my email hosted on Google Apps. I submitted the following question to DomainsAtCost’s technical support:

You have stated in the FAQ that you don’t current support custom DNS (so that I can point my web hosting and mail servers to different providers, for example). Do you plan to support this in the future?

I expected a standard “we don’t have that, sorry” bot-like answer, and was pleasantly surprised to receive the following response:

Yes, but we have no ETA. Our support staff is pushing for it nearly daily, but have little word as to when it will be added.

The thing that I liked about this response is that I can see the real person behind the email: he’s frustrated (probably because customers like me keep asking for this), but his frustration is with their own implementation team in terms of getting the functionality up and running. Of course, I have a work-around so this is not critical for me, but real people in customer service can make a world of difference even when they can’t immediately solve your problem.

Reply, but not here

Rogers, you have to love them (or not). I use their Blackberry service (voice and data), which has good service but I find incredibly expensive when travelling: there doesn’t seem to be a good way to add US roaming onto my voice+data plan, and let’s not even talk about international.

Anyway, they sent me an SMS message today:

Rogers msg: NEW Daylight Savings Time Mar 11. 2 keep UR device date & time correct visit rogers.com/ dst 4 UR device updates. 2 opt-out of mktg msgs reply STOP

Cute. Very hip. “2” for “to”, “UR” for “your”. However, with the relatively large screens on many phones today, those abbreviations are for the benefit of the one typing the message on a phone keypad, not for those of us reading it. Since I’m assuming that someone didn’t type this using a phone keypad, this is just a bit too cutesy.

Okay, I want them to stop their “mktg msgs”, so I reply:


Right away, I get a reply:

Msgs sent to this address are not read. Go to rogers.com/dst

Les messages envoyes a cette adresse ne sont pas lus. Consultez rogers.com/hae


Yahoo has hijacked my domain!!

Three days later, the saga continues. Yahoo seems unable to figure out how to release my corporate domain and allow it to transfer to my new registrar, GoDaddy: it is still languishing in a “Pending Current Registrar Approval” state.

Today, I spent a long time on the phone with Yahoo technical support trying to get some actual technical support. I explained that I had initiated the transfer from GoDaddy’s side, entered in all the necessary information including the authorization code from Yahoo (which, when they receive the request to release the domain, is supposed to be Yahoo’s clue that I actually initiated the transfer). Then, I explained that the domain appeared to be stuck waiting for Yahoo to approve the transfer and relinquish my domain to the new registrar.

First, the tech support guy went through the same claim as I had fallen for earlier in the week, that they’re just the hosting provider and have nothing to do with the domains. I said that I had contacted Melbourne IT and that Melbourne had assured me that Yahoo was in fact a reseller of domains, so is required to deal with technical support issues. He immediately dropped that one — they must be trained to say that first for anything to do with domains, but also to not push it since it’s not true.

Next, he told me that the only way to “cancel the domain” (which is not what I asked to do) is to cancel my hosting account with them, which would cause interruption to both my corporate website (bad) and email (disastrous). I pointed out that I didn’t want to cancel my domain, just get them to release it for transfer, and he insisted that I had to cancel my hosting account in order to do this.

I tried to explain the logic of why this wouldn’t work, and even quoted their own help pages on this subject back to him: you transfer the domain first, then switch the DNS servers to your new hosting provider, then wait 2-3 days for the DNS changes to propagate through the internet, then cancel the old hosting account. If you cancel the old hosting account first, then you’re fucked: your domain will be unreachable until you get the domain transferred and the DNS servers.

We went through various rounds and permutations of this, including one where he came back, walked me through the pages to find my authorization code, and told me that I need this for the transfer. Duh, no kidding, moron — I told you that I already did that at the beginning of the call, and at least once since then.

I then waited 10-15 minutes on hold for a supervisor to come on, who told me the same thing: you have to cancel the plan in order to release the domain. I made him go to their own help page and read parts of it to him, highlighting the bit about “If you’d like to transfer your domain away from Yahoo!, we strongly recommend transferring your domain before you cancel.”

After a total of 58 minutes on the phone, and after the supervisor told me several times that I needed to cancel my hosting plan in order to get the domain to transfer, he started blaming GoDaddy: obviously, they haven’t initiated the transfer, because Yahoo’s systems would have released it automatically. And, by the way, he told me, definitely don’t cancel your hosting plan until that domain is transferred, or you’ll have an interruption in service…

Outage earlier this week

Okay, that sucked — you may have noticed that this blog has been down since late Sunday night, or showed my corporate website instead of the blog. I’m constantly amazed at the ways that domain registrars and hosting providers can screw things up; there’s always some new frustration. I’m documenting the whole story here for posterity — and maybe to help other people in the same position in the future — but if you’re not interested in technical details of domain transfers, move on.

It started around 2am Monday morning, when I couldn’t sleep and decided to start a project that I’ve been thinking of for a while: transferring my corporate domain, which includes my website and my primary email address, from Yahoo to GoDaddy. I love Yahoo’s webmail, but I’ve become frustrated with their implementation of MySQL and WordPress, which is anything but standard. I’ve been using GoDaddy for both this blog and my wine club site/blog for quite a while, and am happy with their registrar services, their hosting and their prices.

Easy peasy, right? Not so much. First, I go to Yahoo and unlock my domain — first step in starting any domain transfer. Then, over to GoDaddy and initiate the transfer. I get the email from GoDaddy with the Transaction ID and Security Code, pick up the Authorization Code from Yahoo’s domain management page for my site, and enter it all in on GoDaddy, which is supposed to be everything that I need to do, except wait. So I wait. Now, I’m a bit impatient about technology sometimes, but every domain transfer that I’ve ever done before has happened automatically, and therefore within an hour or two has switched over. Which means that I was a bit surprised to find that 12 hours after initiating the transfer, my domain was still sitting as a pending transfer in GoDaddy with a status of “Pending Current Registrar Approval”. Basically, that means that although I’ve initiated the transfer and provided all required approvals and security information to complete the transfer, the current registrar is sitting on the transfer.

Meanwhile, I replicated my corporate website on GoDaddy (which explains, in a roundabout way, why this blog was down — I’m hosting both under the same hosting account, and I wanted to make my corporate site the primary site, so had to relocate this domain as a secondary domain on the account, which takes some time) so that when the transfer finally came through it would be available, and I changed my MX records over on Yahoo to redirect my mail to a new mail account that I set up on GoDaddy for my corporate mail. Mail started arriving on GoDaddy instead of Yahoo, but still the domain transfer waited.

This morning, more than 24 hours after initiating the domain transfer, I called Yahoo technical support. “Walter” informed me that Yahoo is not the reseller of my domain (huh? then how come I paid Yahoo for my hosting/domain services?) but that I have to contact the registrar, Melbourne IT, directly — in Australia! Okay, this is starting to bite.

I went on Melbourne IT’s site and tried to their password recovery for my domain (which presumably would email a password to me as the domain’s contact), but was presented with:

Retrieval Failed

The Registry Key for Domain Name kemsleydesign.com was not able to be retrieved. This could be due to the Domain Name being managed by a Melbourne IT Reseller. Please contact your Reseller for assistance.

Hmmm. I went off to their help pages, then their contact pages and eventually found a customer service request form, where I tried to be as succinct as possible:

I am attempting to transfer my domain, kemsleydesign.com, from Melbourne IT to  GoDaddy, but it appears to be stuck in the status “Pending Current Registrar Approval”. I have entered the appropriate authorization code that should release the domain, but it has been in this status for more than 24 hours. Can you please confirm that this transfer is pending and will occur soon?

By this time, it’s midnight in Australia and (given the current state of things), I’m not expecting a real speedy answer, so I was impressed to receive a reply within the hour:

Subject: How to contact your domain manager for kemsleydesign.com


A Melbourne IT Reseller manages the domains specified in your message.

Please contact this reseller using the details below for any assistance you require. If the person you contact refers you back to us, ask them if they would please contact us on your behalf.

Reseller details:

Yahoo Inc.
Web address: domains.yahoo.com
Email address: [email protected]

If after 48 hours you have yet to obtain a satisfactory response:


Please provide us as much detail of any correspondence with the reseller which relates to this request.

Please note: In an effort to resolve this matter quickly we will notify the Reseller of this request including any details you have given us.

Kind Regards,
Melbourne IT Customer Support


The status of your case is now closed.

If you need to reopen this case with additional information, please reply to this email. If you need to contact Melbourne IT by phone please quote this case ID

Okay, someone is obviously confused: either Yahoo is the reseller and their technical support people don’t know it, or they’re not and Melbourne has their records screwed up. In either case, they both appear to be refusing to give me technical support for this, which lends credence to my argument that they’re just trying to delay in hopes that I’ll forget about it.They don’t know how stubborn I am (they should ask Netfirms).

I check the WHOIS information (again) and notice that Melbourne IT is indeed listed as the registrar, although I’m not sure if the reseller’s name normally appears on WHOIS along with the registrar. I replied to Melbourne IT, hoping to eventually get a human to look at this:

Yahoo customer service informed me that they are NOT A RESELLER, and that I must contact Melbourne IT directly for assistance with my domain. Melbourne IT is listed as the registrar on the WHOIS record for this domain. Please confirm that the domain transfer to GoDaddy.com is in progress.

Then, I fired off two emails to Yahoo, one telling them not to renew my domain (which they were planning to do later this week as part of my hosting package since it comes up for renewal next month), and the following which included Melbourne IT’s message to me:

Earlier this morning, Yahoo technical support told me (on a phone call) that Yahoo is NOT a reseller of domains, and that I have to contact the registrar, Melbourne IT, directly with my current problem with my domain kemsleydesign.com. However, Melbourne IT states quite clearly in the attached email that Yahoo is in fact the reseller for this domain and that you should be dealing with my technical support problems.

I am attempting a domain transfer away from Yahoo to GoDaddy, which was initiated more than 24 hours ago. My domain appears to be stuck in “Pending Current Registrar Approval” status, although I have entered the transfer Transaction ID, Security Code and Authorization Code from the GoDaddy site as required. Can you please confirm that this transfer is underway?

Meanwhile, over on GoDaddy, the hosting account finally accepted the switch from this blog domain to my corporate domain as the primary domain for the account, and I could initiate adding the blog domain as a secondary domain. This, however, takes a few hours so this blog address went from displaying my corporate website (bad) to displaying a GoDaddy parked domain page (worse). My own fault — I could have left this blog as the primary domain and added my corporate one as a secondary — but I thought that the switch would happen within minutes, not more than 24 hours. By now, I was unhappy with Yahoo, Melbourne IT and GoDaddy, and ready to go back to chiseling blog entries on stone tablets.

I searched around for other people with this problem, and found a few. In fact, I even found a document from GoDaddy specifically talking about transfers from Melbourne IT, so they must have seen this problem before. They state that it could take 5 days, since once GoDaddy requests the transfer at the registry, if Melbourne IT doesn’t respond to the registry’s request to approve/deny the transfer, new ICANN rules automatically approve it after five days. In other words, Melbourne IT probably just ignores requests for transfers and waits for them to time out; they’ve had their wrists slapped by ICANN for sloppy practices in the past when they abdicated responsibility during domain transfers to their resellers (although there is definitely dissent between Yahoo and Melbourne IT about whether Yahoo is actually a reseller). I realize that at this point, I’m about to become an ex-customer of Melbourne IT and they may not be fully motivated to serve my needs, but this is an incredibly poor bit of customer service.

This blog address finally sorted itself out around midday today. Stay tuned for more on the domain transfer.

Netfirms has the last word

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that I had a run-in with a crappy hosting provider (Netfirms) that resulted in me blogging a lot of bad (yet completely true) stuff about them, and them letting me out of my year-long contract with a refund of the unused months. That finished in mid-November when I moved the site in question (my wine-tasting club’s site) to GoDaddy.

Just after I left for Europe in mid-December, more than a month after I moved the site off Netfirms, I receive a nice email from their technical support:

Thank you for your inquiry.

We have made some changes to your configuration and can currently see an improvement in the speed with which your site is currently loading. We will continue to monitor this and will make any tweaks or changes as necessary to ensure that the site continues to load quickly.

We would like to ask that you monitor your site as well and if you continue to experience any issues, please contact us.

Thank you for your patience.

I was going to email back to them and let them know that the speed improvement was because I’d moved off their skanky hosting a month before that, but they should have to figure that out for themselves.