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  1. #1
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    * Rude Customers & Review Threats

    This is not the first time an incident like this occurred, but what is really frustrating as an honest webhosting company is to get the few customers who behave abusively, pretend they know contractual law, and threaten (and do) post bad reviews. As a second-year business law student myself, it really gets on my nerves when a customer makes an idiotic statement like this on a review site that we can't directly respond to (and the owner refuses to hear our side):

    that’s bull***t, I never signed anything. You made those numbers up. He is talking to a lawyer, douche bag
    more lies, breach of a contract that doesn’t exist
    For starters, even most laypeople are aware of this, a customer is bound by a contract even in e-commerce transactions. They don't need to physically sign anything; they are bound by the terms of the contract when they follow through the order, accept the terms (e.g. a checkbox or other form of appropriate electronic acknowledgment). So customers who think they are able to freely ask for a refund even when they breach contractual terms are ignorant, to say the least, of the law. Secondly, this customer says he's apparently a "lawyer"... he must have failed first-year contracts and every other business law course if that is true!

    Just recently, we also had this customer who had signed up for services, then saw an error message and assumed he was not bound by anything and wanted a refund back. We told him that we fulfilled our contractual obligations by sending him a Welcome Email 1 hour after his initial order. This customer not only pretended to know the law, but came up with a meaningless line like this:

    I look forward to proving your failure of your system and breach thereof of your fiduciary responsibilites to ensure the proper maintenance of such. The BBB will also be notified of your actions and any other directories pertaining to hosting companies.
    Screen shots and your systems failures will be shown as your intent of fraudulent business practices. a simple sign up form and a welcome message are not constituent to a companies abilities to provide such services.
    The legal weight for "fraud" is a very onerous one, yet this customer seems to throw it around like he knows about the law. He further states that signing up, accepting our terms, paying for an order, then receiving a Welcome Email from us does not constitute "a companies abilities to provide such services" -- whatever the heck that means; I guess he means he assumes that he has no contract. Well, in case there are any people who still follow his flawed logic, they're dead WRONG! Any first-year contracts course covers offers & acceptance and contractual frustration in depth, so customer ignorance in simple matters like this are really annoying and hurtful when running a business. Moreover, threats to the "BBB" are completely unfounded on flawed legal analysis, yet we have no way for alerting the BBB about events like these.

    I wouldn't mind sending our legal team after him, but how will that stop him from posting fake reviews? We have no control over what he can post, and many times, review sites refuse to hear any explanations from the host despite an obvious malicious intent from the customer.

    Anyway, perhaps other hosts or customers can advise what they would recommend in situations like this. Sure, we've lived through a number of abusive customers who posted the most unbelievably wrong (in the legal sense) reviews, but the time and cost to litigate didn't seem reasonable to us. Perhaps we should reconsider?
    Last edited by PolurNET; 08-16-2009 at 10:42 PM.
    PolurNET Communications
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  2. #2
    Terminate the account, send him his files and tell him to move on. Chances are, if you are civilized about it, he wont do anything. Even if he does, you still need to get rid of him.

    That is the first thing you should do IMO, then worry about the bad reviews if they come in.
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  3. #3
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    If he files with the BBB (a mostly worthless organization anyway - paid for by members and supposedly overseeing those same members?? [Mr Rogers Voice] Can you say "conflict of interest" boys and girls? I knew you could. [/Mr Rogers Voice]) you will be asked for your side of the complaint. My last experience with the BBB was on the other side. Gigabyte refuse to provide missing parts for a case... Filed with the BBB, and 2 years and several months later they responded wanting a receipt for a case that's about to be replaced... also claiming that it an "as is clearance" item from a chain store that has since gone out of business - it wasn't at the time. The 1st round of closings came months later. They lied in their response, I called them on it... what did the BBB do? Close the case of course. This is not unusual... The BBB doesn't want cases open. And to get an unsatisfactory record with them takes many repeated cases before they'll do anything.

    Anyway, IF (and it is IF) he files, present your side reasonably and state the facts. They'll close it. As for the review sites, that is dependent on the site itself and how reasonable they want to be. Seems like most review sites are nothing more than ways to push affiliate links anyway, so I wonder if anyone pays attention to them anyway.

    Personally, I'd wonder if the person is just trying to intimidate you into the refund. Though it may be worth it just to give one to make the "customer" go away. That might not stop them from badmouthing you anyway...
    Lagniappe Internet L.L.C. - Wholesale Reseller and VPS Hosting.
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  4. #4
    Join Date
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    Montreal, Canada
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    Hi guys,

    Thanks for your replies, they are appreciated.

    I did proceed to terminate the account. No files were present in the second case, but the first case actually deal with a 3-year customer suddenly going crazy and insulting us (cunningly, he decided to insult/cancel only after his files were moved away. We had no idea beforehand). He went on a bad review spree posting everywhere humanly possible and on his own blog. What affects us is when those posts appear top in Google search results for our company.

    We don't mind giving a refund in valid or reasonable cases, but the way both cases demanded it (blaming our system then pretending to know the law) and unacceptable abusive behaviour (threatening bad reviews) is too much for us take lightly. We've had many customers in the past like this, and even when we offer them refunds, they go ahead and badmouth on any review site they can find, including webhostingstuff, mybiggestcomplaint, vistainter, etc. This affects our business somewhat as potential customers can be turned off by review sites that contain negative information, yet that does not allow us to respond.

    I know many hosts here have a zero-tolerance policy on abusiveness; we also have the same thing to some degree, but it seems customers ignore it and insult us anyway until they gain satisfaction from our sufferings by badmouthing everywhere.

    If you're large enough, I guess the positive reviews will drown the negative ones. But if you're only moderate in size, every Google link counts. We do our best keeping customers happy, but it seems there's no easy way to prevent or handle the abusive ones without threats being made by them. So far, I've not taken any legal action on such customers or sites that cater to them, but I am wondering if anyone has had a similar experience, and what they did to resolve the issue.

    Please continue giving your input on the above. Thanks!
    PolurNET Communications
    █ Avoid the Freeze, Enjoy the Breeze! █ A federally incorporated Canadian company at your service since 2004
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  5. #5
    Join Date
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    There seems to be multiple schools of thoughts on how to handle these types of posts.

    IMHO I think it's best if a host refutes every post (in a professional and respectful manner) with FACTS. Avoid emotion and just give your side of the story backed up by the facts (posts, tickets, etc...). Trust me 99% of the nut jobs will do your job for you, you just need to clearly and calmly put your side out and let them hang themselves. IMHO ignoring these posts just does not work, but you do want to take your time, thoroughly investigate the issue before you post.

    The other side is to admit your mistakes upfront and take steps to remedy them, trust me it's SO much better to admit a failure take your lumps and move on (100 times less painful and better for your rep in the long term). As a customer of multiple hosts I totally understand that things happen and there is no such thing as 100% anything. Within reason it's more important on HOW you handle issues then the fact that you have an occasional issue.

    Anytime anyone ever tells you that they are/will/want to/etc.. talk to a lawyer I would wholeheartedly agree that they should! Be very educational for them.
    Last edited by Nnyan; 08-17-2009 at 05:43 PM.

  6. #6
    customers are king..

    well the old saying stays..
    it hurts and it is very sad..

    and what is "worst" or some might say good, is that, now, with the internet..

    these customers "suddenly" has Mouth.. correction has a mic...

    and you know it is human nature to "play the coach" in any situation..

    It reminds me of my friend how can't kick a football, but keep criticizing the way David Beckham play his game..

    For me, when I run a business, I always try to keep my cool, and always, be polite and honest..

    there are bad guys..and clowns out there, but dont be like them..

    I always believe that there are wonderful clients out there too, that kept us going..

    when faced with such a customer, I never lost my cool, and never take it personally..
    some people have bad days.. irritating boss, lousy wife, or simply bad life..

    keep your cool, write professionally, dont take their bait of profanity or bad language,
    and move on..

    its fun to see their reply when you keep sending them nice and polite emails..
    Crayon Web Solutions
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  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
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    The Big Easy -New Orleans
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    Just be careful of posting "FACTS"... you could find yourself crossing your own privacy policy which could backfire on you. It's happened several times on this very forum.
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  8. #8
    Join Date
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    Quote Originally Posted by dbbrock1 View Post
    Terminate the account, send him his files and tell him to move on. Chances are, if you are civilized about it, he wont do anything. Even if he does, you still need to get rid of him.

    That is the first thing you should do IMO, then worry about the bad reviews if they come in.
    Do that.
    Quote Originally Posted by Lagniappe-labgeek View Post
    Just be careful of posting "FACTS"... you could find yourself crossing your own privacy policy which could backfire on you. It's happened several times on this very forum.
    In no way is the information he posted identifying his customer. No IPs, no names or addresses. Nothing being violated

  9. #9
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  10. #10
    Join Date
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    Montreal, Canada
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    The problem is when the customer is factually and legally wrong, what do you do? They start threatening you, abuse your staff and posting negative things all over the web. As a company, you have no control over what they can say or completely make up about you. In my experience, they even go as far as making character and personality attacks based on complete BS.

    So far, as many of you said, you can cancel and walk away, but I'm worried about the long-term effects. The more false rumors that are generated about your company, the less business you get. And it doesn't stop with the bad reviews, but Google picking up these results, future customers questioning their experience and switching just on the basis of these posts.

    So wouldn't be smart to start some legal action to shield yourself from the damaging clients? Has anyone here had any such experiences?
    PolurNET Communications
    █ Avoid the Freeze, Enjoy the Breeze! █ A federally incorporated Canadian company at your service since 2004
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  11. #11
    Join Date
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    Orlando
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    We need an industry solution for this type of problem. Otherwise, your nightmare will eventually become someone else's nightmare. This is just the type of situation that could be helped with something like what was recently discussed here:

    http://www.webhostingtalk.com/showthread.php?t=880693

    If another host had reported this guy you could have rejected his account right from the beginning.

    ---

    In any case, one sidenote regarding the WebHostingStuff review. If I am not mistaken, WHS will allow you to remove 1 out of 10 reviews. If you log in, you should see the option to do this. They are one of the few review sites that is sensitive to the fact that some reviews are just plain false. Hopefully this helps a little.
    eVerity.com
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  12. #12
    I find most review sites have a way for you, as the host, to refute a claim. As was mentioned previously, gather all of your facts and write up a well thought out dispute to any negative reviews. Given the composition and lack of professionalism that is used in most negative reviews by customers, a well composed response to a negative review could actually be beneficial to your company's image.

    Particularly with WebHostingStuff, there is a list of reasons that a review may be taken down completely.

    http://www.webhostingstuff.com/our_reviews.html

    We've been able to get some reviews removed altogether because the former customer was complaining about downtime on unmanaged dedicated plans. If your customer posts verbatim the snippets you've mentioned, you can probably have them removed for profanity.
    Ryan @ Acenet
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  13. #13
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    When you are in business its all about making or loosing money so you better start thinking in plus and minus. Emotions have no value in business. So again u should start thinking in + and - and you will know exactly what to do.
    Apart from that there are always business relationships, good customer service and bad customers too, its all part of running a business.
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  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by crayonhost View Post
    customers are king..

    well the old saying stays..
    it hurts and it is very sad..

    and what is "worst" or some might say good, is that, now, with the internet..

    these customers "suddenly" has Mouth.. correction has a mic...

    and you know it is human nature to "play the coach" in any situation..

    It reminds me of my friend how can't kick a football, but keep criticizing the way David Beckham play his game..

    For me, when I run a business, I always try to keep my cool, and always, be polite and honest..

    there are bad guys..and clowns out there, but dont be like them..

    I always believe that there are wonderful clients out there too, that kept us going..

    when faced with such a customer, I never lost my cool, and never take it personally..
    some people have bad days.. irritating boss, lousy wife, or simply bad life..

    keep your cool, write professionally, dont take their bait of profanity or bad language,
    and move on..

    its fun to see their reply when you keep sending them nice and polite emails..
    Good example of football that's really true, you will see such clowns everywhere not just in hosting business.

    Accept it as a part of business and move on

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Nnyan View Post
    There seems to be multiple schools of thoughts on how to handle these types of posts.

    IMHO I think it's best if a host refutes every post (in a professional and respectful manner) with FACTS. Avoid emotion and just give your side of the story backed up by the facts (posts, tickets, etc...). Trust me 99% of the nut jobs will do your job for you, you just need to clearly and calmly put your side out and let them hang themselves. IMHO ignoring these posts just does not work, but you do want to take your time, thoroughly investigate the issue before you post.

    The other side is to admit your mistakes upfront and take steps to remedy them, trust me it's SO much better to admit a failure take your lumps and move on (100 times less painful and better for your rep in the long term). As a customer of multiple hosts I totally understand that things happen and there is no such thing as 100% anything. Within reason it's more important on HOW you handle issues then the fact that you have an occasional issue.

    Anytime anyone ever tells you that they are/will/want to/etc.. talk to a lawyer I would wholeheartedly agree that they should! Be very educational for them.
    Couldn't have said it better myself. Its all about how you handle the issues. Emotion on your side should stay completely out of it, facts will get you through the battlefield. For my hosting company I clearly state that we aren't perfect and we make mistakes as well. No matter what reason and facts are your best friends. In terms of reviews, reviews sites worth their money will respect you and those that don't probably won't get you many signups in the first place. One bad reviews won't kill you or hurt you in anyway as long as your other reviews are in good order; if everyone hates you than maybe it is you lol.

    There is always a balance in webhosting with customers you just have to find whats comfortable to you.
    Innostorm Hosting all the features of the big companies for a lot lot less!

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by PolurNET View Post
    As a company, you have no control over what they can say or completely make up about you. In my experience, they even go as far as making character and personality attacks based on complete BS.
    Yep, welcome to the web hosting business.

    Almost everyone who has been around for a long time gets attacked. HostGator, DreamHost, Datapacket, 1and1, GoDaddy, etc. One person may write a hundred negative reviews about you.

    Fortunately, it doesn't matter too much. They think it does, but it really doesn't. If you're offering a good service and getting it out there, you will grow with time.

    What's sad is how many people believe reviews from sites like VistaInter. Spend five minutes at this web site and it's obvious that it is over-run by children posting comments. There is no integrity. You'll lose some honest customers, but usually (in my experience) if someone believes a review from a site like that, then you don't want them as a customer anyway...

    Good luck with your situation.

  17. #17
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    And so it is with the web hosting industry - full of incredibly knowledgeable individuals - but scattered here and there with some very abusive clients. I tend not to place much merit on unverified reviews, or in reviews that don't show both sides of the story. I'd refute when given time or it merits a response, but in general it's best to stay professional and move on. Let them abuse someone else.
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  18. #18
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    Yeah, dealing with these abusive customers really takes a toll on company resources, like support, time and money. It's easy for them to post a review on every website in the world, but as a company, it's difficult to track down the BS and justify the cost of hiring a legal team to deal with such issues. Not to mention, personal character attacks are really hurtful, and just makes me shudder about how bad some people can really be under of the veil of internet anonymity.

    Hopefully, reasonable people will think twice about what they read on the web. But I think it's difficult for someone new to webhosting to spend time to do proper research; it's much easier as a newbie to dismiss a company for a bad review and move onto the next one. If you think about it, what's the benefit for someone to verify their accuracy when all they care about is a superficial review?
    Last edited by PolurNET; 08-24-2009 at 07:11 PM.
    PolurNET Communications
    █ Avoid the Freeze, Enjoy the Breeze! █ A federally incorporated Canadian company at your service since 2004
    Proudly #1 on WebHostingJury and #1 on NamePros.com, the largest domain forum on the web!
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  19. #19
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    If you think about it, if someone doesn't use you becuase of 1 bad review, even though they read 50 good reviews, well, in my opinion, they weren't worth having as a customer, and usually the customers we have that are like that, are usually the most complicated and we "LOSE" money on them everytime.

    There is nothing wrong with Firing a customer, but at the same time, we should all do our absolute best to give them the same customer service as the rest of our customers, they could turn around...

    I hate these difficult decisions
    Giving my opinions and thoughts the Moxie Way

  20. #20
    Join Date
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    UK
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    I think Moxie Maxwell touched on it above - no matter how good you are, you cannot please all of the people all of the time and the best thing to do is to cut your losses and let that "bad" customer go before it gets out of hand.

    I recently let someone go - someone who even forgot who was hosting their site at one point, could never remember their log in details (the amount of times I had to sort that out), and then could not even work out how to log into the billing area to get those details, etc.

    They even "got away" without paying for their domain renewal, but in the end I decided that it was costing me more in time and support, so let them transfer it away.

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