Update in 2008: I was sent this letter in June of 2008.
Back in 2004, I knew that if my BBS Documentary got a lot of attention or press, it would quickly overwhelm my net connection (a T-1) and that there were a large amount of hosting companies out there, who could give me simple hosting for a cheap price. I arbitrarily chose Midphase, and created a subsite, media.bbsdocumentary.com, that hosted the trailers, photographs, and other such get-it-to-the-people stuff related to the project. Anyone can tell you that nothing says “this isn’t worth purchasing” than clicking on a site and it makes you wait 10 minutes to see what the heck it is.
Everything was fine. They hosted that portion, I hosted my portion, and things were good.
I was Slashdotted in October of 2004. I got many, many visitors.
Within a short time, people on Slashdot started complaining about my site not actually providing images and photos. I got a lot of “it’s hosted on a modem” jokes, just what I didn’t want to see. I had specifically paid money for Midphase to prevent this.
I called Midphase, and submitted a ticket, desperately trying to get the site to return, to find out what the problem was. The website explained that I was out of bandwidth. I called and said I would like to buy more bandwidth, 50 gigabytes, to ensure my site came back. They told me this was $197, and I happily paid it, to get the site back.
The site did not come back.
I called and wrote again (it was now hours later, and the Slashdot effect was lost), and eventually, I had this explained to me:
Sorry, but bandwidth is not the reason why your account is blocked. Your
account overloaded the server by creating too many simultaneous HTTP requests
so the load jumped high and the web server crashed. We hads to suspend your
account to make the server working.
Attached file list.txt contains a list of simultaneous requests to your site.
There were almost 100 users downloading different fieles.
It’s too much for a shared server. You need to order a dedicated to host this
To make your account active now you have to disable the download section.
Alexander – Customer Service & Technical
Now, just so we’re clear. They took $197 of my money, and then explained to me a few hours later that in fact they didn’t need to take $197 of my money and that in fact I was so popular, that I couldn’t be hosted on their site anymore.
I sent a very angry letter. Here is the text of that letter.
On Monday, October 14th, I was woken around noon by a friend on the phone
telling me I’d had my BBS Documentary site listed on Slashdot. I was
absolutely delighted. I’d spent 3 hard years travelling the country and
many months editing and refining my work to prepare it for sale.
In anticipation of sale, I listed my trailers, photographs and other works
with a third-party hosting company, so that people weren’t reliant on my
T-1 that comes into my home. I chose midphase.com for this work, and was
pleased with both the quick registration and the controls at my disposal.
So imagine my surprise when I found out that my account had been
“suspended for billing”. I assumed, naturally, that my site had been
popular enough that I’d outrun the 50 gigabyte limit I have per month.
This would be great news, because as I am selling a product, it means
there was a lot of interest in my product.
I called your support department, said that I apparently overran my
bandwidth and, with your support person’s help, paid for 50 more gigabytes
of bandwidth, a nearly $200 charge. I was told my system would have more
bandwidth in “15 minutes”.
An hour later, I became concerned there were other issues. This became a
major concern because, as I was selling a product that helps with my
livelihood as a documentary filmmaker, people being unable to reach this
data represents monetary damages at the rate of $50 a product. I called
back, but was unable to get a person on the phone. I left a voice mail,
and then checked the online support system. I explained my concern that I
was unable to get the bandwidth back.
Eventually, at least a couple hours after my shutoff occurred, a support
person explained in the ticket that I had too many hits; that because my
site experienced actual traffic in the form of attention from the world,
that my account had been shut off and I would be required to purchase a
“dedicated server”. They also said that I would have to delete my
trailers, my demonstrative examples of my saleable product, to continue to
Meanwhile, I watched as message boards filled with derisive comments from
folks, indicating that my bandwidth shutoff told them I was not reputable,
and that my product would be potentially shoddy. My reputation has been
distinctly damaged by your actions.
I am no longer interested in doing business with your company. Please
refund the ~$197 charge that was obtained from me fraudulently by your
support team, and please issue me a pro-rated refund, from the end of
October onward, for the cost of the hosting I purchased with you.
Please reply today. I will hold any other further actions until I hear
back from your team.
– Jason Scott
This got me a phone call from someone at Midphase. He cancelled the $197 from the company, and he told me he hoped they could do something to make things better. I told him that I hoped he and his entire staff would die of suffocation within a horse. I made it clear I would never do business with them again, and that I was done with them, as anyone would be to be treated so poorly.
I switched to another company, Dreamhost. Dreamhost got a very annoyed guy (that would be me) calling them, demanding to know what they would do in the event of a slashdotting, and the response, I am pleased to say, was quick and attentive. Not only did they say they would do their best, they knew about my film and talked about the details and how much they liked it. I immediately signed up.
They have survived multiple slashdottings, boingboings, and waxys over the years hence.
Why do I bring this all up?
Because Midphase just contacted me, to tell me that they were having trouble re-billing me for my account.
Bear in mind I not only wrote them and said “cancel my account”, but was on the phone with someone using multple variations of the phrase “cancel my account” and “please jump in front of a hummer with MIDPHASE SUCKS painted all over your body”.
I wrote back three simple words: “Go to Hell”
And got this:
Is there anything at all that I can help you with? If you’re having technical problems, I will be happy to have someone give you a call or email to walk you through them. But before we can help we need to know what problem(s) you are having. So please let us know, that’s what we’re here for!
If you have to cancel, the only place to do that is through our cancellation form, so please make sure to get that in so we can properly cancel your account. The cancellation form is located at cancel.midphase.com. If this form is not filled out, your account will stay open and we’ll continue to bill you.
Thanks, and again, let me know what we can do to help you.
midPhase Services, Inc.
The fact is, I hope a billion search engines pick this up, and the phrase “Midphase” returns “Blows Goats” when people “feel lucky”. I was quite prepared to walk away from this sort of net-wankery, but something tells me that somewhere, someone’s hand is wavering between Midphase and another choice (like Dreamhost, and I just wanted to say “Don’t go with Midphase”. That’s midphase at 223 W. Jackson Blvd. #600, Chicago, IL 60606 USA.
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