It remains to be seen whether by the time I finish venting into this post, cooler heads will prevail and I will just byte my tongue and not post it, or at least go back and take the f-bombs out and clean up the title.
Going negative against competitors runs somewhat contrary to our nature here. Generally, if we have something bad to say we’d say it generically, like “watch out for this scammy bullshit borderline fraud tactic” when purchasing domain names elsewhere.
That’s the approach we took with our “10 Things You Must Know Before You Register a Domain Name Anywhere” info piece which has served us well over the years. (So well it gets routinely plagiarized by other b/s marketers).
Here’s what happened…
Lately I’ve been thinking about rebranding my Guerrilla Capitalism blog. After a few iterations I came up with a decent name, one where I could get the .com on the aftermarket, for $300. Sold, to the DNS guy who likes bombastic names.
The marketplace it’s available through is Network Solutions, so I hold my nose and start going through the purchase process.
Holy F*** What a Bag of Shit Funnel
The entire sales funnel is designed to screw you. Just f**k you over horrendously and commit you to an undisclosed amount of recurring charges for nebulously described services. It’s just really bad.
We’ll pick up from where I’ve selected the domain name I want to buy, and now I have to run the gauntlet of bullshit upsells and add-ons…
Let’s have a look:
Well, I guess in a strict sense, they’re not wrong. Everybody’s domain needs to be protected from malicious attacks. But mainly this applies when the name goes live, when you’re doing something with it. Love the marketing spin, waive protection. Makes it sound like you’re being reckless saying no. Like you’re refusing to vaccinate your baby.
This didn’t bug me too much, but as a guy immersed in this business I had a couple of observations about the message conveyed in this screen….
- Sitelock does automatically detect malware in your website, but it does not automatically remove it. You either have to know what to do yourself, or you can purchase a per-incident response to remove a specific case. That is not clear here.
- Premium DNS – literally speaking my language. How does DNS protect my content from hackers and DDoS attacks? It doesn’t. If premium DNS is anycast, then that isn’t a DDOS mitigation unto itself. Is “protecting your content from hackers” DNSSEC? That’s about the only way I could think of making a mental leap from here to there but I can’t see a reference to DNSSEC anywhere within the Network Solutions website. I don’t know that they support DNSSEC. I don’t think that they do. Certainly not like our easyDNSSEC™ and DNSSEC here is not a premium add-on. It’s available across all service levels.
Ok, onto the next screen, I still want this domain goddammit. Here’s where I start to get triggered:
Under my domain they’ve thrown in four upsells.
They have not offered me four upsells.
They have added on four upsells.
Are they upsells? Aren’t they FREE? It says FREE! FREE! FREE! FREE! under the “Price” column.
But under the “Service Term” column, it has a select box defaulted to “monthly”. And in the “fine print box” below, which most people are trained to ignore there’s some verbiage about “1 month free trials”.
So these add-ons aren’t really free, they’re 1 month free trials.
Ok, so…. how much do these cost after the 1 month free trial then?
They don’t tell you.
Other than the Starter Hosting packages, there are no prices disclosed on any of the other three add-ons. Nowhere.
Then I saw the tiny little “disclaimers” down in the bottom left corner and I think “Aha! That’s where all the hidden death is!”
So I click on it, and there’s still no pricing for the add-ons!
So then I figure I’ll just take the nuclear option: go into the check out and see what the final pricing is:
Because all of the add-ons are “first month free”, it doesn’t show up for this transaction even though I’m authorizing them to start recurring billing after the first month on all of these upsells and I still have no idea how much they cost!
So, ok, research over. I just back up to the shopping cart, click on the remove links to get rid of all the upsells.
I used Paypal to purchase the domain and couldn’t help but notice, that even though I declined automatic domain renewals (because I’m getting the domain the hell out of there ASAP), and even though I removed all the mysteriously priced add-ons and upsells, they still created a preauthorized recurring billing in the Paypal account!
…and I still don’t know how much they’re going to bill me!.
It’s bullshit. It’s just an indefensible bag of customer-screwing bullshit.
In the blog I’m rebranding, in “The Transition Overview: Building Companies That Matter”, I made the distinction between companies who are incentivized toward having dumber customers and the ones incentivized toward having smarter customers:
Smart-Centric vs Dumb-Centric Companies
When companies can earn ROI for their backers through liquidity events and financial engineering rather than normal course operations, “focus on the customer” means something different entirely than the company that is striving to serve the customer.
It means surveilling the customer and mining their data. Many “unicorns” and wannabes have no revenue models that involve customers paying for products or services; instead they seek to acquire as large a user base as possible (free services) and then they systematically dismantle their users’ privacy and mine their data. As the old euphemism quips: “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product”.
A closely related strain of company will charge their customers for products but they will be of dubious actual value to the customer (“vaporware”).
In these cases the essential customer attribute is one of ignorance and what is valued above all are the ability for lock-in and surveillance. The dumber the customers, the better it is for business.
The flipside of this are companies and businesses that benefit from customer savvy, where the more customers are aware and educated about the products and services at hand, the better it is for the business supplying them.
After typing all this in, I haven’t cooled off. Network Solutions is a former monopoly that is still coasting on lock-in from 20 years ago, they do not compete on service, they don’t compete on products, they are competing on customer ignorance, and milking it for as much as possible during the long tail of terminal decline.
Further, there are a fair number of customer here who use us for DNS but still have their registrar over on NetSol, they must be getting pounded whenever they renew. If you’re reading this and your domain is still over on NetSol, for the love of god just open an easy-does-it ticket and we’ll get it out of there and consolidate it here for you. Netsol charges $35 for a 1-year .com renewal! (It’s $15 here).
It would be derelict of me to not inform people about these tactics.
Despite checking and then rechecking my screen grabs, it looks as if the pricing on the add-ons does indeed appear down the right-hand column when you select a value from the drop downs in the other column per this image posted on the HN thread.
I still don’t like this funnel, if you simply accept the default “free” option, you won’t know what you will be rebilled or even that you will be rebilled an add-on service on a recurring basis.
Asian Nigga says
Thanks for the well crafted post. You did good buddy. Fuck Network Solutions. There, I said it.
Douglas Muth says
Not disclosing pricing upfront is a great way to get chargebacks!
NetSol is a plague. Web.com was garbage and bought them to consolidate even more garbage in house. They don’t even encrypt customers passwords. I was asked to confirm a plaintext password once on behalf of a client. No identity required
I login and simply want to change nameservers for some people and I’m prompted to buy services while I navigate through their convoluted portal for a simple change. It’s almost amusing how pathetic it is.
Gregor Larson says
Back in late 2001, when I originally created my domain at Verisign(Networl-Solutions), the icing on the cake was when they mailed me, on paper, my clear-text account password (that I had set), so I wouldn’t ‘forget it’!
Frank Norman says
I first registered domains with Network Solutions Inc in 1998 and have seen them change from a straightforward provider of technical services to a marketing company that prioritizes misleading customers into purchasing unnecessary and overpriced services. It became frustratingly difficult to negotiate the website to accomplish tasks that used to be simpler. It was a relief to transfer to a different registrar.
Tor User says
I almost registered for a domain at Network Solutions, but thankfully changed my mind after creating an account. Before creating my account, the “four upsells” page said the domain would cost $2.95/year for the domain and $9.99/year for WHOIS privacy. On the checkout page, it said there was an error processing my credit card, so I initiated my second attempt and started over from scratch. At the checkout page, it said there was an error because my email address and username were taken (apparently the account creation portion did not fail the first time around). So I started over from scratch again, but this time logged in first. However, on this third attempt, the “four upsells” page said it would cost $34.95/year, and that’s when I decided to take my business elsewhere.
One more dark pattern: on the bottom of the checkout page, notice the “Click here to remove your consent” link. Upon clicking it a checkbox that’s checked by default appears. Yes, it looks like Network Solutions gives your info to spammers and telemarketers.