So my company, Tail of the Lion, was provided with what sounded like a tremendous opportunity to work with a top internet search company at a very reasonable rate. Celebros aims to improve the search functionality of your site, making the shopping experience better, and increasing your conversion rate. Celebros made us a very attractive offer, we would come in as a House Account, meaning that in exchange for giving them permission to experiment with new products on our site, they would waive their monthly fees. All we would have to pay was a one time $4500 setup fee. So we paid the fee, and entered into a relationship with great hope.

Unfortunately, Celebros never did set us up. We discussed with their programmer the various forms our datafeed could take, and chose the one that best suited our product structure. Yet, when we submitted the datafeed, the project manager told us that she wanted it in a different format and wouldn’t accept the one the programmer told us we could do. So we went back to work, and reshaped our data in a way that was a lot more difficult for us to manage, but which met their new requirements. Yet, we had barely gotten the data in a second time when we were informed that Celebros didn’t want to work with us after all.

Frankly, we had become quite frustrated with them by this point and were not entirely sorry to see them go. Yet, when we tried to get a refund for our setup fee, we were given the runaround. To this day, no one has told us that Celebros will not be giving us a refund. However, almost a year has passed since the relationship ended, and no refund has been issued. Instead, we’ve only received responses such as “You need to speak to someone else, I can’t help you” and “let me look into it and get back to you.” But none of the people who told us they’d get back to us ever did.

I don’t believe that Celebros is a scam company. Yet, I nonetheless feel scammed, having paid $4500 plus far more than that in salaries to my staff to try to work with Celebros and yet have nothing to show for it.

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The Scummy Side of Webhosting

by Dave on December 5, 2010

When I signed up for fatcow, it was with an offer that was for $44/year with a free domain. The per year language and the claim of a free domain led me to believe that future years would also be for $44 and would perpetually include the domain registration. I challenge anyone to look at their home page where it describes what comes with a hosting package and see if you can tell that the domain registration is only for one year. So my first surprise was a notice saying that I would be billed for the second year of registration. My second surprise was that I was going to be billed $107 for the second year of hosting, without the domain.

I called up to find out what was going on. The salesperson told me that my offer was only for the initial period. The reason it said $44/year was because I had the option to sign up for up to three years at that rate. And my favorite part, that the fine print on the terms and conditions clearly says that the domain registration was free only for the initial period. As to the $107, well that was a mistake, the retail rate was $88, but no, that would not include domain registration.

As we talked further, he told me that there were some other packages he could offer me. He offered me $69/year for two years. Did this included the domain registration? No, he said, but if that was the only thing stopping me from taking the deal, he’d speak to his manager and see what he could do. After a few minutes on hold, he got back to me, with the manager approval.

So why am I telling you all of this? It’s not to rant. It’s to show a number of takeaways that are good to bear in mind when dealing with these discount web hosts.

Takeaway #1: They really do offer you quite attractive packages at very affordable prices, but bear in mind that the offers are not as straightforward as they seem.
Takeaway #2: The introductory offers can be much better than the renewal offers. They will give you the option of choosing to take the introductory offer for 1, 2, or 3 years. If you’re pretty certain that you’re going to want the account for a long time and you have the money, sign up for as long as they allow under the introductory offer.
Takeaway #3: The sales people at these places have tremendous latitude to negotiate. Their single biggest expense is in the advertising to get you as a customer in the first place. The first year of hosting might not even cover their sunken costs in landing you. It’s in the renewals where they make their money. They don’t want to lose you. Don’t just bite your tongue when you see the renewal rate is much higher than you thought. Call. And when you’re on the phone, push. They dig up their special offers, they negotiate and run the negotiations past their managers, they do what they have to do to keep you on board.

Keeping these takeaways in mind has saved me a lot of money when dealing with these low end hosts, and I hope it will do the same for you.