I Was Trying to Reason With Software (or “How JustHost Does Bait and Switch”)

The past month, I’ve been on the hunt for a new Web host for a few personal domains. I have an account with 1&1, but they have a limitation on how long CNAME entries can be, so I need to look elsewhere. I signed up with BlueHost, only to discover their horribly limited control panel software didn’t do what I needed, so after three days I cancelled my account. Next I tried WestHost, quizzing their pre-sales people on exactly what I needed before signing up. They said they could do what I needed, so I signed up. Again, they had horrible control panel software that didn’t do what I needed it to do – the pre-sales people either didn’t understand my questions, or they weren’t being honest with me. So I cancelled my account with WestHost. It’s frustrating to waste time with this, but I’m thankful that both BlueHost and WestHost have simple cancellation policies and I got a full refund.

So I went on the hunt for other Web hosts, this time for ones that had better control panels. I’m not looking for “cheap” – I’d happily pay $10 to $15 a month for the account – but what I need is something powerful and flexible and based around the concept of multiple domains. I was looking at JustHost.com, and decided to sign up with them because they use Cpanel, which I’ve used on my own server before. I was going through the sign-up process, and on the second phase it asked me about adding upgrades to the account. One of them for for SPAM Assassin. I was a bit confused, because SPAM Assassin is free software that virtually every Web host out there uses. And JustHost wanted to charge me $19.95 for it:

spam-assassin2

In another browser tab I looked at the list of features, and sure enough, SPAM Assassin was listed:

spam-assassin

So which was it? When I was clicking around the JustHost site a chat window popped up, so I thought I might as well ask them about this. Here’s the transcript of that chat:

* * * * * * * *

Connecting to Agent…

You have been connected to Amber

Amber Says:Hey Wait! We would hate to see you go without seeing what’s made us Award Winning Web Hosts. So just this once I can give you a 20% discount on our unlimited hosting. That’s a $24 saving! To take advantage of this one-time offer just CLICK HERE

Amber Says:When you are ready just say “Hi” and we can get started….

You:Hi there, I have a question

Amber Says:Hi my name is Amber thanks for visiting Just Host today!

Amber Says:Is there anything I can help you with? Or if you would like to check out our last minute 20% discount, please CLICK HERE!

You:I’m in the midst of signing up now, and I’m confused about something….

Amber Says:Signing up for hosting with Justhost couldn’t be easier! If you want to sign up now just CLICK HERE and complete our simple 1 page order form!

You:on the Features page, it lists Spam Assassin and there’s a check mark next to it, seeming to indicate that it’s included in the package

Amber Says:Unfortunately we cannot accept checks or money orders. We only accept Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Paypal

You:Yet as part of my sign up package I’m being offered Spam Assassin for $19.95/year….

Amber Says:You get a free domain for life, free instant setup and you can host unlimited domains, plus, much much more.

Amber Says:Today only I can offer you this special 20% discount so you can sign up for just $3.95 month. Just CLICK HERE to get this today only offer!

You:are you reading what I’m writing? I’m asking you a question

Amber Says:Please repeat your question

You:You don’t have a scroll bar?

Amber Says:Would you like to sign up for our most popular hosting plan for just $3.95 / month?

You:No, I’m asking a question. Let me repeat it…

Amber Says:Ok Great!! To sign up for the $3.95 a month offer CLICK HERE

You:http://www.bestbuy.ca/catalog/subclass.asp?logon=&langid=EN&catid=24930

You:sorry, ignore that

You:on the Features page, it lists Spam Assasin and there’s a check mark next to it, seeming to indicate that it’s included in the package

Amber Says:Unfortunately we cannot accept checks or money orders. We only accept Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Paypal

You:Yet as part of my sign up package I’m being offered Spam Assassin for $19.95/year….

Amber Says:You may not have noticed but I am actually just a virtual agent, so I dont fully understand your question.

Amber Says:You can try asking me again and re-phrase your question, or why not contact our freindly phone support team toll-free at: 1-(888)-755-7585 they should be able to assist you further

You:A virtual agent. I’m talking to software. I assumed I was talking to someone who might as well have been software.

Amber Says:A virtual agent, basically means i’m not real,,, BUT that doesnt have to be a bad thing

You:Trust me, it’s a bad thing.

Amber Says:Sorry I can’t understand your question. Please can you repeat it for me?

[chat disconnected]

* * * * * * * *

And that’s how I started off my day today: trying to have a discussion with software. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Oh, and just for fun after that I tried a different chat, this one with a real person from JustHost. It went about as good as the automated software:

    Chat Information: You are now chatting with ‘Henry’

    Henry: Welcome to Live Chat support, how may I help you?

    Henry: Hello Jason

    Jason Dunn: I’m in the midst of signing up now, and I’m confused about something….

    Jason Dunn: on the Features page, it lists Spam Assassin and there’s a check mark next to it, seeming to indicate that it’s included in the package

    Jason Dunn: Yet as part of my sign up package I’m being offered Spam Assassin for $19.95/year….

    Jason Dunn: So why does it look like it’s included, yet now I’m being asked to pay for it?

    Jason Dunn: hello?

    Henry: I am going through your question, please give me a moment.

    Jason Dunn: sure

    Henry: Jason , It includes the list of features that we support , not only the list of features that are preinstalled

    Henry: Thank you for your patience…

    Jason Dunn: that’s extremely dishonest

    Jason Dunn: there’s a check mark next to FTP Access, and that’s certainly included with the account, is it not?

    Jason Dunn: Great chat, thanks.

  • Cold Flame

    LOL… too funny.

    Have you tried http://www.blacksun.ca/ ? They’ve always been good to deal with, and they’re Canadian.. (Edmonton I believe). A buddy of mine used to use these guys: http://lfchosting.com/ It was started by a kid in high school in Regina and is (was?) running right on the University of Regina campus piggybacking off of their phat connection. I use DreamHost for our page… It can be a bit Mickey Mouse, but they’ve been good to me. If you want to go there, use my code! =) http://www.dreamhost.com/r.cgi?305314

  • chrisgohlke

    Awesome, I think you need to submit that to consumerist.

  • Gotta love the inserted “Sign up NOW!” lines inserted by the chat robot. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I agree with Chris: submit this to the Consumerist!

  • chrisgohlke

    BTW, don’t let it get out that you were shopping for an iPod doc. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Cris,
    Hahaha…that wasn’t for me, it was for a relative. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But hey, it’s no secret I own an iPod Touch.