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Psst..wanna register a domain?

By Michael Bloch
Posted Saturday, August 14, 2004

Found a cheap domain name registrar? It may cost a lot more than you think......

Earlier today I attempted to change the Nameserver settings on a domain for a client. They had registered the name a few months ago and were relatively new to the WWW at the time. It was a .com name, which you can currently register for around $US10-$US15 per year. The better companies also throw in heaps of freebies, such as free URL redirection and excellent control centres for administration. Even though they may charge low prices, some of these organisation's customer service is second to none.

On entering this UK registrar's site, for what I thought to be a 2 minute job to change 2 lines in the account details; I was greeted by the obligatory "We're number 1" type statement. I was intrigued by the fact that they only charged as little as US$.36 for Domain registration per year. Bargain!... or was it?

On accessing my clients account, I found that the relatively simple process of changing Nameservers (which is usually free), was going to cost them. And it wasn't cheap, approximately $US3.00 per month - but there was a discount for 2 years.

To get a simple URL forwarding option, once again a free service with many registrars, was going to cost around $US2.00 per month.

I couldn't believe it, I must have read it wrong... hang on, I'll try the "help" button..... reading, reading, reading....nope - that was the price! OK, there still must be some mistake - I know, I'll try emailing them. Hmmm.... wow, lots of pages to go through to get to the form.
They all encouraged me to look elsewhere on the site for the answers.

At the end of rather confusing navigation I found that I could send an email via the feedback form. And they only reviewed them once a month. The company stated that there was no point in sending an email to their "support" address, because security reasons would not allow them to answer it (??). The "Wizards" that I used to gain access to the promised contact forms only seemed to lead to FAQs, but after much searching I located the proper pages. They stated that they would not respond to any question where the answer was in the FAQs. A customer could be left hanging for days waiting for a response. We aren't all web masters and designers, and a gentle "ahem, the information you are looking for is on this page" would not hurt. I found the FAQs and billing details very confusing.

A telephone support number? - none. While quite a few companies do not offer phone support these days, they have excellent email communications. It is quicker and cheaper for me to email my hosting service than to use the telephone - no being put on hold, just action. They follow up with a personal note - it's a great system.

Faxing - only under strict conditions

In person appointments - noooooooooooooooooo!

It took 60 minutes and 20mg of Valium to calm me down after my experience on that site. I exited the account with my brain a mish mash of hyperlinks and complex mathematical formulae. I am now left with the task of trying to explain to my clients, who are already wearing the battle wounds of learning the Internet, what had actually happened.

I guess the simple option is to transfer the domain. But guess what, that'll cost approximately my clients $US35 all told.

I guess we could always host their site on the UK space, as it is very cheap to do so.... but I would be a bit nervous about it. The problem is that once you have registered a domain name, it can't be re-registered again until the expiry date. If you have chosen a 10 year registration, you may to have to dig deep - do you know how much it would cost you to transfer your domain? Might be worthwhile checking up on.

I ran through a dummy registration at this site to see how much information the service would give me in regards to all these extra charges. Very little. Most clients new to registering domain names would believe they are getting the deal of a lifetime.

The moral of the story as always is to read the fine print. If you don't understand the fine print, email the company before proceeding. If you don't hear back from them quickly, then you don't want to deal with them anyway. I have been very lucky to use a registrar that answers all my silly questions promptly, professionally and fully. Good customer service is out there, you just have to search.

Take a good look around the site of anyone you are doing online business with. Is there a lot of hype? - could be a danger sign, look for facts, not fluff. Try the "contact" or "about" pages...if there isn't one, click the back button on your browser as fast as you can....What is the company history?

The Internet has been painted by the media to be a "hive of scum and villainy". It is true that there is a undesirable element amongst us, but friendly people, ethical companies and great service is out there. Surfers are slowly becoming more savvy to the "tricks of the trade".

I guess all of us have been burnt at some stage. To become a netizen it seems there must be a baptism of fire! It's a shame............

Caveat Emptor...let the buyer beware.

About the Author
Michael Bloch
Tutorials, web content and tools, software and community.
Web Marketing, eCommerce & Development solutions.


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