Sometimes Free Ain’t Free

A couple of weeks ago, I read a blog post about an offer of Free Hosting through a company (which I had not heard of at the time, but they claim to be the “World’s Leader in Hosting Services”) called EasyCGI. At first, I was sure there was a catch, but when I checked out the page which outlines the promotion, they say that there are “No gimmicks or hidden costs.”

My experience, however, has not been as smooth as their promotion would have it make out to be.

After doing a bit of searching and finding out that they were on the up-and-up, I decided to take the plunge. While the first step of entering my domain name, and telling them to keep it on my current registrar was quick and easy, my whole experience fell apart on the second step – giving my credit card information. The first time I provided the information, my card was declined. I thought that, maybe, I made a mistake on a number, or on my expiration date.

However, all of that was correct, so I did it again. Once more, my card was declined.

I should have given up at this point and contacted support concerning the problem. However, I tried it a couple of more times, and instead of getting a card declined message, I received a message saying to contact support.

So, I then contacted support using the web form that they have available. After submitting my message, they said that I would get a reply within 24 hours.

Sunday passes, and there is no reply from them. However, I did hear from my credit card provider – the fraud department called asking to verify that I was, in fact, the person who was trying to use my card with EasyCGI. I had asked them what the issue with the declinations was, but they could not give any information on that.

Then, on Monday, I decide to call EasyCGI’s toll-free support line. I get through to one of their staff and told him about my situation. He said that they don’t handle their own promotions and that there is some outside vendor who provides them, but he’d look at the situation and send an email to me about it.

On Monday night, after receiving no email back from that person, I then attempted to contact the “24-hour” support, only to be sent to their messagebank. Based on my experience with the web form, I decided that it would be better to keep trying to call. Then, I went to the Live Chat feature on the website. I told the person about my situation, and the immediate reply was to call or email the support department. I did some more looking around the website, and spotted a note that said if you weren’t satisfied with the service, you should send an email with a subject line directing the email to a manager.

I then sent this email –

To whom it may concern,

I have been attempting to sign up for the August 2007 Free Hosting for
1 year promotion (details here – {snip website address for promotion} )
with your company since Saturday. The first two times I attempted to
sign up, my credit card was declined. After that, I have received a
generic error, with the only remedy being to contact support.

On Saturday, I contacted support via the Web form, and was informed
that I would receive an answer back within 24 hours. That time came
and went without any reply from your end.

I then called support this morning, spoke to, I believe, {an employee} –
I didn’t make a note of his name, but he was decent to work
with. After informing him of the issues I had and giving him my email
address, he informed me that he would send me an email about this
issue. It has been over 16 hours since I called and have not heard
anything further back.

I would like to sign up for the hosting service, but I am unsure if I
will be able to. I would like to have some answers to my issues before
I attempt to sign up again.

I then waited a few hours, and after about 12 hours with no reply to my email, I decided to call the toll-free number once more – this time going through the Billing Department. The lady I spoke to was polite with me while I explained my situation. She looked up my record (by email address) and noted my call on Monday. However, what she said and what I was told on Monday had changed into two different things. She said that she had spoken to the person I spoke to on Monday, and he said that I was supposed to contact the vendor sponsoring this promotion, and that there was nothing about an email being sent to me.

When I asked about why I was still receiving the error, she said that I had been put on an IP blacklist for trying to sign up numerous times with “bad” information. She suggested that I send an email to the support department with the last four digits of my card, the IP address I used, and my email address. She also surmised that changing IP addresses might work to allow me to register.

So, I decided to change IP addresses and tried to sign up again, only to get the same generic error to contact support.

A couple of hours after that, I received this reply to my email:

Hi,

Your credit card ending in ‘xxxx’ was automatically blocked by our system after numerous failed attempts. We have removed this block allowing the signup to go through on another attempt. This ordinarily happens if there is a decline on an authorization attempt for the initial amount on the credit card. While our billing does not run until the first of each month, on the initial signup, the credit is checked for available funds. Additionally, there are conflicts in contact information that may also cause these errors. While our agents cannot extend a promotional signup, if you continue to encounter related errors, please contact one of our helpful support representatives toll free at 1-866-xxx-xxxx (internationally at +1.xxxxxxxxxx) for further assistance. We apologize for the inconvenience. Please let us know if you have additional questions.

To be honest, it makes more sense to me that the card would be blocked rather than my IP address. However, I find the explanation of the decline for the credit card a little mystifying. This being a free offer, and my not requiring the services of their domain registration, it would be more than reasonable for anyone to think that they would only need to have the card number for future billing – i.e. after the free offer finished. As far as checking for available funds – it’s a common practice for gas stations to put a hold of up to $75 on a card when you go to buy gas, then refund the amount that you didn’t spend after a couple of days.

I will also note that there is a minor inconsistency between my actual contact information and my “card holder” information – my address consists of four words, and the one on file with the bank has three, and my card uses my middle initial. I’ve never had a problem with the contact information in the past for other online vendors I’ve worked with, however.

As far as the information I was given on the phone, I’m still curious as to who this “vendor” sponsoring this promotion is, as I have found a bunch of sponsored posts, all of which link to a page at www.easycgi.com, which in turn redirects to the promotion page. The more recent posts about this have had links that go through tinyurl to EasyCGI’s promotion page.

I’d contact the vendor, but I’m fairly certain it is EasyCGI who are sponsoring it – since when you go to sign up for their service, they have information about the promotion on the signup page. In fact, it’s the first thing you see when you go to enter your domain information.

At this point, I’ve been through quite a bit of frustration, but I need to stand up for myself and for the fact that there are a lot of people out there promoting what is, really, a once-in-a-long-time opportunity. I’m sure that I am not the only one who has had similar issues with trying to sign up for this promotion.

Last Thursday, I sent a copy of this post, along with the note below as a reply to the support person who had written to me on Tuesday.

Thank you for letting me know. Unfortunately, I have had such a difficult time with signing up for the promotional offer that I will be letting everyone know about my situation. This includes posting the text below on my personal blog, along with visiting as many blogs as I can that have posted about the promotion and letting them know of the issues I have had.

Is there anything that you might be able to do to get this situation sorted out? If so, please get in touch with me as soon as possible so that we can make it so.

However, I have not received a reply to that email in a week, so now I am posting about my experiences. If you’ve tried to taken advantage of this offer and have had a similar experience, I’d like to know about it. Also, if you have signed up for the service, I’d like to hear how it’s been going for you.

Honestly, I’m surprised that they weren’t able to find a solution to the problem. I went into this wanting to be a customer of theirs, but after all of this, I can safely say that I’ll stick to some of the more popular hosting services out there.

5 thoughts on “Sometimes Free Ain’t Free

  1. Geesh, what a pain! I’m about to make the move to another host and I hope I don’t get the same run around. I can tell you it won’t be with EasyCGI for sure!

    Oh and btw: I just noticed (I think for the first time) the iReply button on your blog. Thanks for your support! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Could this have been a phishing attempt? I’ve heard of sites that make you repeat your information a couple of times and then block you. You might check with the credit card company to see if any funny charges have been made since you tried to sign up.

    Cugat

  3. Mark – You’d have thought they’d be wanting to make amends for their issues, but I still have not heard anything back from them. Considering that the promotion has ended, I doubt I’ll ever hear anything now.

    No worries about supporting the iReply, even if I’ve been really slack with replying ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

    Julie – You’re welcome!

    Cugat – I’ve been watching my account like a hawk for other reasons, but I haven’t spotted any charges at all from them – not even these supposed initial charges they were putting through. Trust me, if I spotted something out of the ordinary, I’d be the first one to know ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Thanks y’all ๐Ÿ˜‰

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