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Network Solutions, Nightmare on Web Street?
October 9, 2000

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' WEBSITE101: READING LIST
Reaching Great Minds Online
October 9, 2000 Issue #64
Mike Valentine, Editor, learn@website101.com



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IN THIS ISSUE: Special Cynics Issue or: Gripe and Moan Forum; 8-0
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==> Sponsor Ad: Time Control Training Room
==> Feature Article: I'm having a Nightmare and I Can't Wake Up!
==> Guest Article: I'd laugh if it wasn't so damn sad
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Nightmare on Web Street!
by Mike Banks Valentine

I need access to online database tools from my host and call
them up to ask about availability. OK, I find that it costs
a few bucks a month extra to access those tools for my site.
Hmmmm. Well I've got someone telling me that their host is
offering those very same tools and more storage space for
half of what I'm paying!

My Internet Service Provider (ISP) has been good to me for
two years now. I have almost no complaints and, when I have
complained, they have resolved the issue quickly and with
little fuss. I'm loyal and I'm reluctant to move but the
monthly savings is too good to pass up and I decide to go
ahead and upgrade my services and move my site to a new host.

I was careful in checking out the new host. They come highly
recommended. It's a major nationwide network. Their record is
nothing short of stellar. OK, let's give it a try.

Big mistake! It's like having a nightmare and you can't wake
up from! There is nothing worse than having to deal with
issues you are entirely unfamiliar with and basically put
yourself out of business in the process!

Dealing with Network Solutions, my registrar, to make changes,
update the records, transfer the domain name server from the
old host to the new is one of the most frustrating and pro-
tracted battles I've ever had to fight! I thought I would
understand the process having just transferred *eight* other
domain name servers for clients with three other registrars.

But Network Solutions does it differently. They require that
the request be done via a form on their site, that's simple
enough. But I repeatedly fill out that form, which generates
an email to me which I must now return to them to verify my
email address. OK, I return it and get no response, so things
must be progressing smoothly. No doubt I'll receive a notice
soon stating that the changes have taken effect.

No notice. I fill out the form again, generate the follow-up
email again, return it again and wait again. Two weeks and
no notice. I've got to do something to effect this change!

I call them using the phone number that I found on their site
after nearly 40 minutes of searching from page to page to FAQ.
Now I get to spend 40 minutes on hold, listening to a repeating
recording telling me how "important" my call is to them. I've
got a meeting to attend and give up for the day. I'll get back
to it tomorrow.

Bright and early I'm back on the phone and get through this
time after only 30 minutes on hold! It's going to be a good
day! Well, guess again Bub. The phone representative I speak
with checks the records and tells me that the times I've
submitted my change request previously were fruitless due to
being returned from an email address that is different from
the one used to register the site. Why didn't you tell me?

I ask the rep to stay on the phone with me and walk me through
the process. OK, we get the form submitted, I change my email
client "from" line to reflect the address given when I regis-
tered with Network solutions for this domain. He checks, it's
been received, and I'm on my way to making the change!

After another week of waiting, I call NSI and get through to
a representative after only 10 minutes! Great! Things are
getting better! "What is holding up my DNS change request?
I was told it was approved and that my follow-up email had
been received but the record still reflects the old host
and no change has been made!"

"You submitted the form to change the host contact info sir,
not the form to change the domain name server. The contact
info was not different, so no change was needed."

"But wait a minute!" I'm fuming now and do my best to keep my
temper in check. "The person I spoke with told me exactly what
to do, I did it, he said it would be handled within 24 hours!"

"You filled out the wrong form sir." Bureaucrateez for, 'It's
not my fault!' Who did you speak with, sir?" Oh man! I didn't
ask his name! He walked me through the process, I trusted him,
and I did what he said to do!

They're trying to convince me I've done something wrong now.

"Is there a different way to do this process?" I said through
gritted teeth.

"Yes sir, you can fax in your change request."

Good God I hope I've got the correct form! I did fax in my
request but missed some obscure detail on some obscure page
of the directions.

No change. Call back. More buck passing. More fuming, another
walk-through, this time I get his email address and name. Still
no change. I email him. No response. No change. Call back and
I'm told I need a "Problem tracking number". The problem now is
near insanity! I'm assigned a problem tracking number. E-mail.
Wait. Fume. Complain.

One morning I woke up and checked to find the changes had now
actually been made and the records changed.

Was that all a nightmare? No! It's incompetence, bureaucracy,
buck-passing, archaic and confusing. But it's very real!

I recommend you change your registrar if you used Network
Solutions when you reserved your domain name. The others
can make the change overnight using a simple password and
username. Freddy Kreuger couldn't have made it more of a
nightmare!

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GUEST ARTICLE
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I'd laugh if it wasn't so damn sad
by Bob Cortez

In less than a year WebHouse burned through 360 million US
dollars of other people's money. Amazing. Appalling. Agonizing.
360 million! What I could have done with one half of one percent
of that money for a year (1.8 million).

From the very beginning of the idea of 'name your own price'
groceries and gas, analysts were very skeptical of the idea
(http://www.thestandard.com/article/display/0,1151,6493,00.html)
So how did they convince such financial 'wizards' as Paul Allen
and a Saudi Prince to part with their money? More money than
sense.

I don't think the idea itself was necessarily bad, but the
execution was typical of the bigger is better and build it and
they will come mentality. One of the cornerstones of the project
was having manufacturers cover the costs of the discounts.
Sounds good to me, but they didn't have the manufactures on board
*before* they launched.

(http://www.thestandard.com/article/display/0,1151,9427,00.html)

Do you think if they were risking their food and rent budget they
would have proceeded without those commitments? Since WebHouse
was a private company there is no way to know who was and wasn't
on board, or what their income and expenses were. I'll bet the
expenses included overpriced technocrats, extravagant offices and
top heavy management though. Do you think their spending habits
would be different if they were risking their own food, shelter,
clothing and transportation?

For decades business schools and MBA programs have been using the
corporate model to teach and preach business decision making.
The US Small Business Administration and organizations such as
S.C.O.R.E still preach the long term planning, command, and
control methods of business operation with the emphasis on
crystal ball projections and number crunching. They are wrong.
It's time for the 'big dogs' to take a few lessons from us
'little dogs'.

1) Don't bet more than you can afford to lose. Anybody that has
been in the position of bootstrapping their business knows that
every dollar counts and must return tangible results. Financial
and sales projections are like fools gold, they both look good
but are basically worthless.

2) Use virtual employees and sub contractors whenever possible.
I simply don't understand why Internet companies insist on having
the huge overhead involved in office space in overpriced markets
like San Francisco or New York. Who are they trying to impress?

3) Be customer-centric. Every policy, procedure, product and
service should be measured against how it effects customers.
Does it save them money or time. Does it make their life or
doing business with you more convenient. Happy customers are
your best form of advertising, invest more in customer service
than in advertising.

4) Seek strategic partners to share the potential risk and
rewards. Small dogs always run in packs, because there is safety
and strength in numbers. Big Dogs have traditionally fought
solo, which makes them vulnerable. WebHouse could have saved
themselves by partnering early on with the manufacturers to share
more of the risk and rewards. Of course, being 'Big Dogs'
themselves, the manufacturers probably wouldn't have 'got it'
either. Or why not partner with somebody like WebVan to deliver
the discounted groceries and cross promote services?

In a very real sense I think small and home based businesses have
a distinct advantage in that the lessons that the big dogs are
trying to learn are the ones that we are forced by circumstance
to live by. Perhaps some of these money guys will start looking
our way soon(hopefully before they run out of money).

[Author grants permission to reprint or distribute this article
with this notice and credits below. Particularly if you have
Paul Allen's or that Saudi Prince on your email list :-)]

Bob Cortez, President
Total Quality Marketing, Inc.
http://marketing.tqm-online.com



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Copyright 2000 Mike Valentine

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