Unethical Vendors

Unethical VendorsI am going to write again about Bad Vendors or more appropriately Unethical Vendors.  My original post gave some advice that every small business should adhere to with every vendor new or old; you can read it here, [fancy_link link=”http://www.phoenix-cc.com/bad-vendors/” variation=”teal”]Bad Vendors[/fancy_link].  I want to follow that up with a story I experienced with a client in just this past year that only emphasizes that original post.

The Story of an Unethical Vendor

This client was looking to start doing more with their website and asked me to help.  When I got the information I thought would let me help them, I was sorely mistaken.

It turns out the vendor had set-up a WordPress site for them and only gave the client limited privileges.  After explaining the issue, they went back to the vendor and asked for the Administrative log-in information.  That’s when things started to get “interesting.”  The Vendor started getting defensive but gave him the information; after logging into the administrative side of the site I can see why they were leery.

They had done NOTHING for the site.  I was dumbfounded by what I saw:

  • The site was sorely out of date: Plug-ins, the theme, even the WordPress software was out of date by six months.
  • They had set up the Owner account with the User name of “Admin.”  Seriously?!  If you’re wondering why I’m shocked by that read my post, What’s the WordPress
    and you’ll understand.
  • There were ten (10) plug-ins installed on the site and seven (7) of them were for dealing with Spam.  SEVEN!!!  Seriously?!  For all that is holy why in the world would you need SEVEN different Plug-ins to deal with potential spam?!  If they were so worried about spam and security then why…why for the love of god…would you use “ADMIN” as the account owner’s user name?!

That’s when I started asking more questions; questions my client couldn’t answer.  So they started asking those questions to the vendor, which of course was met with greater defensive posturing.  The vendor’s responses were partial answers and in some cases they ignored the question altogether.

When I started asking about how much they were paying this vendor for their hosting and Domain Name renewal, the real rip-off came to light.  They were being charged $200 per year for the hosting and $100 per year for the Domain Name renewal.  While the hosting was high it wasn’t the worst I’ve seen.  However, the charge for the domain name was the craziest thing I have ever seen in fifteen (15) years of doing websites.  Now to put this in perspective, if my client had gone directly to the Domain Registrar this vendor was using, Tucows; they would be paying $14.99 per year.  There is nothing and I mean nothing that can justify that cost.  Even the most expensive Domain registrar is not that expensive; so why the outrageous costs?

These unethical vendors prey on Small Businesses.  They seek out people that have little knowledge of their services and then charge exorbitant rates.  They will usually charge “Up Front” so that they can get their money and when things don’t go your way will state that the money is not refundable.

Unethical VendorsWhen they are finally questioned about rates, incomplete work or told their services are no longer required; that’s when they go into real action.  Unethical vendors like this have a pretty consistent pattern when it comes to these situations:  stall…deflect…stall…throw a hissy fit, rinse and repeat.  They will go out of their way to do this, “my computer is down,” “I sent you that information,” “You already paid me,” “why do you want to change now?” and the every classic: “If you do XYZ then ABC will…”  This is done with the expectation that the longer they can put you off, the better chance you will eventually give up and forget the entire thing.

Now the question you may be asking yourself is “Why don’t you get involved and deal with them directly for your clients?”  That’s a good question.  The reason is that 9 times out of 10 when I get directly involved, Lawyers should be called at the same time.  I don’t want my clients to have to rack up a slew of legal fees so if I can direct them from the background and get them the results they need without getting directly involved in these situations all the better.

So what is happening with this current situation?  We are in the process of transferring control of the domain and website away from this vendor.  Now the registrar, in this case Tucows, has nothing to do with this situation; they are a good company.  But the vendor for my client is the one that registered the domain and they registered it in their name not the clients.  There is still some uncertainty as to whether lawyers need to be called as this process can take up to 7 business days to complete.  If things go according to plan the transfer will be made and my client will have complete control over their website.

All of this could have easily been avoided if the client and vendor followed four simple rules.  The four most important rules any Small Business owner needs to remember when dealing with any Vendor are:

Get Passwords for EVERYTHING

Whether they are setting up a Social Media account, email account, registering a domain, or Server Administrator account, get the user-names and passwords. I know I’m stating the obvious. But I can’t tell you how many small businesses owners I’ve worked for or talked to that don’t have a clue what the user-name and password are for some if not all of these.

Get copies of EVERYTHING

If they are sending emails, letters, or any other form of communication on your behalf; make sure they are giving you a copy or copying you in. With so many embarrassing things happening to large companies on sites such as Twitter, Facebook and others. You can’t be too careful. If you are allowing them to represent you then make sure they are doing so based on your standards.

Make sure it’s done in YOUR NAME

I was working for a client to transfer their domain names to a new registrar. They forwarded me an email from their previous vendor who apparently had 2 other domains of this client’s registered to the vendor’s account. My client was panic stricken; this was one of the reasons they replaced them. The former vendor was willing to transfer the domains to my client for a “nominal fee.” When I got a hold of them the vendor was not as willing, attorneys were called and it became a legal mess. Needless to say the former vendor had to release those domains at no charge. But it didn’t stop them from making life difficult. So the lesson is: Make sure it’s in your name and verify that by two items above.

Get the Original files for EVERYTHING

It doesn’t matter if they are building a website, a print advertisement, or a Graphic. Get the original working file not the final product. What I mean by that is; if they did a graphic get the Photoshop PSD or Illustrator file. If they did a print advertisement get the Quark, PhotoShop or other program file. Don’t settle for the final PDF. Why? Because whomever you hire to replace that company will have an easier job of taking over. Otherwise you will spend more money having the new company re-create it.

If any of those rules are not practiced by either side the results are usually pretty disastrous.  By following those four simple rules everyone’s life will be a great deal easier.