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No More Canned Responses, Please.

By July 27, 2011 November 18th, 2012 Personal Stories

Back in 2007, my MattRefghi.com domain served primarily to power my solo development experiments. Behind the scenes, it was hosted by 1&1 Internet – the price was low, which was necessary at the time. All was well in the world of 1&1 web hosting for a while, until I eventually encountered a problem when uploading PHP files to my server. When I ran the files on MattRefghi.com, they would fail – but on my local development machine, everything was working as expected.

Eventually I called their tech support team to see if something was wrong with their configuration. The agent helped me resolve the problem, but in the process of doing so, he started modifying my PHP files – without even asking me. During the call, I didn’t really think much of it, particularly since the code I had uploaded wasn’t very important to me. Ultimately, the agent’s PHP tampering helped me figure out the problem; however, after the call, I realized that his behavior was a very big concern. Had my source code actually been important, I wouldn’t have wanted anyone to get their eyes on it, let alone edit it. After a while, I contacted 1&1 to report the encounter, and express my concern in their practices. The agent that received my report was sympathetic, and assured me it wouldn’t happen again:

The issue that you reported is actually beyond the rules of 1and1
already and as tech support, we are not allowed to alter anything from
the customer’s files or account. We can assure you that if anything
like this will happen again, we will take further measures. That is
generally the reason why we do not support scripting issues. I would
like to apologize for this issue.

However, it still marked the end of my business with 1&1 – I couldn’t risk my code being comprised. Apology or not, their hiring practices produced at least one agent with insufficient training.

Seeking more stability and a trustworthy host, I went ahead and signed up with Yahoo Web Hosting. It was more expensive, but it had something important – a big name I felt I could trust. Surely, Yahoo would have better practices, and I would be safe to code away as I always had. To be fair, this was the case – I never felt my security was at stake when I was with Yahoo. I instead encountered a different type of problem:  I couldn’t figure out how to map multiple domains in such a way that they all used my MattRefghi.com web hosting, without revealing that to the end-user. After multiple attempts at solving the issue on my own, I decided I would e-mail their support team, and see if they would be able to help.

Below is one of the most frustrating conversations I’ve ever had with a support team, to the point where I felt the need to describe my problem as if it were meant for a child to understand. Before we get started, I want to highlight that there are many long e-mails included in this post – some are offered as text, others as images (to preserve formatting). Typically, whenever I show a Yahoo e-mail, feel free to read the first couple paragraphs, and then skim through the rest. Now that you’ve been warned, here’s the first e-mail I sent to Yahoo:

When I originally signed up for web hosting with Yahoo, I only bought the domain: ‘mattrefghi.com’. At that time, this was all I needed. I now have my blog hosted by Yahoo (WordPress), which is in a ‘blog’ subfolder – I see this when I’m connected via FTP.

To access my blog, I can use the following address:
http://www.mattrefghi.com/

I currently have it set up so that when I type ‘http://www.mattrefghi.com/’, it brings me to a page that says:
‘mattrefghi.com is currently experiencing difficulties – come back later.’ (I added this page just for testing).
Adding ‘blog’ to the URL, and pressing enter, brings me to my blog.

This is great… all working as expected.

Thing is, I have two other domains: ‘.com’ and ‘refghi.org’.

When I forward ‘chameleoncore.com’ to point to ‘mattrefghi.com’ using masking, I get the page I expect:
‘mattrefghi.com is currently experiencing difficulties – come back later.’
…and ‘chameleoncore.com’ is in the address bar. Great.
Now… if I add ‘blog’ to this URL, it throws me back to the same page, but keeps the ‘blog’ in the address bar. Huh?
I can even put some random junk in there and it still keeps it and throws me back to the ‘technical difficulties’ page.
This isn’t what I want.

Ideally, I’d like to be able to do the following:
Create a folder called ‘chameleoncore’ via FTP, such that typing ‘www.chameleoncore.com’ will bring me to the ‘chameleoncore’ folder by default.
If the ‘chameleoncore’ folder has a subfolder (ex: ‘projects’) on the FTP server, I want to be able to access that subfolder via the following URL:
http://www.chameleoncore.com/projects/
…while ALWAYS reflecting the current directory.

I realize this would work fine if I had chameleoncore.com as my main web hosting domain – but how can I accomplish this in my situation. When I signed up, I just bought mattrefghi.com, not knowing what my business name would be. I still don’t have that name, but the ‘chameleoncore.com’ name is somewhat related, so I wanted to try setting up the site using that domain.

Any help in this matter would be appreciated.

– Matt Refghi

As you can see, I provided a wealth of information to assist the support agent. I thought it would help ensure that my problem got solved quickly.

Hello Matt,

Thank you for writing to Yahoo! Web Hosting.

I understand that you want to forward your domain ‘chameleoncore.com’ to
a sub directory in your ‘mattrefghi.com’ account.

Mathieu, I greatly appreciate that you have forwarded your concern to us
and given me a chance to assist you with this matter.

To create a subdomain, you must already have at least one subdirectory
created in your Yahoo! Web Hosting File Manager.

To create a subdirectory:
1. Sign into your Yahoo! Web Hosting account.
2. Click on the “Manage” tab.
3. Click on the “File Manager” link in the “Tools for Managing Your
Site” section.
4. Click on the “Create Subdirectory” link.

To create a subdomain:
1. Sign in to your Yahoo! Web Hosting account.
2. Click on the “Manage” tab.
3. Locate the “Web Hosting Account Details” section.
4. Locate “Subdomains”
5. Click the “Manage” link
6. Click on the “Create Subdomain” button.
7. Type in the subdomain you would like.
8. Select the subdirectory you would like your subdomain to be
associated with, then click the “Submit” button.

Now when you type in your subdomain, the index file inside of the
associated subdirectory will be automatically loaded into your browser.

For more information on subdomains, please see:

http://help.yahoo.com/help/us/webhosting/subdomains/

You can set up domain forwarding from the Domain Control Panel.

1. Log into your Yahoo! Domains account with your Yahoo! ID and password
by clicking on the “Sign In” link at the the top of the page:

http://smallbusiness.yahoo.com/domains/

2. Click the “My Services” tab, then click on the Domain Control Panel
for the account you wish to edit.

3. Click the “Forward your Domain” link.

4. Click the “Create Forward” button.

To set up masked domain forwarding to any URL:

5. Select the “the web site at” option.

6. Enter the URL of the site to which you wish to forward your domain.
Select the masked forwarding option and click the “Submit” button.

7. Do one of the following:
* Select the option to include keywords and enter your keywords
separated by commas in the field provided.

* Select the option to not include keywords. (You can always come back
and add them later.

8. Click the “Continue” or “Submit” button.

9. Click the “Return to Domain Forward Page” button.

Regardless of which option you choose, your domain forward will appear
listed along with the details. Keep in mind that it may take up to 30
minutes for your domain forwarding to take effect during which visitors
will see the original domain and not be forwarded.

We believe this solution should resolve your issue, if it still
persists, please call us at 1-866-800-8092.

Please do not hesitate to reply if you need further assistance.

Regards,

Bradley

Yahoo! Customer Care

For assistance with all Yahoo! services please visit:

http://help.yahoo.com/

Their initial response started with an assumption – the agent, Bradley, felt he understood my problem, and provided me with lots of information about the solution. I have to admit, the instructions provided were very clear, but the e-mail, as a whole, felt like a giant form letter – and more importantly, his assumption was incorrect.  He did not correctly understand my problem, and I didn’t blame him for that – it was a tricky problem to describe. In response to this, I decided I’d write my reply as clearly as possible, while illustrating how his solution didn’t work.

After writing that e-mail, I was pretty confident they would understand what I was saying. I spent a lot of time on the formatting, making it clear beyond a doubt, and then even added color coding and smileys to convey what worked, and what didn’t. The smiley part made me laugh, but I figured if was going for clarity – I might as well crank it up to 11.

Hello Mathieu,

Thank you for writing to Yahoo! Web Hosting.

I understand that wish to hide your Yahoo! Web Hosting account domain
name “mattrefghi.com” from your website URLs.

I greatly appreciate that you not only forwarded your concern but also
shared your thoughts about the feature you’re requesting.

Mathieu, I regret that this feature is not available through Yahoo! Web
Hosting. Also, we do not have an estimated date as to when it will be
available. Currently, the feature which you wish to have is available
through URL rewrite function, unfortunately  not supported by Yahoo! Web
Hosting.

We are always looking for ways to make Yahoo! Web Hosting more useful to
our users and continually receive lot of great feedback. It is through
these comments and suggestions that we are able to make improvements.

We will be sure to keep your concern in mind to improve our service.
Moreover, I’ve also passed your comments on to our development team for
further consideration. We always have something on the drawing board,
and many of our best new features have been suggested directly by users
like you.

You can also forward your precious suggestions to us at the following
address:

hosting-suggestions@cc.yahoo-inc.com

Your cooperation and patience will be highly appreciated in this regard.
We value you as a customer and look forward to serving you for years to
come.

Please do not hesitate to reply if you need further assistance.

Have a nice day!

Regards,

Maggy

Yahoo! Customer Care

For assistance with all Yahoo! services please visit:

http://help.yahoo.com/

Despite the clear formatting, color-coding, and smileys – another Yahoo agent (Maggy) replied, wielding her own incorrect assumption. Now, it’s the approach I have a problem with – I wouldn’t mind her being wrong if she expressed her uncertainty somewhere in the e-mail. If you, the support agent, are not entirely sure that you are providing me with THE solution, don’t act like you are. Instead, she behaves as if it will solve my problem, and leaves it to the form letter to tell me I can reply, if I need further assistance.

So I reply again, and you can tell my patience is low by the last words in the e-mail:

No more canned responses, please. I’m a developer – I’m not clueless.

Then, another reply:

Hello Matt,

Thank you for writing to Yahoo! Web Hosting.

I would be pleased to assist you further.

Matt, it is not possible to switch Yahoo! Web Hosting for one domain to
another. Let me clarify the reason and basic difference between Yahoo!
Domain and Yahoo! Web Hosting.

With Yahoo! Domains plan, you register a domain which is your web
presence. You cannot host webpages under Domains plan but you can always
forward this domain to any URL.

Under Yahoo! Web Hosting plan, you get your own webspace to host
webpages. Once your Web Hosting order has been placed with a particular
domain name, it is not possible to make changes to your domain name.
During the sign-up process, we make sure to confirm your selected domain
name several times to ensure that the correct domain name will be
registered and then DNS information is propagated across all servers in
world.

Matt, you cannot transfer the hosting services from one domain to
another but you can always upgrade your Yahoo! Domains plan to Yahoo!
Web Hosting.

Steps to upgrade your Yahoo! Domains account:
———————————————–

1. Log into your Yahoo! Domains account with your Yahoo! ID and password
by clicking on the “Sign In” link at the the top of the page:

http://smallbusiness.yahoo.com/domains/

2. Click the “My Services” tab
3. Click the “Change Plan” link for the account you wish to upgrade.
4. Select from the upgrade options displayed by clicking the “Choose”
button or click the “Add New Service” link to get more information about
all of the Yahoo! Small Business products.
5. Decide upon a product upgrade and complete the order process.

NOTE: If you do not wish to keep the website with domain name
“mattrefghi.com” or do not want to host website under this name, you can
downgrade the service to Yahoo! Domains plan, free of cost.

To downgrade your Yahoo! Web Hosting account, follow these easy steps:

1. Log into your Yahoo! Web Hosting account with your Yahoo! ID and
password at:

http://smallbusiness.yahoo.com/services

2. Click on the “Change Plan” link for the domain in which you wish to
change.

3. Enter your Yahoo! ID password

4. Click in the “Choose” button of the plan on which you wish to
downgrade. or click on the “View all of our plans.” link to view more
services that are available to you.

5. Proceed through the remainder of the checkout process to switch
services.

Note: Please be aware that you are actually switching your existing
service plan. Some services that you currently enjoy may be unavailable
to you depending on the service plan selected. Please make sure to
carefully read the plan descriptions for each service option.

Matt, I hope this email will assist you in right direction.

Please do not hesitate to reply if you need further assistance.

Regards,

Shelby

Yahoo! Customer Care

For assistance with all Yahoo! services please visit:

http://help.yahoo.com/

Shelby? Alright… for the first two e-mails, I didn’t question the fact that there were two different agents. But, three? That’s getting excessive – seems like e-mails are just being randomly assigned to an owner each time I contact. It’s almost like they want their agents to “take a shot” at a solution, without opening a dialogue to ensure it is correct. After all, if their guess is right – they don’t need to have more communication with the client. Of course, if multiple e-mails are sent, each agent must read the whole history to see what didn’t work, so it’s an approach that taxes Yahoo over time.

Furthermore, this conversation was a strange case where even if I spent time making my e-mails abundantly clear, it didn’t seem to improve the experience. The agents still continued to take shots at my problem, most of which proved incorrect. In fact, because of this, I wouldn’t be completely surprised if you told me that Yahoo’s support system was fully automated, where the software actually replies to client e-mails. The only clear proof against this, to me, seems to be the Shelby e-mail, where the fist few paragraphs seem pretty human.

In the end, Shelby’s e-mail provided me with the confirmation that I needed – Yahoo requires that you buy web hosting per domain that you purchase. Can you guess what my next reply was?

I would like to cancel my web hosting plan, but still keep my domain registrations with you.

How would I go about doing that?