I’m back…

As many of you know, Drug WarRant was offline pretty much the whole day.

No, the FBI or the DEA didn’t shut me down. Drug WarRant wasn’t being censored. My domain hadn’t been seized.

In fact, the actual reason was due to one of you, and some serious incompetence on the part of server hosting staff.

It’s a tawdry story, but if you’re interested, you can read it after the jump.

As some of you know, we’ve had a button on the left side (no longer there) that allowed people to donate to Drug WarRant directly through the server hosting company (through PayPal) to pay server hosting fees. This is something that DreamHost put together and promoted, even giving me a specific button to use on the website.

This has been great. I haven’t had to pay any server hosting fees since moving to DreamHost. You guys have been wonderful about covering my small hosting costs and I had a significant credit balance — pre-paid for about a year. Nice. And thanks!

A couple of weeks ago, I received this letter:

Dear Peter,

We have received a notice that there was a chargeback made by the owner
of the payment method that you paid for your account with. This is a
very serious matter. I have deducted the amount of the chargeback,
$20.00, from your account (#572603) and added our standard fee
of $50.00 as well.

This is a time sensitive issue and must be resolved promptly. Your
payment options have been restricted to Check, Money Order, PayPal and
Google Checkout. Please reply to this email with information about how
you will deal with this situation. If your account is not settled in one
week your account will be disabled on the basis of fraudulent charges
and non-payment. I thank you for your time and hope to hear from you
soon.

Sincerely,
DreamHost Billing Department

I responded:

To Whom it May Concern,

Can you please explain this?

This makes no sense whatsoever. It appears that I have a significant positive balance on the account and no payments due.

How am I supposed to “settle” this account within one week, and why are my payment options being restricted when I have never, ever been behind in a payment? Why are you threatening to disable my account “on the basis of fraudulent charges and non-payment” when I’ve never made a fraudulent charge and have a positive balance?

I haven’t made any payments recently that would have a chargeback because I’ve had a significant positive balance from donations.

Perhaps one of the donors through your donation system had a problem with PayPal, but that’s no reason to threaten me. It also seems steep to charge me an extra $50 because someone’s $20 donation didn’t clear.

Six days later…

Hello Peter,

It appears as though one of the Paypal payments on your account was
disputed by the Paypal account owner. Unfortunately, it appears that one
of the people donating to your site disputed this payment.

You can read more about our policy on disputes here
http://www.dreamhost.com/tos.html under section 9 of financial
arrangements.

I have removed the restriction and you are able to pay via credit card
again. However, I recommend that you accept payments directly to your
Paypal account to prevent this from happening again.

Yes, it was one of you. Someone made a donation and the credit card bounced or there was a charge-back of some kind and DreamHost automatically responded as if it was me.

OK, but come on… where’s the apology for the nasty letter?

I understand DreamHost’s paranoia about PayPal chargebacks. I’ve read about the policies and how getting a bad rap with a finance provider can affect DreamHost’s abilities. Fine. I agree that charge-backs are a terrible thing.

However, it is painfully clear from even a cursory glance at my account that I’ve done nothing wrong – that I have been, in fact, a model customer, pre-paid well in advance.

What bothers me is not so much that you feel the need to charge me $50 for something someone else did.

What really bothers me is that DreamHost felt the need to accuse me of fraud and non-payment when it clearly was not true, and then you don’t even apologize for it in your response.

You could have simply said “I’m sorry. That was a canned response that didn’t apply to you and shouldn’t have been sent to you.”

It’s bizarre that you think that as a solution to your insults, I should accept donations myself through PayPal (I certainly could – I’ve done it in the past, but I went with DreamHost’s system because DreamHost was PROMOTING it!)

Perhaps on the DreamHost Donation page, it should read:

“Donations (to you). Note: If anybody – even some random stranger – donates to you and then disputes it through PayPal, we will charge you a lot of money, falsely accuse you of fraud and non-payment, and threaten to close your account. For no reason.”

I do not consider this closed until I understand why I was sent that notice and why I am being charged $50.

Three days later, from someone higher up:

I apologize that the tone of the message was offensive – it wasn’t meant to be (it was just a standardized response because we deal with a number of chargebacks). I have talked to our Billing team manager and explained the situation and they allowed me to reduce the fee to $15 – we do have to be very strict on these because of the detrimental effect that they have on our business. I understand that you didn’t directly demand the chargeback and was able to get that exception for you as a result.

OK. Not the most eloquent of apologies, but I was willing to accept that.

Five days later (today), my account was completely disabled.

No reason given. I couldn’t access any files, and the live chat support button was missing on the support center.

Finally, at the end of an entire day, I received the message:

The problem is that a chargeback was issued on a payment made to your account: [...]

Yes, it was due to that same original chargeback donation. Apparently I had not satisfactorily “resolved” the issue, since there was nothing I had done wrong that I could resolve.

DreamHost has restored my account as long as I promise not to accept donations through their system any more.

Needless to say, I’m not a particularly happy camper right now, and unlikely to act as a DreamHost spokesperson.

I have a credit balance there that you wonderful readers have made possible. I don’t want to abandon that, because I feel I owe it to my donors. However, I am not going to be adding to that amount for now, and will set up a different donation system soon that will not go directly to DreamHost.

I’m putting DreamHost on probation. Let’s see if they can act like adults.

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