Host Monster Turns On Customer, Shuts Down Blog Without Warning Or Sensical Explanation

Web hosting company Host Monster only has so many SQLs to hand out to people, and can’t go around passing them out willy-nilly. Why, there are probably websites in Africa that don’t have any SQLs. We’re not really sure what “SQL” is but we think it’s used to store blog entries; whatever it is, Joe Posnanski used too much of it. The Kansas City Star/Sports Illustrated reporter upgraded his hosting package a few months ago and was assured by Host Monster that there’d be no problems as his professional blog drew more traffic. “No problems,” except that last Friday they permanently closed his account without warning.

You can’t say Posnanski didn’t try to anticipate traffic growth and plan ahead, which makes it even weirder that Host Monster couldn’t somehow educate him—or their customer service rep—about this disastrous SQL minefield.

A few months ago, when this blog really started to get pretty heavy traffic, I realized that I needed to get on a better plan, one that gave me more … whatever it is.

So I called my Web hosting provider and they told me that it would be a good idea to upgrade my server or, to be more specific, they thought it would be a good idea for me to pay $40 per month for hosting rather than the 10 bucks or whatever I was paying originally. I’m pretty sure I had to pay like a year up front.

That conversation, by the way, was boring and not worth reliving except to point out that, one, they started charging me significantly more money, and, two, the salesman’s precise words were, “Oh yeah, you will have no problems now.” Both of these concepts play prominently in our tale.

OK! No more problems! So, I have to admit being surprised by this small problem of them suddenly and without warning cutting off my site. I called up Host Monster, and connected to some guy whose basic job, evidently, was to know nothing. Every company has to have several people who know nothing – these are the ones you put out front so that customers feel guilty for yelling at them. After all, they KNOW NOTHING. What are you going to do, just scream madly at the people who know nothing? It’s not their fault. The Know Nothing people are the ones who tell you that your plane has been canceled on sunny days, your hotel room is not ready, your car reservation isn’t in the system. And this KN guy basically explained that they had permanently suspended my account … I could not get it back.

The reason for this? Apparently, it had something to do with too many MySQLs.

“Yes, the problem was definitely SQLs,” he explained again.

Unfortunately, that was all he could explain—the Know Nothing wasn’t able to provide any specific details about just how Posnanki’s small-time blog (in terms of bells and whistles, at least) could become so onerous to HostMonster that they needed to nuke it without any warning, not even an email. In fact, the only info the rep was able to provide was that the owner of Host Monster personally sent down the kill order:

And he explained that the president of the company, Matt,* had just 20 minutes earlier written a note that my account should be closed because it was taking up too much bandwidth or memory or whatever the hell it is that servers use.

Our questions:

  • Why couldn’t Host Monster contact Posnanski to address the problem before taking such drastic action? Most bloggers have limited knowledge of how the hosting side of their hosting packages work. They’re sort of relying on the expertise of the company to let them know what to do.
  • Why was it permanently closed, with no hope of appeal? If the problem was with his blog installation using too many, uh, SQLs, and not a content violation, why couldn’t they help him fix it?
  • Why couldn’t Host Monster optimize its blogging packages to reduce the strain on their back-end? When we signed up with Dreamhost and auto-installed a WordPress blog, for example, the installation came pre-installed with an optional plug-in that reduced the number of calls to the server, we think to prevent exactly this kind of SQL issue.

Posnanski spent the weekend moving his blog over to GoDaddy, which we’re sure will horrify some of our readers. But hey, apparently it’s better than Host Monster.

Side note: we really like that Posnanski has revived the term “Know Nothing” to apply to the front-line of scripted CSRs, and we may start using it more frequently.

“Hosts and Monsters” [Joe Posnanski] (Thanks to Jason!)