HostICan = StealICan

During my unannounced getaway from dotTech, there was a time when I wasn’t sure about the status of this website. What will happen to dotTech? Would I continue to update dotTech? Has dotTech officially reached its point-of-no-return? During this time the only thing I knew was that at the moment I wasn’t able to update dotTech. So, I figured since I wasn’t able to update dotTech for the time being, I could save a little bit of money by moving dotTech off a dedicated server and onto shared hosting. (Shared hosting is significantly cheaper per month than a dedicated server.) This made sense because there there wasn’t a lot of traffic coming to dotTech since I wasn’t updating, so there was no need for a dedicated sever at the time. (dotTech is on a dedicated server now, though.)

So I did a little bit of window shopping, looking at web hosts. I eventually ended up purchasing four years of shared webhosting from HostICan. I should have known better (never, ever purchase hosting from a company that has anything short of excellent reviews), but I got sucked in with a 50% off coupon; after all four years of shared hosting for $78 is a banging deal. I didn’t just pick HostICan out of the blue; I did do a bit of research on HostICan and they had mixed reviews about them. I figured with their 30-day money back guarantee I was relatively safe by going with them. Boy was I wrong.

Five weeks into my contract, HostICan send me an e-mail telling me I have “outgrown” my shared hosting plan and I need to upgrade to VPS, starting at $48/month. They then proceed to suspend my account – without even giving me a chance to respond to their e-mail -  losing all of dotTech’s data in the process. (Some dotTechies may remember this as the dotTech turmoil era, when visiting dotTech.org would bring up a gruesome “account has been suspended account” page and all the recent forum posts were lost.)

In my e-mail response to HostICan’s support team I asked why my account has “outgrown” the shared hosting. (I was mighty suspicious how my account suddenly “outgrew” their shared hosting plan after the 30-day money back guarantee was up considering traffic was fairly constant for the whole five weeks.) They ignored the question. I asked what I did wrong. They ignored the question. I asked if it was possible for them to temporarily reactivate my account so I could at least grab my data. They told me they didn’t have a backup of my data. That is the last I have heard from them.

Now while I do have my suspicions about their justification for suspending my account, all webhosts have their rules about what they tolerate on shared hosting and what they don’t; so if I outgrew HostICan’s shared hosting, fine – that is not the issue at hand. The issue at hand is the fact that HostICan never explicitly told me why my account was suspended (aside from a vague e-mail), they never gave me a chance to rectify my mistake (I could have kept my other websites on HostICan and moved dotTech away from HostICan, back onto a dedicated server), and they lost five weeks worth of data in the process (luckily we didn’t lose everything, since I had a five week old backup).

I have repeatedly tried to e-mail, chat, and call HostICan to try to get this issue resolved; but they are ignoring all forms of communication and to this day my account remains suspended even though I paid for four years worth of service and only got five weeks.

After the lack of communication and their behavior, I tried to ask for my money back but of course, they didn’t respond. Getting the cold-shoulder from HostICan made me turn to the other “insurance” I had (or so I thought) – PayPal. However, turns out PayPal is of no help since PayPal “doesn’t cover service items”. With HostICan ignoring me, and PayPal being useless, it seems like my $78 are pretty must lost. $78 isn’t a large sum of money but it is nonetheless my money that HostICan has literally stolen.

I have already filed a complaint with the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) regarding HostICan’s behavior. Although I don’t expect much to come out of the complaint, it felt good filing it. Next step on the anti-HostICan campaign: Spread the word. This is me spreading the word:

Avoid HostICan more than you would avoid the plague.

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46 comments

  1. Josh

    I just sent an email to these people stating that I have 4 websites (which I do have) and after hearing about the ordeal they put you through, I won’t be hosting with them. Just thought I should let them know that screwing over good customers will make them lose business. Sorry you had a hard time with them Ashraf.

  2. Daniel

    Just ent a email to: sales@hostican.com

    Here my reply:

    Dear Daniel xxxx,

    Thank you for contacting HostICan Sales.

    We do appreciate your interest in HostICan. Your inquiry was submitted to our sales department, and one of our sales associates will be in contact shortly.

    For future reference, this will be your Sales Inquiry ID: KAV-589147

    Please let us know if you have any further questions. We will be in contact shortly.

    Best Regards,

    HostICan Sales
    HostICan Web Hosting
    (Intl) +1 (804) 412-0390
    (F) (804) 550-3339

  3. Rich

    To increase the power of “spreading the word” my wife has a suggestion:

    Do a Google search on “HostICan” and when you come to the reference for your review [HostICan = StealICan] simply click through to the page containing the review.

    I realize it’s a wee bit labor intensive, but it may be an effective way to boost the review up to a position where it becomes prominent in every user’s Google search.

    I currently find the dottech review at the top of page 6 in my Google search. I don’t know how far I can boost it with the ‘manual’ method, but I’ll play with it a while and see…? (I don’t know how well Google identifies individuals who repeatedly click on the listing, and thus discounts those clicks… I think it’s appropriate to regard the boosting of the importance of the review as a public service.

    Just food for thought…

  4. SomeoneNice

    Just an idea… You may want to contact your local TV station to get them to broadcast your bad experience with HostICan.

    Here in the San Jose, California area we have this ABC7 TV news, which has a section called “7 on your side”, which is devoted to helping consumers getting thier money back. I have seen them successfully take on big names like American Express, Chase as well as local home contractors to over-zealous unscruplous dentists. In nearly all cases the TV crew was able to get the consumer thier money back and lay out the facts for a lot of people to see and avoid the unscruplous merchants.
    In a few cases, like a cheat car-dealership, they were able to get the owner prosecuted too! Needless to say I find that to be the best section of the local news.

    http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/channel?section=news/7_on_your_side&id=7109212

    You can see if there is something like that in your local news stations. You could contact them to start something like this if they don’t have one.

    just a thought..

  5. normofthenorth

    Maybe Stan covered this above, but:
    I ALWAYS use a regular charge card for every online purchase, INCLUDING all my PayPal purchases, and INCLUDING all my eBay purchases. I’ve generally found PayPal’s vaunted purchaser protection to be worthless, and I’ve generally found the protection I get from my credit-card issuers to be amazingly good. They generally refund first and ask questions later. If nothing else, this gets the vendor’s attention!

    Once after wasting maybe a month trying to resolve a dispute with the vendor and Paypal’s resolution center, I phoned the VISA bank and complained. That day or the next day, I got an e-mail from the vendor, apologizing for the problem, and explaining that HE was refunding 100% of my money. With PayPal, even if you win, you never get back 100% if there have been shipping costs, etc. — even if the product was defective or maybe non-existent!

  6. Darthyoda

    I’ve been using 1&1 since they started off in the States with the 3 years free, and we’ve been using them since for our domain names as well as hosting. Even when I by a .ca domain name elsewhere I still use dns forwarding to manage it through 1&1.

  7. Stranger...

    I definitely do not recommend 1&1. I picked up some sites there for cheap, but they want you to do everything their way, and don’t give you much flexibility (for external name servers, etc). Transferring away from 1&1 has been a nightmare too.

    I’m a big fan of oneworldhosting.com Not the cheapest, but their service is great. I resell them and really appreciate talking to a live person whenever my customers have any issues. I learned my lesson when I chose 1&1 for a new customer, and regretted it.

  8. Mike

    Ashraf, so sorry about the hosting experience but glad you were able to successfully move on.

    This is the downside of the Internet (and much of business life nowadays), the lack of accountability (and why, too often, easy-to-use telephone service numbers are not provided). Would someone actually act like this face-to-face?

  9. Dennis

    April 22, 2009 – I go to check my e-mail…and it’s not there! No explanation, nothing. I proceed to try and contact AOL (the provider), to no avail. I had started with them back in 1995, when I paid for dial-up Internet access. I could not find an e-mail address to contact them (and didn’t have an active e-mail account to send from), and the only phone number I could find was for ordering paid services (I was on AOL’s free program by then). I figured it was worth $19.95 for me to get some answers, so, I call the 800 number. When I inquired about my e-mail account, a very polite young (sounding) lady informed me that my account had been “terminated for violation of AOL’s Terms of Service by the AOL Community Action Team.” I asked for a phone number to contact this “Community Action Team.” No phone number is available. How about an e-mail address. None available. I was given a snail-mail address (postal). Problem: My address book was online with AOL, and now it was lost forever. 14 years of accumulated business and personal contacts gone. I cut my losses, and got my own reseller account with GoDaddy. And, I keep a back-up of all address books!

  10. MikeR

    It’s always curious when a company’s ownership and management is opaque, as is the case with HostICan. At last month’s WordCamp Richmond 2010, an address entitled “Selecting a WordPress Host” was given by “former power and density engineer” Denis Motova, “now the strategist at HostICan, leading all of HostICan’s marketing strategies”.

    Obviously, one such “marketing strategy” was HostICan’s involvement in sponsorship of this event, for which due acknowledgment was made: “A big thank you to. . . HostICan, a privately-owned company based just outside of Richmond, Virginia”.

    Last month’s event can be found here in HostICan’s photographic record:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/hostican-web-hosting

    though Denis Motova’s shyness seems to keep him away from the camera.

    Still and all, as HostICan’s Marketing Manager (AKA “the strategist”) Denis Motova’s actual role in this “privately-owned company” is crystal clear. Or, er, well. . .

    According to Better Business Bureau (central Virginia) Denis Motova is no mere employee. Denis Motova is “the principal”. And though HostICan fails to enjoy the status of a BBB Accredited Business, the company’s history is well chronicled:

    http://www.bbb.org/richmond/business-reviews/internet-web-hosting/hostican-in-ashland-va-21017360/

    where it seems that HostICan’s past has certainly been checkered since its launch in December 2006 (it barely managed nine months’ operation before its BBB Accreditation was revoked in September 2007.)

    Explanation of BBB’s rating of Mr Motova’s business is also provided, so that there can be no doubt as to why, on a Rating Scale of A (best) to F (worst), HostICan merits an F.

    Yet this F-rated privately-owned company whose Principal appears, inexplicably, to go around representing himself merely as some kind of employee, has numerous awards – so many, in fact, they’re difficult to keep track of.

    Actually, some are difficult to even find: for example, being voted the Number 1 Business Hosting Provider by Findmyhost, as well as earning the Editor’s Choice Award 2010 (also from Findmyhost) is pretty persuasive – or rather, it would be if WoT’s persuasion to stay well clear of the Findmyhost website proved the stronger in my case. Still, it’s possible to browse without fear amongst websites such as HostReview, whose award to HostICan for Top 10 Budget Hosting features on HostICan’s self-laudatory webpage. . . even if HostReview seems nowadays to offer no kind of endorsement at all. One wonders why.

    Bedecked, then, with the worst rating possible from Better Business Bureau, with its reputation embellished by awards at least two of which come from a source Web of Trust warns against visiting, and other awards so far out of date the award-giver seems not to wish for any kind of association now, HostICan clearly has some difficulties where corporate image making is concerned.

    As the, er, Marketing Manager, Denis Motova must regret that. As the company’s, um, actual Principal, even more so. This no doubt accounts for his intervention here:

    http://www.howtospoter.com/my-reviews/beware-of-hostican-hosting-fraud

    albeit, not here (latest post, July 2009):

    http://www.theskykid.com/random/hostican-affeliate-program-scam/

    though definitely here (last month):

    http://www.webhostingtalk.com/showthread.php?t=992816

    where Denis goes so far as to promise to “talk to my Board” about getting a refund for someone.

    (As Marketing Managers do not generally describe their employing company’s Board of Directors in such proprietorial terms, still less have such direct access to ‘em, it’s surely now safe to say that Denis Motova is not a mere employee. At all.)

    What else might be deduced from even an idle meander around the ‘Net about Denis Motova and HostICan, I’ll leave to others. Meantime though, the question remains: why would a web hosting business already F rated by BBB and at the centre of many a critical post elsewhere on the Internet now risk so very, very much in the way of further reputational damage. . .

    for the sake of screwing dot tech / Ashraf out of $78??

    Is the company in such desperate financial shape it needs to rake in every dollar in every possible way, no matter how shoddy or sleazy such ways may be?

    Or is this a system failure, and HostICan is actually an incredibly well-run ethical company which on this occasion has fallen victim to the epic incompetence of one or more employees who should be sacked forthwith?

    HostICan’s marketing manager and/or strategist and/or owner and/or board chairman and/or chief coffee maker really ought to be talking to Ashraf sooner rather than later, otherwise the next conversation to occur with “my Board” could be the biggest embarrassment $78 has ever bought. As a former “power and density engineer”, Denis Motova of all people should be aware of the power of consequences that can befall when any business starts acting in the most dense of ways. . .

  11. DM

    Thought you might like to know that I connected with 1&1 for a personal website; as I thought I was getting a pretty good deal with a money back offer. I tried it, but couldn’t quite understand their site, so after about 3 months into the contract and paying 3/4 of it, I told them I just wanted out without paying the remaining payment. They agreed. A year later I got a letter from a collection agency requesting that payment. I told them my story, they naturally couldn’t do anything and were next to hostile threatening me to the credit bureau. I attempted to deal directly with 1&1, but forget that. Tried to find all my paper work; got fed-up and after several threatening phone calls from that collection agency, I decided to pay it just to get out of the hostile environment. We were talking about $40 so I decided my mind was worth more than that. So that is my dispute with 1&1 so people be careful!
    I am glad you are back with us Ashraf

  12. Rob

    @paul birch: 100% in agreement ! Godaddy has been feeding me false stats just to make it look good so that I keep my hosting with them. They spam like crazy and when you talk to someone you get the feeling they are talking down to you like your a child.I have got 1 month left with them(used gift visa to set up account so cant get refund) and then they go by by. A so called friend suggested them to me and I have been kicking my self in the but ever since.(6 months) Ya they are cheep but not worth it. ALSO when I first started my site my slogan for my company was ” Turbo charge your pc” . I was on go daddy one day and wouldn’t you know it, their new slogan was “Turbo charge your business” mmmmmmmmm fishy? I think so

  13. Stan

    I am real sorry to hear of your problem Ashraf. I have found with PayPal you are only covered on EBay transactions & I assume half.com, if you use PayPal anywhere else your NOT covered (Protected).
    Their answer will be it’s not the same as a credit card. Many website retailers accept PayPal but when I make purchases on any website other then eBay I use a real credit card where I am protected. I would advise anyone to use a credit card when your transacting off EBay. $78.00 is $78.00 better in your pocket then theirs. I am glad it wasn’t hundreds of dollars and found that you were out of luck. I wouldn’t let them get away with that. I would also file a complaint with the Attorney General & Dept. of Consumer Affairs of your state & the state where HostICan resides. also I would also post on websites like ripoffreport.com & others so the $78.00 you lost will cost them much more. I would also let them know that their silence on handling your problem will cost them more then the $78.00 they stole from you. I hate to see you get taken like that If it’s any consolation your not alone Ashraf, here’s a link to a complaint with HostICan though not similar to yours you can add to it:
    http://www.ripoffreport.com/web-hosting/hostican/hostican-worst-customer-suppor-2bzfb.htm
    here’s more links on Hostican:
    http://www.webhostingtalk.com/archive/index.php/t-863452.html
    http://www.askdamagex.com/f14/hostican-com-rip-off-25190/
    http://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/hosticancom-c346972.html
    http://www.bbb.org/richmond/business-reviews/internet-web-hosting/hostican-in-ashland-va-21017360/#rating
    Here they are rated F and gives a local phone number (804) 412-0390 and a contact name Denis Motova which gives you a better chance of speaking to a human beingand someone who may care about their reputation. Ask for Denis Motova & explain problem & if not solved you will take it public & to the government agencies.

  14. paul birch

    @mukhi:
    I’ve been ripped off by godaddy twice, including 1999 when he was “Parson’s Software.” Very uhappy memories, especially Bob’s 1999 comment “TOO BAD!” Now, Bob Parson seems to use godaddy as a platform for his ego (“How I made $68 million without trying” and “The godaddy girls” – half naked models who swoon all over him – check it out).

    I was also ripped off by 1&1. The problem with them is you have to go through soooooo many hoops that if you miss just one, they take your domain name and sell it to the highest bidder. Contacting FCC, FTC and ICANN resulted in ZERO replies, but then I’m just a nobody so why should anyone care about my stolen domain name anyway?

    In summary, WATCH OUT for godaddy and 1&1

  15. newJason

    That really blows. The fact that you are doing something to get the word out about HOSTICAN ‘ T is really the best course of action. You can talk to the FCC , BBB, and whatever other 3 letters you like, but the fact is, Those agencies are for Oversight and have no power to directly take action against any company or entity. I will tell you, Word of mouth is a very powerfull tool. You did mention that you had read some negative feeback or reviews about them before you decided to use them, I wonder what made you not heed the warnings? And I wonder If you can use that place where you got your information, use your experience and story to make a strong enough case against HostIcan, So that the next person will have no second thoughts in making the same Ill fated choice.
    That i beleive, is how you can turn that whole incident into a positive thing.

    When you drive your car down the road into a huge sink-hole, you climb out and say, Damn, that sucks for me. Then you stand there and put up a huge sign that says, STOP huge SINK-HOLE ahead. The feeling of keeping others from the same misfortunes you have had, is one of gratification and is healthy. The feeling of seeing yet others speeding by,around your sign and going right into the sink-hole, well thats just icing on the cake. :-) Thanks for everything you do. It’s means a lot.

  16. mukhi

    @Samuel:
    well, MSOL service sent me an email telling me that if i didn’t pay, i would lose my site including email address. i did not find any reason to disbelieve them.

    @Ashraf
    yes, they would let me transfer domain, but i would lose my email address. there are very cheap options like godaddy (time to time, they offer for $1 for the 1st yr i know).

  17. prema

    those beep beep beepers.. how dare they think that they mess with us dottechies and they will get away with it.. haha companies nowadays, cant trust them online… sigh.. what to do what to do..

    but i like this server better Ashraf :P

  18. Samuel

    @Ashraf: Yea, its was a pretty good deal while it lasted…500MB, one free domain name, 50 email address at that domain name. Not great but not bad either. My biggest complain was the lack of any server side coding.
    I still have the account, and i use 1and1 to register the domain name.

  19. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @nz: I am sorry to hear that. Letting a customer go after four years is poor business.

    @mukhi: Really? I thought MS let everyone keep the free domains for life that took advantage of it. I guess not. Did they not allow you to transfer the domain away? There are domain registrars that are cheaper. 1and1 is one of them but they are very slow so I wouldn’t recommend them. Internet.bs is another; I have not personally tried them (yet) but I hear they are good.

    @Ray: I can’t remember where I read my reviews. However, now there is only one place I go for webhosting advice/reviews: webhostingtalk.com. Webhostingtalk is a basically a community where people gather and talk about webhosts. I highly recommend anyone looking for webhosting to visit webhostingtalk before making your decision about anything; it doesn’t have everything – and of course since it is a forum based website there can be “fake” information – but it is a very good resource.

    I have only been with my current host for a little while so I can’t “recommend” them yet; I need to give it more time to evaluate. So far, though, they have been great. I am with Turnkey Internet.

    @Samuel: @Samuel: Ah that explains why I heard MS wasn’t making people pay.

  20. Samuel

    @mukhi: I had MSOL, and for the recored, EVEN after they started making people pay, they didn’t make the original people pay. It took them at least a year to do so. And if you did say know you would not lose your site, only the domain name and any email addresses based on it. (NOTE: I’m not to fond of MS’s decision to make us pay either, but at least have the facts strait).

  21. Ray

    Thanks for the heads up. How many different hosting review sites did you visit and read about HostICan? I’ve looked at hosting off and on, bought some, got screwed by some, poor service on the website, poor service from the hoster, mostly mediocre experiences. Large hosters, small hosters, big names, no names. I am not even sure how much to trust the reviewers. Based on my experience with your reviews (always been good), I wonder if there is a trusted review of reviewers type of website? So, I assume you are recommending your current hoster? Who is it?

  22. mukhi

    hosts are always greedy, more or less. few years back, i signed up for MS officelive for free, in agreement it never said it might be a paid service in future, when MSOL got established, they started charging me $15 per yr for the domain, if i don’t, i lose the site including my email address that i started using as one of my primary ones! i could simply say no to them (after transferring my site), however, this email has become known to my friends and acquainted ones, changing this would be a problem.

  23. nz

    That is the craps, I had the opposite occur with me, after 4 years with the same hosting company (canadianwebhosting) they then claimed two of my sites to be consuming to many resources, and they shut them down. Thing is I had 8 sites hosted on there server. The other 6 were still experiencing issues after the two “problem” sites where stopped (so obviously the server was simply overloaded). Anyways they made no apology for the mistake and I left them asap.

  24. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @Samuel: I actually got a very good deal on the dedicated server dotTech is on right now so dotTech ain’t going anywhere soon.

    @Haakon Aas: Honestly, this type of behavior is only typical of the crap hosts on the Internet. Good hosts don’t treat you this way. And thanks for the monetary support, I appreciate it.

    @pceasies: I tried the BBB before I filed with FTC; I couldn’t find them on there. Later I learned they already have an F on BBB. >.>

    @Everyone: I just want to clarify this isn’t a “I-need-money” post. The $78 are out of sight, out of mind. I am not crying or hurting because of it anymore, nor was it too big of a financial loss. (The bigger loss was the data… arggggghhhh.) This is a “avoid-HostICan-more-than-you-would-avoid-the-plague” post.

  25. Haakon Aas

    That sort of customer is “service” is …unaceptable!! to say the least!!
    BUT happends all the time.
    Very often the “small print” is not public at all…they pull it out of the hat when they want to :-(