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Nov 13

Open Letter to Moniker.com (WTF, Moniker?)

WTF, MonikerThis is an open letter to Moniker.com and its CEO Bonnie Wittenburg.

TL;DR One of my domains registered with Moniker.com expired, and they are not allowing me to renew it until I confirm my phone number, which they are making stupidly difficult to do. They seem to be having serious issues with customer support: https://twitter.com/search?q=%40moniker

Dear Moniker,

This is in regards to case KS#2014110610010145. I am not a domain kingpin. I am not one of your customers who owns a portfolio of 250 domain names. My account has 5 domains registered. Two are personal domains that redirect to this blog and the other three are related to the NPO theatre company that I run. I moved to Moniker from several other domain hosts back in 2012 in order to consolidate all these domains to one manageable location.

Until this summer, I was reasonably happy with the service. I was lucky and didn’t suffer any problems due to the systems upgrade SNAFU back in June. The new system is a bit crap, to be honest, and the mandatory password reset took several tries until it “took”, but I’m willing to overlook growing pains as a company changes.

You have three jobs, in my book, and that is allowing me to hold my domains, keeping the DNS pointing at my DNS provider, and allowing me to renew those domains each year. You have failed.

One of my domains was due to expire on November 4. I have all my domains set to auto-renew and a credit card set up as my payment method. The last domain to expire was on August 8, and on July 26 or 27 (depending on time zone), my credit card was duly charged and I was sent a notice that my domain had been auto-renewed. Your systems start sending out notices months before a domain names expires, with occasional reminders up until the renewal date. This is great. For my domain that expired on November 4, I was receiving those notifications. I took note, though, on November 5th (local time, still the 4th in North America), that I hadn’t received the usual renewal notice, so I logged into my account. After resetting my password again for some damn reason, I went to that domain and saw that it had not been auto-renewed.

Hm. That was a bit frustrating. Perhaps there was a systems glitch. I checked my payment information and it was correct, so I went to the domain and changed it to renew immediately. The invoice appeared in my inbox right away, and it stated that my credit card would be charged. Great.

Except my credit card wasn’t charged. Instead I was sent the following email:

Thank you for registering your domain with Moniker.

For security reasons, we must verify your account before processing your domain requests.

The analysis for which accounts need to be verified is not done by our system but by an external service, based on objective criteria.

The use of such policies has sadly become necessary due to fraud attempts, especially in the internet business.

Until your account is verified you will only be able to make payments via Bank Transfer

We will gladly make an exception for you and open up access to your account once you call our support teams and verify your account.

To verify your account it will need to be a live call.   This again is a onetime call for fraud prevention.

You can call us at 1-800-688-6311 for the account validation. Outside the U.S. and Canada: 954-607-1294

Our hours of operations are Monday-Friday 8:00 am EST – 8:00 pm est.

We look forward to speaking with you.

Please have the following information handy to quickly verify your account.

Account #

Email Address on the account

Phone # on the account

Mailing/Billing Address on the account.

Wonderful. I have been singled out by “objective criteria”. Like what? My credit card hasn’t changed since I’ve joined. My billing address hasn’t changed. I’m also not trying to register a domain, as the email states, I am trying to renew an existing one that has been in my name since before I transferred it to Moniker. It it just because I live in Japan?

Interesting to note here that the support hours are 8:00 – 8:00 EST, which is currently 22:00 – 06:00 Japan Standard time. Luckily, it was still within support hours when I caught the email on the morning of November 6 so I called and left the requested information in a voice message as directed by your telephone system.

Your support team called me back as promised. At 5:00 the following morning. So I obviously didn’t answer. My phone gets turned off when I go to bed so it doesn’t wake my toddler. When did get up that morning, I saw this email:

Thank you for your response.

We retrieved the voice mail message however, we attempted to reach you at the number on file and we were unsuccessful. The number on file needs to be valid to complete account verification.

To change the telephone number please go to USER PROFILE> User Profile. Once updated please leave another detailed message with your account details listed below on our verification line so we can update the account.

Please have the following information handy to quickly verify your account.

Account #
Email Address on the account
Phone # on the account
Mailing/Billing Address on the account

Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Best regards,
Torshie [redacted]

This kind of thing has happened before, but usually with a company that didn’t have my address on file—and, I might add, as part of the information I had left for you on the voice mail message that you requested me to send! Since my address was part of the confirmation process, and the person who called had to dial a country code other than +1 (US/Canada), you would think that time zones would be taken into account, no?

Still, whatever, mistakes can happen. I replied to the support email explaining the problem. No, my number did not need to be updated, I just needed to be called at a time when normal people are sleeping. I mentioned that I was available right at that moment to receive a call (still within business hours at 17:00 EST/7:00 JST). Two days later I received a follow-up email:

Hello Andrew,

Thank you for contacting us.

We apologize for the error. It look like we will not be able to reach you during normal hours today. If you leave a message on our voice mail system please call from the number on file so we can verify the number is valid.

Remember to confirm you account details:

account #
address
telephone
email

Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Best regards,

Torshie [redacted]

I sent another reply explaining that a) I wasn’t going to phone from the number on file because it would have been expensive (the number is a Japanese mobile number), and b) that I’d already called and all they needed to do was complete the call back. I also specified several times over the next few days within Moniker business hours that I would be reachable in order to simplify things. I received no reply, and those days and times passed. I sent another reply with more dates and times and a request to expedite the support ticket since my domain had now been expired for several days. This morning (domain expired for 8 days now, 4 days since last contact), I received this reply from support:

Hello,

Thank you for contacting Moniker Support.

We need to verify your Moniker account information for fraud prevention before you can make purchases.

Please provide us the following information:

* Customer ID / Domain(s):
  * Name on the account:
  * Email address on the account:
  * Phone number on the account:
  * Street address on the account:

Once your account has been verified, you will be able to make purchases on your account.

If you have any further questions, please reply back with your email or call our toll-free number 1.800.688.6311 / International 1.954.607.1294
Our hours of operation are M – F 8:00 AM- 8:00 PM EST & Sat 10:00 AM-4:00 PM EST.

Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Best regards,

Shane J

Now you can perhaps see why I included Torshie’s name earlier. It’s not to get anyone in trouble. It’s because my support person changed, and he obviously did not read the entire email chain. I’m not printing Shane’s name to get him in trouble either. It’s simply obvious that your support process is not sufficiently documented to allow your support people to do their jobs. Don’t worry, you’re in good company here; Paypal does the exact same thing. You get a new support person each time, and each time you have to explain everything from the beginning even though it’s all in the email reply chain.

I have replied to the most recent email explaining that I’ve already called with my information and I just need the call back from the Moniker side to complete verification. Since I received Shane’s email during your business hours, I suggested that I was available at that moment. Of course, he did not call.

So where does this leave me? Angry and writing a blog post about it, I guess. Waving my fist at the internet.

Moniker; Ms Wittenburg: please either complete the verification or allow me to make the single $9.95 payment needed to renew my domain with the credit card you have on file. Despite the length of my post here, this is not a complicated technical issue. This is a customer support failure only. It’s a person-problem that you can fix. No engineers or technicians are required. The Moniker brand has been seriously tarnished as of late (https://twitter.com/search?q=%40moniker). Most of the complaints are about customer service. It’s time to start turning this around.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Cheers,

KS#2014110610010145

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