With all the discussion of Network Solutions “stretching the envelope” of respectable behavior as a licensed, sanctioned and trusted domain name registrar, we shouldn’t let down our guard with respect to all registrars possible taking liberties with our data and trust. Just today I noticed yet another perversion of the registrar role, with GoDaddy.
I registered a few domains using an aging GoDaddy gift card a few days ago, and got the usual barrage of phone calls from GoDaddy’s sales department, allegedly “welcoming me to the GoDaddy family” and by-the-way letting me know they have ad-on products I might be interested in buying. I’m used to that; no, thanks. I had plenty of opportunity to choose to buy those add-ons when I struggled through the check out procedure.
But then something different happened. Instead of ignoring the call like I usually do, I decided to answer. Things have changed, apparently, and GoDaddy is stretching the envelope now, potentially abusing their rights as a registrar.
The salesman seemed put off that he didn’t have my actual name in his record (because I put a generic name in the name field of the whois record). I’m not sure if the sales guy has access to the financial records as well, because in this case it was a gift card, but I hope GoDaddy doesn’t give them credit card info. Anyway this salesman started with the “welcome to the GoDaddy family” spiel but he was seemingly frustrated that he didn’t know who he was selling to, and he told me so and asked for my name. I gave him my first name. He proceeded to ask me direct questions about whether or not I already had a website, had someone to build my website, etc.
I was quick to put him off as I have no time for the sales pitch stuff (and already regretted having answered the phone), but I stayed civil and informed him we were all good to go, no need for anything else. We said good bye but I could tell he was not pleased with the experience. And then I got the email:
Please update your contact information
Dear Domain Manager,
A member of our Outbound Support Team recently tried calling to personally welcome you to GoDaddy.com. UNFORTUNATELY, THE PHONE NUMBER WE CALLED APPEARS TO BE INCORRECT. For you to receive required updates, alerts and expiration notices, we must have the correct contact information. You can update your phone number in one of the following ways:
1) CALL OUR OUTBOUND SUPPORT TEAM at (480) 505-8859 and select option 1. A representative will be happy to assist you in updating your information.
2) ONLINE: Go to the GoDaddy.com home page, enter your log-in name (or customer number) and password, then click “Secure Login.” Then click “My Account,” which will take you to the Account Manager. Click on “Account Settings” to update your phone number(s).
We’re very excited to have you as a member of the GoDaddy.com family and will do our best to keep you satisfied. Our goal is to make sure you get the most out of your recent purchase and answer any questions you may have.
Outbound Support Team
P.S. Call the Outbound Support Team today at (480) 505-8859 to FIND OUT ABOUT OUR LATEST PHONE-IN-ONLY SPECIAL OFFERS!
Notice there is no mention of the actual domain in question. I use coded email addresses for my whois records so I know exactly which one prompted it. I checked the GoDaddy account after he called and the phone number is correct and does indeed work (it was probably the call I didn’t answer this morning, which would have gone to voicemail, but I can’t be 100% sure because the guy I did talk to didn’t say which domains he was calling about either).
Also notice the sales pitch at the end, telling me that same “outbound Support Team” phone number is the number to call to learn about the latest “phone in only special offers”. Also notice what I consider to be the serious tone of the email, which could technically be an official registrar-generated message that my whois information was not valid (potentially cause for losing the domain). If I have concern about my domains, how could I not call back? And if I do call back, will it just be a sales pitch? Oh, and by the way, when I registered the domain with GoDaddy, I oped out of all communications except the one that says:
Non-promotional notices that deal with changes to your domain(s), account or other services
I don’t need my registrar to pay sale people to call me pretending to be my registrar, intent on selling me useless (to me) add-on products and services after I explicitly asked them not to do so. Isn’t that abuse of registrar status and a violation of the telemarketing act?
Related issue: I was looking at GoDaddy’s web site and saw a profiled testimonial from Daryl Acumen, out of Orem, Utah. I followed that to find Daryl used to work at Verisign, and even had a Virginia vanity license plate that read “NETSOL”. On one of his websites I found this statement:
In the course of searching for a flag website, I discovered that theflag.net was available for registration (a strip club in Ohio had recently let the domain name lapse). Since I worked for the company that manages the domain name system, I decided to pick up theflag.net before some squatter or terrorist did.
which seems to demonstrate how an employee at a registrar enjoys access to domains we (the public) do not enjoy, and is able to buy them for personal ownership via that privilege. Just in case anyone wasn’t sure about that yet.