A Photocopy Of Reality

You may not know that my wife runs her own business, Buttercup 149. She produces custom made items, makes alterations, and spends much of her time honing her craft.

Her hobby is collecting antique sewing and weaving equipment. For several years now she has been watching eBay and sending me “wish lists” of items she would like to have if we can afford it at the time.

She has a few antique Singer sewing machines, an antique barn loom, and old manuals and sewing patterns all over the place. In the seven years I have been fulfilling her “wish list”, I have never happened across a deceptive seller. Until today.

This past week she sent me a link to a repair manual she wanted. It was specifically written for one of the machines she has and she thought it would make an awesome addition to her collection (plus she could use it to make any repairs needed for the machine).

Here are a couple screen shots of the eBay auction listing (click the image to see the image at full size):


The item is advertised as a Singer Model 101 Repair Manual. The photo shows an older, obviously original, repair manual. The description states, “This is a great copy of our original shop repair service manual for the Singer model 101 and 101-2 (same machine). This manual is 26 pages in length and covers with pictures and procedures all the steps needed to repair this model. Excellent section covering electrical repairs included. If you cannot repair your machine with the help of this book then you better take it to a sewing machine repair shop. Most shops charge a minimum of forty to fifty dollars for service and most times much more This model is getting older and many shops do not want to repair and would rather sell you a new machine. We both know that this iron lady was a better machine then the plastic junk made by most companies now.

As I stated before, we have purchased many different sewing machine manuals and books. Many of them are listed as a “great copy” of the manual, or the book. Who would want to purchase a “terrible copy”? We have many books on our shelves that are “great copies”. Every single manual we have received has been an original copy of the book, as in, an actual book.

I must have missed the obvious with this listing, because the “great copy” we received today, was anything but great, but it was definitely a copy.


When I purchase something on eBay, I check the item listing. I look at the photos. Until today, the photos have always matched the item I have purchased. I have never received an item that was different from the photo of the item shown.

The item received looks nothing like the item shown, and I was not happy at all. Who would pay $9.99 for a PHOTOCOPY of a book when the repair manuals themselves are usually in the $10 to $20 range anyway? Definitely, not me.

Because I did not receive the item as listed, I left a negative feedback for the seller. Sure, I could have waited, but I was pissed. I was misled by the auction listing, and I felt people needed to know that they too could receive a crappy photocopy like the one we received.

My feedback simply stated,

I did not pay for a photocopy. I paid for a copy of the book, which is pictured

After leaving the initial feedback, I sent a message to the seller, which stated,

When I bid on this item, I bid on the repair manual shown in the photograph which accompanied the item. I paid for a copy of the book, not a photocopy of the book. I expect this to be resolved immediately.

OH.MY.GAWD. I sent him a total of two (2) messages. That initial one above, and one response after his third response. He sent a total of eight (8) messages to me today.

While the initial response was calm and coherent, the remainder of his responses were rude, abrasive, and entirely inappropriate.

Here are the responses I received, some within the eBay message system, some via regular e-mail. Warning: Some of his responses contain language you probably have already heard, but I need to warn you anyway.

The first response (via the eBay message system):

The description clearly states that this is a copy of our original. I stopped printing the colors in green because it added and extra 2.75 to the cost of the item for color printing. Please return this item and I will issue credit to your Pay Pal account. We sell many manuals and they all state that they are copies of the originals with no complaints.

Take a good look at the photo in the original listing and compare it to what we received. he did more than stop printing the colors in green.

The second response (via the eBay message system):

Thanks for NOTHING. You posted negative feedback before I even had the opportunity to make your refund. Why so damn impatient? You misread the item description because you are too stupid and then blame me for you stupidity.

At this point, he apparently did a user information request with eBay because I received a notification containing his information. Look at the photos again, read the description again. Notice how it says “this manual” and “this book”, not “this photocopy” or “this horribly reproduced photocopy”.

The third response (via the eBay message system):

Description says, ” a copy of OUR original” NOT a copy of AN or A original. Are you stupid or what? Christ,buyers like you piss me off. I work my ass off providing you with this stuff at a cheap price and that’s the thanks we get.

At this point I was laughing. Seriously. What can you do in this type of a situation, except laugh? He worked his ass off to make a photocopy of the manual, at a cheap price? He must have a hard time getting his ass moving if he worked any part of it off making that thing. Again, check out the photo of what we received. That must have taken all day.

I decided I needed to respond to his “stupid” remarks and his “working his ass off” claim and I couldn’t contain myself. Here is my second, and final response to him:

Excuse me?

Your description says “a great copy of our original shop repair service manual”. I have bought
several “great copies” of books in the past, many antique, and have never received a PHOTOCOPY.

You refer to “this manual” and “this book” a couple times in the description and the photo of
the item is a photo of the ORIGINAL, not a photocopy.

$9.99 plus shipping is not something you should have to “work your ass off” for, if you photocopy it.

I have paid the same price for original manuals in the past, as my wife is an avid collector.

I will be returning the item in the morning mail. You can count on that.

The way you responded, by calling me stupid then blaming it on you, as well as claiming that *I* pissed you off, when I am the one who should be pissed, is the very reason why I posted a negative feedback.

I have purchased thousands of dollars worth of sewing equipment and manuals from eBay and
NONE of the sellers were as rude and inconsiderate as you.

I left the negative feedback because I felt we had been misled. When I looked at what we received and compared it to the photo of what we thought we were buying there was an obvious difference.

If the auction listing had stated, in any way, that we would be receiving a photocopy, I never would have wasted my time with his piece of crap copy, let alone my money.

Anyway, he responded to my message (for the fourth time and this time in regular e-mail) with:

You jumped the gun and that is exactly why you are a stupid, inconsiderate idiot. An instant refund on my part would have solved your problems. had you been patient and man enough to ask for it. Stick the manual where the sun doesn’t shine and I’ll put the refund there to. Maybe you should remove that “MBA” from your user’s I.D. That you are not. And for your information and get in my car and drive to a Copy Central to do this shit. GAS, TIME and car INSURANCE are still not free. You are a major DOPE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. 770 5xx xx63

I edited the phone number above because I don’t think you need to know our phone number, but I still have no idea why he included my contact phone number at the end of his rant, other than to “scare me” that he has my number. What’s he going to do, call me and rant some more?

An instant refund would not have solved my problems. My “problems” as he calls it, is the fact that I paid for a repair manual, not a photocopy of a repair manual. Refunding the money solves nothing, because I still don’t have what I paid for, but then again it was clear from the beginning that any rational conversation with this guy was never going to happen.

Don’t you love the “remove the MBA from your user’s I.D.” line? My user ID starts with my first initial and my last name, which happens to be mbarrett. Why would I remove my own name? It sounds like someone has an educational envy problem to me.

Anyway, I digress, lets move on with his remaining responses.

The fifth response (via regular e-mail):

You posted negative feedback BEFORE I said anything to your dumb ass. In fact, my first reply when I saw your shit was to offer a refund. You were too much of an idiot to wait for a reply. You are exactly what I said and probably more.

The sixth response (via regular e-mail):

and ……………….I have sold thousands of manual to EBAY buyers and none have been the stupid jerk you are.

The seventh response (back on the eBay message system):

The manual shown IS a copy of the original. It is not the original. Like I would sell the original for 10 bucks. You are still an idiot.

Go ahead, look at the photo in the original listing. Does that look like a photo of a COPY of the original, or a photo of the original? Yeah. He actually thinks I would believe that is a photo of a COPY. I do, however, know what a photocopy of the original looks like, because I have one sitting here on my desk.

Just for the record, here is a screenshot of one of his other listings, which clearly shows a photocopy of a manual.


The eighth response (on the eBay message system):

I come back from lunch and I see your UNHAPPY email. I email you in minutes after receiving it to say return the item for credit. Next I see that you left negative feedback Before you even received my reply. What an asshole you are. Thanks for nothing (again)

Well, James Slaten, thank you for nothing too. I’ve decided I am not sending the photocopy back. Why? Well…

While we find no value in the photocopy of the item we were supposed to receive from you, we will keep it until we find a legitimate seller on eBay offering the actual manual. Then again, photographs of the item might not be enough to convince me they are selling the actual manual.

I paid $9.99 for this treasure, along with $3.00 for shipping. I could return it to you for another buck or so in shipping and wait for your coveted “instant refund”, which I may (or may not) ever receive.

Why would I risk that extra buck? I don’t think I am ready to take a chance on receiving a photocopy of a refund.

— Posted with Stuffr! —

You Can’t Buy Ethics

I apologize, once again, for the length of this post but sometimes you just need to get something off your chest. This will be my final word on this subject, but I won’t promise this is my final long post.

I had an interesting conversation via instant messenger with Josh Schnell this evening. It turns out, he felt I was the one being unethical for suspending his accounts when he has paid for service through April 3rd. It was the first I heard from him since our conversation during the evening of January 12th, when he led me to believe his account(s) had been hacked.

Before I get to this evening’s conversation, let’s review the events of January 12th and 13th, some of which I wrote about in my post “A Complete Lack Of Ethics“.

  • January 12 – 20:50 : I received a direct message from him asking what was up with the server, that DNS was not working, and that his account alpha-one was not receiving email.
  • January 12 – 21:17 : I received an email from PayPal notifying me that his hosting subscription had been cancelled.
  • January 12 – 21:28 : He told me that alpha one was not loading and mail was not being forwarded to Google mail.
  • January 12 – 21:30 : I check the WHOIS for his domain to find his name servers (DNS) has changed to editdns.net and I let him know.
  • January 12 – 21:31 : He says, WTF. He acted shocked that the name servers had been changed.
  • January 12 – 21:36 : He leads me to believe that his account has possibly been hacked, and that he is “looking into it” with his registrar
  • January 12 – 21:47 : I let him know about the email notification of his account cancellation. He says, WTF, WTF, WTF, leading me to believe (again) that his account has indeed been hacked.
  • January 12 – 22:00 : I spend the next five hours checking server logs, comparing IP addresses, looking for signs of “the hackers”.
  • January 13 – 09:00 : I notify server techs on my end asking them to make sure everything on my server is secure.
  • January 13 – 11:00 : I happen to check WHOIS on his domain again to find it sitting at another hosting provider and different name servers than the night before.
  • January 13 – 14:45 : Server techs reply that there has been no apparent breach, all services are running fine, everything looks good on the server, but his passwords “could” have been compromised.
  • January 13 – 15:00 : Because I did not hear from him and he was not online, I decide to suspend all his accounts to cut off all external access to his accounts until I hear from him.
  • January 13 – 15:45 : I run a WHOIS query on each of his domains to see if the “hack” is widespread” and discover that almost all of his domains were transferred to the new hosting provider.
  • January 13 – 16:00 : I finish loading each of his domains in my web browser to find most of them are functioning properly, from the new hosting server. This raised the question, why would someone hack his DNS just to put up his own sites?
  • January 13 – 17:00 : After reviewing all of the WHOIS data which show the dates the registration information was last updated, I realize most of the accounts were moved over the course of the past month. At this point I realize I had been made a fool of.

I sent him two emails between 14:00 and 17:00 with no response. He was not online on the instant messenger, so I took action to protect his interests, as well as mine. Yet, tonight he claims I am the unethical one.

Six hours on Tuesday and eight hours on Wednesday were wasted looking for a “hacker” when in reality all I was dealing with was a liar. I’m the unethical one? Please. I was simply doing what I should have been doing to protect my server and my customers.

Before I begin discussing tonight’s conversation (which sheds even more light on the subject), let me be clear about a few items:

  1. I am not angry that he decided to switch hosting providers. I am angry that he played me for a fool by lying to me and wasting 14 hours of my time.
  2. I suspended his accounts because he led me to believe he had been hacked, and because he wasn’t online and didn’t respond to the emails I sent him, I did what I needed to do to protect the server.
  3. I have more respect for hackers than liars.

Now that we’re clear about the events on Tuesday and Wednesday, let’s discuss this evening’s conversation. When he messaged me I couldn’t believe he claimed I was the one being unethical after everything that had transpired. The reason I am posting this conversation is simple. He claimed this evening that he was not lying, but the facts don’t lie. During the conversation I realized some things just were not true. After the conversation I stepped away for a few to get a bite to eat and I realized some things just didn’t add up. So here it is, because I need to get this off my chest as well.

First of all, I find it interesting that I didn’t hear a single word from him for 66 hours. Our last conversation ended on January 12, at 9:53 pm, he finally contacted me this afternoon at 3:59 pm. If your account had been hacked, or you had led your hosting provider to believe your account may have been hacked, wouldn’t it be prudent to contact them as soon as possible to find out if it had indeed been hacked? Oh, that’s right, we all know it wasn’t hacked now, don’t we?

3:59:14 Josh Schnell: can you please explain to me why the account has been suspended when we’ve paid for the next three months?
4:35:55 Josh Schnell: you know. I fail to see how me paying through until march is unethical.
4:36:51 Josh Schnell: asking for support on something you paid for is completely within my rights.

6:15:09 Michael Barrett: asking for support for something that doesn’t exist, leading me to believe everything is kosher with us, is unethical. I spent 14 hours looking into your problem, even contacting others that I know who might help, and for what? You had already transferred the account. The reason email was not working and dns was not working is because it wasn’t assigned to my server anymore, yet you led me to believe (with all your WTF statements) that you had nothing to do with the changes… That sir, is unethical.

As you can see, there is a gap between his messages and my response, as I was away from my desk running errands this afternoon. I found it hilarious at the time that he thinks he has “rights” on my hosting server. He has an account. He pays for that account. He enjoys a few privileges and has access to certain software, but I wouldn’t call those “rights”. His account, like all of the others on my server, is subject to specific terms of service.

There are a few key points of our terms of service which apply to Mr. Schnell’s accounts (especially when I thought his account(s) may have been hacked).

From section 2:

  • Failure to respond to email from our abuse department within 48 hours may result in the suspension or termination of your services.
  • It is your responsibility to ensure that scripts/programs installed under your account are secure and permissions of directories are set properly, regardless of installation method

Although section 3 applies to spam, one paragraph applies because I was led to believe the account(s) may have been hacked:

  • We reserve the right to require changes or disable as necessary any web site, account, database, or other component that does not comply with this policy, at its sole discretion. We also reserve the right to make any such modifications in an emergency at our sole discretion.

From section 6:

  • We reserve the right to cancel the account at any time.

Simply paying for hosting service does not imply that your account will not be cancelled or suspended for any reason before the hosting period has expired.

I don’t think anyone would think it was unethical to cut off the “hackers” before they caused more trouble. I don’t think anyone would think it was unethical to suspend the accounts to protect other customers on the server. I received no response from Mr. Schnell for 66 hours. I don’t think anyone, except Mr. Schnell, would attempt to claim I was being unethical in this situation.

The conversation continued.

6:15:50 Josh Schnell: first, we’re planning on staying with you. We’re setting up a backup server, and a load balancing server. Second, I’ve paid until March 2010
6:16:18 Josh Schnell: What’s unethical is taking my 90 dollars, and cancelling my account without discussing any of this with me

6:16:54 Michael Barrett: Yes you have paid through March, and no one said your accounts would not be unsuspended. They were suspended when I realized there was an issue with the DNS, to make sure hackers could not get in. THAT is ethical.
6:16:59 Michael Barrett: I have cancelled nothing
6:17:03 Michael Barrett: I have terminated nothing
6:17:13 Michael Barrett: I was protecting you based on our CONVERSATION here on IM.
6:17:17 Michael Barrett: Nothing more

When we last spoke, I was under the impression he had been “hacked”, yet now we’re discussing a backup server AND a load balancing server.

When you set up a “backup server” you don’t necessarily redirect all of your traffic from your main server to that backup. You can initiate changes much easier than changing your name server at the registrar level to test the backup server. I’ve been in the business long enough to smell bullshit when it spews from someone’s mouth.

Maybe if I had heard from him before 66 hours passed, I wouldn’t have felt the need to suspend (not cancel) his accounts, and I might have been able to discuss it with him. I took the appropriate action with the information (or lack thereof) I had at the time.

The “backup server” story was bad enough, but it didn’t end there.

6:17:37 Josh Schnell: The DNS was faulty, and mail was not being directed.
6:17:45 Josh Schnell: For three websites
6:17:49 Josh Schnell: not just the alpha one server

6:17:51 Michael Barrett: The DNS was working perfectly based on the response I got from Media Temple

6:17:56 Josh Schnell: the eastscene account wasn’t getting mail
6:18:02 Josh Schnell: as well as another
6:18:24 Josh Schnell: there was most certainly a dns server issue

6:18:37 Michael Barrett: Not on my server there wasn’t

6:18:44 Josh Schnell: well, i’m glad to hear that

He claimed his alpha one account was not the only one with an issue. He claimed that he had issues with his eastscene account as well as an unidentified “other” account.

It’s funny how domain registration works. Each time you modify your domain record at the domain registrar, they keep track of those changes. From the moment you create the domain name until long after it’s cancelled, they have a record of each change made to the domain registration. Every change to the domain record is time stamped, and every domain registrar updates their “Last updated” record with that time stamp.


Remember, our initial conversation took place on January 12th, three days after the name server change was complete. The only DNS server issue that could have existed would have originated on his new server, not mine. The domain record clearly indicates that the domain name servers were not pointing to my server three days before this incident occurred.

He went on to state,

6:19:12 Josh Schnell: I wasn’t getting email… so I contacted my hosting company
6:19:42 Josh Schnell: I’m not sure what the heck warranted the post on your blog, or my account being suspended.

6:19:58 Michael Barrett: of course, you could have discussed that with me, rather than pretending that the dns wasn’t working because you had already initiated the change on the DNS. See, I know the dates and times the changes took place too. Our conversation was quite a while after you changed things… yet you pretended to not know why it was changed.
6:20:05 Michael Barrett: you pretended you might have been hacked.

6:20:21 Josh Schnell: you’ll never believe me, and I’m fine with that. But, I swear to god I thought there was a DNS issue

Apparently, he contacted the wrong hosting company, because as you can see in the image above, my server was no longer controlling his DNS. Before I continue any further, let me state that I have screen captures of the WHOIS records for each of his domains. I learned the following from those WHOIS queries:

  • alpha-one.ca was updated on January 12th, the day all of this took place, which means the change was submitted before our conversation that evening.
  • Seven other domains were changed before the 1st of the year.
  • One domain was changed on January 3rd.
  • Five domains are still pointing to my server.

Two-thirds of his domains were set to point to his new server days, even months, before he contacted me about this issue. He’s right, I’ll never believe him so he better be fine with that.

6:21:55 Josh Schnell: Which sites are on the server or not, isn’t the issue here. The issue is that I paid until March, and here I am with my money gone, and an inability to access client accounts.

Which sites are on my server was the issue. It still is the issue. I was told there was a DNS and email issue with alpha-one.ca, on my server, when the domain registration was clearly pointing it to another server. I was led to believe his account may have been hacked when he knew full well that he had initiated a change to the domain record that very day. He lied to me and wasted my time which could have been spent helping customers who actually needed something done. Which sites are on the server or not was, and still is, definitely the issue.

6:22:04 Michael Barrett: I could really care less if you were planning to move. I said so in the post, and i have said so with everyone I have discussed it with

6:22:16 Josh Schnell: Except me

6:22:23 Michael Barrett: You leaving is not my concern. What concerns me was the way you lied to me when we chatted the other night
6:22:24 Michael Barrett: Period
6:22:26 Michael Barrett: dude
6:22:35 Michael Barrett: You are acting like a victim. Look at your dns changes.
6:22:41 Michael Barrett: Macgasm was changed in OCTOBER

6:22:43 Josh Schnell: you can play the hurt card, but i’ll say it again…

6:22:48 Michael Barrett: I am not hurt
6:22:50 Michael Barrett: I told you that

6:23:03 Josh Schnell: then please restore my account, and files, in accordance with my payment.

6:23:07 Michael Barrett: Your account will be unsuspended sometime tonight.
6:23:11 Michael Barrett: Excuse me
6:23:18 Michael Barrett: Your payment does not guarantee anything
6:23:35 Michael Barrett: if I suspect something nefarious is taking place I can suspend or terminate accounts
6:23:38 Michael Barrett: read the terms of service
6:23:40 Michael Barrett: BUT

6:23:43 Josh Schnell: Dude, really? I’m hosting with you for over a two years now.

6:23:45 Michael Barrett: I will unsuspend them tonight

6:23:50 Josh Schnell: Thank you

Yeah, that’s waiting for a bit. I know, I know that I promised him his account would be unsuspended tonight but that’s going to have to wait until I remove all of the “special” features he was not paying for, you know, in accordance with his payment. Once I have those changes complete, I will be unsuspending his account(s) even though they don’t point to my server any longer. I’m just not sure what I should do about all that space that is being used and never part of the plan. I wonder what I can do about that in accordance to his payment?

Sadly though, it didn’t end there.

6:25:18 Michael Barrett: The DNS for Macgasm changed in OCTOBER. The change on alpha-one was submitted BEFORE you had the conversation with me. so how do YOU justify all the “WTF’s” when I mentioned the DNS had changed

6:25:33 Josh Schnell: i forgot about editdns…
6:25:40 Josh Schnell: here’s i’ll log in and get you a screencap
6:25:44 Josh Schnell: or at least try to

6:25:48 Michael Barrett: But YOU knew you had submitted the change

6:26:03 Josh Schnell: editdns had been the alpha—one dns since the beginning

6:26:05 Michael Barrett: and YOU led me to believe something nefarious was going on, hence the reason your accounts were suspended

6:26:07 Josh Schnell: beginning
6:26:16 Josh Schnell: i haven’t changed it
6:26:20 Josh Schnell: because they’re charging now
6:26:49 Josh Schnell: restoring my account. I’ll get you a screen cap
6:27:35 Josh Schnell: i don’t even know what email it’s going to

At this point in the conversation he directed me to an image he had uploaded (I am not posting that url here because you know that might not be ethical). Anyway, the dateless image showed a lot of dns entries at editdns some of which pointed to my server but it also had the following disclaimer at the top of the page:


“Your domain is currently suspended and will not resolve. Please contact EditDNS Support for more information”.

Wow. Maybe that’s why DNS and mail were not working for the domain or any of them hosted using his alpha-one.ca name servers? The WHOIS record I pulled today clearly shows that his dns record for alpha one had indeed changed on January 12th.


At this point, I should have ended the conversation. There was no need to keep rehashing the same information. It was clear he was not going to apologize for leading me to believe his account(s) had been hacked, and I wasn’t going to believe another word he said. Then he said,

6:32:53 Josh Schnell: see. i didn’t change the dns.
6:33:00 Josh Schnell: it’s been like this since the beginning

Without dragging this out much further, he went on to say that the reason he moved “a couple” sites over to his “backup” server was because he “panicked”.

6:33:29 Michael Barrett: You panicked, and moved ALL your sites to another server?

6:33:41 Josh Schnell: we have a backup server
6:33:47 Josh Schnell: for a client
6:33:56 Josh Schnell: so i moved a couple sites over there

Funny thing that panic. It took place days and months before January 12th.

6:34:45 Josh Schnell: i changed them after our conversation
6:34:56 Josh Schnell: they were backed up there

The only site moved on January 12th, you know at the time of the “hack”, was alpha-one.ca. Was that some sort of “pre-panic”?

He claimed that if he was attempting to screw me over he would have never paid for three months, and he would have made sure everything was moved before then without saying a word. By the looks of things to me and all these screen captures, just about everything was moved before he uttered one word on the 12th.

At the end of the conversation we were discussing name server changes and backup servers. I pointed out that it didn’t make much sense to have a backup server where you had to update your name server record to allow access to the backup because propagation of the name server change can take up to 72 hours.

6:39:50 Josh Schnell: when some clients rely solely on the Internet for income, relying on one server is a bad practice

6:41:06 Michael Barrett: I know it is. But name server changes can take 72 hours to propagate through the Internet. so using a backup server at a different location rather than at one where the IP for the name server can be changed quickly eliminates that as a suitable “replacement” during down time for one server.

6:41:26 Josh Schnell: “upto” is the key word there

We both agreed it usually doesn’t take that long, in fact it’s much quicker. And then he added,

6:41:33 Josh Schnell: servers update a lot quicker

6:41:37 Michael Barrett: not always

6:41:44 Josh Schnell: alpha-one switched in 20mins for me

Wow. The same alpha-one.ca account he said he didn’t change was switched in 20 minutes when he changed it.

Like I said in my original post, and reiterated at the beginning of this post, I am not angry that he chose to change hosting servers. If was angry about that, I would have just terminated the hosting accounts. All of them. If I was angry that he changed hosting servers I never would have made my original post or this one.

I am angry because I was lied to. I am angry because I wasted 14 hours trying to solve a problem that did not exist. I am angry because I spent two years hosting his sites, kicking in extras along the way, only to be lied to, not once, not twice, but several times over the course of both conversations.

So why should I believe anything he stated in either conversation?

Throughout tonight’s conversation I was told that all this occurred because he was setting up a ‘backup server’ yet it turned out to be a “backup server for a client”.

I was told to restore his account and files in accordance with his payment, even though I had suspended his account(s) in accordance with the terms of service because I was initially under the impression his account(s) had been hacked.

I was told he never made changes to his dns for the alpha one account and that he ‘panicked’ and moved a couple sites on the 12th even though all but one site were moved long before the 12th.

At no time today did he apologize for leading me to believe his account(s) had been hacked. At no time today did he offer any explanation as to why all of the accounts were moved before the 12th. At no time did he apologize for lying to me. That is the most disappointing part of the whole thing.

When confronted about the entire ordeal he disregarded every statement I made about the “hack”, yet he was most adamant about being “paid up until March”.

Forget the fact that I busted my ass to make sure his data was secure. Forget the fact I spent 14 hours searching for clues. Forget the fact that I have spent the previous two years making sure he had the best customer service you’ll find in the web hosting industry.

Well, I’m done.

It’s obvious that he is not going to man up and apologize, but that doesn’t matter anymore. He proved his worth today, and that’s not saying much at all.

I have made significant changes to his account(s) removing every “extra” I have added over the past two years and restoring all of his space and bandwidth limitations per our original agreement. He paid for three months of hosting, and now that I know his account(s) were not hacked, he will get the remainder of his three months (as long as he does not violate our terms of service). He will be billed accordingly for any extras and overages that may occur on his account, just like every other customer hosted on my server.

Since money is so important to him, I will honor his subscription term, at which time his accounts will be terminated. Too bad you can’t buy ethics, I’d gladly refund his money if he promised to buy some.

A Complete Lack Of Ethics

Bear with me, this is going to me a long post, but it’s something I need to get off my chest.

Working in software development and web design for the better part of my adult life, I have dealt with all sorts of people “in the business”. I have worked with some of the most awesome people and I have worked for some of the worst people, but I have always tried to remain professional and above all else ethical.

When I first started writing software I didn’t even have a software or programming type job, but many of my co-workers helped test some of the software I was developing which gave me great insight into the way people (those who sit in front of the computer using my software) see things.

Developers always see things one way, while customers and end-users see things quite differently. A lot goes on behind the scenes that customers never see, and it’s vital that developers deal with each other with a strong code of ethics. Who would want to deal with someone, let alone work with someone who was unethical?

eth·ics [eth-iks]:

  1. (used with a singular or plural verb) a system of moral principles: the ethics of a culture.
  2. the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group, culture, etc.: medical ethics; Christian ethics.
  3. moral principles, as of an individual: His ethics forbade betrayal of a confidence.
  4. (usually used with a singular verb) that branch of philosophy dealing with values relating to human conduct, with respect to the rightness and wrongness of certain actions and to the goodness and badness of the motives and ends of such actions.

My mother raised my sister and I as a single parent. I don’t know how she did it sometimes, but not only did she provide us with a good home life, but she instilled in us all the principles and values we would need to develop our own ethical backbone.

I remember times when my mother would have loved to take a day or two off, but she wouldn’t. She wouldn’t call in sick unless she absolutely had too. She wouldn’t take an extra day or two here and there for herself because she knew someone else would have to pick up the slack. She was always there to support her co-workers and the last thing she wanted to do was to make the day any more difficult for them.

Maybe I set my expectations too high and maybe I am jaded because I had the opportunity to learn such from a strong role model, but I have certain expectations from people and when they let me down, I can’t help but feel disappointed.

This is one of those times. I learned today that someone I thought was honest and upstanding was just another dirtbag with no ethical backbone.

It’s one thing to sever a business relationship because you have chosen to move on, but it’s quite another to lie about a situation knowing full well that while I am checking the front door, you are sneaking out the back door. Let me give you some history, without making this too long (hopefully).

On October 04, 2007 I setup an account on my hosting server for a developer in Canada. Unlike all of the other hosting accounts on the server, I gave him additional access to create accounts for his own customers which gave him the option to offer web hosting as an additional service to his customers. With the opportunity to incorporate that value-added service into his proposals, he stood to build his client base and his bottom line.

I gave him quite a discount as a favor to him, because he too was running a small development firm. I had the space on the server, so it just made sense to help the guy out. At one time he had twenty accounts on the server and I was taking quite a loss because I was charging him a flat rate rather than a “per account” charge. It didn’t bother me at all though because I figured it wasn’t hurting me to pay it forward a bit to help him out. Not the best business sense, but a deal was a deal, and being ethical I wasn’t going to pull the rug out from under him because he was successful.

Last year there were several issues with the server. Most of the issues were minor and fixed within minutes, but others were quite severe and took a few hours to solve. Between runaway scripts on specific sites, denial of service attacks from disgruntled people on the other side of the planet, and specific software installations that didn’t play nice with the server, I had my hands full making sure the server kept running. But I kept it running.

My troubles were not unique in the industry, and truth be told I am glad I went through them because I think the entire last year has made me much more professional when it comes to server maintenance. The main thing is, all of the problems were solved. Server performance for the past four months has been stellar, in fact, the server has not had any minor or serious issues for 110 days as I type this (knock wood), which is why the events over the past two days have stunned me.

Last night at 8:50pm I received a direct message on Twitter.


At the time of the message I was away from my desk, so I used my iPhone to connect to the server, and everything looked like it was running just fine. I checked all the services and figured it must have been a “glitch”.

At 9:17pm I received an email notifying me that his hosting subscription had been cancelled with PayPal. This happens from time to time, even when clients don’t intend for their subscriptions to be cancelled, so I didn’t think anything of it at the time.

When I got back to my desk I checked the server again and the following conversation took place.

9:28:11 Michael Barrett: Dude, server is up and running just fine
9:28:14 Michael Barrett: has been all day
9:28:21 Michael Barrett: server load is 1.46
9:28:29 Josh Schnell: alpha one isn’t loading
9:28:33 Josh Schnell: mail isn’t getting forward to google

As soon as I ascertained that the server was functioning properly, and the issue was not associated with my server at all, I checked the name server settings for his domain and found the issue. It turns out the name servers for his domain had been changed at his domain registrar.


At this point I was quite suspicious because of the email notification regarding the subscription cancellation. I wondered for a moment if this was all intentional, but then his original inquiry wouldn’t make sense if he was making these changes himself. Although I was suspicious, I thought maybe his account had been hacked at the registrar level and I thought I would point that fact out to him.

9:30:57 Michael Barrett: name servers aren’t mine.
9:31:04 Josh Schnell: wtf.

He seemed genuinely shocked.

9:36:40 Josh Schnell: this is so fucked up
9:37:14 Michael Barrett: sounds like there is a routing issue from the great white north or something
9:37:27 Josh Schnell: quite possibly
9:38:24 Michael Barrett: I wonder about the name servers though
9:38:36 Josh Schnell: yeah, looking into that at my registrar

That last statement led me to believe his registrar account was indeed hacked, and he had no idea that these changes had been made. I continued the conversation, doing what I could to find out as much as I could in order to help him.

At this point I figured he had no idea his account subscription had been cancelled so I thought I better mention it too.

9:47:31 Michael Barrett: You cancelled your subscription?
9:47:41 Josh Schnell: say what?
9:47:49 Josh Schnell: don’t tell me that…
9:47:51 Michael Barrett: Hello Michael Barrett, Joshua Schnell’s subscription to Custom Reseller 90 has been cancelled.
9:47:55 Josh Schnell: WTF
9:47:59 Michael Barrett: it just came through
9:48:02 Josh Schnell: WTF WTF WTF
9:48:08 Josh Schnell: ffs
9:48:14 Josh Schnell: what the hell is going on
9:48:15 Michael Barrett: doesn’t show a reason or anything
9:48:22 Josh Schnell: god damn
9:48:26 Josh Schnell: send me a new one

Did I misinterpret this conversation? From his initial notification, “hey, what’s up with the server? dns isn’t working, and I’m not getting alpha-one mail” all the way through, “what the hell is going on”, I was under the impression that someone may have hacked into his account and he had no idea what had happened. The fact he told me to send him a new subscription link gave me reassurance that none of this was intentional.

When I sat down at my desk this morning, the first item on my agenda was to check to see if he had resolved the “hacking” issues with his registrar. Imagine my surprise when a simple check of whois showed yet another set of name server ip addresses.


A simple ping to each of his domains revealed the truth. While I was working to find out what was going on with his domains and trying to help any way I could, he was busy sneaking out the back door. Who knows, he may have moved out in broad daylight, because I didn’t think I needed to keep an eye on a colleague that I had bent over backward to help out. I honestly thought he was more ethical than that.

Over the course of the past two years I spent countless hours helping him with specific issues, not just server issues. I helped him set up security certificates on his accounts, I helped troubleshoot code from time to time, and I helped him when he had questions about hosting or other server issues.

I was there to lend a hand because he asked for my assistance. I never billed him for that additional time, I never asked for anything in return (except a little bit of understanding when we were going through our rough patch with the server). I was there for him because that’s what honest and ethical colleagues do.

Was I wrong to come to this conclusion? I guess so, because it turns out that I should have interpreted the entire conversation as his way of telling me he was cancelling his account and moving all his hosting accounts to a new host. Apparently I don’t understand English anymore.

It turns out the only reason his dns wasn’t working and the reason he wasn’t receiving his alpha-one.ca email (for three days) was because the network propagation and resolution for the changes he made to his name servers took longer than he expected they would.

Sometimes you know before you start doing business with someone that you should just walk away, other times you get hit by a freight train carrying that same message two years after the fact.

Over the past two decades I have had the good fortune of meeting some of the most ethical and honest people in the industry but Josh Schnell is not one of them. Am I angry that he decided to take his business elsewhere? No. If he thought it was in the best interest of his business and his clients to change hosting servers, so be it. That doesn’t upset me at all.

I am angry (and quite upset) because he chose to lie to me and lead me to believe he had no idea what was going on.

I am angry that he tried to create an issue by claiming that dns wasn’t working for his domain and he wasn’t receiving email because of my server in order to justify his move.

I am angry that he chose to sneak out the back door rather than treat me with the respect I have always shown him.

I know I am not perfect, and I know I could use some improvement, but I am ethical, which is something Josh Schnell is not.