Real website service providers, fake charges

In high school, my CAD teacher had a particularly creative way of dealing with students who weren’t paying attention. One particular student had no aptitude for computers and even less interest in learning. Calling her to his desk, he said, “Please go down the hall and ask the Shop Teacher for bubbles for the level. I ran out.” 

This poor girl had never seen a level in her life and she certainly did not know they had bubbles. To the amusement of both teachers, she went off in search of the mythical “bubbles for the level.”

I tell this story, not just because it is funny, but because it is an illustration of how we can end up on a fool’s errand if we are not informed. I’ve previously written about the dangers of fake companies sending seemingly realistic bills. Today I want to talk about real companies that often charge customers for things they don’t want or need.  

The good news is that most legitimate companies are not going to charge for something that is entirely made up. They will, however, fail to provide accurate up front pricing or give only vague descriptions of what services are actually covered.  When you complain, they’ll point out that it was all explained in the itty-bitty fine print at the very bottom of the page. 

When you are buying a website domain, hosting, or any other website services, look out for these money traps:

Misleading monthly rates

If you see a website provider advertising their services for as low as $1.99 a month, that’s a red flag. “As low as” is likely followed by one or more caveats like these:

  • $1.99 a month after a $500 enrollment fee
  • $1.99 a month for the first year, $19.99 a month after
  • $1.99 a month, if you pay for 36 months up front
Vague product or service descriptions

“Support” is probably the most misrepresented, misinterpreted service that business owners waste money on. Whenever possible, clarify exactly what is included and what is excluded in your support plan. 

  • Building a website
  • Adding e-commerce capabilities
  • Help setting up email or other integrations
  • Technical support if you are experiencing an issue
  • Alerts if your website is down
  • Edits to your website
No point of contact

Perhaps most frustrating of all, it can be very hard to reach someone when you need help. Even if you are ready to pay for assistance, it may not be clear who to pay or how to go about requesting support. 

Here’s a "perk" one of our vendors has listed on their site: 24/7/365 U.S. based* expert support.

That sounds great, but what does the asterisk mean? 

I knew to look for the answer and it still took me a minute to find it: “During ‘high-volume’ call times, we may direct you to a customer service representative located outside the U.S.”

Unfortunately, this company often, if not always, starts calls with a disclaimer that they are experiencing high call volume. I’m redirected, usually multiple times, to someone I struggle to understand and who doesn’t seem to understand me.

Regardless of what country the customer service representative is in, they need to be able to assist you. Calls with first level support (typically included when buying hosting or a domain) will require you to attempt to follow their instructions to troubleshoot the issue yourself.  If you want someone to fix it for you, you’ll have to pay extra. 


Let’s be honest, do you really expect to have a stellar, professional website and pay less per month than the cost of a single scoop of Graeter’s ice cream? If you have gone through the effort and expense of having a site built, it makes sense to maintain that investment.

Good website support is available and you don’t even have to pay extra for “bubbles in the level.”