Don’t let what happened to me happen to you.
A week or so ago, the VO friend giving me private coaching wanted to listen to one of my demos again. He went to ruthtalks.com. But my demos wouldn’t play, though he could download them. I emailed my Web site designer. She had trouble accessing the files and couldn’t figure out what was wrong. She suggested I call GoDaddy, who hosts my site.
Lo and behold: my domain name had expired. My fault: GoDaddy didn’t have a current email address so I didn’t get expiration notices. It never occurred to me to check myself.
My site wasn’t working right because a guy named Andrey in St. Petersburg, Russia had snatched up ruthtalks.com for 3 years. Apparently bottom feeders like him lurk on the Internet, waiting for domain names to expire and then buying them…not to use themselves but hoping the original owners will buy them back. This is legal, though I and everyone I’ve told think there’s something slightly distasteful/unpleasant about it.
Ruthtalks.com remained semi-functional, I learned after a lot of time on the phone with customer service, because he somehow hijacked my content (no one I talked to knew how that could happen). Apparently this is illegal, a copyright law violation. And he inserted odd little tidbits like “Russian company Vodohod organizes russia cruises to see all the sights of Ribinsk,” “We better bus charters good for you ” and “Wedding dresses London look here” on some of the pages.
What to do? Change the domain I’d used for three years, to deprive Andrey of the satisfaction of me buying it back? Or purchase another domain name? Many voiceover talents use firstnamelastnamevo.com, or firstnamevoice.com. But Ruthsvoice.com isn’t available. And I like ruthtalks because it covers more than VO; I also do on camera work and give writing and voiceover business workshops.
I decided to use GoDaddy’s Domain Buy service ($59.99 + a 10% commission) instead of having to contact Andrey (who I’ve since learned doesn’t speak much English) directly. This is the process: GoDaddy appraises the value of the domain name. Then the buyer sets an opening bid and maximum bid. GoDaddy deals with the seller while the buyer waits. A very helpful customer service guy handled the transaction, using Google Translate to communicate with Andrey.
I hemmed and hawed over how much I was willing to pay and guessing how much Andrey would accept, assuming he was willing to sell. Fortunately I succeeded in buying my domain back, and for less then my maximum bid and far less than the GoDaddy appraised value of my site. Take that, Andrey.
But my simple oversight of not ensuring that GoDaddy had a current email address cost me hours on the phone with customer service; $215 dollars; and initial shock, frustration, and the uncomfortable sensation of somehow being violated, though I know this was just business.
If you have a domain name you want to keep, make sure you–not your designer or anyone else–owns your domain name. Make sure you know when it will expire, or set up auto renewal. Don’t let Andrey in Russia or anyone else snatch your domain.