I hate this kind of behaviour from my tools - it feels like I am constantly being watched for when I "slip" and can be charged more without recourse. If you are going to use this behavior, provide a switch to enable hard limits on usage so a user cannot blunder unto having their budget blown by accident.
Edit: Also, why does the CEO have direct access to cancel user accounts and send them direct messages? Surely they have more important things to do?
Not every company is a 100k employees company with CEO deatached from mudane operations - why would not a CEO of a small company be involved in customer support etc.
Though in particular this case, customer care is not his strong side :)
They're probably still a small start up, where lots of people still do multiple roles.
Sounds like they are determined to stay small.
7 day notice of upgrading seems much more reasonable in that case
This system does make sense for some customers, it does not for others, some will agree and subscribe to the service, some will not.
Ghost is pretty clear on their signup pages. For example, if you go over your traffic limits:
> Average views per month
> Views refer to the number of requests to your site each month. These are tracked much like an analytics 'pageview' - and are incremented with each page or API request.
> We never disable sites for traffic spikes, so no need to worry about the front page of Reddit or HN. If you exceed your limit consistently on a 3 month rolling average, we'll just let you know that you need to upgrade.
And for staffing:
> Staff users
> Staff users refers to the total number of active team members invited to Ghost Admin whom you collaborate with. For the purposes of billing, we only count staff users who have logged in at least once in the last 30 days.
> If you have lots of authors of posts who are not logging into Ghost Admin on a regular basis, they won't count towards your plan limits.
And if you don't want to upgrade they tell you how to avoid it before charging.
That’s a distinction that certainly matters to me. I’d be upset in the author’s shoes.
The concern is still valid -- they claim 3 months of excess before attempting an upgrade but give 7 days warning as soon as you go over the staff limit? They should either limit the staff amounts or give you longer than 7 days.
It also says that staff are considered active if they've used the product within the last 30 days. How could the OP get usage back below the threshold with only 7 days notice?
There is a purple section "Our simple + fair billing policy" that is pretty clear.
I actually looked at the pricing page before commenting, but somehow missed that
I don't know. Some of the wording doesn't seem consistent with what happened.
>We simply email you to let you know when it's time to upgrade.
At least I don't think "it's time to upgrade" means that "we are upgrading you".
Things which behave like this are not your tools. They belong to someone else. The tool is you, for using them.
It's only the same as pay-per-use, which loads of other companies use. If you use network bandwidth on AWS or GCP, they're going to bill you per gigabyte, and there is no 7 day grace period or action required on your part to get a big bill.
Why don't they just provide a big red button to enable caps instead?
So many companies have departmental budgets and need the ability to guarantee a bill not more than $X.
It seems crazy GCP doesn't have a budget limit option. In fact, AppEngine used to have a budget limit option, and they've just removed it!
Most people wouldn’t want to stop operating completely even if they exceed a budget so it’s really more for monitoring.
People who do want that are probably better off renting a server for a fixed cost - plenty of places still do that.
Cloud makes more sense if you are growing rapidly or have short term needs for significant increases in computing power.
At some point after that cloud stops making sense and it becomes cheaper again to host your own infrastructure.
Closing a customer's account without following procedures, on the CEO's whims, just because they don't feel comfortable with your practices, with a passive aggressive "sorry it wasn't a good fit for you!", deleting data in the process, is extremely unprofessional. There's no good light for this.
In fact, the following story is a great example of the danger of this kind of practices:
Save the customer rants and banter for Slack or the morning standup - not Twitter. Egads.
You'd think everyone would have learned from Elon Musk's example by now, surely?
 ...and even then I'm onlyy sliiiightly sympathetic, and ultimately I'm still siding with the article's author, provided they're being truthful. It was wrong for Ghost to unilaterally delete their content and retaliate against their user. They turned a possible PR victory (by acceding to the author's requests and upgrading their account for free (given the marginal cost of each user is negligible, giving a service credit doesn't cost them anything) into a disaster. Eeejits.
How has it hurt Musk? If I was looking for justification, Musk and POTUS have pretty much laid the groundwork for spew whatever via Twitter does not hurt the brand. It only makes it more visible.
The same way that I'm not interested in working at Facebook because of Zuckerberg's attitude towards his users.
I remember ~2 years ago he tweeted something about how he was so proud to have built Ghost up with little help from anyone, no funding and was really pushing the angle of how the project is open source.
But then I replied with something like "Congrats on all of the success, but what about the thousands of folks who gave you $250,000+ on Kickstarter to help kick start the project?", because he didn't mention that anywhere.
He deleted his reply on Twitter since then, but it was pretty hostile and he even left the tweet off with saying he was blocking me. All from that 1 question I asked. Prior to that I've never contacted, messaged or replied to him so this had nothing to do with previous history.
At which point was the customer rude here?
The customer was a little aggressive in their opening email when they described Ghost's business practices as shady, but I'd still consider it in-bounds for a professional email.
Then, before Ghost's support had a chance to engage with this customer, the customer publicly tweeted about the problem in a way that implied that Ghost was intentionally ripping off customers.
I would encourage anyone reading this to stop for a moment and think back to the projects they've worked on, either for an employer or as a side project. How many of those projects explicitly aimed to defraud paying customers? Even a single one?
Now, how many of those projects had to deal with customers that rudely complained about something that ended up being a misunderstanding on their part, or were simply abusing the support staff as a way of getting a refund or some other type of free service? Practically everyone who has ever had to deal with any type of customer support has encountered that behavior -- "Karen" caught on as a widely-understood stereotype for a reason.
Ghost's CEO likely reacted the way he did because he has enough experience to quickly categorize customers who reach out for support, and concluded (probably correctly) that this customer would continue to be unreasonable, would end up being a net drain on both revenue and team morale, and that refunding the customer and banning their account would be the quickest and least distracting way forward.
I can't fault Ghost here. Dealing with people that immediately drag your name through the mud for every perceived slight is exhausting, and for a low-fee service like Ghost, can very quickly erase whatever margin they may be making. And frankly, as someone that's tired of the increasingly polarized and hateful discourse on social media these days, it's refreshing to see a business that's willing to clamp down on incivility, even if it means lost revenue.
Larger, more established companies do that as well, but in the form of automated account blocks, or byzantine phone/support ticket workflows that effectively prevent you from reaching someone other than entry-level support who can do little to help you. Even if they're more polite about it, they're still essentially telling you to get lost if you don't like their service or its terms.
I honestly don't know what to think about this.
On one hand I understand you want to create awareness on a practice you consider as shady,ok.
But from what I know, Ghost usually try to please its customers. It's a small team with hardworking members, competing against giants.
Attacking them on Twitter before they could even reply to your email: kind of a dick move.
The tweet is not offensive in the least – all it shows is some signs of frustration from a customer, who may or may not be right.
The CEO on the other hand, looks like an ill-tempered, rude child, who should be nowhere near Twitter, let alone be the CEO of a company.
I invite you to consider another sequence of events, where the CEO doesn't show his childish side on Twitter, sends almost the same reply to the customer, noting that they will delete their site in 7 days if they don't want to pay, saying "here's link to the backup of your data".
Bonus points if he asks the customer for feedback on how they would like this to be handled in the future.
I've been following him on Twitter for a while and he always seemed quick to dismiss people. Anyway, regardless of his, there is no reason for him to act this way with a customer.
It would also make me reconsider using their service.
People are getting trained by Google and other SV companies that you only get support if you can get x retweets. I don't like it, but I understand why people react to that by tweeting out their issues with companies. And, of course, opt-out upgrade is shady.
It is interesting to see this in practice, and see this from the customer's point of view. Obviously they do not believe they are "bad".
"Firing" this customer more convinces me the CEO just has no idea how to handle criticism for their product or how to explain their aggressive revenue model, and yes, the policy is aggressive.
We had to revisit the licensing model for our company a few times over the last years, and it was a huge headache; people whined, loudly and rightfully, cause we did have a bit of a crappy change up. No one "lost" anything in the changeup, but there were headaches for sure. Our PM handled it like a champ as we had a lot of public outcries; some valid, which we took on the nose, others not so valid where we called out the wrongful arguments.
We never "fired" anyone as a result of our business decision though; that's not a way to build trust in others. If our decisions ultimately makes someone part with us, let it be their decision, not ours. We save firing for only the truly most abusive and disruptive customers who eat up support/dev time needlessly (and I do mean needlessly, like demanding the attention of our best support engineers to show them which button to click, which is far too common in big IT companies with supposed IT professionals)
Ghost's CEO seems like he couldn't handle the mildest of criticisms from one fo the most common types of customers -- ones who didn't RTFM. His decision wasn't right in the least bit, it was an example that he has no idea how to handle conflict.
But anyone who has had to support thousands of customers can spot this customer as toxic.
The irony here is that the toxic customer gave the CEO the solution: restrict functionality so users don’t get surprised.
The article author's complaint barely registers for me as this is something I handle daily; I cannot even imagine the scale you're judging on if this is a toxic customer for you.
Apparently for some here, making a post where he made a legitimate complaint made him toxic just because it’s on Twitter? Twitter has become a standard way for some people to communicate with companies or to vent frustrations whether you like it or not. Deal with it instead of calling them an “ahole”.
A few minutes to just absorb the venting for something everyone complains about (pricing) goes a long way at very little cost
In addition it warns the other potential customers of the issue.
He wasn’t right at all. The customer was still paying, and was still making use of the service.
Why in hells name did he take that twitter post to mean that the customer wanted to cancel.
Maybe there's more to this story (there often is) and maybe the author is a class act himself, but that shouldn't change that Ghost.org should be liable for doing damage, if that indeed is for no valid reason (as it appears thus far).
One thing I do know for certain .. I wouldn't touch this company with a ten feet pole after this .. and if I had been an investor, I'd seriously reconsider that investment.
Either party can revoke consent at any time. If the customer can close their account at any time without notice, why shouldn’t the operator be able to as well?
The service did nothing wrong. They’re not a backup service, and if a customer ends up being more of a headache (either financial, emotional, or simply just time/attention) than the operator deems their custom worth, they have EVERY RIGHT to opt out of future transactions.
Furthermore, the customer explicitly agreed to this when they signed up. Even if they hadn’t, though, it is entirely reasonable for either party to the business relationship to be able to say, at any time, “this isn’t working for me, let’s stop.”
That’s how consent works in real life outside of business contracts, too.
So to say "The service did nothing wrong."... is correct but only in a technical, legally correct sense.
The term “social contract” refers to the implicit agreement we have with people with whom we do not have an explicit, written agreement. This one was specified in writing, in full.
If someone violates a legal contract you have the right to get back damages via the legal system. Similarly, if someone violates a social contract you have the right to respond via social means, for example, by writing and disseminating a blog post detailing your negative experiences.
The CEO has done massive harm to his company's reputation.
The customer was also right, IMO.
The practice of not stopping you from service if you go over your limits and than charging you is a good one, but only for things the user can't control - traffic is a good example.
For a limit a user actively needs to exceed - such as number of users - there should always be a warning at the very least. Not doing so is shady.
The Ghost CEO should have taken the higher road and there's no excuse for expunging your site but you were definitely being a dick first. I won't be using Ghost and I would try to avoid having you as a customer as well.
“To add more staff you need to upgrade your account, upgrade with 1 click here”
I don’t agree that it’s “shady” but you can already tell that it would negatively affect conversion to directly inform people of what they’re doing, rather than waiting for them to do it and then automatically upgrading them.
If you charge on some unknown, like requests per second, then it’s better to allow the user to set an upper bound on finances anyway.
There was an explicit dispute over this. The original email from Ghost was concerned with the number of active staff users, and the customer is definitely right that Ghost just shouldn't allow excess staff users rather than allowing them and then automatically increasing your bill.
But the two plans in question don't differ only by the permitted number of active staff users. They also differ by the permitted number of page views per month. And the customer explicitly asked "what happens if I post something that exceeds the number of page views allowed for my plan?".
So yes, the question of whether the site should go dark is very much in play.
"shady" is an understatement, not an overstatement.
"If we auto-upgrade, there will be people who miss it or will be too apathetic or procrastinating to fix it, therefore better conversion rates" is on the bad side of "shady".
Still you're right that such warnings should not be side-channeled via email, but that can be just a mistake of a product design, not an intended tactic.
Either way, the CEOs response is such a giant red flag that any one who sees it should seriously reconsider doing business with him. He seems genuinely unstable.
“To add more staff you need to upgrade your account, upgrade with 1 click here”
Here's what Ghost does if you go over your traffic limits:
I think this is pretty good? It would be better if they allowed the user to set a hard limit in advance.
> I think this is pretty good? It would be better if they allowed the user to set a hard limit in advance.
I agree that that's pretty good, although it still leaves you vulnerable to a page that goes viral enough to get triple the number of allowed views. That will block your 3-month rolling average for 3 months, but if your monthly traffic looks like this:
Month 1: 50k views
Month 2: 50k views
Month 3: 400k views - no big deal, sometimes surges happen
Month 4: 50k views - you know, you're starting to push your limits...
Month 5: 50k views - OK, at this point, we need you to upgrade
Remind me to never use anything you make.
There is, however, a world of difference between a 1-click eula and a paid service agreement, where one has, at the minimum, voluntarily entered payment information to engage in a transaction.
Giving someone money is a far higher explicit endorsement/agreement to terms than a one-click eula.
Many businesses would complain about the lost business if it didn’t automatically scale to meet demand.
Then there are the cost capped users who would rather the site be disabled due to over usage.
> I was expected to stay on top of them or risk an automatic “upgrade” from $36 to $99 for having an extra staff user on my website? I had forgotten about this, but why not just block me from adding them?
So looks like Ghost allows you to add more members freely, does not warn or tell you anything when you do it, but then only tells you that you'll be upgraded automatically via email later? (It's partly a rhetorical question, but I genuinely don't know how it works).
the user didn't consent to scaling
But even if we talk about scaling here, As you noted different people will have different expectations. Some will prefer to get charged more and handle the extra traffic. Others will be the polar opposite and will prefer to cap unless they give explicit consent to upgrade.
I don't think you can avoid asking about it.
Not everyone can have Twitter clapbacks like Wendy's
They're not asking then charging, they're telling and charging. It's absolutely not a reasonable business practice to just bump you up to a different plan without explicit agreement.
Even less so since there's no "going dark" here, as TFA notes this was about adding extra staff users to manage the system, why not block these extra users with a paywall, why let them go through then send a mail indicating the account will automatically get upgraded?
But talking about going dark, as TFA asks and got no answer for: what happens if one of your posts suddenly gets popular, does ghost just keep upgrading your plan until you fit within the limits? Can you find yourself with a bill in the thousands through no fault of your own?
they're telling and charging
My guess is they just use the same system to track all the limits without really thinking about how well it works for different ones.
I was definitely being an ass when I first tweeted about it (IIRC, this was after I e-mailed them). I was generally frustrated with some wider issues around building my website so I decided to blow some steam by tweeting about it. I actually thought "that was too harsh" considering I had nothing but praise for how user-friendly Ghost was (and how great Ghost support was - shoutout to Sarah, whoever you are, you shouldn't be there).
The one thing you don't expect is that a CEO of a company would take the annoyance of an account with circa.350 followers seriously and respond with what is apparently vitriolic rage, not only cussing me out, but then immediately going to shut my website down even though I was talking to a support rep at Ghost about upgrading and getting migration underway.
The main problems are this:
1. An automatic upgrade within 7 days that triples in price is sleazy, there's no two ways to look at it. I don't know if it's an American thing, but in Europe, a company would be crucified for doing this. You always have offer and acceptance before agreeing to something. It would be very easy for Ghost to simply put a popup stating "you cannot add more staff users as you are on the basic plan - please upgrade here to do so". Again, no excuses here, it's clear that some customers are being caught out by these automatic charges, judging by the dozen people that have expressed similar issues with Ghost since I published my post. So much for being a non-profit.
2. Something I forgot to add to the story - the main reason I went over the 2 staff users I was permitted to have on my account was because I had invited Ghost support in as a staff user to help with migration. This made me really annoyed as I had some friends on to help with setting up the website and I had to kick them to avoid being charged triple - for bringing Ghost in to help with some stuff.
3. The CEO going from cussing on twitter to deleting my website (all within 15mins, as I was working on it) is unacceptable, again, from any POV. The people here talking about this being an acceptable practice to deal with "toxic customers" have clearly never actually been in a customer-facing role. You wouldn't last in such a position if you dealt with every disgruntled customer in such a manner. Stop LARPing.
Anyway, that's my side. I understand the cynical mood of Hacker News so I won't say more and let the people here make up their own minds.
Feel free to subscribe to the Post Apathy newsletter. I promise you it's enriching.
There are two ways to look at it. I use a tool that reports errors in my web app. After one of releases we started receiving a lot of errors and we reached the maximum on our plan. What would the proper response be? To just block all the incoming error reports until end of the month? Or maybe to send me an email saying "hey, you've reached your limit, if this continues we'll upgrade you to higher plan automatically"? There's no clear answer here, that depends on your context (I used the app for work and having proper error reports was more important than the cost for me), but there are two ways to look at it.
> respond with what is apparently vitriolic rage
not defending CEO's response (it was very inappropriate), aren't you doing the same right now? You're retweeting stuff like "F* Ghost and F* their CEO" with their accounts tagged.
I didn't said it was necessary, I've only said there are 2 ways to look at.
> you are the same!!
Again, something I didn't say. I said you are doing the same about the "vitrolic rage" response, not about deleting the site.
CEO's actions were inappropriate and unprofessional, and I do not defend him here, it is unacceptable to delete client's content (and as I wrote in another comment under this post, it makes me feel uneasy as their client).
What I'm saying is that this whole thing blew out of proportion and neither action justified the next one - the email didn't justify the outrage; the outrage didn't justify deleting content; deleting content didn't justify spreading hateful tweets.
Wonder if that fits in somewhere, on either side?
Since the Ghost Foundation is based out of Singapore and the terms of service state that any disagreements are subject to the jurisdiction of the Courts of Wales and England I would say it isn't an American thing.
I can only assume there is more to the story or the CEO was having a particularly frustrating/upsetting day because otherwise this is a pretty dodgy response.
Another post in this discussion notes that this isn't the first time the CEO has acted this way over petty things.
If I'm providing a service and someone has a problem with it, I expect them to look to resolve it with me first, before tweeting about "shady practices".
Added in edit: People seem to think I believe the CEO acted well and that I'm defending him. I don't, and I'm not. But neither party comes out well from this, and I can see why the CEO acted as he did, even if I think it was flawed.
The user complained about something, then the company deleted his content? Feels like it's missing something in the middle. Why would Ghost simply delete his website because he's complaining? Feels like they are making the decision for him, instead of just leaving things as they are, and if the user doesn't upgrade, then they don't.
> If I'm providing a service and someone has a problem with it, I expect them to look to resolve it with me first, before tweeting about "shady practices".
Yeah, you might want to readjust your expectation if you ever end up running a service on the internet. This happens _constantly_ and if you start feeling you need to delete users content when this happens, then please don't run a service for public usage.
What's wrong is simply deleting the data/site. All the data should have been returned to the (now ex-)customer.
> ...please don't run a service for public usage.
I run multiple services, and I expect people to give me a chance to resolve problems before taking to Twitter. If they don't then I contact them to express my disappointment that they haven't done so, and then I have, on occasion, refunded people, returned their data, and terminated their service.
Admittedly my communities aren't the public in general, but I do have some relevant experience.
Comments here are clearly divided, and it gives me pause to consider how many people are commenting as those who have, and those who have never, had to deal with customers.
What I meant is that flow of the events seem to have been something like:
- User received notification about impeding upgrade
- User replies to Ghost and tweets about the event
- CEO replies on Twitter
- ??? (Here it feels like some information is missing)
- Ghost terminates the users service
I cannot fathom that a user complains once via Twitter, and Ghost terminates their account. Has to be something else that have happened, otherwise this is way beyond crazy to do (from Ghosts side)
> I run multiple services, and I expect people to give me a chance to resolve problems before taking to Twitter. If they don't then I contact them to express my disappointment that they haven't done so, and then I have, on occasion, refunded people, returned their data, and terminated their service.
Same here, with lots of people complaining about bunch of different things and I have never, paying user or not, terminated their service unless I've asked before if I can terminate it or not.
Interesting to see that there are others who simply terminate users service when the user complains (gives feedback), wonder how that impacts the bottom line?
But I have certainly terminated services from one side, without asking permission, after trying multiple times to resolve the issues.
The Ghost CEO might as well have just put out an advert saying “We’re not ready to compete with Wordpress.”
You have terminated a customer's account without notice because they made a complaint?
I have not terminated someone's account without notice. I have always first tried to find out what the problem is so we can resolve it. But when someone has raised an issue, not given us time to resolve or even investigate, and then accused us publicly of inappropriate behaviour, I've contacted them to say that I think it better we go separate ways, returned their data, refunded their money, and gave them 48 hours before considering the issue closed.
We (you and I) probably agree that the CEO did not get it entirely right, and certainly I would not have done what he did. But in this situation, where neither party comes off looking good, my sympathies still lie somewhat with the CEO.
It wasn't just making the complaint on social media that got the response, it was the wording of the original email as well. Already in that email he has said:
> This is an extremely shady business practice ...
> ... makes me question my commitment to moving to Ghost.
I think the CEO got it wrong, yes, but as I said, I have some sympathy.
> I ... never in a million years would have guessed that making a complaint on social media ... would be grounds for my account being terminated.
You might want to double-check the fine-print on some of the services you use. Often there's a clause about "publicly disparaging the service provider" or similar.
Let me finish by saying I think the CEO acted wrongly, but I have some sympathy.
> You might want to double-check the fine-print on some of the services you use. Often there's a clause about "publicly disparaging the service provider" or similar.
Yeah, ToS and similar usually have language like that + "we can terminate your service for any reason, without telling you", but companies who do terminate peoples service for any reason, without justifying it, will rightly get less business because it´s a shitty thing to do. Just because it´s legal doesn´t mean it´s right.
It does feel like that. Perhaps it's not being said out loud, but there is a sense that that's what people think/mean. But you're right, no one has said that explicitly.
> The issue is that you're still feeling sympathy for the CEO, even though you believe he did wrong
The implication there is that if someone does something wrong, somehow you're not allowed to understand their motivations and sympathise, even if you don't agree. I find that disappointing, but I'm getting used to being disappointed by people.
>> ... the fine-print ...
> ... companies who do terminate people's service for any reason, without justifying it, will rightly get less business because it's a shitty thing to do. Just because it's legal doesn't mean it's right.
His tweets say things like:
> How can it be fiercely independent publishing and a "non-profit" with such practices?
> Ghost operates a very sleazy "auto upgrade" practice.
The CEO should not have acted the way he did. No excuses for what he did.
I wanted to be careful before blaming OP but after reading his blog post, he did not send a polite email to begin with and then on top of that, he immediately complained on Twitter and even accused them of shady practice. He went too far. Sorry OP, an email that starts with "This is an extremely shady business practice and makes me question my commitment to moving to Ghost" is NOT a polite email, whether you are right or wrong. A Polite email would have been "I am a little surprised receiving this email from you guys and wasn't aware of this rule you guys have. Can I get more time to think about this since I am not sure I want to pay that kind of money" etc etc.
On top of that, OP says "I also decided to tweet about it - because that’s what people do, right?". No OP. People don't do that by default. Good customers try to work it out with the business first. They wait for a first response. They give them a little benefit of doubt before making judgements. If you cannot resolve it together in a friendly way and you feel you have been wronged, go ahead and rant on Twitter by all means. But it was a knee jerk reaction on OP's part to post on twitter which accused Ghost. No business likes these types of customers. Of course, the CEO had an equally if not worse response and now Ghost deserves all the negative press. This doesn't absolve OP's immature reaction. I cannot agree with their tactic.
The owner of the blog felt like the billing update was shady, sent an email, and complained harshly on Twitter. Regardless of the harshness of the tweet, that is literally a customer wanting to work something out and providing feedback. It's what every company should want. It's even better than working it out privately because Twitter is a public platform that ghost can utilize to make their customer service look better. "We have given you a free 30-day upgrade so you have more time to think about this. In the meantime, we will take your feedback into consideration and discuss this internally. Thank you for being a loyal customer" or whatever corporate-speak ghost wants to partake in.
Cutting the customer off completely, knowing full well that they will then talk about this publicly, is not only the complete opposite of working things out professionally, but works against ghost's public image.
This is the exact kind of customer a company wants. They go public with complaints that can be easily fixed and remedied. It's the easiest form of free goodwill.
That’s just someone being frustrated. Maybe its not the right thing to do and a bit rash, but that you will have a few frustrated customers act rash is part of being in business. It doesn’t make the guy look great, but its still not a reason for the CEO to say he looks like an asshole (which IMHO makes him look just as bad, for the same reasons the customer looks bad, as you described it) and then cancel his account without warning (which is just outright an asshole move).
I'm saying that I have some sympathy for them. Clearly a lesson I need to take away from this is that expressing sympathy for someone is taken ipso facto as complete agreement.
So let's say again, neither party comes out looking good, I think both parties have behaved less well than they should, and the CEO should not have terminated the account without more interaction.
But I have more sympathy for the CEO than the customer, which is not the same as saying that I agree with their actions, nor that I support them.
To me the indefensible thing is not returning the customers data, but other than this, why do you find it so unreasonable that a vendor should choose to terminate a service? It seems to be in the Ts and Cs of every (nearly) service I use.
So on that basis, can you explain why you think the CEOs behaviour is indefensible?
This quote right here doesn't mean that if someone is saying "you have a good service" or "you have a terrible service" once is "good customer" vs "toxic customer". One message doesn't allow you to extrapolate the full situation, what if the user was simply having a bad day?
Now, if you have a user that constantly is being a drain on customer support or otherwise ruins the business, sure, go ahead. But just because you send one email about the pricing and bitch a bit on Twitter, you get your service terminated? That's super petty, and not at all what I would expect of a company like Ghost.
Everyone here seems to think I believe the CEO acted perfectly correctly and that I'm defending him. I don't, and I'm not. I'm saying both parties come out of this looking bad, but I can at least understand the CEOs actions, and even if I don't actually approve of them, I have some sympathy.
But more importantly ... what lessons should we take from this?
* As a customer?
* As a provider?
I have personally no interest in figuring out if anyone deserves sympathy here, I simply want to make sure that other founders and CEOs reading HN don't believe that terminating someones service willy nilly is perfectly fine, because complaining once on Twitter makes you a "toxic" user.
I disagree with Ghost taking down the site without more discussion, but I do think their original practice of giving the user the benefit of the doubt and allowing the use of upgraded features without upfront payment to be generally good. I think OP's complaint could probably be addressed through the UI (though I don't know what that looks like presently).
Instead of emailing about 'shady business practices' off the bat, why not just ask the question? 'Please limit my account to the features of tier X rather than autoupgrade me'.
Instead of tweeting, wait for an email response. Then if necessary, again just ask the question: 'uh, what if it goes viral and I break 100k limit too?'.
Then the CEO, well, why's he even getting involved, just ignore it. If he must reply on Twitter, why not just answer the question about what happens on the 100k limit? Why not apologise that autoupgrade wasn't desired and say (even if bullshit) you're grateful for the feedback and it'll be reviewed? Certainly don't start calling customers 'asshole's on the internet.
But.. the tweet seemingly had no traction (so maybe it didn't matter!) but what was 'what are you on about [...] asshole' even supposed to achieve?
Just seems so petty, on both sides...
> "Kicking a screaming on Twitter doesn't actually accomplish anything other than making you look like an asshole."
This is why (a) it's a gamble "going legal", because the interpretation the judges make might not be what you expect, and (b) nitpicking like this is unhelpful and unconstructive.
I know you won't take offense to this, because I never called you a pedantic loser.
Is this correct?
> Certainly don't start calling customers 'asshole's on the internet.
is not materially changed if I had not missed the edit window and instead said 'do not start saying your customers look like assholes on the internet'.
Basically just don't say 'asshole'.
If Sundar Pichai started banning hners for everytime they compain about Google here, half of HN would lose access to google services.
(The withholding and potential destruction of data and IP, not the tweeting).
One thing I have always said is that you can have a million good reviews. But it will be only one that will be the downfall of your company.
This reminds me of that. This was an opportunity to fix what the user was complaining about. Instead the CEO's behavior clearly shows what kind of support to expect when you're unhappy with the service. I've complained publicly about gmail before, never would I think I would have my account removed and data deleted by the CEO. "LIKE US OR I WILL BAN YOU!"
Even if they decide to fire a customer, they should have notified them and let them export their data. Harming your customer's business because they criticized you is likely illegal, no matter how twisted your terms of service are, and I hope they will get sued for what they've done.
Ghost seems to be trying to compete with WordPress, but if this is how they approach customer service and people talking about their service, I don't see businesses moving over.
A business' web presence is an important asset, I'd be reluctant to let a third party have control of this, but even moreso for someone that cuts users off from service for criticising the company.
My 404 is still holding a grudge, though :-P
Thankfully, later on, they did send me a win.rar file of data. Not sure how to use it since I'm not a techie. Asking some friends to help me unpack and restart.
Encouraging others to stand up for their rights in not a uniquely American trait.
Ghost did fine, in my opinion.
Of course it says we can terminate your account at any time (immediately and no notice required), like many services do.
But, I noticed there's nothing in these terms about the automatic plan changes. So you've raised a good question: did ghost violate their own terms of service each time they "helpfully" upgraded a customer's plan without their express permission?
And worse, they have a no refunds policy... so they change your plan, then refuse any refunds. Maybe that's not a big problem for a small plan change, but considering the plan change isn't defined, it could be for literally any amount, with no approval from the customer.
And just to preempt the idea this agreement is elsewhere, their terms have an entire agreement provision, which states the terms are the entire agreement, and can only be modified by changing the terms or a "written amendment signed by an authorized executive of Ghost Foundation"... which the email notice does not qualify as since it's not signed.
The question that was asked was:
> Sue them for what exactly?
So the EULA spelling out what is legal is the relevant factor when answering that question.
An EULA can try to side step this but it depend on how the agreement was made, when, what information was provided before agreement, and so on. There is also a bunch of laws for consumer protection and Fair Business Practices, and it depend on where the people involved is located.
If for some reason they don't want to do these reasonable things, at the very least the onus is on them to make you accept a big red confirmation prompt when adding a third staff user saying "Warning: This is a premium feature. Your plan will now be upgraded to the $99/month tier, and you'll be charged $99/month beginning on [date]. Accept / Deny". They don't even do this, though.
Without a doubt, some or many customers have gotten surprise charges due to this. Warning about it once via email 7 days in advance is a bare minimum; that email will inevitably be missed by many and they may be silently upcharged for months (unless there's also a blatant notice in the UI, in which case you're probably only on the hook for just one or two months; which is still pretty bad). And this is likely deliberate and perhaps even a specific strategy on their part. This is what the OP was trying to say and warn people about.
I agree with them that this is a shady practice. It's a startup / subscriber model dark pattern. It's not that far off from and in some ways even more deceptive than companies that rely on making most of their money from customers who forget to cancel during trials or discount periods.
This isn't some pay-by-resource-usage thing like AWS, where the responsibility largely and (usually) rightfully falls on you to examine pricing and anticipate or prevent big increases in your bill. It'll still happen to some customers, but when it does, it's (generally) not AWS being shady.
And it's not something like Cloudflare where going over the limit incurs some concrete additional cost for the company; the 2 staff member limit is completely artificial and arbitrary. It's perfectly reasonable to have as a limit to encourage upgrading, but it's not reasonable to have lying in wait as a potential trap to unknowingly, near-silently fall into.
Most users of Ghost probably do not expect anything like this behavior at all and probably have not used any other service that operates like this, so I expect some or many have been caught blind-sided.
And on top of that, the CEO had absolutely no justification to cancel their account out of the blue, and then (if I understand correctly) only give them access to their data after a social media outcry. It was blatantly done in retaliation and anger. Maybe the OP's initial tone was a little too hostile, but I probably would've had a similar emotional knee-jerk reaction shortly after I saw this and considered the impact to other unsuspecting users, and I think it's absolutely a shady business practice even if it's perhaps not "extremely" shady, as they stated.
Legally, the customer may or may not have any grounds, but ethically, I think the company and CEO are in the wrong, here.
Maybe we have a different understanding of what "wrong" means.
 - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11104430
You could re-license a future version as proprietary and ban them from using that.
But personally, I feel like it's a tiny bit dangerous to even joke about adding moral clauses to Open Source licenses.
I've meant to illustrate how abusive their attitude is towards their users by drawing a comparison and putting them in their customer's shoes.
Although for their users it's even worse, because they appear to be booting paying customers that have an expectation of service continuity, not users of a free service.
Did the airline do him right by cancelling and refunding his ticket without being asked to?
I am curious.
Also, I find it interesting that Ghost didn't answer "What happens if an article goes viral and it breaks the 100k views boundary? Automatic charge?" question. The pricing page provides a reasonable response here.
This is a standard condition in most ToS: we can kick you out for any reason whatsoever.
Someone should not be regarded as a bad customer for complaining once. A bad customer should be defined as someone who over a longer time frame costs resources. And also only after talking to them and not being able to find common ground.
How many times do you argue with regular employees in a retail shop or over a phone? Obviously, it shouldn't happen, but it happens and you don't get kicked out of a shop. Here OP wasn't happy about auto upgrade, called out CEO on it, got his site deleted, wtf?
The CEO definitely wasn't as professional as he should've been, but I'm not sure how I would feel when someone calls my business shady or says I'm screwing over clients over what might have been a misunderstanding.
There is no way easy way to explain why it's done this way, because it's obviously made on purpose to earn more $$.
- active stuff users, that could be solved by adding new ones only after an upgrade
- views/month - this one is harder to fix, I think it should be selectable by the user how to deal with it.
It would be standard practice to disable the "add staff" button after two users and alert the user to upgrade options. I can't think of a service that doesn't operate like this, actually.
I agree, they should've disabled the "add staff" button.
They have a solid policy for traffic spikes which is to be commended, but with something like adding staff, which is an active user decision, I think the method is reminiscent of dark patterns which this community tends to resent.
His shitpost tweet timestamp was 07:21; his screenshot of his email says it was sent at 13:29. Maybe time zone accounts for some disparity, but there was certainly no attempt to allow a response before shitposting.
So it's okay to only praise executives over social media, but you can't say anything else? That's stupid.
Probably he is in too much stress due to the pandemic, or he has developed too much of a “I’m the CEO, bitch!” attitude. In either case, Ghost as a company should take care of that guy to stay in business.
You're not entitled to having access to Ghost.org. you can even selfhost if the technology choice is what makes you stay.
The only thing Ghost should do is hand him over a backup of his data.
Being unhappy with a service doesn't mean you get your subscription cancelled.
The author could add a staff member without being on a new plan. This is really shady. If your product has pricing tiers, then PLEASE do not let people get features without accepting to pay in the first place.
Here is the pricing page: https://ghost.org/pricing/
This does not seem like a per-user pricing, which would give Ghost a benefit of doubt. This is clear tiers that consumer has to explicitly buy.
But I'm still surprised that someone signs up for a specific plan, exceeds the plan's limitations, gets 7 days off warning, and is then openly complaining about that practice, as if it were the first time a company ever had that business model. You don't sign up for AWS and then don't get to create resources unless you top up your account first.
Of course Ghost could add such a feature, but how many of their customers are asking for it? From the looks of it, not many.
It's also funny how he was ready to spend hundreds of dollars on his project, but the people who host it, maintain it and make sure it's highly available don't deserve more of his money, despite him exceeding the maximum amount of users of the plan he chose. Instead, he complains about a totally fair warning of 7 days before he even gets charged more. "What if I didn't read my email in 7 days" is like saying that you don't open your physical mailbox regularly and you don't deserve to get a warning for a due invoice. If you do business online, read your mail.
I'm curious how John or Ghost will react. I'm sure there's more to this story.
This is a poorly implemented feature where they claim to "Only pay for what you actually use, never worry about traffic spikes" .. but you have to read into each plan to see the other metrics this applies to. Works great for users who over-subscribe but terribly for those who don't.
Ghost should be doing this manually for users who don't exceed their bandwidth caps - there's no charge for them, and they're just going to be eating any good will they had from the community (which up until recently was pretty good). Just bar access to additional staff accounts. They're being called out for poor tiering and upgrade practices, the 7 day notice is laughable when they even talk about 3 month rolling averages in the front.
Still, the fact that CEO could just jump in and delete my site makes me concerned. Do I need to regularly back up all my content in case it gets suddenly deleted?
Your service provider may get hacked and lose all their data, or may have a disk failure and lose all their data, or abruptly go into administration and have your data inaccessible.
Why would you not have a copy of your data? 8TB disks are cheap, buy 3 and rotate them. "rsync" is quick and efficient.
You should always have a copy of your own data.
I think what I tried to say is that normally I have certain trust that the company managing my data has their own backup, so my own backup is kind of a last resort. While if they delete my data on purpose, then my backup is the only option left.
There are loads of services that charge you when you use more than the pre-defines limits of your current pricing tier and don't just shut you down. That's not shady at all. I don't think I've ever seen anyone else complain that this is sleazy[/edit] for any service, much less Ghost.
What's annoying is the solution is a simple radio button: bill me for what I use or stop my service when I go over limits.
Who does it benefit to not have that hard limit? The customer or business? The answer is why it feels shady.
Their fees are out there in the open, if you know how much you are going to use AWS it is actually trivially to calculate how much it will cost you.
They even have price calculators.
Also, not having an option doesn't mean a company has intentionally done that because it benefits them.