Oh dear: Customer service, NetRegistry-style


It was apparent right from the start of this Whirlpool thread in February that NetRegistry chief operating officer Brett Fenton wasn’t having a good day.

A forum regular named “CHEDZ” posted what appeared to be a fairly standard complaint about the tricky business of transferring a domain name — never an easy operation. Fees, charges and extra forms — all normal stuff for Australia’s complex domain name industry.

But Fenton’s response was anything but average:

After several posts, some of which were hidden by Whirlpool moderators as being pointless or personal attacks, CHEDZ responded:

But Fenton wasn’t putting up with any crap:

At which point another forum regular chimed in to advise CHEDZ to just follow NetRegistry’s procedure. CHEDZ said he was “over it” and said he would source the required documents. But Fenton wasn’t finished yet:

Which spurred CHEDZ back into the slanging match:

Fenton appears to have a sense for sarcasm:

And after Whirlpool’s moderators deleted a stack of postings from CHEDZ for “personal attack”, “trolling” and “off-topic” forum violations, Fenton appeared to have the last word:

One of the most amusing things about the whole debacle, however, is that an ad from NetRegistry rival Crazy Domains ad playing on the thread when we were viewing it, bringing a touch of class to the entire proceedings.

Oh dear.

Image credits: Delimiter/Crazy Domains


  1. Another fantastic thread from Whirlpool. Truly it is in a class of its own.

    For what it’s worth, as the CEO of the company concerned, I totally stand behind Brett’s handling of this matter. We communicate openly, honestly and in straight talk in these community forums. That’s what they are there for – they are not there for obsequious acquiescence to every complaint. We welcome criticism, but if unfounded we’ll vigorously defend our position.

    If your readers and the community at Whirlpool prefer to hear platitudes and “customer service speak” that avoids dealing with the hard questions, then they should read threads about our competitors.

    Larry Bloch

    • hey Larry,

      thanks for your response, it’s appreciated.

      I would agree that companies shouldn’t just bend over and take it whenever any customer complains about anything. Knowing the economics of the domain name trade as I do, I think people have to be realistic about what they are paying for, and what they can expect.

      In this case, without knowing more, it’s hard to know whether the customer pushed it too far or not.

      I’m not sure whether anything Brett said was wrong — it was more the way he said that it that surprised me ;) There’s certainly room for more than a little humour and larrikinism in serving customers, but you can’t push it too far ;)

      Having said all this … it is an internet forum thread. Flamewars are a staple!

      Personally I remain a modest customer of NetRegistry and have never had any problems with the company.



  2. Having worked in large and small organisations, your customer service experience can be very hit and miss depending on the person at the other end and how helpful they feel on the day. Try calling Telstra and ask the same qstn 3 times of three different people and see what response you get.

    Personally, rather than going back and forth with the customer and leaving a trail of posts that people can read in many different ways (as well as spending the time to write them), it would have been easier to simply call the guy and set the record straight (one on one) as to what he had to do.

    That’s how I would have handled it.

    • +1 to this. And I have called Telstra customer service three times in the past week and got three different experiences.

      I would also have avoided having this on the public record, personally. People (such as myself) make mountains out of molehills on the internet.

    • Prepaid Plans, I take your point, but I actually disagree and like the fact that we conduct a certain amount of our customer interaction online – visible to all.

      Why? Because it gives the market visibility of how we conduct ourselves, it ensures representatives stay balanced in their dealings with customers and in general I am a supporter of openness and transparency vs. secretiveness.

      It carries risks, as this article amply demonstrates, but in the end, it forces us to stand on our record. I do not seek to hide some darker side of how we service customers. In general, we are a positive organisation that – like most – does try to do the best we can by our customers. I believe that openness and transparency are the best ways for the market to see and appreciate that fact.


  3. I support NetRegistry here. I’ve been with them from the start and yes there’s been the odd bump in the road but overall they’re a cracking organisation to be a customer of.


  4. The biggest risk with Web 2.0 is that posts like this and the ones in the original forum get ranked and stay public for ever. We all encounter difficult customers and unhelpful customer service reps but when you make your thoughts public like this (particularly as a representative of a business) they are likely to stick around for a while and worst still rank well by google.

    It may not matter for the likes of Netregistry because of their size and large existing customer base but for a small business like ours, its not what I would like my staff doing. There are other ways to handle this. I would have done what prepaid plans said above and called him myself to solve it.

    • The best solution to this problem, IMNSHO, is to simply flood the internet with other conversation. If you talk a lot in public, the bad stuff gets put into context along with the good stuff. That way customers don’t only see one side of the story.

      • Quite right. The more that is out there, the more there is for the market to form an accurate, informed opinion. In an interconnected world, openness and transparency are competitive advantages.

  5. granted that open discussion is a great tool, but coming across as condescending and having an attitude of, well, if you don’t like it, go elsewhere, doesn’t win you any clients. Whirlpool’s membership appears to be made up of predominately ICT savvy individuals, but mainly in their particular segments of the market. I have no clue about netregistry, but, being confused by forms in the past, I would look at that thread and say “well, netregistry don’t seem to like noobs, I guess I will try elsewhere”. The biggest problem is that the person who was treated to high levels of ridicule – CHEDZ was upset, but to say that brett was cleaning his desk, just makes it seem that he really doesn’t care one fig about CHEDZ. Now, when the person behind CHEDZ talks to others about companies they recommend, guess who will get a heap of bad rap? and that is damaging in any form.

    I don’t ridicule my clients, even when they are so wrong it scares me. I get the problem fixed.

  6. Brett Fenton: Then don’t transfer the domain, pretty simple really.

    Now that is Customer Service!! – or more correctly, a very Telstra-like Customer Service response. In most companies, the rep would be fired for that sort of rudeness.

    The correct reply here should have been: And never register anything with YOU!

    Anyone who’s worked the Net in Australia has had to deal with NetRegistry. Probably rule 2 or 3 of doing business on the Net in Australia is: Don’t use NetRegistry!

    It’s a bit like stepping into a sewer. It’s going to be unpleasant. And you’ll be glad when you get out. Unfortunately, the stench will linger.

    NetRegistry’s procedures are a remnant of the Internet-phobic Howard administration.
    These procedures were intended to make using the Net as painful as possible to discourage participation by smaller players. A sort of gateway mechanism.
    The fact is the procedures are simply unnecessary.

    If you need to register domains, use a US or UK registrar. .au domains can be registered in many places.

    Why a company would want to use a .au domain is worth discussing. Unless there is a very practical PR reason, a global zone domain will always be more effective – even for companies operating only in Australia.


  7. +1 Paul, I have been pretty unimpressed with NetRegistry’s service, when I have the time, I am moving away from them.

  8. these NetRegistry people and fanbois must be on crack. From personal experience NR is not up to the customer service challenge. I am sorry for them that their margins must be so small that they deal with customers expecting more than they pay for so much that they can afford to try to show understanding.

    • Paul & Antony,
      I have been a Netregistry reseller for 8 years and in that time EVERYTIME I have received prompt and professional service. Not only my account manegr, but every support, accounts and sales staff member I have ever dealt with.
      I read your comment and it angers me that you can so quickly dismiss a company without and substance or basis – another fine example is the original idiot whinging that he has to follow normal procedure for change of ownership.
      I just did the same process transferring from AustDomains to Netregistry. I spent 15 mins on hold for AusDomains last week, finally got thru told me all the hoops I have to jump thru – did that sent it off Tuesday, no word back finally call them today (Friday) – it hasn’t been even looked at so spend another 25 mins having it done over the phone.
      Now on the other hand as usual I ring Netregistry – thru straight away and had my issue resolved in 5 mins.
      If you think otherwise then I feel sorry for u – next time if your going to put down a company make sure you have your facts correct and get back it up and stop trying to damage a company just because you think you have some right.

      And Larry Bloch – keep up the good work – it’s a pleasure to deal with Netregistry and I can not EVER see me changing!

  9. Our experience has been terrible.
    Customer satisfaction is a term that Netregistry seems determined to stamp out.
    We were invoiced for a service we did not want, and then to cancel the service we were made to pay for the service with a promise we would get a refund. (this is after threatening Debt Collectors)
    After paying for the service we did not want, “Sorry we don’t do refunds…read our terms and conditions…”
    Never recommend Netregistry

  10. I live in Texas and I am being hounded by a debt collection agency. I do own this debt, but I have not responded to their endless phone calls and text messages. I was told the minute I have any contact with the debt collector this will “Restart the Statute Of Limitations” and this just gives them more time to harass me or file suit.
    I ‘m not sure but I think the Statute of Limitations for Credit Debt in the state of Texas is 3 years.

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