If it's a story about me, then I'll say so up front.

This is a blog about Truth, Justice and the American Way. The stories are true. No names have been changed to protect anyone's identity, including my own. If the story is about me, then I'll say so right up front. If I don't use a name to identify whom the story is about, then it's because it's not relevant. So please do not call me or e-mail me with your kind condolences or unwarranted congratulations about something that you believe is a cleverly disguised bio from my alter ego. These stories, like my photo, are unretouched.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Please Don't Pee in the Pool

What is it about people who make trouble where they work? I’m talking about everything from emotionally destructive petty office politics to downright theft. There’s a reason that the old phrase “Don’t sh*t where you eat” has stood the test of time.

Here’s a doozy of a true example that happened just this week: A business acquaintance (let’s call him “the client”) contracted with a web designer that I know slightly (“the supplier”) to acquire a domain name and set up a basic website. For this task, the supplier was paid somewhere between $15,000 and $20,000 (depending on whose version you believe at any given time). The website turned out to be nothing special but perfectly adequate. Over the years, I’ve seen better and I’ve seen worse.

At some point, the supplier wanted more money. I don’t know why. I don’t care why. They had a dispute about additional funds and at some point the client asked for the passwords associated with his account so that the client could obtain control over the content. Not only did the supplier refuse to relinquish the passwords, but the supplier hijacked the site, and began posting derogatory comments about the client on it. This was not just the occasional snide remark, but genuinely outrageous and slanderous accusations posted on the client’s own website!

Is there anyone out there who thinks that this will end well? Me neither.

I live in Honolulu and, believe me, we may have a large population but Honolulu is a small town when it comes to doing business. If you have a dispute, take it to court. But hijacking a website to print ill words against your client, any client, is just plain business suicide. I can’t imagine anyone who would risk hiring this web designer given this behavior. Whatever anger this guy is publicly venting, the price that he is going to pay is his livelihood. Is that worth $10,000? Or $15,000?

I have another story about an idiot who violated the “Don’t sh*t where you eat” rule and killed a lucrative job as a video editor. If you want to hear it, let me know. Meanwhile, play nicely in the sandbox, kids. Don’t steal each other’s toys. And, please, don’t pee in the pool.


  1. WOW -- I can't believe this -- He is crazy posting on the clients website. I would love to know who this guy is. To make sure none of my friends use him in the future.

  2. The entire problem of “intellectual property” as it pertains to web designers is a touchy situation. Some designers try to withhold the codes in order to guarantee that they keep the client. If the client refuses to pay for work that has previously been done, they will take the site offline. Is this a form of extortion? Maybe.

    The best way to protect yourself when hiring a web designer is to specify in the contract right up front that the web designer is merely acting as an “agent.” The fee is established before the first keystroke and the contract should clearly state that the domain name is the property of the person who paid for it – that would be the client. Clients who fail to get a tight contract before the onset of the project leave themselves vulnerable to this kind of abuse.

    May I suggest that this client consider registering a complaint with InterNIC, which is licensed by the U.S. Department of Commerce. They will shut this website down while they are investigating. That’s tough on the client, because he loses his web domain but if the statements that are being made on his site are really derogatory, then maybe the client is better off losing the site and getting it off the internet.

    I hope this information is helpful to someone out there.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. If I hired a lawyer to handle contractual negotiations involved in starting my business, I wouldn’t expect that the lawyer would take my money and then register the company in his name, to do with as he pleased.

  5. This person is just plain stupid. I would call the Attorney General about this. I can't believe that this is not slander or libel or something illegal. There have to be protections against someone doing this under another person's name. Since you claim to know both parties "slightly," can't you just call the web guy and warn him as a friend before he gets in real trouble? That's what I would do.

  6. I know that under current copyright laws everything you write, technically, belongs to the author. But when you are paid to write something or create something such as a web site, it should belong to the person who paid for it. Does the building contractor own my house because I paid him to build it? I think that is what Office Girl is trying to say. Is the problem with the scum who has held his client's web site hostage, or is it with the copyright laws that make this a grey legal area?

  7. As a follow-up to this post, I would like to acknowledge Robert B. (whomever he is - sounds like a lawyer) for his excellent advice. I passed the information along to The Client and you were absolutely correct, InterNIC shut down the site within hours of his reporting the abuse. I received similar advice from a web consultant here in Honolulu. Thanks to both of you.

    As to Cathy R., I did in fact do precisely as you suggested in contacting the supplier with a very friendly warning that he might want to reconsider his actions. In response, he added additional, much uglier, material to the site. I am clearly not as persuasive as I had thought!

    I understand that the FBI is now involved. Yikes!!!