This morning, first thing, I had a phone call from a client. This client is a hosting only client, we haven’t worked with them in any other capacity. They purchased their site and business from a previous client we used to do development work for, when we created their X-Cart site way back in 2005. Yes, that’s nearly 10 years ago. It’s a dinosaur in internet years.
We’ve hosted the site all that time, and helped the original owner with things from time to time after the site was initially developed. Then earlier this year, she sold the site and business to new owners. Which brings me to this morning.
Frantic New Owner
New owner called me this morning, with a more or less incoherent plea that something was wrong with her site. By incoherent, I mean that she had a very detailed error on her screen and didn’t make any attempt to communicate any of it to me other than to say, “I don’t understand that stuff.”
So I take a quick look at the site which is spewing MySQL errors onto various parts of the page. “Oh. I’ve seen THAT before.” I think to myself, knowing it could be an easy fix, or it might take more to get things back together.
I explained that would something their webmaster or developer should take care of. She doesn’t have one or know what that is. And unfortunately, I haven’t been asked to fill that role for them, we have no agreement or contract. Add to this the perception that hosting should fix software or scripts or programming on sites that break. And you have me telling her that it’s a one hour minimum, and the rate is $100/hour to take a look at this and probably take care of it. I don’t expect it to take longer but if it needed more, I would let her know before continuing.
She says she has to call her daughter and meanwhile the site sits broken, they can’t use it, their customers can’t use it. And underneath, I could hear her thinking that $100 dollars is a lot and why couldn’t we just fix it. Well, we can fix it, but it’s not free.
Hammers and Knowing Where to Whack a Thing
It’s the old hammer story, where a manager calls an engineer out to fix a mission critical machine that has quit working. The engineer gets there, looks at the machine, then takes his hammer and hits it once, instantly fixing it. He sends an invoice for $5,000.00. The manager looks at the invoice and is upset, it’s $5,000 dollars! How can it be so much for 2 seconds of work? The engineer explains: $5 for the hammer and $4,995 for knowing where and how to hit the machine with the hammer. That’s exactly the case here.
The daughter calls back in, and her misconceptions are enormous. She thought that because, “it was your software” we should fix it. I explained that it isn’t “our” software, it’s X-Cart. Then I’m asked to explain the fee her mother pays us every month. That’s for hosting, the service that keeps your site alive and online on the server so people can come to your site. And in this case, the site is up, the problem lies with the software they use to run the site.
Can’t I Swap out a sql?
She asks, “Can’t I just go in to X-Cart and make a new SQL and swap it out?” I answered her, “No, not unless you want a database and cart that has no products or other information in it. That would probably be bad.” So now her method of solving this problem is to go to X-Cart to put in a support ticket to see if they can tell her the steps to take to fix it, so she doesn’t have to pay me $100. Wow. I would think her time was worth more than that, and that having the online store operational was worth more than that but I’m afraid she’s very new to having her own business and hasn’t learned that lesson yet.
The bottom line is she doesn’t want to pay me to look at it, I could have had it fixed in a few minutes, most likely. I’m the engineer and I have a hammer and I know just where to use it.
Here’s the Burn
So where’s the burn out come in on this? I bit my tongue because this is the type of work I’ve done for 18 years, it’s one of the ways I feed my family. I’ve given this type of advice away for free in similar cases for years and years, it’s why I don’t have a beach house yet. I’ve given myself away and I can’t allow myself to do that anymore. Doing that for any length of time will burn anyone out and I’ve done it for far too long.
The school of hard knocks can be expensive and many times it’s more valuable to your bottom line to pay for expert help when you get in a bind. I reckon that’s a post for another day.