Clients who ask you to register a domain name

Have you ever been in a meeting with a new or existing client and they ask you to register their domain name for you? Well I have and I’m here to tell you that it’s a dangerous proposition. There was this one time that I had a meeting with a client at a restaurant and he said “oh, could you register xyz domain for me?”

I said “sure, I can do that.” After a good meeting in which I think I’ve landed a major restaurant chain I go back to my office and I’m going to register the domain name and low and behold it’s not available. It’s been taken.

Immediately my thought is “oh no” because they’d just spent a ton of money branding this web address. Now I could include a huge sidebar article right here about how stupid it was of them to not register this domain name the moment they thought about it. It’s just a few dollars to register a domain name and it doesn’t require a Ph.D. But I digress.

So I call them up and I say “it’s already been registered, did you register it?”

Usually you can track down who registered the name and try to talk to them about buying it from them. I’ve done this on occasion and usually for a couple hundred dollars you can get the name you want. But this was different. This was their business name.

Now here’s where it gets sticky.

  1. The domain name was registered the same day as our meeting.
  2. The domain name was registered using Go Daddy’s private registration service.

Yeah, pretty bad, huh? So I call them up again and spell it out for them. Needless to say, they thought I had gone and registered the domain name myself. Sheesh.

So I call up Go Daddy and talk to the first support person who answers.

“Is there any way to find out who registered that domain name?”

“No, it’s registered privately.”

“Well is there any way to prove they are infringing on a trademark? It is the business name of another company here in town” I say.

At this point the Go Daddy guy explains that they have a trademark department that handles this sort of thing and that if you can prove you own the trademark you can retrieve the domain. “Hooray!” I think to myself. So I go and write up an explanation about this process for the restaurant owner and give it to him.

What does he do? Nothing! It was quite disheartening really, because I gave him a way to get his domain back and he didn’t care.

So that’s pretty much why whenever I hear a client say “can you register that for us?” I shake in my boots.

Moral of the story? Learn how to register your own domain name.

5 responses to “Clients who ask you to register a domain name”

  1. Is there a reason you don’t use the answer I have used for years, “If it’s available, sure.”?

    I also usually have a laptop along with internet access (even if over cellphone) to do quick whois checks on stuff like this if I’m pressed for a more specific answer.

    The single biggest predictor of project or career success is always delivering more than you promise and I make it a policy never to promise something I’m not confident in (like being able to purchase a limited-availibility resource).

    I also tend to make sure I’ve checked all of the obvious domain names for a potential client before I go to meet with them, so I already know if something they’re likely to want is already taken and behind the veil of privacy.

  2. …sureley a mobile phone is handy in a case like this (i also make a point of asking whoever i get on the end of the phone to raise an invoice at the same time – it shows the client that i mean business)

  3. In this particular case the domain name was for a company name and not any generic name. So it was a domain squatter plain and simple.

    See the thing was that this company had spent a ton on printing business cards, menus, and who knows what else with the domain name on it. They should have thought about this early on. I don’t think they had even checked to see if it was available. My guess is someone along the way looked it up and registered it. The client told me it was available. Probably someone working at a print house or even someone at the restaurant listening in bought it.

  4. whenever I hear a client say “can you register that for us?” I shake in my boots.

    You’ve got boots? I didn’t know that. You should wear them the next time I see you.

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