An open letter to Yahoo Small Business

Dear Yahoo,

Why have you forsaken me?

On Nov. 12, 2002 I signed up for a free email account with your service. The web interface was (and is) great. It’s easy to use, fairly fast and free.

I recommended to my staff, friends and family that they get accounts and many did.

I was so impressed that I decided to buy my first domain and web hosting/email package from you on Aug. 3, 2003.

Things went well and I bought three more packages in 2004, 2008 and 2009.

Currently we use our commercial Yahoo services to host a web TV show, a local calendar of events and sites for our two popular Northern Virginia newspapers, Warren County Report and The Sherando Times.

A few years ago my account was having technical issues and it took days for you to fix. I stuck with you.

Last year you were having problems with your email search. It took months for you to fix. I stuck with you.

Then our current nightmare began.

We have a main news editor account for our newspapers.

With this account we get press releases from everyone from the local police department and the United Way to the Smithsonian and the White House.

People might inquire as to where to go to buy an ad or get a back issue.

We use this account to communicate with our 27,000 readers. We get complaints, praise, tips, you name it. Sometimes people just want to talk.

This account is our main method of staying in touch with the people we report on and those who read our work.

On Friday this email account was incorrectly “temporarily suspended” by you and no one could send us email. If they sent us a message it was bounced back. We have no idea who may have sent us email these past four days but it is not unusual for us to get hundreds in a day.

I didn’t discover this until Sunday because no at Yahoo bothered to tell us. You just shut it down.

I spent hours on the phone with your customer service representatives. They agreed that my account should not have been suspended but said that it should be cut back on within 48 hours.

I explained that since you agreed it shouldn’t have been cut off it should be cut back on right away or within a reasonable period, say 30 minutes. They said that the technical people didn’t work on weekends and that they would be busy on Monday but that I would probably be cut back on then.


It is now day four and I am still waiting.

We think the problem was caused when a salesperson at one of my papers got a phishing email asking for her username and password. She forwarded the email to me to ask if it was real. I forwarded it to one of my tech/design staff.

We believe that when I forwarded the email it triggered an alert that we might be sending out spam.

My mistake.

Even though I had innocently forwarded it to a tech at my paper (all within our domain) I can see that your filter might have been wary.

No problem. I don’t like spam or phishing emails any more than anyone else and I applaud you for trying to prevent it.

But after 6 years of paying you, shouldn’t you tell me if there is a problem?

Shouldn’t you alert me that you are cutting off my account and returning all of our email?

And should this occur on a Friday is it fair to make a newspaper–or any business–wait until Monday or Tuesday to get the service restored?

Do you have any idea how many days it will take to try and straighten out all of the things we missed? How many wasted days? How many angry people we will have to deal with? How many important emails we will never know were sent? Events we didn’t cover?

You call your service “Yahoo Small Business.” What business can go four days without email because your tech people don’t work weekends?

Nobody is perfect. And for the fifty bucks I send you every month I don’t feel I am entitled to my own tech support substation in my office.

But you cut us off, didn’t tell us and then left for the weekend.

I hope when you return you figure out a better way to handle this.

I hope you work harder to treat your small business customers like their business matters.

Until then I am disappointed in an old friend.

It is day 4.


Dan McDermott
Newspaper publisher and loyal Yahoo customer since 2003.

[For publication in the print and online versions of Warren County Report and The Sherando Times. ]

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