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Newly purchased website is down, what is our recourse?

 5:31 pm on Aug 28, 2013 (gmt 0)

I'm not new to website ownership, but I've never encountered an issue like we're experiencing, and I'm curious as to our options.

We've been in the automotive parts retail business for 35 years, with multiple retail stores. The company used to be owned by one person until the manager of store 2 purchased stores 2 and 3 from the owner two years ago. All three stores continued operating under the same name, with store 1 owning the eCommerce website. This year that owner decided to retire and close store 1, so we purchased the website. We didn't intend to update it, but rather use it to bring in revenue while we built a new one from scratch. Average income for the site is $15k-30k per month.

The website was built sometime between 1998 and 2005, using ASP, and an eCommerce platform written a company we'll call Company A. To be clear, they wrote the site and the eCommerce code, and they have hosted the site since it was built. Knowing what we basically have here is a proprietary setup, I made the decision to stick with this company, as support elsewhere would be non-existent. While I've built sites and own a large one, I prefer paying someone else to manage/support them.

All was fine for the month of July, then August 5th we noticed a drop in sales. After investigating, we found anytime anyone tried to click nearly any link on the front page, it returned an error related to the category system. I quickly called Company A and explained the situation. They said they'd look into it and get it fixed as soon as possible. That was August 5th, and the site is still down.

Since our first contact we've been given very vague and brief updates, and only after multiple calls and emails. First they had no idea what was going on, then they said they tracked it down to a specific piece of code, then they said they were re-writing that piece of code, and now we're back to them not answering our phone calls. That was on the 16th. I know enough about ASP and coding to know the entire (very basic) site could probably be re-written in a week.

So here we are in a situation where we just paid a very large sum of money to the owner of the website, changed absolutely nothing, and we're left with a website that does not work, all while losing literally $15k-$30k in revenue this month. The owner of the company is an old school guy who's ready to call up the lawyers. His point of view is we haven't done anything but process orders, and someone is responsible for this.

What is our recourse? What would you guys do?



 5:46 pm on Aug 28, 2013 (gmt 0)

>>I know enough about ASP and coding to know the entire (very basic) site could probably be re-written in a week.

why don't you just get the site rewritten for now and get that revenue drain plugged - the value of a website is partly the historic incoming links to it as well as the site itself.


 6:01 pm on Aug 28, 2013 (gmt 0)

The site needs to be completely re-developed, so there's no point in paying a developer to re-write a nearly obsolete site from that time period. That's like restoring a car with a salvage title. Now days out of the box solutions such as Shopify or Magento Go blow it out of the water. The only reasons we bought the site was because it showed positive cash flow, and we didn't need to do anything but process orders while we develop our new site.

brotherhood of LAN

 6:16 pm on Aug 28, 2013 (gmt 0)

Can't really comment on the legal standpoint re: the company's liability.

I'd investigate whether you can replace the category pages with flatfiles for now, I'd assume the category structure is not updated often so it'd be a workaround. That may be a fix that takes an hour with an .htaccess rule to map category pages to your flatfiles.

It's quite important that the site is sorted for search engines crawling it, and I imagine it'll be hard for them to recrawl your money pages if the category structure is broken. Visitors bouncing from those broken pages could end up being more costly than some changes in your code.


 6:48 pm on Aug 28, 2013 (gmt 0)

>>The site needs to be completely re-developed, so there's no point in paying a developer to re-write a nearly obsolete site from that time period.

i wasn't implying you should use asp.
i assumed from your comment that the site was pretty basic and that it could be rewritten pretty simply... i was merely suggesting that whatever you decide to do legally you plug the hole asap if you are losing that kind of money.
i also assumed you weren't actually asking for legal advice in a public forum.


 7:19 pm on Aug 28, 2013 (gmt 0)

I gotcha. And no, not seeking legal advice here, just seeing if anyone had any ideas I hadn't thought of :)

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