Dreamhost woke up to a nightmare when, to their horror, they discovered there was something wrong with their billing system. A US$7.5 million mistake, in fact. The company apologised via its blog with a suitably ‘DUH’ image of Homer Simpson to properly demonstrate their consternation.
Josh Jones’s Um. Whoops post was funny yet properly apologetic. He’d have to be since nearly every one of Dreamhost’s clientele was overbilled in the 12 hours of that particular billing cycle. The post even linked to the error announcement page that explained the mistake and also the coming refunds.
What happened? Somehow their billing system had started to bill clients for future invoices – all the way up to 2008, as if December 31 had already arrived. More than 10,000 clients were affected and we can only imagine the mess Dreamhost would have to clean up.
To Dreamhost’s credit, they worked quickly to resolve the issue. According to Jones, "A new service is running right now (in parallel on all the controllers) that fixes all those future charges, re-enables your account if it was erroneously suspended, and if your credit card was automatically rebilled, refunds the payment automatically".
Jones also made a few good points about programming and how "over-flexibility" can sometimes become a liability instead of an asset. There possibly might be some disagreement on his final point on his post:
"When designing a program, you’ve got to make some tough decisions .. and when you really can’t decide if this is something your users will need someday, err on the side of leaving it out.
Otherwise, your users will someday err on the side of your face."
Good one, Jones. Now if only all corporate entities could take egg on their face with as much grace and humor.