Bait And Switch Pricing – A Bluehost Retrospective

Now that I’ve finally finished migrating my WordPress blog off of Bluehost, here are some things about it.

The Good

As far as WordPress hosts go, it was fine. The only technical issue I had was that the caching was a bit aggressive, so that edits to posts didn’t show up immediately. This might actually have been an advantage if I had a high traffic blog.

The onboarding support and regular support were different. Onboarding support was via live chat, and very attentive. Regular support was a 24-hour turnaround ticketing or email system. I only needed it once (the caching issue I mentioned).

Offboarding support (cancelling the account) was also pretty painless. This was also via live chat. I was expecting a hassle, because when I looked up “how to cancel bluehost account” on the web, it sounded like I’d need to make a phone call and provide a lot of PII. They did ask for enough info to verify that I was the owner of the account, but that was it. There wasn’t any hard sell or attempt to change my mind, but this might have partially been because I told them I’d already migrated everything to the new server (which I had).

They also did provide a partial refund for the unused time (billing is annual, and I cancelled 2/3 of the way through the year), though it may be a few days before it posts to my account.

The Bad

Other than the crapware marketing plugins that they install (which, again, may have been useful if I was trying to run, or grow, a big site), the main negative was the pricing, and the difference of the actual pricing from the expected pricing.

When I first found Bluehost, the advertised price was something like $3.75 a month. This sounded like a great deal for shared WP hosting — my previous host was $5. When I signed up, I did opt for things like backup and security, which brought the price up to like $10 a month, billed annually. Okay, fine. So, about $120 a year. In retrospect, I should have considered this discrepancy a red flag.

A year later, I was billed $250 for the renewal. I don’t remember getting a satisfactory explanation for the increase, so I planned to migrate off. Of course, I didn’t get around to this for a while, they increased it again to $290, and the final renewal was over $300! Looking at my receipts, it was $317.74 to be exact, or $26.48 a month.

$26 a month for what was supposed to be cheap WordPress shared hosting! A service that’s usually around $5 a month. Their website, as of 3/1/2022, advertises the price of WordPress hosting at $2.95 a month.

The Migration

So about 6 months ago I imported my posts into a new $5/month Linode instance that I’m administering myself (plus $2 for backups), got sidetracked, and then finally finished with the SSL and domain registration stuff the other day.

On the bright side, in the process of migrating, I tweaked the appearance a bit, added some custom CSS, and I’m fairly pleased with how it looks, at least on desktop browsers.