Buyer Beware: Not All Web Companies Deliver on Their Promises

not all web companies - man in white dress shirt wearing black framed eyeglasses

Not all web companies deliver what they are supposed to. Sometimes it’s unintentional, and other times it is just plain fraud.

When we first started out, we approached one of those fancy Auckland web development companies, thinking they’d know best how to approach our more complicated idea for a platform. They showed us work they supposedly did for Auckland Council and other big-name businesses in the area. We thought we found our golden goose! We couldn’t have been more wrong. We learned the hard way that not all web companies deliver on their promises.

The Upsell

First, they tried to upsell us to a bespoke package valued at over $35,000!! In this package, we were promised the moon, the sky, and the sun when it was available. It was the dream package for our website and it’d only take 12 weeks.

Our first red flag wasn’t the cost as much as it was the missed deadlines. The company promised to help us shoot and edit a video for a funding application we were applying for. They kept us waiting until the day before the funding deadline before they were ready to shoot the video. Then they wanted an additional week to edit it… after the deadline.

mans face with white scarf

After some back and forth, they sent someone random from their office to help us shoot the video. They set up a tripod, turned on the video recorder, and WALKED AWAY. I finished my own shoot and they returned the barely edited, poor-quality video just in time for submission.

I went to them after that encounter and asked for options for a slimmed-down website using the $11,000 deposit we’d already paid. They didn’t seem to understand that they’d broken that customer/client trust that was crucial for us to spend that kind of money. We’d figured the deposit was a sunk cost and looked for a way to salvage it.

They presented us with another option using a basic theme and using plugins and customization to make the most of what we were looking for. We agreed and assumed the project would commence. We were again wrong.

Buyer Protection

6 months’ worth of weekly emails asking them to provide us with any update that showed our website was being worked on, we’d still seen absolutely nothing. No work had been done. All the while, we’d been paying a marketing team big bucks to get our brand and story crafted for the launch.

We were absolutely lost. They took our initial investment and it felt like there was nothing I could do. But there was! I always remember growing up that the adults in my life would make their biggest purchases on their credit cards. Once I asked my mother why this was and she said, “protection”.

Now that I’m older, I’ve gotten into the habit of putting my large purchases on my credit card. Mainly for the travel points, but also for the fraud protection, they offer should I ever make a purchase and not get what I paid for and that’s exactly what happened here!

brown wallet


First, I reached out to my bank – big props to Westpac NZ for how they handled this situation. You’ve earned a lifelong customer from me. The team automatically flagged the charge as it was getting close to the end of my fraud protection time limit.

Once that process occurred, we were asked to make a case as to why we did not get what we paid for in the transaction. We provided months of emails, files, conversations, letters from our lawyer, text messages – everything we could to make our case.

The web company would, throughout this process, stall and use delay tactics, never answering the questions of the bank nor providing any proof of work. Finally, when called out 6 MONTHS later (yes, it took THAT long to fight this on top of the 6 months we lost waiting for the web company to build nothing) they put a basic theme on a website and launched it live – no text, no functionality, no design – and claimed it was worth $11k!!

We then took this evidence to 2 other, more reputable web development companies to prove they were absolutely lying. Both wrote letters showing both the price and level of development were worthless. This helped us to get our money back IN FULL PLUS INTEREST! We walked away with over $13,000 paid back to us. LESSON LEARNT.


Trust Yourself - Not all Web Companies are Honest!

If your gut starts to feel like something’s wrong, trust it. In this case, it saved ACFB from bankruptcy and I learned many lessons about web development as a result. I’m not saying this is true of all web companies, I’m saying not all web companies are honest.

The second time around, I decided I wouldn’t trust just anyone to help. My husband, a Senior Cyber Security Specialist with Visa, knew a thing or two about web development, and I had a crash course throughout the fight with the first company and so we decided to go at it ourselves.

What you see on A Change for Better was 70% built by myself, Ashley Cairns, 25% built by my loving husband, Joe’s persistence and patience for my screw-ups that caused errors (sorry babe!), and 5% outside contractors fixing problems Joe couldn’t figure out or YouTube.

A Change for Better

I am proud of the journey we went on because it was the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back”. It was the kick in the bum I needed to make it happen by my own hand. If ACFB was going to fail, it was going to be at my behest, not anyone else’s. I have slaved for months, if not years at this point, to get us to where we are today. We might not be the biggest player in the market, but we literally have the most heart and drive.

I will not give up on progressing A Change for Better (ACFB). Ever. It is my lifeblood and the motivation that keeps me going when the world gets me down. Knowing that I am building something greater than myself is humbling and inspiring. Watching people get excited about my ideas is a shot of adrenaline that boosts my soul and fills my cup. I want to be part of history for doing something that truly changes the world and I believe with all my being, that is ACFB.

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