An Open Letter to Vultr Regarding their Dishonest $2.50 Pricing Plan

Dear Vultr,

I’m writing to you to express my disappointment with your dishonest $2.50 pricing plan. I hope that you will take the steps to fix this problem.

I’ve written this letter in segments to hopefully clarify the sequence of events and how I came across this issue.

It began with a side project on Laravel

This all started with a podcast related side project that uses Laravel. I’ve been slowly plodding along on this scratch-my-own-itch project, and I’ve reached the stage of deployment and usage of an actual domain (whohoo). At this point, I decided to use Laravel Forge for the deployment of my project. My reasons for using Laravel Forge were:

  1. Support Laravel’s fantastic creator – Taylor Otwell
  2. Learn how to use a GUI based provisioning/deployment tool

It begins with a side project on Laravel

When I logged into Laravel Forge…

When I logged into Laravel Forge, I saw that I had quite a bit of choice for a Virtual Private Server (VPS) service. I’ve known about Digital Ocean, Linode, and AWS for quite a long time but I didn’t know about your offerings.

When I logged into Laravel Forge...

Which VPS service to use?

As I’ve mentioned – this is a hobby project, so I looked at some price comparisons looking for the least expensive plan.

If it’s a hobby project do I want to spend sixty dollars per year (i.e. $5 x 12 months ) or thirty dollars per year (\$2.50 x 12 months)...tough choice.

Which VPS service to use?

So I chose you Vultr….

Naturally I gravitated towards your service πŸ’Έ due the $2.50/month ($30/year) plan. It seemed perfect for my hobby project.

I didn’t need much performance, just some way to release my project to the world.

So I choose you Vultr....

So I went ahead and created an account on Vultr…

So I created an account on your service and purchased $10’s worth of time. After all, four months would be a great trial of my project. At this point, everything was very smooth – nice on-boarding, rapid capture of credit card. All systems were GO…or so they seemed.

Then I went to Laravel Forge and configured Vultr as a VPS option

I configured Vultr as a VPS option on Laravel Forge noticing that the Server Size was set to $5.

Then I went to Laravel Forge and configured Vultr as a VPS option

It was time to choose the $2.50 server size on Vultr from Forge’s options

So I went to the “Server Size” dropdown to choose the $2.50 option and lo and behold – there was no such option. This was strange…was there something wrong with Laravel Forge?

It was time to choose the $2.50 server size on Vultr from Forge's options

So I emailed Taylor…

So I emailed Taylor Otwell about the missing Vultr pricing tier, and within 5 minutes I received the following email response.

So I emailed Taylor...

Wait…what?

My first thought was “wait…that doesn’t make any sense – Vultr’s pricing page shows no distinction between the $2.50 plan and any other plan besides performance – what did I miss?” So I went back and looked at your pricing page and indeed there was no mention whatsoever that API access was excluded for the $2.50 plan.

If you look at the screenshot of your pricing plans – do you see a difference besides benchmarks?

Wait...what?

I decided to contact your support…

So I contacted your support (whose response was very fast…so good job on that), and I got a response from a friendly support person – Sean Mahoney (see below).

Nowhere on your pricing page do you indicate that the $2.50 plan is a “sandbox plan that is not available via API.”

I also didn’t feel that reassured seeing that one day you “may decide” to make this plan like every other plan and have API access.

When you look at Sean’s response and your representation of the $2.50 plan on your web page – doesn’t that strike you as being a bit dishonest? (no reflection of Sean of course – he was just doing his job in responding to the ticket)

So I decided to contact your support...

If I’m going to go with a $5 plan – why would I choose Vultr as my VPS provider?

If I’m forced to go with the $5 plan, then why would I go with your company and not a more established company like AWS, Digital Ocean or Linode? Additionally, if you go for the bait-and-switch approach on the $2.50 plan – what other surprises can I expect if I continue being your customer? For me, as a customer, this issue engenders a significant sense of distrust.

It saddens and disappoints me to have to stop using any services from your company. On the other hand, if the API usage issue was available with the $2.50 plan, then how likely would I stick with Vultr? I might have become a loyal customer singing your praises.

I don’t like to leave an open letter at this spot without providing some suggestions for improvement. So here goes.

If I'm going to go with a $5 plan - why would I go with Vultr?

Suggestion 1: The Band-Aid Approach – be honest and upfront about the “we don’t provide API access for the $2.50 plan”

My first suggestion to your company would be to update your pricing page to clearly indicate that the $2.50/mo plan does not include API access. I’ve mocked up a sample message below.

Suggestion 1: The Band-Aid Approach - be honest and upfront about the "we don't provide API access for the $2.50 plan"

Suggestion 2: The “all pricing plans have API access” removing the dishonest approach of the $2.50 plan

This one is simple, and it’s based on a message of consistency. Simply offer API access like you have on every other plan, so the $2.50 plan is different only in terms of storage/bandwidth/etc.. This approach does not require any UI changes on your pricing page. It’s the simplest and most honest approach. I would suggest this one over the first suggestion.

In conclusion…

In conclusion, I think that your current $2.50 plan is a bit of a sham. I would hope that you would take suggestion two and go for the honest approach. I’d appreciate a response regarding this issue.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Eli

PS: I’m more than happy to update this post with a response from you regarding this issue.