Buying Someone Else’s Domain Name Can Become a PITA

A little over ten years ago, I saw that a small business near where I grew up did not have its brand match .com domain name. It had a unique name, so I thought that was strange. A visit to the brand match name showed me why – someone in another country owned the domain name and displayed links in another language.

Since this local business is definitely the only company in the world with this particular name, I monitored the domain name via GoDaddy. Within a couple of years, the domain name expired and deleted. Because I grew up shopping at this business and appreciate what they do I backordered the domain name and won it.

Immediately after getting control of the domain name, I forwarded it to the domain name they were using. Within several weeks after getting the domain name, I visited the business and told them I secured the domain name for them. I asked them how I could get the name to them at no cost so they could control it and use it however they want. They gave me the office manager’s email address, and I followed up later on that day.

When I didn’t hear back after a week or so, I emailed the office manager again. I also cc’d the contact email address found on their website and mentioned the owner’s name. I did not receive a reply. Years later, I am still forwarding the domain name to them.

A couple of weeks ago, I was chatting with a friend where I currently live, and he mentioned that business near where I grew up. It reminded me that I still have their domain name! I reached back out to them to let them know I still want them to have it. No response again.

At this point, I am afraid that if I let the domain name drop, someone else will grab it. There’s a decent chance someone won’t be as nice as me, and they’ll use the domain name in an unhelpful manner. At best, for them, the person would put PPC links. At worse, there are more harmful things that could be done. If that happens, they’ll probably notice and reach out to me to ask WTF? Then, they’ll want the name but it will be out of my control.

You can have the best intentions in mind when you register a domain name for someone else. If they’re not onboard at the outset, you can give yourself a time suck and a headache trying to get the name back to them.

Elliot Silver
Elliot Silver
About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has closed eight figures in deals. Please read the Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest. Reach out to Elliot: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn


  1. I hate phone calls, and over 99% of everything I do is by email, but in this case, it seems like it would be worth it for you to contact them by phone. There must be some way to reach somebody there. Then if they still don’t care about the domain, at least you will have tried everything you could to give it to them.

  2. You are a good person Elliot! A couple observations. 1. Do you know the owners/office manager actually received and read your email? 2. Is it a business that would benefit from having their exact match domain? I ask this as some businesses don’t rely on any website interaction at all….not many, but some. 3. It may show what I’ve been saying for years. We are still in the infancy of the domain name business. Still, so many individuals and businesses do not understand the importance of domain names. Fred.

    • I spoke with the owner in person several years ago, and he connected me with the office manager.

      They would probably benefit to some degree, but it doesn’t look like they do any commerce online on their current website.

  3. It is a consolation of sorts knowing another has had a similar experience. My most recent interaction with a local hair stylist was a learning experience; it serves to remind me that not everyone is passionate about or even cares that there is this other (ether) world out there.

    Many see the world of the internet as full of possibilities and domain names as important as the name of your business and its physical address. I certainly do. But what I think doesn’t matter. What the end-user thinks matters; what the Client thinks or believes matters.

    While I did try to impart the advantages of having her own domain, a website and a listing on Google My Business (Google Maps), what I said was not enough to convince her – even at FREE. Her primary objection was that she “didn’t understand all of that,” and, to her credit, she has a very busy salon (still making appointments with pencil and an appointment book).

    Now, you might conclude I am a poor salesperson or educator (and you might be right). But the take-home message for me was, not everyone thinks the way I think. And that is okay. It isn’t personal. Do I still see lost opportunity? Absolutely, yes. But from the salon owner’s point of view, she’s doing just fine. And it is her POV that really matters.

    It was a kind gesture you made Elliot. They just don’t see the value in the offer.

  4. At some point you have to let it go or offer if for sale.

    3 quick stories:

    1. I sold a .nyc domain to someone a few years ago for $1,500 and they didn’t renew and it dropped. I picked it up, ate the $20, reached out to them transferred it back to them and they were happy and appreciative. Great for the karma bank.

    2. Someone bought another .nyc domain for only $350 two years ago. They paid through PayPal and never responded to any of my emails with the auth code/transfer steps and they didn’t initiate the transfer. I tracked down their number, called them and they said they’d get to it but had been busy, but they sounded indifferent on the phone — maybe other stressful things in their life at the time. Anyways, over two years later I still have the name with the sales page. If they request a refund, I’ll give it, or if they request the auth code again I can provide, but I cannot renew for 10 years, pay the renewals eating those expenses.

    3. I sold a .com 15 years ago for $1,800. The guy used the auth code and transferred it but never updated the admin email and so every year I am getting the renewal and expiry notices. He only renews 1 year at a time so I keep getting the messages. I’ve emailed him to let him know the dangers of not updating the auth code but he doesn’t respond. One day the name is going to drop.

    I like to watch names I sell to see how they are being used and often for first time domain registrants, they neglect the 1 year renewal because it’s not a routine.

    Anyways, it’s good to help people and build the karma bank, but you can only help so much. Also the economics of sell through rate, reg and renewal fees, profitability can be affected at a certain point.

  5. Mr. Burgos! I have to leave a comment now. So nice to see your name here, as you have been a great influence on me on domains. I first read about you at comment you left talking about your UK domains…and I always loved that comment of a good domain goes into our “train of thought” etc.

    Would you have a link to that article or that thing you said about why you think exact match domains are powerful? It was huge for me, man. I lived in the US for a lot of years and moved to SouthEast Asia and founded a real estate startup…on a keyword domain. =)

    many thanks to you man…I read your comment more than 10 years ago and it’s still resonating to me.

  6. Yes. Reading about it right now at your Impulse Corp site. Glad to see how many followers found you…seems like largely from your Yachts purchase.

    Back then, your thoughtful and honest writing were not as shared…but I remember googling your stuff and found your UK Domains.

    Thanks Elliot as always having great helpful people here.

    Congrats ln Yachts sale, Eric and sharing your lessons learned clearly and honestly.

  7. Wow. I would have done the exact same thing as you. In fact I have on multiple occasions. Each time no one cared. I just let the name drop and thought less of them for ignoring good advice. They do not deserve to remain in business. Go ahead everyone and give me negative responses – I don’t care! haha


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