The following is a story of a domain name sale and the anatomy of how an $800 offer turned into a $20,000 sale. I assisted the seller in a couple ways, which will be explained below but there are several lessons to be learned here. Here we go with a Q&A style article and I will also add in some tid bits at the end as well. Enjoy, as this story has been in the works for sometime now and is very interesting.
What was your reason for purchasing the domain name BattleForEverything.com when you did? How long have you owned it?
I purchased www.BattleForEverything.com as the domain for a fan site for my favorite band, Five for Fighting. They have had several hits in the past decade – most notably “Superman” and “100 Years”. The Battle for Everything was the name of the bands 3rd album.
I bought the domain in 2006 for $10 and maintained the website here and there until about 2009. I was able to meet the band, go to concerts, and interview the singer because of the fan site.
You just sold the domain name for $20,000, what did you pay for it? Have you had offers in the past for the domain?
Like normal domain registration, I only paid around $10 a year for the domain. This was the first offer I have ever had on a domain I own. I am self taught in graphic design and web design which spawned from me making Harry Potter (haha) fan sites when I was much younger.
What made you ask for the $20K, why not $10K, or $5K? (Tell me about the offer, counter offer process.)
I was first contacted out of the blue through email by a person going by the name “Spade”. They asked me if I would be interested in selling my domain and for how much I would be interested in selling it.
I nearly deleted the email thinking it was spam or just neglected it altogether, because I’ve never been contacted about selling a domain. Before I responded I brushed up on some selling techniques and tips from the internet to make myself feel a bit more comfortable about talking to this stranger.
I’m the biggest skeptic with online trades and deals. I mean c’mon how many times have you been contacted by a Nigerian prince? This lead me into doing a bit of online research on selling of domains, etc. I responded to the first email about an hour after it came in and decided to be very vague with my response. Bartering 101 tells us that the buyer should make the first offer and so my response was just that. You make me an offer!
Now I hadn’t updated the fan site since 2009 because frankly I haven’t had any time to keep the website up to date even though I still follow the band. The person contacting me should have seen that the last time I posted on the website was in ’09 and should have realized that it wasn’t a high priority of mine. However, in my first vague response I said that the site has special meaning to me and that I didn’t know if I could part with it.
I used to work in sales and customer support for my current employer, an online retailer. From that experience I learned again to be vague and to “play the game” when negotiating prices.
Not much more than an hour after I responded, I received a response with an offer for $800 and payment of Escrow Fees. My initial thought was $800…wow what a deal for something I only paid $10 a year for since 2006! What a great investment! Now, I’m a 24 year old college student without much background in business, but when someone mentions escrow I think of all of those stinking television commercials telling people to REFI and use ESCROW. All of this led me to start buzzing and researching the processes.
After looking into the process, it somewhat hit me… this sounds too good to be true. I would say 99% of all online scams should sound that way from first contact. I am the biggest skeptic of these sorts of things so this led me to do more research to find out as much as I could about this Spade person. By the way, who goes by the name Spade? This sounds fishy.
As I mentioned before, I used to do sales and customer support as a previous job. Part of this was dealing with fraudulent customers online. By using things like whitepages.com and simply searching for people on Google, Google Maps, and Facebook you’d be surprised what you can find.
To buy myself more time and to get a better idea on how serious this person was I responded vaguely again and said, “I don’t know if I can go that low. Like I said I have a particular attachment to the domain name and band.”
Spade wrote back thirty minutes later and offered $1,000. Then asked what price range I was thinking.
Bad news for Spade because that email basically told me that $1,000 was definitely not the highest they would go.
In trying to figure out who was contacting me, I searched the email address which yielded the name Kate Spade. Unbeknownst to me Kate Spade is the name of a famous hand bag designer. This made me somewhat suspicious and helped blur Google searches for the name.
I also found a post through Google linking to www.DotWeekly.com . It was written in April about how larger companies were acquiring domains for future products. These were companies like American Express, Pepsi, ConAgra, and Kellogg’s. At the bottom of the blog post was my golden ticket:
“StudyBug.com appears to have been purchased by a “secret buyer” using the name “Kate Spade” and the email address [email protected] . The same “Kate Spade” had her hand in the purchase of CVSL.com on or about March 31, 2011.”
After finding this piece of ammo on DotWeekly, I was starting to feel pretty good about my predicament. If these people who were contacting me were truly interested, their pockets were deep. Not knowing what their cap would be on paying me AND with the knowledge that this was likely a larger company I decided to press my luck. The Sky is the Limit kept going through my head.
I responded to their email again being vague and not naming a price and said that I didn’t want to sound greedy (haha) but the domain meant a lot to me and I still didn’t think their offer was very close at all.
At this point I kept thinking—I have nothing to lose here. Worst case scenario is that:
a) the deal falls through
b) somehow I lose my domain –for a site I hadn’t updated in years—which I could probably pursue legally.
Five minutes after my response the email was returned to me saying that they understood and asked if $5000 was closer to what I was thinking. “That is what I’m prepared to pay today for this name.”
My jaw was on the floor! I just turned a low-ball offer for $800 to $5000 on a $10 initial investment of a domain name I have owned since 2006! WOW!
After I did a little dance in my office at work and shared the news with my co-workers I was dumbfounded. Could I press for more? Who is this really? Who’s joking with me?
I was still skeptical about all of this and kept searching. I found several other domains which showed WHOIS information to “Kate Spade” which made me feel a bit more comfortable. The WHOIS also gave me an address and phone number.
After about an hour I responded again and said that I thought they were getting “closer to the spot”… whatever that means. I was just trying to be vague without actually giving a price. Again what did I have to lose? They were the ones contacting me so if they were serious, they would have to play on my terms. I also said that I would have to think this over a bit so that it would put pressure on them. My guess is that they try to close the deal as quickly as possible and offer a higher price so that you are shocked and then say, “Yep” immediately.
Less than 30 minutes after my last response, Spade emailed me:
“I don’t mean to rush you on this decision; I know the name is important to you. At the same time, I am eager to get my project started. I want to increase my offer to $7,000 USD plus all escrow fees. Please take the night to give it some serious thought and let me know.”
My jaw was already on the floor, now my tongue was hanging out picking up lint. They increased their offer by $2000 in less than 30 minutes?! Are ya kidding me?
Heck yeah I was going to take the night to think about it. Let’s put the pressure on them. Again, what’s the worst that could happen? They haven’t said “final offer” yet.
In my deliberations that night it occurred to me that no individual or even small business would truly consider spending $7,000 on a domain in this day and age. They would think of a different name or negotiate with someone else or a better name. My domain wasn’t Yahoo.com or even a 10 character domain. It was a 19 character .com. It’s a flowing phrase “Battle for Everything”. However who would be interested in this name? A movie? A TV show? A video game? It had to be something specific. My brother and I joked that it was probably for the next Call of Duty or Battlefield video game.
I did more research that night and Googled “@mirmaco.com”. This showed a PDF of an adjudicator decision over a domain in 2008. The case was that someone had registered a domain for the Sunglass Hut. Within this information I found:
The Complainant became aware of this domain name registration in January 2007 and instructed its domain name management service provider to endeavor to obtain a transfer of the domain name from the Registrant on an anonymous basis. On 19 January 2007, the third party, Sam Stockwell ([email protected]), sent an e-mail message to the Registrant wherein he requested the Registrant to sell the domain name to him (without disclosing his affiliation). The Registrant declined the offer in e-mail messages. Further e-mail communication followed, and on 5 February 2007 the Registrant indicated in an e-mail message sent to Sam Stockwell that she would be willing to sell the domain name for US $15 500.00. Sam Stockwell made a counter offer of US $10 000.00.
Long story short, the registrant wanted $15,500, they offered $10,000 and the decision was that the registrant HAD to turn over the domain because of Trademark issues.
This scared me a bit because of the outcome, but had confirmed that I was dealing with someone legitimate and that they in fact were a third party trying to secure this domain. I became worried that maybe they were going to go as far as trademark infringement of which I was unaware. I also learned that I could get whoever it was past $10,000. The funniest about this PDF was that the court decision was about a domain in Africa! RED ALERT! WARNING! HAHA.
So I waited the night and let them sweat it out—even though I was sweating about it a bit myself. I held off in replying early on Thursday so that I didn’t seem too eager. When I decided to write them I became a bit ballsy. The Sky is the Limit. I asked what Spade could do above $10,000. I gave excuses as to why I wanted that much. For example after paying taxes would I really have the value which I want in it? I also asked how exactly the transfer process was to work through Escrow.com to give myself some assurance that they knew what they were doing and that I wasn’t clueless.
Spade responded later with insightful information about Escrow.com. Spade upped the offer to $8,000 and said that they didn’t think that it was worth more than $10,000.
I saw Spades trick, into trying to get me to think that the domain wasn’t worth that much. To me it wasn’t either, however Spade didn’t know that and I wasn’t going to fall for trickery! The Sky is the Limit! I have nothing to lose!
It was around this time that I emailed Jaime at DotWeekly.com about my situation and asked for any suggestions. He confirmed with me that they were likely buying for a larger client and would likely go higher.
I replied to Spade saying that I really felt that the domain was worth more than that to me. Then I threw Spade a bit of a curve ball to somewhat change the subject and to continue vague dialogue. I asked if they could offer up some credentials to show some legitimacy of this offer. My thought was that the longer I drag this out, the better. Spade is supposedly the one that is trying to get this ‘project’ underway so I thought that if they really needed the domain, they would ante up and pay me more.
Spade replied saying that they understood and then tried to put pressure on me by saying that “I need to weigh my options and I’ll let you know”. To continue on without a higher offer they asked what credentials I was looking for.
I replied and said that I was just concerned of scamming. Then I said “take your time and let me know what your offer is.” I kept replying so that the pressure was on them to reply. If it was them waiting on me to reply they would think that I was ready to settle. So my objective was to be vague and have the responses waiting on them.
Spade replied later in the day with the name Kate Spade and the phone number, address, and other information that I had found the day before. Kate also said that she was an individual looking for a domain to use for a project she’s working on.
BULL! I decided to have fun with my next response saying: “Kate,Yeah you never know who you are dealing with when it comes to internet exchanges, which is why I already knew all of that information My searching also suggests that you work third party for larger companies to acquire domain names from individuals. Which is a fair to reason as to why you would use a UPS store as your billing address–and which makes this feel all the more legitimate. I guess all-in-all I’m just curious what movie, or video game, or whatever is interested in this domain. Please let me know how much you are considering.”
My response was obviously taken seriously because the offer came back for $10,000, only 30 minutes later.
I decided to play hardball even more because I had now spent a reasonable amount of time working my way up to $10,000. I had a feeling that this is obviously a person working for a company because their responses stopped each day at around 5PM Central time.
So I decided to press harder and acted a bit angered by saying: “I think I’ve finally decided that if you are serious about getting this done, offer me $20,000 and we can get the ball rolling today. I asked earlier today what you could do over $10,000 and now here we are several hours later. Think about it and let me know what your offer is.”
The next day, Friday, Kate finally responded around 1PM like usual and offered me $20,000 as long as terms were agreed upon by midnight.
I did my usual Holy-Crap-I-Can’t-Believe-They-Are-Offering-Me-This-Much dance. I responded saying to Kate who I thought they were and that I was glad that they were finally being serious. I said I don‘t want to feel rushed, but if they offered me $40,000 we could set the deal up and be done with it immediately. Otherwise I didn’t think I could make up my mind.
The game pretty much ended there with Kate replying that $20,000 was the final offer. Could I have replied and said $30,000 and we have a deal? Yes, however I was getting tired of the bartering and was amazed that I talked them from $800 to $20,000 in a matter of three days.
What will be the future of Battleforeverything.com?
As I was finishing up the deal with Kate, I got another email from Jaime saying that he found that the .net was registered a couple weeks before by NBC (Universal). I thought I had checked that information, but when I did; a registrant didn’t show up. I didn’t exactly get to use that card so much to my advantage, but I definitely exploited that I knew that they were with a large company.
I settled for $20,000. Could I have gotten more? Maybe. However in this day and age, a 19 character domain simply doesn’t sell for that much in my experience. What could the domain have been worth in say 5 years? We don’t know. Technology changes so quickly that who knows if we will even be using something similar to the internet in 10 years. I understand that the World Wide Web isn’t getting any smaller and that the amount of .com’s continually become fewer and fewer. However I am completely satisfied with my $10 investment turning into $20,000.
Do you own other domain names? Have you ever sold a domain name before?
This was my first domain sale—I think it was a good spot of luck. Doing research helped improve the end result of the sale. Shoot, I thought $800 was an amazing deal. By not jumping the gun and immediately saying “yes” to the first offer I improved the end result.
I do own other domains. However they are for smaller business ventures. I have been doing side work in making websites for individuals and small companies. I also do photography for side work.
When all of this went down, I realized www.battle4everything.com was available… know of any large companies interested?
What are your plans to do with the $20K?
I got a fortune cookie the other day that told me to “Buy the red car”. A 2012 Camaro keeps looking more appealing! However, I need to figure out what tax bracket this puts me in and exactly how much I need to pay in taxes.
I’ve been looking into using it to help my smaller business ventures, taking a vacation, betting red in Vegas, and/or investing it. Any suggestions?
End Result (Jamie’s thoughts and advice)
So here is my take on the situation. I was glad to help Ryan when he emailed me and I was glad he did some research to find some of the things I share on DotWeekly. Even though the buyer (IMO, likely NBC Universal) hired a secret buyer (Kate Spade), the seller was wise enough to do some research with some data they had on the buyer when they contacted him via email. This resulted in the seller seeing a post that I wrote about “Kate Spade”, the email address and the potential situation. I personally was aware that MarkMonitor, Corporate Domains CSC etc often use spoof names and email addresses but many are not. The bad news for the secret buyers? I share details I dig up and I have covered the secret buyer name Kate Spade and several more right here on DotWeekly for sometime now!
I was able to provide Ryan (the seller) with some very helpful information and he was at least able to use some of it. Ryan did an outstanding job negotiating and getting Kate to walk the ladder.
The secret buyer (which I think is Corporate Domains Inc. (CSC) based on whois results for many domains that switch after “Kate Spade” becomes the owner) made a vital mistake to continue using the “Kate Spade” buyer name and the same email address. If you are going to do this (use a BS name and email address), research it on search engines to make sure you are not exposed! I do like the idea of the secret buyer using “a name” that happens to also match a brand name. This helps hide things in search engines.
NBC made a vital mistake in which I point out that you shouldn’t register the .net before obtaining the .com! This can load a seller with some great info, that will help the seller and hurt the buyer. NBC has deep pockets and knowing they recently registered the .net and somebody is contacting you to buy the .com… red flag should fly!
If NBC becomes the final owner of BattleForEverything.com, they shouldn’t be pissed at me… they should have hired me!
$20K + budget for pretty much an “average, everyday domain” is interesting! Plus the fees for the secret buyer, Escrow.com etc!
Will BattleForEverything.com be a Game Show? Movie? Reality show? Hard to say but I would bet NBC is behind the purchase of BattleForEverything.com for $20K and they will be doing something with the name/domain.
I hope this story helps you in some way. A big thank you to Ryan for sharing the details of the sale process in such detail and I’m glad I could help him out a little. My only extra advice to him, don’t by the Camaro! Buy a couple (2-5) strong domains for $1K each and sit on them. “Spade” may come calling again!