Winona Chiropractic Center website fiasco - unpaid designer takes frustrations public

The Winona Chiropractic Center has been catching a lot of buzz on the web this weekend, due to a "fed up" web designer who was apparently never paid for any of the work he had done on the company's website. Letting frustration get the best of him, designer Brett Terpstra swapped out the content of Winona Chiropractic Center's site with some "original" content of his own, which called out the company for not ever having paid its web design bill using some sarcastic jabs. The "edited" site ended up going viral via Twitter and Facebook, and also landed on a article, on Friday.

Brett Terpstra pulled the site down and replace it with a page, stating that he removed the page, noting that it was probably what he should have done in the first place. Terpstra goes into more detail in a blog post about what led to his actions, but the gist of it is that he made repeated attempts to receive payment for his work over the course of multiple years, and never saw a dime, despite being told by the client that it would be "taken care of." Terpstra states that the site was receiving minimal traffic according to Google Analytics and was not ranking high on searches, so he assumed that not many people aside from the clients would actually see it. However, when the fruits of Terpstra's frustration went viral, it created quite an unexpected amount of attention.

It should be noted that Terpstra owns and controls the domain for the site, and he also had been hosting the site without payment, in addition to the design work that he performed on the site. A few articles have already popped up about how he "hijacked" the site and "held it hostage," neither of which are accurate.

There are lessons to be learned from both sides in this situation. For the client, the lesson is that disregarding your web design and hosting bill can result in negative attention for your organization. I'm guessing that the buzz surrounding this story isn't going to help the image of chiropractors involved. The lesson for the designer is a harsh reminder that the web is a public forum, and there is always a chance that anything you do in a public forum can come back to haunt you. In this case, the designer's level of professionalism has taken a hit in the eyes of some.

Terpstra seems to have learned from his mistake, which he openly admits was an error in judgement on his behalf and has created undesirable negative attention toward him as a designer. It's is unclear whether Winona Chiropractic Center, which has merged with another chiropractic group and is operating under the name Back to Health: Chiropractic & Wellness, has made an effort to right any wrongs in this situation, and to be fair, Winona Chiropractic Center's side of the story has yet to be told in all of this.


Avatar of Brett Terpstra
Posted by Brett TerpstraFeb 08, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Thank you for the well-balanced article. It’s appreciated among all of the noise that this thing has stirred up.

In answer to the last paragraph, no, the client has not tried to right any wrongs on their side. At this point the only thing that WCC has done is threaten to sue me. On my side, I have done everything in my power to reverse search engine indexing of the bum meta tags I put out there, and to mitigate the online damage (which I feel was out of proportion to the damage they’d caused me) as much as possible. I’m no saint in this, but I’m doing my best. I’m still waiting to see what happens next in this little saga.

Avatar of George Probst
Posted by George ProbstFeb 11, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Brett, thanks for the update. I’m not really sure what legal grounds they would have in the threatened suit, but then again, I’m not a lawyer. It sounds like you’ve done what you can to rectify the situation. I hope you eventually get paid for the work that you did. Best of luck.

Leave a comment on this post