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Ethics & Domain Pouncing

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I'm in a bit of a dilemma here...

I was prospecting for new clients - checking out clients that have a website from a crappy provider, mainly - and whenever I get to the bottom of a site I always check to see who designed it. I ran into a couple of sites designed by the same niche design company, and then I made a surprising discovery... The designer's own domain had expired!

Here's the thing - I KNOW this was an accidental oversight, and I KNOW it can happen to the best of us. This design firm is a national company, very well-known in their niche. They've been in business more than 20 years and are still very active on LinkedIn, so I know that they're still in business. They employ dozens of full-time people. To put it bluntly, it was a mistake. It happens.

BUT... the domain goes on the open market in two more days. If they don't notice it before the close of business Monday, it's up for grabs. And that's pretty tempting...

So I have two choices: I can either contact them through their LinkedIn page, give them a heads-up, and hope they fix it before it expires completely. OR, I can wait a few days, grab the domain for a song, and sell it back to them for a pretty penny. Based on the company and the uniqueness of the domain, I know I could probably earn more in that single sale than I earn in three months.

There's a part of me that feels like snagging the domain would be unethical. It definitely doesn't fit with "Golden Rule" thinking. It just feels wrong to me. But my husband points out that if I don't do it, someone else is likely to, and that the "cost of doing business" is that tiny mistakes like this can cost you big.

So I'm turning to the experts. Is domain "pouncing" unethical? Why or why not?
Date: Nov 23, 2014   


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