$30,000 Google Surprise: New Advertiser Runs Up Huge Bill

Apr 30, 2009 • 8:47 am | comments (20) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google AdWords

A Google AdWords Help thread has a sad story from a new Google advertiser who seemed to have accidently run up a bill from Google that got out of control. On day one, the advertiser set up his/her campaign and came back the next day to check in. What did this advertiser find? A cost of almost $30,000 accured on the campaign over the past 24 hours.

As you can see from this person's post, the person is 100% a newbie when it comes to AdWords/AdSense. Here is the post:

I am very new to this google adsense and posting ads. Last night I wanted to do a “TEST RUN ONLY” for Google to monitor before I could run any ad for my blogger.com. This morning 04/27/2009 I see a cost bill of almost $30,000.00? Oh my GOD, how could this happen? PLEASE HELP! This is a mistake! Please fix this problem and remove this cost of almost $30,000.00 from my account. I don’t have that kind of money. I’m a single mom and I’m not even working. Please help. I look forward to your response to my request.

I wonder how Google will handle this. It seems like this was the mistake of the advertiser and Google technically is not to blame here. But will Google show mercy?

You just have to assume this new advertiser did not set up a budget. How sad.

Forum discussion at Google AdWords Help.

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04/30/2009 01:52 pm

I have seen this before but for even more. They got back some of it but not all. The only reason we got some back is that google did not stop showing ads when we paused it. They will take your money.


04/30/2009 02:06 pm

I really hope Google will show mercy - this is a test to their don't be evil slogan - lets see if they stand up to their word (I have a wild guess but I hope it is wrong).

James Matthews

04/30/2009 03:16 pm

A story just like this happened with AT&T when a person downloaded from their phone's internet connection a few movies totaling a few GB. When they got the 30k phone bill.... If Google forgives these people then it will leave others to "make the same mistake". So I think that they won't be so forgiving..


04/30/2009 03:27 pm

Oh. Google forgive all $30K in fact they will give her even more in free adds, I seem to remember some time last fall the following quote “Google IS a liberal company”. Time to put up or shut up guys, share the wealth! Yes we can! Blah! Blah! Blah! (name and address with held to keep my page rank from going into Google’s trash can)

Wil Reynolds

04/30/2009 04:03 pm

I think Google shouldn't give the $$ back. If they do legally they are opening a HUGE can of worms legally. When does someone get mercy and when do they not? Its not like google hides the budget stuff to make it hard to find. If they do help her out she's gotta sign something saying she can't disclose that this happened, or there will be a line of people crying the same sobb story.


04/30/2009 05:49 pm

I have to agree with Wil Reynolds here. Any time you're dealing with $$$ (online, at the ATM, whatever) you're responsible to know what you're doing. Not Google's fault and the fact we're talking about it means it's too late for a non-disclosure agreement or gag order of some kind.


04/30/2009 06:07 pm

If Google does go after her for the $30K, Google could have a negative PR issue on their hands if this gets any press. Bad business for Google who tries to make AdWords easy to use for small businesses.


04/30/2009 06:10 pm

Anyone remember Lost in America with Albert Brooks and Julie Hagerty? http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0089504/ Julie Hagerty loses the nest egg in the casino, then Brooks tries to convince casino manager (Garry Marshall) to just give the money back. "Just think of the public relations benefit you'll get from doing this..." Unfortunately, like Marshall's character, I think Google will say that giving a refund if you don't get results is not the message they want to get out there.

Brandon Eley

04/30/2009 06:13 pm

I'm curious why no one else is wondering how this woman ran up $30,000 in ads in one day? Did she not set a DAILY BUDGET??? Who sets a daily budget of $30,000? If she DID have a daily budget and Google continued to show ads after her budget ran out, they will credit her account and she won't be responsible for the difference. If she did in fact set a daily budget of $30,000 then she would be responsible for those clicks if they were all legitimate. Still, this story sounds awfully fishy. I don't honestly think Google would allow a new, first-time advertiser to even set a daily budget of $30,000 without some kind of prior approval process.

Kate Morris

04/30/2009 06:16 pm

This is sooo hard, such a bad situation. I think in this case Google should help, but silently. The woman needs to understand that getting into any advertising isn't easy. I mean people don't buy TV spots by themselves for a reason. This stuff is not for the passerby. I tell people all the time that paid search is not risk-less because things like this can happen all the time. I got into paid search and have made my own boo-boos, but had to pay for them. There are reasons why people get paid to manage these campaigns. I know small businesses want to be self-reliant, but there are just some things you don't do alone. For that matter, I might have to look into see if Google has something set up for this. I don't think they do anymore, but my memory brings back something about a budget limit on new accounts. But my memory does funny things sometimes. Maybe they need to have a policy of only allowing new advertisers to spend so much per day until they agree to a "I am not a newbie at this and know what a budget it" kind of thing. I know its a fuzzy idea, but something to think about.

Ted S

04/30/2009 06:19 pm

Barring the slim possibility that there was a technology issue (i.e. the campaign didn't pause, didn't stop at a daily limit, etc...) I just can't see Google going back on this one. Yes it could be a PR hit to charge a single mother 30k in this economy but she checked the box and while she may have been new and naive Google has no way to know that when someone signs up. AdWords has different caps all over the place and while I do see how someone could mess things up Google would be opening the door to a much bigger nightmare if they decide one case should slide by now. Google should upgrade AdWords to help identify new users and give them a very bold account cap. That's a solution to the problem that helps the long term issue.


04/30/2009 06:21 pm

That sounds totally bogus. What sort of a single mom has a credit card with a limit of $30k that won't get blocked by a bank when it registers 60 transactions of $500 each within just one night? Remember, the max credit limit on AdWords for newbies is $500, and if she was a newbie, she wouldn't have invoiced billing, and if she prepaid $30k, she shouldn't be whining!


04/30/2009 06:38 pm

There is a lot missing from this story. The way she's told her side of the story doesn't make sense, and Google isn't talking. For now, it doesn't make sense for them to pay. Anyone can write a letter claiming the things she's claimed, so even if she's right, they would have to be pretty quiet about helping her.

Pedro Sttau

04/30/2009 06:58 pm

Couldn't agree more with what Brandon Eley said. I run campaigns for companies with pretty significant budgets and to spend this kind of cash in one day I would have to really dig into those high volume broad keywords. Also, she would have to manually set the daily limit above 30k.

ms danielle

04/30/2009 07:07 pm

@farhad - is that true about newbie transaction limits? i know that they bill in $500 increments but never heard about limiting new advertisers. if so, yea it might be her fault for pre-paying or not being a newbie. if not, i agree with wilreynolds that most likely it will be handled behind closed doors with an NDA, either way.


04/30/2009 07:45 pm

When you first start on AdWords, you get a credit limit of £50. When you pay that, the credit limit is upped to £200, then £350 and finally £500. If you want this £500 credit limit raised, you need to talk to Google about it. Therefore, the woman's credit card would have been billed $30,000 divided by $500 = 60 times at least in the span of 1 night. I don't think Google would stop that from happening if your credit card continued to support such transactions. However, I can't believe that any non-millionaire's bank / credit card company would suddenly support 60+ transactions in a single night, amounting to a credit limit of $30k! And once the credit card company declines a transaction, we all know very well that Google clicks dry up quicker than a cup spilled in the Sahara!!!

Barry Schwartz

04/30/2009 07:48 pm

HEADS UP: I emailed Google about this and I hope to get some official response and update this blog post. Questions include: (1) Is this true? (2) If so, will you credit this advertiser? (3) What measure do you have in place to prevent this from happening? Stay tuned...

Colin Hardie

04/30/2009 07:55 pm

Have to agree with Pedro Sttau - no way a newbie could run up such a debt so quickly. Even if she could, what can Google do about it? It's not like it's a one button submission and suddenly you're signed up to blow 30K in one night...I reckon it's bogus.

R. T.

05/01/2009 12:09 am

how to create awareness: - tell a story that people care about - select a forum that has a wide base or a very deep one - spin it into money If a mother of 8 can get lots of money and 15 minutes of fame, who's to say this single unemployed mom can't weasel some sympathy ($$$) out of the community.


05/01/2009 12:06 pm

what keyword?

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