Can customer support get any worse than this?

This morning I learned that the venerable Mac ultility, File Buddy, has been upgraded to version 10. (Most people, myself included, thought it’d been abandonded.)

As an owner of File Buddy 9, I clicked to purchase the $19 upgrade. According to the instructions, I would need to enter either my FB9 serial number or purchase transaction ID in the subsequent coupon-code field, in order to receive the 50% upgrade discount. I had my serial number on hand, and clicked to continue.

On the transaction screen containing a coupon code, I entered my serial number, submitted the form, and it then returned an error, “invalid coupon code”. At that point, the instructions screen was gone, and I just assumed I’d be asked for the serial number at some later point.

I wasn’t, and ended up paying the full price of $39. Not only that, even though my address and credit card is in the United States, I was charged an additional 18% VAT tax because I made the purchase while sitting at a cafe in Spain. So, instead of $19, I paid $47.

I emailed the product owner, Larry Harris, to report what happened. Admittedly, I was frustrated when I emailed him, but I don’t think I’ve ever received such a disrespectful reply. My email text is in bold, followed by Larry’s response.

This is really, really frustrating. I just purchased a FileBuddy 10 upgrade license, and ended up paying $47!!

I’ve asked Kagi to refund the difference.

1) At no point in the process was I asked for my serial number from File Buddy 9.

We have a saying here in America: When all else fails, read the directions:

We also have another saying: Never enough time to do it right, but always enough time to do it over.

On the bright side, at least you bought the right product. One person bought an upgrade to File Buddy 9 because he wasn’t paying attention to what he was doing. Kagi’s discount system is not particularly sophisticated. All it can do is check to see if something you enter into the coupon code field matches anything in a list of codes I’ve supplied. It can’t force you to enter a code, nor can it verify that you have a qualifying File Buddy 9 purchase in their database. In past releases I’ve priced the product at the discounted price, but then I had to search a database every time someone purchased an upgrade to ensure he actually qualified for an upgrade. I’d say at least 95% of the people upgrading to File Buddy 10 can do so now without any interaction from me.

2) The damn system added 18% VAT because I purchased the app while sitting on vacation in a cafe in Spain!

Life can be soooo hard. That’ll teach ya. Next time vacation in country that doesn’t have a VAT, like South Sudan. If you can afford to vacation in Spain they need that $7.19 worse than you do. 😉 Make that $3.59. Kagi will refund half of that too.

On second thought, I guess customer service could get worse; he could have not initiated the refund!

Anyway, apart from the fact that the upgrade instructions were ambiguous—implying that either the FB9 serial number or the transaction ID would work—there’s a more fundamental issue here. From a user experience point of view, an upgrade process should either end in success, or it should fail. If the specific upgrade workflow was started, then it should not be possible to inadvertently end in a full-price purchase, regardless of what mistake the user might make.

There’s another issue, as well. Obviously, I was pissed off when I emailed Larry, and should have taken a moment to remove emotion from my mail. But, as someone who also sells a consumer product, I’ve come to realize you have to expect that. We sometimes get frustrated emails from customers, and even though their problems are more often than not user-related, you always have to respond respectfully (they’re your customers after all!) And, if you take a moment to reflect, those angry emails almost always reveal some aspect of your product experience that could be improved.

2 thoughts on “Can customer support get any worse than this?”

  1. The comment form title says “What do you think?” So here’s what I think:

    Larry Harris is a jerk, and I’ll make a point of never buying anything from him.

    The customer may not always be right, but rude disrespect is never appropriate. And in this case, I’d say the customer was right. The purchase process was seriously flawed.

Agree? Disagree? What do you think?