The task was simple, one that I had done a hundred times over: purchase something online. In the past i've done this with large outfits like Amazon, and small e-commerce shops like CD-Baby. I mention these two because both represent the far ends of the spectrum in good e-commerce practice. Amazon is a huge company that sells everything from books to music to DVD players, while cd-baby runs a small shop dedicated to selling music CDs. Not only have I had no problems with either, I have been impressed at the purchasing process and/or customer service of them. They reinforce my belief that online shopping is a viable and convenient method of doing business.
On the flip side, we have companies like Macromedia who help prove that e-commerce exists to make your life hell. Every stage of the online shopping experience using Macromedia's site had severe issues that hindered such a simple task.
The simple task involved purchasing the HomeSite 5.0 upgrade for a friend. I knew two things about this product; 1. my friend Demonika wanted it, 2. Macromedia, Inc. sold it. After being given the URL to the product, my troubles began.
As with most e-commerce outfits, I used a 'shopping cart' to add the HomeSite 5.0 upgrade (with CD and Manuals) to my purchase. At this point I found out the software was offered via download (perfect!), and that the media and manual would be sent later (for an extra fee). No problem for me. I could download it, send it to Demonika, and have Macromedia send the CD and manual directly to her.. everyone happy. Heh, yeah right.
"Are you shipping to the same address?" (yes/no), I clicked 'no'. This implied to me that I could purchase the item, bill to me, ship to a friend. I've used this option at other sites before to send gifts and assumed it would be the same here. My first attempt at billing to me and shipping to her ended up with some vague and unhelpful message like "We were unable to process your credit card." Gee thanks. It took me over ten days to find out that this was one of the cornerstones of my problems. After several phone calls today, I learned that if the shipping address AND billing address did not match my credit card's records, the order would not be processed. Uh, what the hell? What is the point of even OFFERING this option if the software won't support it? This question is completely misleading to the consumer. Strike one.
The next day I call customer service to order the product over the phone. If not online, ordering over the phone is still fairly convenient for me. The phone call goes fairly well, effecient and quick. They charge my credit card for the CD and Manual, they ship to my friend, end of story. Heh, yeah right.
Some ten days after the original phone call, Demonika is still without software. I can't blame Anthrax on this since I had received 2 different orders from OTHER companies in those ten days. Back on the phone, I ask the status of my order and why Demonika hadn't received it. "Oh, it won't ship for a few weeks. The download version is available now, but the media has not been completed." What the?! Come to find out it will be weeks before it is even shipped, and that they only offer a download version right now. Wow, thanks so much for making that clear on the web site, and mentioning that on the phone. You clueless sleeze. Strike two.
So now my options are waiting for weeks for her to get the product, or figuring out how to get the download working. It was at this point that I finally found out that shipping AND billing address must be the same. Ok, so the new plan is to put the same address in, download the product, then get her the files so she can upgrade the product.
Just so happens I am trying out Opera 5.1 now since it is the most compliant browser based on current web standards. I end up finding out from Mr. Dickhead (the only bad customer service rep from Macromedia) that Opera and Netscape are not good options for me to use their site, and that is why certain options are 'greyed out' for me. Doesn't matter that Netscape 4.7 worked fine for my original transaction attempt I guess. So I load up Internet Explorer and go back to the site. I enter in my billing address, use the same for shipping address, input my credit card, and submit. Doh! I did it in under 30 seconds so the server replied that the current session was 'inactive' and it did not take my information. Luckily I am a fast typer. After the second attempt and quickly including all the information, I beat the insane time-out deadline and find that I can indeed download the product like I initially wanted. Fuckers put me through all that? Strike three.
So, life is good.. I obtained the software I wanted via download, was able to get it for Demonika while I paid. Heh, yeah right.
The next sign of trouble...
Checking my mail, I see the following:
9 Nov 2 firstname.lastname@example.org (3,398) Your Order #MM00157xx07 10 Nov 2 email@example.com (3,398) Your Order #MM00157xx21
Hrm. This seemed like a continuation of the headache I have experienced. Checking the mail, it ends up that they double billed me for the purchase of the product. So, call customer service, explain and have them fix things. Heh, yeah right.
I call customer service (again) and mention this problem. I kindly ask them to fix it on their side so I can be done with this whole nightmare. Instead, I am told that I need to go online and "request a refund" for that product. Sigh. Ok, I can do that. Logging back on to their site I request a refund for one of the duplicate orders. What strikes me as very odd is that of the six or so reasons you can request a refund, one of them is "order entered twice". If this is a preset option, it seems to me that it occurs quite often and may be indicative of a problem with their software.
Minutes later, I recenve the following e-mail:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org To: jericho+macromedia(at)attrition.org Date: Fri, 2 Nov 2001 12:39:24 -0800 (PST) Subject: Your Macromedia product return Dear brian martin, We have received your request to return the following product(s) ordered on invoice #MM001572307 dated Nov 2, 2001. HomeSite 5 Upgrade (1) Please read this email and follow these instructions to complete your returns request. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ If you are returning downloaded software: 1. Go to http://www.macromedia.com/store/LOD.html. 2. Print the "Certificate of Destruction". 3. Fill out the information as requested on the form. Only completed forms will be considered for a refund. 4. Email, fax, or mail the completed "Certificate of Destruction" to one of the following: email: email@example.com fax: +1 415 832 5108 mail: Macromedia, Attn: Returns 99 Rhode Island San Francisco, CA 94103 5. If you purchased the CD & Manual with your download(s), please see the instructions below for returning physical products. Please note: Complete information within 30 days from the date of purchase is required to process your request. The received date on the e-mail, fax and/or the postmark on the envelope will be used to determine timeliness. Please allow for 10-12 business days for Credit to be issued.
Thanks but no thanks. To expect a customer to go through all of this because a retailer installed shoddy software is a joke. To go through all of this because their software double billed me? Heh, yeah right.
Back on the phone I went. I explained what happened and that it was unreasonable to expect the customer to go through that. 'Barbara' was nice and put me on hold as she inquired about the options. A minute later she returned explaining that she could take care of the problem. Great, end of problem.
A short while later, I receive the following e-mail:
From: Barbara Petro (firstname.lastname@example.org) To: "'jericho+macromedia(at)attrition.org'" (jericho+macromedia(at)attrition.org) Date: Fri, 2 Nov 2001 16:01:45 -0800 Subject: Your duplicate Homesite order Return Hello Brian, Thank you for your interest in Macromedia products. As I said on the phone I have already issued the credit for order MM00157xxxx. However, due to legal considerations I ask that you still fill out the Letter of Destruction and fax it to my attention at 415-626-2975. I appreciate your assistance in this matter. Please feel free to contact me if you have any further questions. Sincerely, Barbara Petro Macromedia Customer Service
At this point I could only laugh. Was it not readily apparent what kind of nightmare this had become? I was tempted to cancel both orders and take the product for free. Instead, I replied briefly explaining that was not a suitable option for me, and that a simple cancellation of the double charge would be good:
From: security curmudgeon (jericho(at)attrition.org) To: Barbara Petro (email@example.com) Date: Fri, 2 Nov 2001 17:15:29 -0700 (MST) Subject: Re: Your duplicate Homesite order Return > Hello Brian, > > Thank you for your interest in Macromedia products. As I said on the > phone I have already issued the credit for order MM00157xxxx. > > However, due to legal considerations I ask that you still fill out the > Letter of Destruction and fax it to my attention at 415-626-2975. > > I appreciate your assistance in this matter. Please feel free to contact > me if you have any further questions. Hi Barbara As I stated on the phone, I feel that going through all of this is uneeded headache, especially since this is all due to poorly coded software Macromedia has chosen to use. I'll save us both the time instead of going into the deficiency in the software. Needless to say, my entire shopping experince with Macromedia has been a very poor experience. We can consider this matter resolved with your cancellation of the double billed software. Brian
Their last reply seems to be on the right track!
From: firstname.lastname@example.org To: jericho+macromedia(at)attrition.org Date: Fri, 2 Nov 2001 15:40:47 -0800 (PST) Subject: Your Macromedia product return Dear brian martin, We have approved your return for order number #MM00157xxxx on November 2, 2001 12:39:31 PM PST and will issue your credit. Your RMA number is #MR0000xxxxxx. You are returning the following product(s): HomeSite 5 Upgrade (1) Your credit card will be credited for USUS $29.00 If you would like to pass on your comments about your experience with the Macromedia Online Store we would be love to hear from you. You can either respond to this email, or send your feedback direct to email@example.com. Best Regards, The Macromedia Team Macromedia, Inc.
Yay, they finally seemed to realize what was up! So, here is my feedback. As requested, I will send this link to the e-mail address above so that they can (hopefully) learn from the mistakes made. I'm honestly not holding my breath.