Everybody knows that bloggers like to bash companies that have displeased them. We do it because we feel angry and betrayed and want to get back at them. We also do it because we want to save others from unpleasant experiences and avoidable frustrations. Today it’s my turn to rant: let’s talk about Verizon’s greed and Symantec’s pitiful and misleading customer service. Fasten your seat belts.
Verizon: “Have you paid us yet?”
A few months ago I decided to leave my wireless phone provider. I had been with Sprint for many years and I eventually got tired of their lack of loyalty and disappointing customer service, whose errors and misinformation had costed me money and minutes, and worst of all frustration and unhappiness. And with all is going on in the world, the last things I want to be unhappy about is my wireless service.
Husband and I researched other wireless providers, and eventually settled for Verizon, largely because Husband’s family have Verizon’s plans and we would be able to call them for free. We bought cool Motorola Razr phones (I got the extremely cool pink one for an additional $30) and the cheapest family plan. It took an excessive amount of time to set up the accounts, but the people in the store there were nice, and we left fairly happy.
It turns out that Razrs are really cool looking phones, but they are not great phones. The sound quality is so-so and the user interface has annoying usability flaws (on the top of my list: the same key sometimes brings you back to the previous screen and other times deletes information from your phonebook: so annoying). But, of course, this is not Verizon’s fault.
Verizon’s fault is to have hacked Motorola Razr’s software to eliminate functionality that is useful to their customers but does not increase Verizon’s profit.
A minor–but revealing–annoyance is the function of the central four-way navigation key; pushing up, down, left, and right allow you to access the four most frequently used functions. According to Verizon those are: Get V-cast videos and pay additional money, browse the Internet and pay additional money, “Get It Now” aka get videos, pictures, and sound clips and pay additional money, or connect to your bluetooth headset (for free, if you have bought the bluetooth headset from Verizon). Do you see the pattern?
Incidentally, this means that I don’t have any fast-and-easy way to get to the list of missed calls or recently called numbers.
But here is the really insulting hack. In the latest version of the operating system, Verizon’s disabled OBEX (Object Exchange Protocol), the piece of software that enables the phone to move files to and from your computer via bluetooth (read more on Wikipedia).
To add to the insult, it turns out that Husband’s gray Razr, with an older version of the operating system, can still connect with a computer through bluetooth. But my cool pink $30-more-expensive Razr has the new operating system with OBEX disabled (fair punishment for my vanity, I suppose).
My crippled pink Razr can’t talk to my computer, poor thing, and if I decide to take pictures with my phone I have to use Verizon’s fee-based messaging service to get them out of the phone. Incidentally, this also prevents me from synchronizing phone book and calendar with my computer.
To the best of my knowledge, only Verizon has disabled OBEX on its phones: other wireless companies such as T-Mobile and Cingular allow for full phone/computer synchronization.
Verizon is trying to establish the brand image of a company that cares about their customers. But through my day-to-day experience of their service, “Can you hear me now?” and “We are working for you” sound rather like “Have you paid us yet today?” Verizon behaves as it’s trying to take advantage of its customers, rather than engaging in a fair service provider/customer relationship.
The moral of the story: Verizon’s greed is permeating my experience of them to the point that after a few months I already know the exact date I will switch provider: the day my contract expires.
Symantec: “Take the money and run”
If Verizon’s experience was mildly disappointing, Symantec’s experience was plain infuriating.
My investment firm was offering a discount on Norton Internet Security 2006 so I decided to take advantage of it. I went on the Symantec website to make sure that this particular product was compatible with my Mac. The information on the site was contradictory: on one page it said that MacOS 10.4 was not supported, on another page it said that anything over 10.3 was supported. So I called.
The sale guy I spoke with didn’t have a clue. He said: “I think so…” with an unconvincing tone, then put me on hold to check somewhere and came back saying that yes, MacOS 10.4 was supported for sure. I told him that one page on their website said that it was not supported. He told me it was probably a mistake.
I know that by now I should have been suspicious. But I really wanted some Internet Security protection, the discount was good, Symantec claimed I could return the software, so I decided to buy it anyway.
It was pretty clear when I installed Norton Internet Security 2006 that I’d made a big mistake. It turns out that some components of the package are compatible with my operating system and some are not. The Antivirus part, for example, is not compatible with MacOS 10.4 even if there is a Mac version of this software that is compatible: it’s just not the version that ships with Norton Internet Security 2006.
Here is where the horror story starts. Once you buy your software is not possible to talk to a living individual at Symantec without paying money. I managed to chat online with a guy who immediately told me that the software was not compatible with my system. “So, what do I do now?” “The software is not compatible.” “Yes, I got that. But what I do now?”
I asked if he could process a return and he promised he would do it. Of course he was lying, and it was pretty clear: even through online chat you can spot somebody lying. After a couple of days, not seeing any communication from Symantec, I tried to call them to return the software, with no success. It seems that the returns are actually handled by third party vendor, but I could not get in touch with them.
I tried to follow the online procedure for a return, but I just got to a blank page that didn’t give me any clue on whether the return had been processed or not. I haven’t received a single communication from Symantec. As far as I know, they don’t even know I exist and I am having trouble with their product.
And here I am now, with no money back, a piece of useless software cluttering my computer, a few hours of my life wasted, and the 60-day period for the return expired.
They are protecting themselves so successfully from their customers they don’t have any clue about what’s happening outside of the Symantec castle. Talk about security software. I wonder, Symantec: how can you do business by keeping your paying customers out with barbwire?
So, what’s going on here? Either Symantec is an evil corporation that wants your money and then runs with it, or we are seeing the sad effects of outsourcing without controlling the quality of the service provided. I suspect that the correct hypothesis is the second one, but I am not sure which one is worse: dealing with a dishonest company or an inept one.
Either way, you can try to guess how much more business I am going to do with Symantec and what I am going to tell my friends about them. Does anybody have a good suggestion for a good Mac antivirus and Internet Security software?
LINKS and UPDATES: Amazon reviewers are not happy with the Windows version of Norton Internet Security and furious with the Mac Version; a reader warns that Symantec’s products don’t work if you are using AOL; even geeks are victims of Symantec’s bad customer service: read what Rocky Oliver on Lotus Geek, Ken Circeo at PCMechanics, and Charles Cooper at CNet have to say. And Symantec still doesn’t get it: CEO John Thompson thinks he can repair the strained relationship with Symantec’s customers by launching a new product.