Category Archives: School of Customer Service

How To Cancel Adobe Creative Cloud

tl;dr: 1) Look up your Creative Cloud order number on the “My Orders” page; 2) Click here, answer the annoying questions and scroll to the bottom to chat with an agent to have the agent cancel your account. And have a cup of coffee ready, because this process will still take about 10 minutes, even if you have all your information at hand.

Long version of the story: This month, Adobe decided to stop selling boxed software and to go with an all-subscription model. That’s fine with me, at least in theory: I understand the appeal of a subscription model from the viewpoint of the software vendor (and for certain types of customers). I have actually been on a Creative Cloud subscription for the past 11 months. But I’m not really a heavy Creative Cloud user (I use Fireworks 3-4 times a week, Dreamweaver maybe once a month, and Photoshop a few times a year). Since Adobe is end-of-lifeing Fireworks, I’m not getting enough value to justify a $348/year subscription cost, particularly since Sketch appears to be a good-enough alternative to Fireworks for me.

So, I decided to cancel Creative Cloud. Disappointingly but unsurprisingly, it’s very difficult to cancel Adobe Creative Cloud. First, even finding where you’re supposed to manage your Creative Cloud account on Adobe’s convoluted web site is a challenge. There’s a Creative Cloud Plan Information page that contains a cancellation link, but that link doesn’t actually cancel your plan:

adobe_cancel_dohThis page also unhelpfully doesn’t contain your order number, which Adobe’s customer service needs to kill your subscription. In addition, they make you talk to a human to cancel your plan. But before you can do that, you get to go through their automated Customer Support shark-infested moat (which, unhelpfully, redirects you back to your Creative Cloud Plan Information page, which in turn directs you to contact Adobe Customer Support in an endless loop). Genius.

So after a few go-rounds and another ten minutes wasted, I got into chat with Adobe support. Here’s the transcript of our chat:

info: All representatives are actively assisting other customers. There are 1 customer(s) in line ahead of you. Thank you for your patience.
info: You are now chatting with Saroj.
Saroj: Hello! Welcome to Adobe Customer Service.
Jeffrey: hi there.
Saroj: Hi Jeffrey.
Jeffrey: Can you assist me with cancelling my Creative Cloud subscription?
Saroj: As I understand you would like to cancel your subscription,am I correct?
Jeffrey: That is exactly what I just said.
Saroj: Thank you for the confirmation.
Saroj: Let me see what best I can do for your help.
Saroj: May I have the order number,please?
Jeffrey: I have no idea what the order number is. I purchased this a year ago.
Jeffrey: I'm looking at and it doesn't list the order number anywhere.
Saroj: Login to your Adobe account. Go to My Adobe, then click on My Orders.
Saroj: You will be able to find your order number.
Jeffrey: AD00XXXXXXX
Jeffrey: Really surprised this information isn't on and even more surprised that the "Cancel" link on this page doesn't actually cancel the subscription. It's almost as if Adobe is making it intentionally difficult to cancel.
Saroj: Thank you for the order number.
Saroj: I apologize for the inconvenience caused in this regard.  We will surely take this as a feedback and will work towards to improve on our services.
Jeffrey: Terrific.
Saroj: If you cancel your subscription now,there will be the cancellation charge of US $15.
Saroj: Would you like me to cancel this now?
Jeffrey: Why will there be a cancellation charge?
Saroj: The annual plan you enrolled in offers lower monthly payments and requires a one-year commitment.This plan is ideal for someone with an ongoing need to use Adobe's Creative software. If you decide to end your subscription before the one-year period is over, you no longer qualify for one-year subscription pricing.You will be billed at 50% of your monthly rate for the remaining months in your annual contract."
Jeffrey: Lovely. Let's go ahead and cancel.
Saroj: I understand that you would like to cancel your membership, and I will take care of that for you. However, would you be willing to maintain your membership through your annual commitment & avoid the cancellation fee if I offer you the next month of your membership for free?
Jeffrey: I'd like you to cancel immediately, and if you don't do it in the next 30 seconds, I'll call my bank and have them reverse the charges. Is that clear?
Jeffrey: This has already wasted 15 minutes of my time and it should only have taken four seconds.
Saroj: I was just trying to help you out.
Jeffrey: You're not helping me by wasting my time.
Saroj: Anyway please stay online while I cancel your subscription.
Jeffrey: Hey, what choice do I have. I understand that deleting a row from a database takes a lot of time.
Saroj: Sorry for the wait. Please do stay online.
Saroj: I have successfully cancelled your subscription for order number AD00XXXXXXX.
Saroj: Is there anything else I can help you with? 
Jeffrey: Spectacular. No, there's nothing else, other than making the cancellation process available from the web site without my having to spend 10 minutes searching for it and another 10 minutes dealing with a person to cancel.
Saroj: I apologize if this experience with us has been unsatisfactory.
Saroj: Have a great day!
Saroj: Thank you for contacting Adobe.  We are available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. Goodbye!
Jeffrey: Adios.

So, from this, it’s clear why they require you to talk to a customer service agent; it’s a sales tactic intended to keep you on their subscription plan. But there’s a cost to this: my time, a resource I can never get back. When a corporation wastes my time needlessly, I remember it for many years (looking at you, United Airlines and Sony). A process that should take about 10 seconds (log in, find the link to cancel your subscription, and click it) takes about 15 minutes. And this delay is, in a sense, punitive: Adobe hopes you will lose interest and back off the cancellation process if the cancellation process is sufficiently painful; making the cancellation process easier costs them money in the form of lost subscriptions.

But for Adobe, there are risks to this strategy as well. In years past, AOL (the original gangster of the shark-infested-moat subscription business model) got itself into serious legal trouble by making it difficult or impossible to cancel the service in a reasonable period of time. I’m certain that Adobe will find itself in the same place if it doesn’t address its process for canceling subscriptions as the company moves to a 100% subscription-based model.

Reason #285 Why Paper Telephone Books Must Die

A few days ago we got a delivery of a ten-pound paper Yellow Pages telephone directory. It went straight into the recycling, along with every paper phone directory we’ve received for the past 12 or so years.

Just now, I get a phone call from some mouth-breather asking whether we’d received the phone book that we didn’t ask for and will never use. A phone call. On my cel phone. During working hours.

Even better, when I told the person on the phone that I wasn’t interested in getting a paper phone book ever again, and I’d prefer that they put me on my Do Not Call list, the person on the phone said that to get removed from their list, I had to call some other number (of course, that number was printed on the now-recycled paper phone book; she couldn’t just give the number to me, ironically). When I pressed her, she said that removing me from their call list was “not her job”.

She literally said this. I am not exaggerating here.

Someone, please to make this business practice illegal? Thx.

Update: San Francisco heard me and is apparently actually going to make the delivery of unsolicited phone books illegal. Hooray for big government!

Skype Will Stop Evaporating Its Customers’ Money

In March 2007 I kvetched about how difficult it was to pay Skype online, and about how crooked it seemed that the money you put in your Skype account vanishes after six months.

Well, it looks like somebody agreed with me, filed a class-action lawsuit, and won. Skype credits will no longer expire after six months, and anyone who lost credits prior to December 31 is owed $4.

I think this will be good for Skype long term because it will attract more casual paid users. The old terms certainly prevented me from giving them my money for quite a while. When you give a merchant money to hold prior to consuming their product, you expect they’re going to be able to actually hold onto it, you know?

Nobody Said That Open Source Projects Were All About Customer Service

These are sort of ancient (two and a half years old), but I just ran across them today and found them to be emblematic of a cultural defect that plagues many open source projects. These are a couple of feature requests (for the same feature) filed against the file-transfer utility FileZilla:

#2648: Feature request: Support Amazon S3 (closed)

#2741: Feature request: Amazon S3 (closed)

How many things are wrong with this? The fact that the person who shut down the feature request did so unilaterally, immediately, and with absolutely no discussion? The fact that the person used a pseudonym that doesn’t link back to any kind of profile or policy, so there is no way to get context on who this person is or why they made their decision? Or the arrogant tone of the response, which almost ensures that the people who took the trouble to file these feature requests will never do so for this project again?

For commercial products, feature requests are gold. Clearly, for some open-source projects, feature requests are an annoyance at best. It may be possible that FileZilla’s mission is “support dessicated IETF and W3C standards only,” but there’s no way for a civilian user to know that. Most civilians look at FileZilla’s mission as “transfer files from one place to another.” In that context, this kind of feature request is not unreasonable, particularly since many other file-transfer utilities (including the commercial product Transmit, which I use on OS X) have supported Amazon S3 for some time. If it’s really unreasonable to support a mode of file transfer because it wasn’t part of an IETF standard codified in the 1980s, then I have a new feature request for you: plugins. Just like Firefox does. Duh.

Ultimately, the technical solution to the problem isn’t really the issue here. Maybe providing this feature is too hard or outside the scope of the project’s mandate. But if that’s the case, then say that (and take a second to link to more information about your rationale). If somebody who worked for me provided such glib, dismissive responses to a feature request, they would be fired. The fact that we’re probably dealing with a volunteer here is not the issue. The fact that FileZilla is a free/open source project should also not make a difference. The snotty attitude (for this and many other open-source projects)  poisons the ecosystem and ensures that the software remains second-rate.

Your open-source project is not your fiefdom.

Breaking up with Sony

We just picked up our first HDTV for our rumpus room (a really sweet Samsung LCD) and an Apple TV to go along with it. Love the new TV. Love the Apple TV. But I’m not enamored with the Playstation 3 we’ve had basically gathering dust for a year. The idea was to use it as a Blu-Ray DVD player (only — we aren’t using it as a game machine). So I tried to hook it up to the HDTV last night and it wouldn’t talk to the new TV over the HDMI port (it would only send output via the low-fi analog connection). So I downloaded the latest system software upgrade for the PS3 to see if that would help. After running it, it got stuck on a screen that said “Updating Database/Do Not Turn Off The System/0%”. For eight hours. Restarting the unit got us back to this same screen.

Now, in this situation, you’d think that a little something might have gone wrong with the system update software, right? But Sony doesn’t think so. After calling Sony tech support, they wanted me to send them the PS3 and pay $150 to have it fixed, since, incredibly, there is no way for a civilian to reformat and reinstall system software on a PS3 that is in this state.

So I told the customer service rep (very politely) to cram it, and to provide a rationale why I should have to pay $150 to remedy an obvious fault in their system updater. Here are two of the most awesome excuses I got from Sony reps over the phone:

1) “The unit is out of warranty.”

So that’s fine, but it’s not like my two-year-old was jamming unwrapped slices of American cheese singles in the DVD slot — Sony’s software upgrade clearly caused the problem. Have you never heard of the phrase “you break it, you bought it”?

2) “There are no known issues with this update.”

Wrong, chuckles. There is at least one known issue with this update, and it’s going on right this effing minute on the PS3 in my living room. The fact that 10,000 other people haven’t complained to you doesn’t make a bit of difference to me. This is the same rationale as the fictitious auto maufacturer that Ed Norton worked for in Fight Club, the one that only does a product recall if the number of accidents times the number of insurance settlements exceeds the cost of a recall. Therefore, I think it’s safe to say that if Sony ever gets into the automobile or heart-monitor business, we should all run screaming.

At one point I asked the customer service rep “Why would I send you $150 to fix a problem that was obviously caused by your software? I mean, is there any question in your mind that this problem is not my fault? Why wouldn’t I just put the PS3 on the curb, let the neighborhood kids ride their bicycles over it, and take photos to post on my blog as an art project?” (I am pretty sure that they didn’t have an answer for that one in their call center script, so I got sent to the assistant supervisor. Pro tip: to get escalated through customer support voice jail, be as surrealistic as possible.)

But being escalated through the hypothetical chain of command sadly didn’t do anything. Each time I asked to talk to someone who could describe to me why I had to pay $150 for Sony’s messed-up software, each person said “That’s our policy, I don’t have the authority to change it.” If that’s the case, then why am I talking to you? You’re wasting your time and mine.

In years past, I’d stuck with Sony components because they were fairly indestructable and they weren’t too expensive. (Our stereo and standard-def TV have always been all Sony and we’ve been pretty happy with them.) I hate to feel like I’m the old guy with his pants hiked up waving a garden rake at the neighborhood kids on his front lawn, but seriously, I’m going to avoid Sony products (all of them) for at least the next few years because of the excreable customer service experience I had today.

Handy Table of Airline Fees

Flying somewhere used to be simple, but recently airlines have begun to implement unbelievably complicated pricing policies. If you ask them, they’ll say it’s because of the increase in the price of oil. But it’s funny how all these special fees only seem to go up, never down. Some airlines are saying that this kind of pricing is a life-and-death proposition for the industry, while other airlines don’t feel terribly compelled to follow suit.

If it’s really the case that airlines can’t make money in the current environment without resorting to these pricing practices, how come Southwest, one of the most consistently profitable airlines in the country, doesn’t charge anything to check a second bag? And how is it that Continental can possibly get away with serving free meals on its flights?

Also: Fifty bucks to check a second bag, Delta? Seriously? Seven bucks for a fruit plate, Northwest? You guys are douches.

Tacking on all these little charges is cheesy. It’s yet another thing (in addition to abusive airport security and interminable delays) that makes me not want to fly at all. Anytime you can’t express the price of something in a sentence or less, there’s nearly always something predatory and possibly crooked going on.

People accept these charges because they have to; by the time you get to the airport, you don’t have any choice but to pay them if you want to get on your plane. But if all these charges were applied at the time you purchased your ticket instead of at the airport, my guess is that we’d see them evaporate (folded into the regular cost of a ticket) pronto.

I actually don’t mind what United and other airlines do with upsells at the airport — they let you pay a few extra bucks (typically under $20) for an exit row seat, which is sometimes worth it to me since I’m a big guy. But this is an option, not a requirement they force on you at the last minute.

This table shows a handy list of a few dozen major airlines and the fees they charge for stuff they used to do for free.

Update: I just booked a flight to London in November and paid an extra $100 out of my own pocket to fly Virgin Atlantic instead of United, la la la.

American, Cutting Back, Plans $15 Bag Fee

Link: American, Cutting Back, Plans $15 Bag Fee

“It’s the end of an era,” said Robert W. Mann Jr., an airline industry consultant in Port Washington, N.Y. Referring to the range of fees that customers face, Mr. Mann added, “Soon, like freight, we will pay by the pound for passenger air travel.”

Horse hockey. Only the amateurs and unfortunates who are for some reason forced to fly American will have to put up with this. Airlines try this kind of stuff all the time; it only sticks if the other airlines follow suit. So if customers remove American from the list of airlines they’re willing to subject themselves to (as I plan to), the other airlines won’t emulate this predatory pricing tactic and we won’t have to put up with it.

I should mention that last week when I was traveling to Florida and New York I flew Continental and it was terrific.

Dear Paypal,

You know the page that merchants are supposed to use to generate payment buttons? You remember, the buttons that enable people pay money, which in turn enables you to make money?

The page that generates these buttons does not work. It redirects to something that says "Page Not Found".

Please to fix.



P.S. I know there used to be a way to kick off the PayPal payment flow with a simple URL instead of a form submit. Why is this buried in your documentation? I’m sure I’ve done this before but now I can’t find the instructions on how to do it.

Update: Looks like the page works now. Kudos!

Skype: Making It Difficult For People To Give Them Money

I’ve been critical of eBay’s acquisition of Skype (like a lot of people, I think they overpaid by a lot). But now that I have a client in the UK, I am using Skype at least once a week.

Today on a lark I tried to make a call to a U.S. based land line using Skype, just to see what the experience would be like. To make calls from Skype to a land line, you have to pay Skype. They’ve given this the challenging monicker "SkypeOut".

What an incredible pain this was:

  • They send you to a web page to set up payment. This page took about fifteen seconds to load on my machine.
  • You can link your Skype account to your PayPal account, which seems like it would be good, although they inexplicably ask you to fill out a form providing your name/address/etc. which is dumb for a PayPal flow (if you have a PayPal account, they already have all this information or can get it from PayPal).
  • At this point, you figure, my Skype account is linked to my PayPal account, tremendous, I can start making calls. But once you go to make a call, Skype says, sorry, can’t do that, you may think you’re done, but you first have to buy credit.
  • Okay, swell, you think. I’ll buy some credit. Here’s what the form that lets you buy credit looks like:


Hey, wait a minute. I have to pay you ten bucks and the credit expires in six months? I thought Skype was supposed to be cheaper. Compared to my cel phone, that’s highway robbery. I’m trying to make a call that should cost me less than a dollar here, and you insist on charging me $10 in hopes that you can enjoy the float on my funds and I’ll forget about it within six months? This is bordering on scam-like behavior here.

When you link a Skype account to a PayPal account, why can’t it just debit funds from your PayPal account as you use the service, just like every other PayPal payee in the world, including eBay, does? I mean, if it’s somehow possible to pay iTunes for a $0.99 download using PayPal, it should be possible to pay Skype for a 15-minute toll call in the same way.

This is too much work. I’m reverting back to my cel phone and I’ll only use the free mode of Skype with other Skype users.

Comcast: Not The Sharpest Tool in the Shed

Comcast has been blocking forwarded email from The Well for a few days now, which means if you are a Comcast customer and you’ve been forwarding your Well mail to your Comcast account, they’re probably losing your mail.

It took a couple of days for administrators from The Well to even reach anyone at Comcast to talk to them about what was going on, and when they finally did reach someone, Comcast faulted The Well for receiving so much spam — in essence, blaming the victim. Elise Ackerman at the Merc did a story on this today which has more details.

Since Comcast is being intransigent about this, it seems like the smartest recourse is to switch ISPs if you can. (If you’re in Northern California, I can’t recommend highly enough.) You should kick Comcast to the curb even if you’re not affected by this particular problem, since Comcast has had this problem with other peers in the past, according to the article. If you’re using Comcast to handle your email, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before they start routing your mail to the bit bucket.

We knew that Comcast was not what you’d call a center of excellence when they so badly bungled the TechTV acquisition a few years back, but keeping email going is pretty basic, guys.