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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 28-Jun-07
Sorry that the web site was down last night.

Web Log - June, 2007

Sorry that the web site was down last night.

This was appalling customer service by Interland (Web.com), the web service provider.

I'm going to do some ranting today and express my rage about my web service provider and about online services in general.

Briefly: I've been running this web site on Web.com (formerly Interland) for over five years. Everything was fine for years until last night when Interland shut down the web site by preventing the web site (cgi) software from writing to disk (exceeding disk quota).

I discovered this on Wednesday morning and called Customer Service, and spoke to a girl called Karen. Karen said that I was using 1.1 GB, over four times as much disk storage as was allowed on the plan that was set up five years ago.

I said that I looked at their web site and saw that I was paying more for their service than their most expensive plan, and that service plan provided 5 GB of storage.

"That doesn't matter. You're on an old server, so you got cut off."

Why was I on an old server? "Because it was set up that way five years ago."

Would you please change my disk quota for today, so that my web site will be up again? And then I'll get the service plan straightened out.

"No, out of the question. You'll have to upgrade to another service."

OK, but in the meantime, could you please change my disk quota for a day, so that my web site will be up again?

"No, it's out of the question. It can't be done. And your web site isn't down. It's your fault because you have too many files."

Well that was news to me. Why has everything been OK for the last few years, and all of a sudden my web site is down today?

"Maybe it's because they decided to check today. I don't know. But it's your fault."

I've been your customer for years. (Shouting) And my web site is down now. You aren't going to do one simple thing?

"You have to upgrade to another service."

Yes, I know that. But I'm asking you to let me run my web site while for a day or two while I get that straightened out.

"That's impossible. We can't do that."

You mean (shouting) that everything was fine yesterday, and today you're screwing me and you won't do anything about it?

"Watch your language."

(Shouting) You have a hell of a nerve expressing phony outrage when you've brought down my web site and won't do a simple thing like change the quota for a day.

"There's no way to do that."

Well, you're lying, because I'm familiar with the Apache software you're running and I know you can reset the disk quota in a minute.

"My supervisor told me it can't be done."

Well either you're lying to me or your supervisor is lying to you.

"What would be motive for lying to you?"

Oh, lots of reasons. You don't have the right people around. You don't know what you're doing. Your supervisor doesn't know what he's doing. No one knows how to do anything. Are you in India right now?

"I've told you all I can."

Then she tried to connect me to the "life cycle service" department, whatever that means. I had already been on the phone 45 minutes, on hold multiple times, and then she kept me on hold another half hour, before she told me she couldn't connect me and I could call them myself later in the day.

(Screaming) BUT MY WEB SITE IS DOWN. HOW LONG IS THIS GOING TO GO ON? YOU CALL THIS 'AWARD WINNING SERVICE'? YOU REALLY JUST WANT TO SCREW THE CUSTOMER, DON'T YOU.

I'd been on the phone for almost 1 hours at this point. She put me on hold again, and then connected me to some salesman named Sean. He took my order for the "upgrade" which (ironically) costs less than the service I'd been paying for.

The salesman, who had the same rude attitude that tech support had, told me that it would take a few hours or a couple of days before my web site would be up again.

I signed up for the service. Rather than wait any longer, I went onto my existing the web server and deleted huge swaths of graphics files that are rarely used, and managed to get the file usage below quota.

So the web site is up again, though in some corners of the web site you won't get a picture.

Now at least I have a day or two to move over to this new service. Hopefully there'll be no more down time.

I just can't believe the "screw the customer" attitude that Interland (web.com) has. They shut me down with no warning, refused to take a simple step to deal with the situation, blamed the problem on me, lied to me, constantly gave me boilerplate crap, wondered why I was getting so angry, and blamed me for shouting.

This is problem with customer support across the industry. They put on these young people, often young girls, who know pretty much nothing, but have boilerplate paragraphs to read to you. Then they express outrage if you get mad at them.

Unfortunately, that kind of service is quite common, as I'll now illustrate with additional examples.

Dell.com and MSN.com. Around 2000 I bought a Dell computer, and gave them a credit card number. A year later, I noticed that they were charging me $20 per month for the MSN service which had come with the computer but which I'd never used. I was furious, called up the MSN people, screamed at the lady, and she took charge off my credit card.

This is the kind of game these companies play once they have your credit card number. I bought a computer from Dell. I never authorized any charges to Microsoft's MSN service. But they had my credit card number, and just did whatever they pleased with it.

This was probably the last time I ever used a "real" credit card number. Since then I've used ONLY virtual credit card numbers (see below), and I estimate that I've saved hundreds of dollars.

Yahoo. From 2002-2005 I ran an online Yahoo group called "My Ex-Husband is now my (financial) slave." I had 3,263 members, about 200 of whom were active. The discussion was about gender issues, and the membership spanned radical feminists to radical fathers' rights people. It was a very active group, had hundreds of postings per day, and I was proud to say that we helped a lot of people -- divorced men and women and even some adult children of divorce -- get through some very difficult times. Once or twice I think we even saved a life.

One day, I received an extremely offensive e-mail message from Garth Stockden, a politician affiliated with an extreme anti-American hate group called "Australia One Nation." He compared the members of "Ex Husband Now My Slave" to pedophiles. He said he was going to report to Yahoo that the group was a violation of Yahoo's anti-abuse policy.

The next thing I knew, much to my astonishment, was that Yahoo listened to him and, within an hour, deleted the entire group and my Yahoo ID. Instantly, with no notice.

I'm still in shock from all this, even though it happened two years ago. Yahoo screwed over 3,000 of it's own users because of some hate-filled bigot, but it's increasingly clear that when you're dealing with Yahoo then you're dealing with some of the stupidest people in the computer industry. I can just barely stand to think about Yahoo any more without getting sick to my stomach.

I've discovered the following things about Yahoo, talking to other people:

Yahoo is truly the armpit of the computer industry.

I strongly urge everyone to stay as far from Yahoo as possible. Whatever you do, don't give them a credit card number, or they'll screw you. If you MUST give them a credit card number, then use a virtual number, as described below.

The news from Yahoo this past week has been exceedingly gratifying to me. The CEO and several of his staff have been forced to resign because the company has been losing so much business to Google.

Yahoo has a business model that they can give NO customer service, and just get people to pay for online services. It's a rotten business model, and it's screwed a lot of people. It's gratifying to me to see Yahoo falling down. They deserve it.

Google. I have actually gotten e-mail responses from Google, which makes them a little better than Yahoo. I tried a couple of things with them.

A couple of years ago, I tried advertising this web site on Google, but after a few months I decided that I wasn't getting anything out of it, and canceled it.

Earlier this year I tried running Google ads on this web site, and it was a real farce. They don't let you select anything about the ads that run on your web site. They have some algorithm that decides what ads are good for you.

For example, when I ran an article on bird flu, it was accompanied by this ad: "*Protein Printing* Print proteins and more with the Calligrapher. *Cytomyx Biomarkers* www.Bio-Rad.com" and this one: "Human DNA Product From High Quality Human Tissue Samples www.cytomyx.com".

Writing about a Mideast peace plan brought this ad: "*Criminology peacemaking* Criminal Justice Degrees Get Your Degree Today! www.fmudegrees.com."

Writing about religion: "Empower women. Be a Catholic Sister Join us. Maryknoll Sisters sisters.maryknoll.org.

At the end, I think I made about $2.03 from advertising, so I canceled that service too.

I can't really complain that Google took money unreasonably. Their online software has fewer features than Yahoo's, but is better written and works better.

The problem with Google is quite different: They really screw you by not indexing your web site. I tried to get this web site listed on their "Blog Search," and it worked ok for a few days, but then they simply stopped.

Try it yourself. Here's the link you can use: http://blogsearch.google.com/blogsearch?q=blogurl:http://www.generationaldynamics.com/ You can see that they simply stopped indexing on January 23. I sent an e-mail message and actually got an answer, but the answer was just "screw you" boilerplate.

Walgreens.com. I started using this web site for prescriptions a couple of months ago. When it works, it works well. But there are several problems with the software, and it makes mistakes. So beware. However, customer service is available, and you can also call your local Walgreens store. In the past, I used drugstore.com with no problems.

WSJ.com (Wall Street Journal) First, I really do like the web site. It's updated frequently, it's attractive, and highly functional.

However, I'm not interested in using the investment tools; I just want news services for this web site. There are plenty of other online news services these days; they aren't as good as WSJ.com, but they're not bad.

So several years ago when I bought an online subscription, they offered me "two weeks free service" before they would charge my credit card and start the subscription. So I signed up.

When the year was up, they subtracted the two "free" weeks from the end of the one-year subscription. In other words, the "two free weeks" was a lie. This really annoyed me, so I canceled the subscription, and since I had given them a virtual credit number at the start, they had no way to charge me further.

I decided to live without the service for a couple of years until a few months ago, when they gave me a cut-rate offer that I decided to accept.

I will say once again, though, it's a very expensive service, but it's top-rate, especially if you have use for their investment tools, and the software works.

Virtual Credit Card Numbers. If you have a Citibank credit card, then you can go to citicards.com and sign up for the virtual credit card number service.

With this service, you can log on any time and get a new "virtual" credit card number that you can use for online services. The rules are as follows:

I've used this service now probably 100-200 times in the past several years and am very satisfied with it.

I also tried similar services from American Express and Discover, and found them to be terrible. Their online software was poorly written, and charges could exceed the limits specified.

In the case of the Discover service, I used one of their numbers for my monthly Interland (Web.com) payment. It should have expired within a year, but Interland was able to charge to it for three years. I let it continue this way because I was curious to see how long before Discover would stop permitting charges to the expired virtual number. After three years, I finally had to give Interland another credit card number, and this time I gave them a Citibank number. The Discover service was a complete joke.

I've been in the enterprise software business for my entire career, and I can quickly spot well-written and poorly-written software. The American Express and Discover software was written by amateurs who didn't know how to write software. But it was clear from the start that the Citibank software was well-designed and well-written, using a separate database server to track virtual number charges. I recommend the Citibank service highly.

Universal Default. This is a different subject, but everyone should be aware of it.

Thanks to the Internet, the three credit tracking services (Experian (formerly TRW), TransUnion and Equifax) now can track instantly every credit card transaction. If you're late with any bill payment, they'll know immediately, which means that anyone else can find out.

You might have a credit card that charges 10% interest, but if you're a few days late with a payment on any OTHER bill, then your credit card company will know about it, and can raise your interest rate to 30%.

If you have several credit cards, and you're a little late on a bill payment, then ALL the credit card companies can raise your interest rates to 30%. I know someone that this happened to, and it was a disaster.

This is called "Universal Default." If you have $1,000 charged to credit cards, then you'll end up owing $300 interest by the end of the year. This is getting up to the "vig" charged by organized crime.

That's why banks that pursue these policies should be thought of as criminals participating in organized crime.

Citibank claims to have ended its Universal Default policy, but other banks have not. If you have credit cards and you're not aware of how this criminal activity works, you should be aware that missing a payment can be a disaster for you.

Our corrupt era. These online service abuses all have something in common: They treat individual humans as statistics, rather than as individuals. That's because their business model assumes that there's an unlimited number of people to draw on, and the only objective is to collect people.

So if Yahoo can offer a service that will draw 10 million new credit card numbers, then they'll offer it, even if it means that 10,000 people will be charged for a service that doesn't work for them. The only thing that that matters is the 10 million new credit card numbers. The 10,000 people who are screwed are in the same category as industrial waste -- just something that Yahoo has to put up with to make money. And they get rid of this "industrial waste" by providing no customer service, ignoring e-mail messages, and just charging credit cards.

Banks that practice the Universal Default criminal activity are doing the same thing. It all has to do with volume -- get as many people as possible paying criminally high interest rates so that they can make money. The people who are really screwed by this policy are just more "industrial waste."

This is the other side of a point that I've made several times before: that there's a lot of crime going on today, committed by desperate people who are in over their heads in investments or subprime mortgages or credit card debt.

These online companies make promises they can't fulfill to capture as many people as they can, just as a fishing boat will use a new kind of bait to capture as many fish as they can. They protect themselves by walling themselves off from their customers -- no e-mail responses or boilerplate e-mail responses, no customer service or boilerplate customer services.

To the online companies, people are just aggregates, not individuals. But the individual people, of course, are not fishes. They're people in trouble -- because of credit card debt, because of subprime mortgages, or whatever. This drives desperate individuals into crimes like embezzlement, which are ticking time bombs.

There's an old saying: "To err is human, but to really f---k things up takes a computer." So a company like Yahoo can provide a service to millions of people, but it can also really screw a significant subset of those people.

My guess about the reason that Yahoo has done so poorly is that enough people have finally gotten screwed that they refuse to have anything to do with Yahoo. The business model that says that there's an infinite supply of new people and new credit cards really does eventually run out.

As long as everyone's making money, no one worries about criminal activities by credit card companies, or about embezzlement by individuals. But when times get tough, retribution is relentless.

We're seeing that now on all sides. Individual who lied about their assets on mortgage applications, in order to obtain subprime mortgage loans, are paying the price. Builders and loan officers who colluded with one another are going to go to jail. Financial advisors who protected their own assets, but who made commissions by advising their clients to buy risky stocks are going to be skewered.

And now, as discussed my next article, the SEC is opening multiple investations in bankers' abuse of credit derivatives. The time of retribution for all this credit debauchery, mainly by people in the Boomer and Xer generations, is getting close. (28-Jun-07) Permanent Link
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