Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Microsoft Skydrive: Bait and Switch By Policy? What You Need To Know, pt. 1

So recently I began unifying stuff between machines, as my health deteriorates and I need to spend more time laying in bed. This allows me to still try to get some work done on the computer while I’m in bed. One of the things I’ve been using are cloud storage accounts like Google Drive, Dropbox, and Microsoft Skydrive.

These online storage accounts are great because they provide a quick way to sync documents between computers without having to map drives or worry about network connections. You drag and drop, and you are ready to go, not to mention the data is stored in a secure, safe location you know will be there, in case anything happens to the computer.

So as I was saying, recently I was trying to unify my documents between my computers so I could use them anywhere, and I wanted to use Skydrive. Skydrive until recently has been rather useless, being only something that can be used while online, through the Microsoft live website interface. Before this I had been using Dropbox, and Google Drive which both offered integration into Windows, something Skydrive was lacking.

So I started uploading my documents to the Skydrive, all 1GB of them, when I realized it had been a while and I wanted to make sure my Microsoft account info was accurate. So I logged into my live account and proceeded to the Skydrive interface only to find something odd. My 25GB of free cloud storage was no longer 25GB, but it was now 7GB instead. This seemed really strange. I looked through the interface, and could find nothing about it. I looked through my email, and again nothing. I clicked through the upgrade options, and only found pay options to get something close to the 25GB.

I decided to email Microsoft, and this began an interesting thread of conversation. You won’t believe what they told me…

So this is my first email to Microsoft:

 

 

I’m linking to each image of the email itself, and if you click on it you can see a bigger, clearer version of it.

I’m really cordial to start with, as I ‘m just wondering what happened.

“I had an account with 25GB when i signed up for skydrive when it opened. Suddenly I have a 7GB account, what happened?” I asked.

I assumed there was some mistake, something I did, or some error that would just need to be corrected. I actually didn’t expect a reply at all, or something weeks or months later. It has been my experience that when dealing with customer service or technical support over email, the responses are rather, wait and see, meaning you’ll wait, and maybe see a reply.

To my surprise a reply came rather quickly, although not the reply I expected at all.

 

 

The contents of the reply read:

Hello John,

Thank you for contacting SkyDrive billing support.

We apologize for the inconvenience that you have undergone through and we do understand your concern. The loyalty offer you are inquiring about was made available until the 25th of June 2012. The maximum storage capacity of the SkyDrive users who had used less than 4GB of storage during this period was automatically reduced to 7GB.

We do understand that you want your maximum storage capacity reverted back to 25GB for free however, as much as we would like to grant your request, it would no longer be possible since the loyalty offer has ended.

By means of a yellow banner, we have posted a link in how to maintain the 25GB maximum storage capacity. This banner which mentioned the loyalty offer had been there from April 23, 2012 and ended last June 25, 2012. As you have noticed that your current maximum storage capacity is 7GB which means you weren't using at least 4GB during the loyalty offer period.

We appreciate your interest to use SkyDrive, if ever there are new offers; rest assured that you would be notified accordingly. Once again, we apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate your patience and understanding on this matter.x

Should you need further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us again by replying directly to this email.

Again, Thank You for contacting SkyDrive Billing Support. Have a great day!

Sincerely,

SkyDrive Billing Support

The reply seems rather cordial as well, except for the bad news. Now I would have probably stopped here if not for the fact that I was given no notice when I signed up, nor any notice at anytime during my subscription. At no time was I informed of a change, or asked if I minded if they reduced my available space as I wasn’t using it.

Let me be clear, my problem isn’t that my account was changed so much as I signed up for one product and was given it, only to have it changed without notice and without my permission. And the strangest part wasn’t the change or the happy tone of the reply, but the reason behind it.

The maximum storage capacity of the SkyDrive users who had used less than 4GB of storage during this period was automatically reduced to 7GB.

I read it twice, because I thought it was either a mistake or something I was just reading wrong. Microsoft had decided arbitrarily to reduce a customer’s space available if they were not using a lot of it. So in their eyes, if I was a pig and used all the space they gave me, it would be ok, and I could keep it, but if I were nice and was saving it for something I needed, then they would take it right back, or what we called as a child: Indian giving.

Anyone curious about the Etymological origin of that term:

The phrase originated, according to researcher David Wilton, in a cultural misunderstanding that arose when Europeans first encountered Native Americans on arriving in North America in the 15th century. Europeans thought they were receiving gifts from Native Americans, while the Native Americans believed they were engaged in bartering: this resulted in the Europeans finding Native American behaviour ungenerous and insulting.

--Source Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_giver

This tactic however has a different name in the real world, called the bait and switch and it’s a tactic used by hustlers and con men for a long time, and the unscrupulous companies who try to sell you things like Snake Oil. To this point however, I had never had this kind of thing be used on me by a company I had trusted before, and would have never considered of that sort.

So with some indignation, I replied to this email, changing my tone as to be clear about how I felt about the situation. For one it sucked, my plan was to use the space when I needed to, for backing up projects and documents, and my photo collection, which has been growing in size. The other thing and I don’t make mention of it in any reply, but it bugs me, is that I liked Skydrive because unlike a lot of other fly-by-night operations, I always knew Microsoft would be there, so I wouldn’t just lose my data.

 

 

My Reply:

It seems slightly unfair, don't you think? When I signed up I was given 25GB of space. I used it, but because I didn't use 4GB of the 25GB, you assumed I would never need more than 7GB, so you reduced it to 7GB? How does that even remotely make any sense? It just seems like bait and switch to me. The reason why I didn't load the thing up with 25GB of data was at that time you didn't have an integrated application, all data had to be manually uploaded through the website. Now that Skydrive is included with Live essentials, I want to use it, so I load it up to find that the 25GB I was promised when I signed up for it, was taken away.

Now obviously, you can do business anyway you like. I have hundreds of alternatives I can use instead of skydrive to store my data in the cloud for free, and at least with hosts like google or dropbox which also offer integration, I won't be offered one thing only to find it changed after the fact.

Now my criticism is completely apropos to the nature of Skydrive at the time, and I cannot believe that I’m the only person who would have such a concern.

When Microsoft first proposed Skydrive, it was in direct response to the growing need for cloud storage, and free availability of services like Dropbox  gave people a non-Microsoft way of doing business. Now in Microsoft’s world, much like Google and a few others, if you are not using Microsoft to do something there must be something wrong. They feel the need, and maybe rightly so, to be involved in every market space available. In this case, free cloud storage.

So Microsoft being the giant they are and I’m sure trying to out due Google, gives all early adopters of Skydrive 25GB of space. At the time I was aware that anyone who was not an early adopter would probably get a lot less available when they signed up later. So I signed up immediately, and sure enough it had 25GB of available storage for me to use.

The only problem was that I was using Windows 7. Windows 8, would feature integration services that would allow a user to seamlessly move data from local to cloud storage at the drop of a hat, as if moving from one local drive to another. But anyone who has read my critiques of Windows 8 knows I would not be upgrading to that pile of crap. Anyone interested in reading my Windows 8 reviews I’ve provided the links here:

 

Why Windows 8 Will Fail, at Least In the Desktop Market...

The Windows 8 Consumer Preview, Just a Tad Shinier Than The Previous Turd

Windows 8, Oh How The Blunders Continue...

 

I had done my research, read the Microsoft TechNet stuff, and knew that they would be integrating it as well into Windows 7, however because of the time they would be putting into Windows 8, there was no promised date of that release. I was cool with that, I dropped a ton of pictures and documents into the Skydrive from the web interface totaling over a 1Gb of space and left it there, awaiting the Windows 7 integration.

Now flash-forward, and Microsoft has included this integration as part of the Windows Live essentials package, which is really a very nice suite of free applications. If you need a blog writer, or picture viewer, or parental controls, its top dog in my opinion. It has other stuff like DVD editing software and Messenger as well.

So my intent was always to use the space, but wait until that integration was available. I should mention that Google and Dropbox have had integrated services since inception, so it’s not a lot to ask.

 

 

Her reply:

John Saucier,

I understand that you have been a long time SkyDrive user and we thank you for that. I respect your opinion with regard to this matter. I really want to grant your request in upgrading your storage back to 25GB however; the option isn't available in our system anymore as it has already expired. I am really sorry about the policy implemented that users who are storing less than 4GB will automatically be downgraded to 7GB unless customer have opted in for the Loyalty offer.

Kind Regards,

Joyce

Microsoft SkyDrive Billing Support

She acknowledges that I have been using the service a longtime, and thanks me for it. Then goes on to tell me there is nothing she can do for me. She mentions this “Loyalty offer” which again is a misnomer in the context of the conversation. Loyalty is defined as: a quality of being loyal to someone or something, a strong feeling of support or allegiance, sticking with someone or something as promised.

Now the term being used by Microsoft I find very amusing considering the situation. “Oh yes, we understand you are a loyal customer, but FUCK YOU!”

The claim that she really wants to upgrade my account but cannot because the offer has since been rescinded is ludicrous. We have all dealt with costumer service before, and know for a fact, nothing is impossible. If you walk into a deli and purchase a ham, only to find out when you get it home that it’s gone bad, are you to assume nothing can be done about this ham?

Of course not, you bring the ham back and demand the problem be fixed. And it will be, you will get a new ham.

There is no difference here. When you call your cable company and tell them they have overbilled you, or cancelled some service that was offered, or even better you just have a complaint about a service you have received, they fix it. They offer to replace the service, or give you a credit or some other feature or upgrade to make you happy. It literally costs them nothing in the grand scheme of things.

The mantra with any business should be the customer is king. It used to be that the customer was always right, and when dealing with a reputable company this is still the truth.

In this case, I did nothing wrong. I was offered a service, took them up on the offer, used it, and was happy with it. And for whatever reason, they arbitrarily rescinded the offer only after the fact. And that is key here. This policy that she is talking about is also quite ludicrous, not just for me, but for anyone who has also suffered a similar fate. Downgrading someone for any reason is contrary to everything a business should be doing.

While most people are always looking for ways to improve, increase, and do more, this policy looks to back away and take what was given. There is no solid reason for doing this. As someone who is technically oriented, I know my space isn’t dedicated, it’s shared. I know it’s quotaed amongst millions of other people’s data. For example, a disk with 1TB of available space and 10 customers each with 2GB of disk space available to them would leave the disk with 1,004Gb of available space for expansion of new customers. Now let’s assume you want to increase the space available to one customer.

You would just expand their quota which would reduce the overall available space, but other customers would remain unaffected.  Even better, if you used hard and soft limits you could easily see how this would work.

If each customer is given a soft limit of 2GB but a hard limit of 3GB, then they would be warned after expanding past the 2GB but not actually blocked from additional expansion until the 3GB limit is reached. What Microsoft wants you to believe is that somehow everything is fixed and cannot be undone. However, this is contrary to how quota, disk expansion, and limits work. It’s nonsense, and a lie. When more space is needed, another disk is added to the row, or a new row added to the rack.

There is just no reason to ever downgrade a service under any circumstance, especially a service offering disk space, considering the easy expansion, and cost associated with adding disk space which is small considering the amount of space gained for the cost.

The other thing that bugs me is this notion that I somehow have to opt-in to the service. I thought I did this when I signed up for it, and they actually gave me the 25GB of space for free. Wouldn’t that have been the time I “opted-in?”

Oh you mean the extra opt-in, opt-in? Yeah like when you go to a restaurant and ask for the eggs and toast and they bring you eggs. And you ask, “Where is my toast?” “Oh you have to opt-in for that,” the waitress replies.

Again, it’s ludicrous, disingenuous, and contrary to common sense.

 

 

My reply:

As I've said, you can choose to do business however you like, and I can find storage space elsewhere at no cost, so that doesn't worry me. But it is a lesson that consumers like me will learn from, and remember when choosing to purchase products or use them in the future, and choosing who I do business with in the future. I will say for the record, Microsoft is now the first and only company I have ever dealt with that I considered reputable that has now used arbitrary deception as a practice and policy. You may call it "Loyalty offer" or anything else you want to make up as an excuse, but it's a bait and switch practice once reserved for what I would consider only the more crooked businesses.

As I said, when I signed up when Skydrive was first opened, I was promised 25GB, not 25GB until we decide to lower it. I assumed, apparently wrongfully so, that I could trust Microsoft in it's offer. In complete contrast, you look at something like Google which, for example when I signed up for a Gmail account during their beta, I was given 1GB of storage, and each month that limit has been increased, not decreased. Today I have more than 10GB of space on Google's servers, yet I have barely passed that original 1GB. In fact, before this, never has any company that I have used ever done this kind of thing to my knowledge.

You may think me petty for complaining about this. I don't care, it's the principle, as I've said free cloud storage is abundant. But I've always believed your word is your bond. I don't offer someone something if I can't deliver. I don't make promises I can't keep. And I never take anything back, that I have given away freely.

Here I’m getting a little more perturbed by this thread, and take an opportunity to point out my disgust at this whole situation.

My intent isn’t to anger anyone, only to point out the confusion and ridiculous nature of this “so-called” policy. Also, this is clearly “bait and switch” tactics, and there is no reason why I should just take this kind of shit. The fact that a competitor, Google, has only increased the level of my service over time should be enough to give them pause. In all the time I have been using Microsoft products prior to this occasion, never once would I have ever called them deceptive or disingenuous. In fact, on the rare occasion I have dealt with their customer support they have been courteous and willing to help me.


On occasion in my professional career I have had the opportunity to work with several members of the Microsoft team, and have always had good things to say about them. Occasionally Microsoft makes a mistake: Windows Me, Windows 8, and I let them have it. But they also fix those mistakes, like any good company would do. I have never had the occasion where I felt like a mistake was made they did not take the opportunity to immediately correct, until now.

I live by a personal code, which I’m sure most of us do, or I would hope we do. I don’t ever deliberately fuck someone over. I don’t ever give and then take back. I don’t tell someone there is nothing I can do for them. In fact, those who know me would never accuse me of such a statement, because I know it to be completely inaccurate of life. There is always something you can do, always a solution that has not been found yet, and there is always a way to help someone in need, though not always the will to do so.


“...in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” – Ben Franklin

 

 

Their reply:

Hi,

Thank you for contacting SkyDrive Billing Support.

We understand where you are coming from but let me explain further, SkyDrive free is a value added service that is provided by Microsoft free of charge. Microsoft reserves the right to change the terms and conditions of the service whenever necessary. Prior to the update, All customers were notified and was given a month of timeframe to claim/retain the SkyDrive upgrade to 25gb (April 23, 2012- June 25, 2012) . There is nothing Microsoft can do to restore your SkyDrive storage size.

Regards,

Irish T

SkyDrive Billing Support

What is apparent is that my emails are being forwarded around, or they have some kind of system where all support emails go into a queue and someone answers it when they are next in line. This is clear by the fact that each reply has been from a different person. At this point, either they think me to be stupid, or confused, or just angry. True, I may be a little indignant, but who wouldn’t in this situation, the contempt can be felt with each email they send me.

So they send me a load of scripted bullshit, written by an attorney to negate the fact that they are being assholes. Whenever someone tells you, “…pursuant to the terms and conditions,” you get a little weary, because we have all heard this line of bullshit before. It indemnifies them from having to do anything and allows them to treat you like trash. However, this isn’t about a block of bullshit text found obscurely on some page no one has ever visited.

This is about a basic “contract of service” which provides a certain service level agreement. This would go something like this: I give you something, you give me something in return.

Now in this case, you may say that no such agreement has occurred, after all the service is free. So it would seem they are giving me something without anything in return, however don’t let that notion of “free” fool you. What Microsoft gets in return for offering free services is the samething Google or anyone else gets…my information.

Like any other service, you sign up for it, offer up some basic information: name, address, phone  number, etc. and in exchange they give you something. In this case, I was given 25GB of cloud storage. However, Microsoft has decided arbitrarily to renegotiate said contract, by downgrading my service without notice or approval. Now they can contend that they can do this because of this bullshit policy and maybe they can, but does it make it right?


What if I were to walk into Wal-Mart take 22 items off the shelf, walk up to the register and hand the person working there a twenty dollar bill. What I have not told them is this twenty dollar bill is completely fake, and just to be clear about my intent, I write in tiny letters on the back, “I reserve the right to pay you with this fake twenty dollar bill, which by your acceptance, allows me the purchaser to be indemnified against any action you would take against me, or otherwise prevent me to be pursued criminally, or held liable. Conditions may change at my leisure.”

Do you think this would fly?

Well I’m pretty sure it won’t.

You will also see that it is claimed that all customers were notified of this change. I myself, was not notified, and I’ve since asked a friend who also was not notified. So my best guess is, and through my research, that anyone who actually had used over 4GB of their 25GB would have been notified by an indicator to their account which allowed them to upgrade:

 

 

However, since I was using barely over 1GB, I was not notified. I should mention as well, I received no emails, phone calls, or was in any other way notified of such a change. And because I was waiting patiently for the integration feature to be added to Windows 7, I had no reason to upload additional data to the drive, which is more easily accomplished once integrated.

The other thing that is noticeable from this image is the fact that customers who had 25GB of storage were obviously arbitrarily reduced to 7GB and then asked to opt-in after the fact to re-gain the 25GB they had already opted-in for when they signed up. I only wonder what might have happened, had I previously uploaded more than 7GB of data to Skydrive? What might have happened then?

And then there is the matter of this little lie: There is nothing Microsoft can do to restore your SkyDrive storage size.

So nothing can be done? You mean it’s like you sent the disk into space and it cannot be retrieved by any means? No that won’t work, stupid rockets, and shuttles.

Oh I know, put it in a plastic bag, and dropped in in the ocean? Oh damn it, stupid submarines, and divers and sonar.

Oh wait, you locked it in a vault and threw away the key! Yeah that works, oh wtf! Stupid locksmiths, and safecrackers.

Don’t bullshit me, I won’t bullshit you. With the exception of death, and even that can be negated sometimes, there is literally no situation that exists where someone could use the phrase: There is nothing that can be done, and have it actually mean something. It infuriates me to no end when someone treats me with ignorance, and derision. I have been doing this too long, and frankly I am way too intelligent to be told something so ridiculous and believe it.

 

 

So my reply:

 

I know you assume when dealing with customers that they are all idiots. Well I'm not. I understand how raid, quota, and disk rack expansion works. So I know fully you have space available, and that it would be a simple matter to accommodate my request. I've been in IT since I was a teenager more than 20 years, so please don't talk to me as though you were talking to someone who can barely figure out how to turn on the computer.

Now you can quote policies until you are blue in the face, and truth be told I can't really do anything about it. That doesn't mean I'm going to lay down either. As a blogger, I will simply post everything here and let everyone know of Microsoft's policy of screwing over the customer.

The notion that any company would arbitrarily downgrade any service seems contrary to "good" customer service. You never downgrade a customer, you only upgrade, and offer better services.

Telling me there is nothing you can do is like saying that if I ate at your restaurant and got really sick, well that's my problem, right?

Maybe there is nothing you can do, but someone can fix this. So please forward this to your management team.

I'm not just going to go away, at this point it's the principle of the thing, and the fact that it's a company I would have trusted not to screw me over prior to this, hurts just a little.

Thank you,

John Saucier

At this point, I’m a little fumed. But I think I handle it well, as I don’t completely off the handle, as I find it doesn’t serve any solution. In this case, principle is important for me, so I’m not going to just lay down and take it like a, and pardon my French: bitch.

So this is where I currently stand on the issue, and I will continue to update this blog when more information is available.

 

The questions I propose to my readers are:

First, am I wrong in pursuing this?

Second, if I am wrong, why?

and If I’m not, well you rock, but why do you think this as well?

Lastly, has anyone else gotten screwed over, and wanted resolution? Did you get it resolved? Or did you bite your tongue and let it be?

 

Please let me know what you think, post your comments and questions, and share this on FB or twitter or wherever.

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