Trapdoor In The Sun

Alan Shanahan, Technician & Consultant

4 Comments – A Comedy Lesson

An online purchase I made towards the end of last year back put me in mind of an episode of The Office (US) where the Michael Scott Paper Company realised that it was selling paper at unsustainable prices; Michael himself rang a customer to ask them to pay more. The goods had already been paid for and delivered.

After much soul searching and consideration, I have decided to publish details of this episode.

For ages I had been searching for a reasonably-priced way to safely store my large personal photo and video collection in a cloud-based, secure location to protect me from the usual fears: fire, flood, damage, theft, hacker sabotage, pestilence and plague. I stumbled across, and this seemed to provide the solution I needed, and the special offer seemed to be great value.

After two weeks of uploading my >500GB collection, I was a little happier that I was covered. I paid up front for 2 years so I got Unlimited storage for EUR 166.85. UNLIMITED. Their word, not mine. Backup External Drives

A few weeks later I was looking at application screens telling me I had to upgrade to keep the same service I was already using and had paid for. So I looked carefully at this in order to understand why; the three USB hard drives I kept permanently connected to my machine were the reason – suddenly, JustCloud decided I had to pay more for backing them up. But they decided this unilaterally and without warning. The amount they were demanding (also by email, by the way) was EUR 239.85 – far in excess of my original two year payment, and this was on top of my original payment.

I don’t need to tell you how or why this is wrong, and why I then demanded my money back, in full, without delay. I would have gladly have taken them to court for breach of contract for their nefarious practices, were it not for the complex, costly and time-consuming aspects of legal jurisdiction. I live in Ireland, they are based in the UK. But I would have dearly loved to have taught them a lesson.

Here is a snapshot of my initial angry email, sent in response to first discovering their trickery:

Message: Support,
Having signed up to JustCloud and having used it since around August 10th,
I now find that it is asking me for an additional EUR79.95 per external
drives. Drives that it has been backing up since the start of my subscription.
This is absolutely outrageous. You cannot change the terms of business part-way
into my subscription. Unless this is rectified very quickly, I will expect a
full refund of all monies paid and removal of all of my private files from your
backup servers.

Their answer to this was of the cut-and-paste variety, and almost passive-aggressive in its tone. And what angered me further was that they seemed to be completely ignoring my point – that they can’t just make it up as they go along.

Hi Alan,

I am sorry to hear you wish to cancel.

The last thing we don't want to frustrate our customers, we had to put these
additional charges in place to keep running our subscriptions at such a low price.

As a valued customer we would be happy to offer you the Video Backup ***and/or*** Files
over 1GB add-on for free.

I just want to clarify that it is still possible to Drag & Drop or right click on
a file that is anywhere of any type and back it up without these additional services.

Please confirm how you want to proceed.
User Experience Team

But to tell me that they “…had to put these additional charges in place to keep running our subscriptions at such a low price” – a startling tacit admission that they were, in fact, making it up as they went along. There’s the court case winner right there, in a single sentence.

My next email was this:

The one thing you are doing, at least in this case, is frustrating a
customer. It's fairly outrageous that you can decide to move the goalposts
and tacitly admit to breaking your contract. Clearly, I am not a valued
customer as you have just asked me to fork out an additional EUR 240 per
year for the service you have already agreed to provide to me. It's not my
fault your company has not properly costed its offering.

Also, do you see the ridiculous irony in charging a *lot* more in order to
"keep running our subscriptions at such a low price"? This is management
speak at its worst and I'm not falling for it.

Please cancel and refund my subscription payment, in full, as soon as
possible. And please remove my backed up files from your servers. I will
report this to Visa if my refund is not complete, to the penny. And I will
get it too. I paid for two years up front. You really have quite a cheek
forcing me to pay more, at this point, to get the same service you
contracted with me to provide.

I will now have to look again for an alternative replacement service, and
for a service that is somewhat more trustworthy. I expect this behaviour
will damage your business, and I don't care if it does. I will
also take steps to warn those friends of mine I had already recommended your service
to of this experience. And I will make a larger audience aware of it too.
This sort of nefarious practice will simply not stand.

Alan Shanahan

After a couple of days I checked my credit card statement and saw that they had refunded me all of my payment, less approx. EUR 13 which I can only presume they kept to pay for using their time in responding to my emails. Call me a coward, but I couldn’t be bother going through the admin headache of chasing it.

By chance, I came across this Facebook page: Avoid JustCloud

I was not alone. It’s a fair assumption that you will only ever hear of a small percentage of unhappy customers, because many people will not take it upon themselves to chase these things up, complain openly or to join such unhappy public forums.

It’s outrageous that a subscription business thinks this type of nefarious practice will stand: simply because they cannot accurately build a cost model into their business. Getting a small minority of (potentially) loyal customers to pay for their business risks is no way to guarantee business survival; if anything, it’s only going to help guarantee failure. Do we really have to return to Business 101 by stating that the most important asset of a business is NOT its people, it is the CUSTOMERS? For the record, I actually annoyed myself typing that.

There are some damning reviews at this link: C|Net user reviews of JustCloud

I could continue to bore you with the subsequent relentless emails I got from them – almost as if none of this had happened – but I won’t. An automated marketing engine totally lacking in intelligence or any form of personal touch, all of which was glaringly obvious.

I wonder how much of my recurring business they lost. And how many lost referrals, on my part. And who will read this and decide not to use them? That’s one hell of a business strategy.

My message to the owners of JustCloud: Unless your business is comedy, don’t let comedians run your business.


Leave a comment

Social Perils: Are Naivety Levels At A Record High?

To tell the truth, I’m worried. Worried because I see grown men and women falling for obvious social engineering scams. Grown men and women that, I feel, should know better. But more than this, I am seeing a pattern emerge; there seems to be an inherent willingness in us all to believe what we read, simply because it is written. Some have been trained out of this urge or have simply grown or matured out of it. But too many haven’t. I’m sure I risk scorn from some who might say I’m a smartarse. I’ll risk it.

Facebook – the tool of choice for those who like to interact with their world or just lurk watching others live – is where I see much of this behaviour manifest itself. Facebook gives us two innocuous little clicky things: Like and Share. But, like the proverbial iceberg, there’s a lot more under the surface. They carry responsibilities that many are unaware of.

And here is why: when you click Like or Share you cause something to happen: that something is called publishing. That action has legalities all over it. The fact that it is, technically, “re-publishing” carries no weight from a legal standpoint.

Examples of the types of posts I’ve seen shared recently are:

  • picture of a male in late teens holding a beer bottle; there’s a warning to watch out for him in animal rescue shelters – he’s looking for dogs to use in dogfights.
  • picture of a middle-aged man, warning that he’s living in a certain locality and he is a convicted rapist and murderer.
  • missing person reports with accompanying messages begging everyone to share
  • Share-ing and Like-ing of competition links, willy-nilly
  • Instant noodles are coated with wax and cause cancer

Properly researched and checked, I have no problem with any of these things. But when it becomes indiscriminate, it then starts to gnaw at me. I note that many have taken to automatically re-publishing most of what flows in front of them with no filter whatsoever. Don’t they know they’re opening themselves up to libel suits? Or that they’re annoying their (more enlightened) friends?

It’s the willingness to publish potentially libellous material without any source checks that is most worrying. If it’s written down, it must be true; after all, it is on the internet

Are gullibility levels high or are they now visible to everyone because of Facebook’s popularity?

Related articles:
5 Easy Ways To Get Sued On Facebook
You Can Be Sued For Libel For What You Write On Facebook
Warning: You Can Get Sued For Libel For Your Facebook/Twitter/MySpace Posts


The Verb “To Unfriend”

We’re in new territory.

It’s hard to remember the days when we didn’t have Facebook. There’s about a billion+ of us who use it. Many are addicted. It’s possible I’m borderline addicted; maybe that’s self-denial. If I really wasn’t addicted I could give it up in the morning. Seriously, I could. If I sound like I’m trying to convince myself, it’s probably because I am. Trying to convince myself, that is.

There are many who measure themselves on that magic number – the number of “friends” they have. Doesn’t matter if it’s Tesco, the dry cleaner down the road, the woman who does my nails, that famous comedian; they all count. I’ll bet most of you know (to within 10 or so) exactly how many FB friends you have right now. Be honest.

Having a lot of friends also has its downside – they all like to share. Whether directly or indirectly, you will see quite a lot of “material” flow up through your Timeline. Some will interest you; more will not. There are filters available; filters for apps, for pages, for stories, for people and more. If someone is constantly spewing and you don’t want to know any more, you can block them. They won’t know about it and it’s easy to do (and to undo). Or you may choose to “unfriend” them. This is slightly more drastic. Again, they won’t know they are no longer on your list, at least not at first, but when you start to appear as a friend suggestion on their page, they will soon work it out.

Please don't unfriend me!

Which brings me to my point. Five years ago it was a safe bet that the word “unfriend” was never heard by human ears. Now it’s a real thing. A thing in the virtual world, but a very real thing. It has a damaging payload – an insult with a real world analogue. What you’re saying (whether or not you want to) is “I’m closing the door on you.” It’s a definitive, perceptible statement to the other person; unlike saying to yourself “I won’t bother with him anymore” which is far more passive.

I’ve had some Unfriend experiences and been on both sides of the fence. My first was when I worked out that one of my FB acquaintances (word chosen for accuracy) was stirring it up between me and a real-world ex-friend, based on some thinly-veiled comments I had made. I made a conscious decision to unfriend that person. I was happy with the consequence of their knowing I did that; I hoped it made a statement. You might argue it was a little cowardly of me and maybe there’s some truth in that; but there was nothing positive to be gained from a confrontation; there were still many connections between me and my new Unfriend, and others I cared about would have been directly and adversely affected.

A more recent experience I had was when another in my circle (apologies to Google+), who was responsible for some awful output and had been blocked my me, decided to add a snide comment to one of my pearls of wisdom. My own curt response (again, words chosen carefully for impact) more or less challenged that person to make a choice. Without using the words, I was saying “well, there are easy ways to stop seeing what I have to say”. About a week later, I saw their photo in my suggestion list. Wow! I was unfriended. Deliberately and definitively. I was a little unsettled, for a short while anyway, but I got over it quickly. I suppose I was surprised that my comment (which you could certainly call a challenge) had a direct consequence. Surprised too that they didn’t just block me, they Unfriended me.

I had seen, prior to that, that one person I knew a long time ago had done the same thing but that was something I shrugged off in a moment. I guess the degree of closeness to your Unfriender (or Unfriendee) is proportional to the degree of Hurt felt. I’m sure I could call this Alan’s Law and become famous. But I’ll leave that.

Another Unfriending I beheld as an observer. Someone close to me, whom I’ve known since babyhood, decided to unfriend all five of her grandchildren. I don’t know why. It caused quite a hubbub amongst them; mostly disbelief, heaps of scorn, topped with more than a little disdain. And at the back of it all, I’m sure, a generous helping of hurt. I have no idea what the actual intent was; I don’t know why it happened; I do know that other observers who are closer than me to the Culprit will take sides (against them) and that some real and lasting damage was done. Regardless of the intention.

Is it simply down to a choice: Block or Unfriend? Scary new territory with new rules and new consequences. And what impact to those in the business world introducing social to the game?

Your thoughts and comments on this topic are most welcome.

This post was prompted, in part, by this Mashable post on the same topic.