Elmo Keep is a legal name, but the Australian woman who uses it got booted from Facebook because of it anyway. Facebook's customer sevice drones didn't let her back on the site — and in fact wouldn't tell her why she was banned. Until she mailed them copies of her passport and driver's license, always a risky proposition — Facebook once accidentally published a user's driver's license under similar circumstances. This happens to lots of people with weird names like Ms. Keep's, because part of Facebook's pitch to advertisers is that on the site, users are "authentically themselves" and if they're not, as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg puts it in this clip: "We kick you off." The irony, of course, is that people with unusual names often decide to sign up with more common fake names. The Sydney Morning Herald came up with a list of real names that got users banned from the site:
AT&T's service agreement runs to 8,000 words — about twice the length of a Wired magazine feature. But it still doesn't list all the details. You'll have to hit the Web for AT&T's 2,500-page guidebook. California state regulators blame themselves for loosening rules in hopes of increasing competition. I went through the Los Angeles Times's summary (written by former San Francisco Chronicle consumer advocate David Lazarus) and pulled out the two lines you need to read:
A tipster writes us to complain about eBay subsidiaries Skype and PayPal's response to identity theft. Reading his letter, which we've copied below, you'll see the problem is not so much that Skype and PayPal wouldn't refund the money the thief spent using our tipster's account. Rather, it's how inefficiently the companies responded to the problem. They required our tipster send three fraud reports and a letter over several weeks before finally explaining that no, they wouldn't give him his money back. Another customer with the same problem writes on the Skype forum: " Is there no support here? Is Skype asleep?"
The Federal Communications Commission will probably approve AT&T's request to stop filing annual reports on customer satisfaction and service quality. AT&T's angle actually makes sense: Most of the giant telco's modern competitors — cellular and Internet phone companies — don't have to file the data. The FCC is expected to cancel the reports entirely rather than require everyone to file. The Commission's charts show that customer complaints doubled from 2004 to 2006, but that doesn't take into account the ease of griping online in recent years.
AT&T has launched a "Geek Squad meets Fire Dog" IT service called AT&T ConnecTech. The company told USA Today that ConnecTech will provide home technical services in all 50 states: Home networking. Household tech support. Home theater installation. Having dealt with AT&T's "We don't have to — we're the phone company" attitude for years, I predict ConnecTech will be more like "Geek Squad meets the DMV."AT&T is already huge provider of telco and IT services to small business. Its track record is one of notoriously complex business processes that get in the way. If you schedule a "turn-up" to activate a new T1 line, you'll learn more than you want about AT&T internal politics. If your onsite technician doesn't show, your attempt to track him down gets ping-ponged around AT&T's org chart. Could be he has the wrong phone number or address. Could be he checked you off as done and took a vaca, as happened to Valleywag editor Paul Boutin's home-office installation. To AT&T, it's your problem. "Sorry, we have no available slots to reschedule until next week." Want to get a reverse DNS record created, so you can send mail to EarthLink and Comcast without being spam-filtered? AT&T's answer: We can't do that unless we take over your DNS hosting entirely. I don't expect the company's attempt to expand into home service to change its corporate culture. Instead, I pity ConnecTech's frontline support people. God help them when they try to explain AT&T bureaucracy to people who've been spoiled by FedEx.
As if fanboys of Apple and Google weren't shrill and relentless enough! The American Customer Satistfaction Index has ranked Apple tops in personal computers and Google tops in Internet portals and search engines. Yahoo's score in the latter category slipped, proving that any publicity may not, in fact, be good publicity. Both companies improved their scores significantly over the previous year, and both are running well ahead of the competition. Of course, thanks to Google it took mere milliseconds to find that orgasmic Apple MacBook Pro unboxing that I promise will make you throw up a little in your mouth.
In theory, Microsoft's license agreement for Vista says you can get a refund from your PC's manufacturer if you buy a model with Vista preinstalled, but replace it with Windows XP, Linux or another operating system. In practice, Equlibriate blogger Kim Kido, a k a uncle_benji, spent two months calling and emailing HP before the company finally cut her a $200 check. She's posted a detailed recap of the story, including screenshots of customer service emails and a photo of the check. I'm willing to bet Kido cost the company another $200 in customer service time. (Photo by uncle_benji)
Wall Street's not the only American institution down on Google today. The Better Business Bureau rates the search giant "unsatisfactory." Why? On its record, 2 out of 331 complaints over the past three years were listed as unresolved. And for this, the BBB deems Google "unsatisfactory"? We can just imagine Googlers' complaints: "How unfair! How bureaucratic! We demand to know the algorithm that has generated this result!" Funny, they sound exactly like Google's customers.
On the sex worker message board mypinkbook, escorts are working their nerves over some messy moderation on the Craigslist help forums. Like when one woman's ad got flagged for being "a little hookerish." Pot, kettle, black patent pumps, we know. The escort, DameKelly, shares the now-deleted Craigslist moderator response:
Dear Valleywag reader Hannah M.: It's true that sometimes Valleywag writes about News Corp.'s social network MySpace. This does not make us MySpace co-founder Tom Anderson, however. We apologize for any confusion. The Internet can be hard. We understand. By way of making up for this grievance, we've posted your email — addressing us as "MySpace Tom" — in hopes that Anderson will see it and take action. In the meantime, please also note that you should not email "Goob" at FacebookTalk.com for help with your Facebook account. He's isn't quite as nice as us when it comes to these kinds of mistakes. You are welcome a "bunnch."
Ryan Shyzer runs a blog called FacebookTalk.com. It's the seventh result for a Google search on "contact Facebook," and Shyzer gets a lot of emails meant for Facebook customer service. Shyzer, who responds to the emails under the pseudonym "Goob," gets to have a lot more fun than real Facebook customer service. For example, in the email screen capture above, a worried father emails "Goob" to ask him:
Saying he was screwed out of $56,000, Allen Harkleroad of Web design and development firm GMP Services in Stonesboro, Georgia started website Sprint Sucks. It's an absolutely mesmerizing look into the incredibly energetic businessman's obsession. Harkleroad registered the domain sprint-really-sucks.com on May 12, and has already posted well over 5,000 words describing the company's bad service and overcharges in detail.
A Comcast customer in Pittsburgh is not amused that Comcast cares. As Twitter user gpk3, he wrote "Comcast sucks," causing Frank Eliason, Comcast's Customer Outreach manager who keeps tabs on Twitter to respond "Welcome to Twitter. How can I change your perception?" The customer was not amused, accusing Comcast of invading his "personal space." And by "personal space" he seems to mean "messages publicly available to the world on the Internet," causing a few Twitterers to come to Comcast's defense. The person I feel sorry for isn't Eliason, though he has to put up with a lot representing the company. No, it's Comcast shareholders, who are actually surrendering some of their hard-earned monopoly profits to pay someone to use Twitter.
Comcast has assigned a customer-service employee to monitor Twitter for the passive-aggressive whines of tech-savvy insiders. A tipster forwards us evidence of the Twitter-stalker in action in the screenshot below. Meanwhile, another sighting of this rare customer-service animal in the wild comes from bilious blogfather Dave Winer, best known for arguing about which obscure Internet technologies he invented. Yesterday he posted a rant about how the Internet service provider abruptly cut him off. (The cause: Software he wrote which inefficiently downloads Flickr photos en masse.) After Winer complained over Twitter, the stalker, a Philadelphia-based customer-service rep named Frank, reached out, but couldn't help. So Winer called Comcast's hotline for Internet miscreants and recorded the call (MP3). During that conversation, a Comcast rep threatened to shut down Winer's connection. "I asked if I could get this in writing," Winer reports. "He said no."
A reader writes in to let us know that while using McAfee's online chat system for customer support, the company representative not only didn't help, but cut off the chat rather than admit they had no idea what they were talking about. I turned up links to just what the customer was looking for — information about a piece of McAfee hardware — with a quick search of Google. Here at Valleywag, we aim to please.