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Why People Steal

by Marian Schembari on May 2, 2011

A little less than a year ago I made my first non-student purchase. After years of relying on my family and university to provide me with software, I bought Office 2011. For years I’ve used Word daily without fail. My epic 40-page social media reports for clients are done entirely in Word and I know the program like the back of my hand. I considered using something like Open Office, but at the end of the day I love Microsoft Office and never considered not paying for the privilege to use it.

First Rant: Microsoft

Fast forward to April 2010 and, instead of boring you to tears, here’s the gist of my week:

1. Lucy, my Mac, needed a tune up.

2. I wiped her brain (aka reformatted her hard-drive).

3. I reinstalled all programs, minus Office.

4. Turns out, I didn’t read the fine print when purchasing, and my download link expired 30 days after purchase.

5. I contact “customer support” and am informed I need to purchase THE WHOLE THING AGAIN, then buy an extended download or software CD (this adds up to around $165).

6. Not gonna happen.

7. Instead, I download the free trial and use my product key (that I PAID FOR) to activate the full version.

8. Works. Sort of. Word runs reeaaaalllly slowly and typing out a sentence takes around a minute. Delayed typing was just the beginning though. I was working on a major client project and Word decided it didn’t like what I’d done, so I turn on Lucy one day to find everything GONE. I had half of it backed up, but nothing says “fun” like rewriting 20 pages of research in a weekend.

9. I contact Microsoft via Twitter. They take around 24 hours to respond, and here’s what I got:

10. I decide to call Microsoft support.

11. Big mistake.

12. Forty minutes, four transfers and four five-minute attempts-to-spell-my-name-and-email-address-to-people-who-can’t-speak-English later, we have established I am using Office 2011 on a Mac.

13. I hang up on Representative Number Five.

14. I’m still having issues with Word and refuse to repurchase out of principal.

15. Anyone know a great Word-alternative that works with Mac?

After dealing with this all week and wasting too much time fixing a problem that shouldn’t be happening, I slowly get more and more baffled by major companies like Microsoft who haven’t gotten with the program. It’s like elderly people who talk about their health problems all day. Do they realize how much of a stereotype they’re being? I honestly thought horrible customer service like this was a joke. A stereotype that companies realized they couldn’t possibly live up to. Because otherwise people will just download their software illegally because what’s the point in paying for something if you can’t freaking use it?

Next Up… Telecom

Now on to Useless Company Number Two.

I recently moved to a gorgeous Auckland suburb and my lovely, capable, go-getter boyfriend set up our wireless and phone in the new house with what is apparently the best provider in the country.

Now, this isn’t really saying much. Speeds here are incredibly slow and there’s no such thing as “unlimited broadband.”

We’re spending $150 per month for this privilege (and 80GB of broadband shared between five people, three of whom work from home in tech-industries) and the router Telecom provided doesn’t actually work with Mac OS X. After hours of brainstorming and reading forums, my again lovely, capable, go-getter boyfriend fixed the problem and now Lucy can connect to the internet just fine.

Our flatmate, however, can now not. Because whatever we changed on the router now means her PC can’t connect.

So we’ve paid Telecom insane amounts of money for not particularly good broadband and they haven’t even worked out the kinks in their product.

After this debacle I feel like maybe we should just steal the broadband from next door.

(But we don’t. Just in case you were wondering.)

Piracy = Not Okay. Crappy Customer Service = Also Not Okay.

Before I go any further, know that I am no way, shape, or form condoning piracy or stealing internet. The point is these massive “tech” companies aren’t doing their jobs. They’re outsourcing customer support to India where supposedly trained employees can’t understand when I say “I have a Mac” five times. Their adventures in social media result in sending me to a useless forum instead of actually trying to help me themselves. They’re charging $100 for a router that doesn’t work with every operating system and they don’t take the time to WARN YOU before purchasing.

You know my thoughts on copyright infringement, and stealing/piracy are NEVER okay, but companies can’t even begin to combat this growing problem until they take customers and the products they sell seriously.

Piracy will never ever go away. Many of you are going to tear me to pieces on this one (last year a few folks did), but it’s the truth, and you can accept it or not. If you want to combat this kind copyright infringement, make it easy for people to buy your stuff, comment, complain, ask questions. Make sure your product WORKS before selling it for absurd amounts of money. Take precautions, do your research and you’ll be golden. Granted, people still steal music and I think iTunes has brilliant customer service, so this isn’t a “solution” by any means. However, keep in mind if you’re selling a tech product users can steal, and your customer service people don’t understand the difference between a Mac and a PC, well, you’re going to have a wee problem on your hands.

What’s the most horrendous, obnoxious customer service drama you’ve had?

{Photo credit}


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  • Phil Simon

    Funny…MS issues made me go to a Mac.

    As for my horror story:

    It’s an ugly one that nearly required therapy.

    • Marian Schembari

      Thanks for sharing that post, could totally relate!

  • P.S. Jones

    I understand how you feel about Word. Office used to be a huge deal to me because I WRITE FOR A LIVING. I’m in that program almost all day. When Office 2010 (That’s Office 2011 to you Mac users. . . it always comes out a year later for you.) came out in beta I immediately began using it because I knew I’d update the most used program on my computer. But Microsoft does make it hard to work with them on it. Recently switched my everyday computer to Linux while leaving another laptop and my desktop on Windows. No Office support for me here so I’ve been using Google Docs for most of my writing and LibreOffice when absolutely necessary.

    On the other hand, I don’t think “stealing” wifi is actually stealing. If someone doesn’t want you to use it, they put a password on it. That’s like if your neighbors were broadcasting music from their roof. If you listened to it and danced to it, that’s not stealing. And if they didn’t want to you to have access to it, they’d close the windows or stop playing it so loud. Thoughts, Marian?

    • Marian Schembari

      Yes! Exactly! It’s so frustrating when you have a buy a crappy product when you’re using it every single day. It should be good though, right? Especially if you’re shelling out $165. It blows my mind.

      And no, “stealing” wifi I wouldn’t normally consider stealing, but in my experience (and at the risk of sounding totally patronizing), folks in NZ are a little tech-slow. So a lot of folks don’t actually understand that they need to protect their wireless. And on top of that, if I steal their broadband, I’m actually STEALING their GB. Because there is limited internet here, every month you’re given only a few GB and when you run out they either charge you per gig or slow you down to dial-up. Doesn’t make any sense, I know, but the point is that if I were to steal their wireless, they might end up having to pay for my use and/or losing their internet all together when it runs out.

      But I hear what you’re saying and think it would be slightly different in the States. Back home my family left our wireless “open” because we were okay with neighbors poaching it. It’s not like we were paying extra for it!

      And that’s a crappy story about Comcast. I’ve heard nothing but horrible things about them.

  • Marian Schembari

    Why People Steal

  • Larry Lourcey

    Same thing goes for music. If you download a song from iTunes, they put all kinds of controls on it where you can only play it on certain computers and stuff like that. However, if you download it from a grey-market website or the like, you are free to use it on as many devices as you want. Its ironic that being honest isn’t just more expensive, its also more trouble.

    Go for OpenOffice! I love it.

    • Zohar

      Being honest is more expensive because they go through the trouble of encoding DRM – which is idiotic because it’s so easy to break. Sites that sell music without DRM make profit at 25 cents vs. a dollar on Apple.

      Also, I’ll never buy an iPod again, an inferior product in my opinion to other MP3 players, especially if you have to buy a new computer.

    • Marian Schembari

      Agree 100% on this comment. I love iTunes and almost all Apple products, but the hoops you need to jump through are unreal.

  • Zohar

    Have you ever considered not using MS products?

    Two excellent replacements are Open Office ( and Google docs.

    Both create MS Word compatible documents and with Google Docs your documents are on the web (cloud) so you and your clients can access them anywhere (there are basic security levels).

    • Marian Schembari

      Yeah. Like I mentioned in the post, I had used it for so long I couldn’t imagine using anything else. After this debacle though I’ve downloaded iWork and we’ll see how it works. I like Google Docs but it can’t actually handle the kind of stuff I do with Word. I could probably use Adobe Illustrator for my reports and Docs for post posts…. Anything but dealing with Office anymore. I still can’t believe I lost almost my entire report because of their stupid trial activation!

  • Lucy Smith

    Same deal with TV in this country. The networks bitch because people download TV, yet they regularly pull shows halfway through a season, they don’t get them until a year after they’ve aired in the States (yet they obviously can get them much faster because American Idol is the newest one), they put things on at stupid times, or they don’t even bother to get some shows. They’re still stuck in the 90s, but their viewers have moved on.

    • Marian Schembari

      LOL. This is very, very true. We just got a TV for the house but it’s still pretty unused. What’s the point whenever all the shows I watched back home aren’t available here. Thank God my iTunes is still set to the States and I can buy everything there ;-)

  • Kirstencoop

    After a hardware fault NZ Telecom reconnected us to the wrong number. That number was owned by an elderly gentleman with a medical alert service thingy. I received a call from his distraught daughter trying to work out why she couldn’t contact her father. I contacted Telecom 15 times (every day for 2 weeks) to tell them that they needed to man up to their responsibilities and give this elderly gentleman and his family their essential service and peace of mind back. Each call was more vocal and got me and those people nowhere. Telecom did not accept that this man’s health and possible early demise might actually be their responsibility (God forbid). I even pulled the ‘What if it was your granny?’ card on them and still no action. Our relationship broke down (understandably) and I divorced Telecom. I had no idea that people could be so heartless.

    PS I found GoogleDocs insufficient for trying to run a business and ended up with Office for Mac. I nearly cried as I sullied my beautiful shiny Mac.

    • Marian Schembari

      I have heard such horrible things about Telecom’s customer service. We didn’t even bother calling when we started having trouble with the router. The only reason we went with them was because we could get the most GB for cheap, but since one of our flatmates STILL can’t access the internet from inside the house it’s sort of a waste anyway.

      That story about the elderly man is horrible. What a ridiculous company.

      Thanks for the info on GoogleDocs. I’ve used it in the past, but with the image heavy reports I create it sort of doesn’t cover what I need. Think I might try iWork as another commenter suggested. We shall see how it goes…

      • Kirstencoop

        Orcon are better – they prefer fans to slaves (Telecom’s customer retention policy). Their extra GBs are $2 each and they will never send you back to dial-up speed (what is THAT about!). No issues using Mac and PC on the same network either. But then I did buy my own box coz the Orcon one didn’t fit my alarm box cabling.

  • Kealy

    When I was getting a new phone the guy at the store (who turned out to be the manager) refused to tell me how much the screen protector cost even though I asked him 3 times. He also didn’t present any other options. So he charged my credit card and put the thing on for me. Then he hands me my receipt and it was a $40 screen protector. I was so pissed. He also asked me, “Why aren’t you married yet?” I’m 25. Phone companies suck.

    • Marian Schembari

      Huh? That honestly doesn’t make any sense. Why do these people run/manage/whatever stores if they don’t want to sell things to you right? So weird. Also? To the married comment – GROSS.

  • Reno

    Welcome to big girl’s world.

    • Marian Schembari

      Thanks? Doesn’t make any more okay for companies to treat paying customers like this though!

  • Jake LaCaze

    I’ve had a really annoying experience with Atmos Energy (natural gas provider). Unfortunately, I can’t pirate natural gas, and it’s even more unfortunate that Atmos is my ONLY option in my area. Basically, I tried to pay my bill over the phone. After sitting through countless prompts, I’m notified that I am going to be transferred to the bill pay service and all I need is my 19-digit account number. I know what you’re thinking, Who can remember a 19-digit number? But no worries! The automated service tells my number to me before transferring me. Of course, I can’t write it down quickly enough. Luckily, the service repeats my number but then transfers me without giving me the option to have them repeat it again. So I have to call again and sit through the damn prompts so that I can write down my last 4 digits. Now, if the automated service can TELL me my number before transferring me, why can’t they set up a system that transfers my number so that I don’t have to input it?

    I sent an email explaining why I felt that their over-the-phone bill pay option was inefficient. But I guess that when you’re the only game in town you don’t have to give a damn, because I never heard anything from them.

    • Marian Schembari

      God, that is such CRAP! We’re dealing with electric and gas for the new house now and it’s like pulling freaking teeth. At least no one has the monopoly here so we’re just going with someone else. Can’t imagine how frustrating that must have been! I freaking hate big companies like that sometimes. It drives me up the wall, especially when it’s for something you actually NEED.

  • Kirstencoop

    Oooh, Jake, you reminded me of Thames Water in London. So you buy a house (yay!) and tell the water people that you are taking possession on date X. The first thing that they do is send you a red bill threatening you with bailiffs and cutting you off for non payment of the bill. You get this letter on moving in day (it’s there on the doormat). You call them in a panic and they say that this is how they do this. You threaten to leave them and they say ‘Ha, you can’t! We have the monopoly’. You can live without gas (like in New Zilland) but you sure as hell can’t live without mains water in central London!

    Customer service is SO lacking. It’s not even that hard to do well. Just give a damn and think a little about what you do before you do it.

    • Marian Schembari

      I think any company monopolizing anything like that should be illegal. Especially with things you need like, you know, water. Heating. Etc. Totally uncool!

  • Richard Hyams

    I love Apple Pages. It makes sense to use software designed by the same company that does the hardware. The iPad version is great too. Both are inexpensive. Pages docs can easily be converted into Word and PDF docs. I stopped using Word.

    • Marian Schembari

      Oh, thank you! I’m checking it out now. Honestly, I can’t even stand looking at Office so I’m happy for a recommendation I haven’t heard yet – I very much appreciate it!

  • Zohar

    Commented on: Why People Steal — Marian Schembari via @MarianSchembari – Finally got it, LOL

  • Dava Stewart

    Although it might take a tried and true Word user a little while to get used to, I love Google docs. It’s maybe not as pretty as Word, but is quite as functional. Worst customer service? Bank of America, hands down. They charge $15 to pay by phone and don’t even have an online option and make setting up an auto deduction almost impossible.

    • Marian Schembari

      YES! I hated Bank of America – even though they charged nothing for me to take out money overseas (which is why I signed up with them) they were horribly rude to me every time I called and when my card was eaten by a Norwegian ATM they said it would take a month to get a new card because I hadn’t been with them for long enough. How is that a good way to retain new customers? Needless to say, I left them ASAP.

  • Sari Webb

    I hate Telecom… I paid the contract break fee after I made the mistake of signing up with them because they were so awful. My fave is Xnet (through World Exchange). I think it’s one of the cheapest broadband providers in NZ, and customer service is pretty good, too.

    • Marian Schembari

      Ugh. Telecom = The Devil. Thanks for the Xnet recommendation! If we can’t figure out this router thing we might need to switch it up… Granted, we’ll have to pay the damn contract cancellation fee. Have I mentioned how much I hate Telecom?

  • Jake LaCaze

    Why People Steal via @MarianSchembari

  • Marian Schembari

    Today's post: Why People Steal

  • eemusings

    Hmm. Yeah, not a Telecom fan…definitely wouldn’t call em the best provider, not that I know who I’d give that title to. I’m now with Orcon, but haven’t had any issues to bug them with so can’t speak much to their customer service (though at least they’re reasonably active on Twitter). Sorry about all your recent hassles. Where’s the new house? :)

    • Marian Schembari

      I wouldn’t call them the best provider either – not now at least! We had them back in Browns Bay and it was super fast and we didn’t have to actually deal with Telecom so we went with them. Especially because they’re apparently the fastest and cheaper (which I’m now realizing isn’t say much).

      Anyhoodle, have heard good things about Orcon. They were slightly more expensive for less gigs, but one of us still can’t use the internet so there you go.

      And the new house is in Western Springs and I’m SO FREAKING IN LOVE with the house. You’ll have to come to our house warming once we get more furniture!

      • eemusings

        Yes! It’s a plan. Oh, man, and the springs are perfect for doggy walks :)

  • Brian Farrell

    Why People Steal — Marian Schembari via @MarianSchembari (funny and witty, as always)

  • @dbsalk

    Marian, I can completely relate. Not too long ago, I had an experience with HP Customer Service that was rather similar to yours. I had wiped my own laptop, and needed to reinstall the printer software. Just my luck, I couldn’t find the install CD, so I wandered over to the HP website to see if I could download it. Try as I might, I couldn’t find a download, but I did find the CD. I bit the bullet and forked over $10 to order the damn thing… and THAT is when I found the free software download. I called Customer Service immediately to tell them, “Wait! Hold! Flag on the play!” to no avail. At least four calls and an hour on the phone (of which perhaps half that time was spent navigating through voice response menus) later, I had gotten nowhere except a call center in the Philippines that was manned by drones unable to comprehend the growing frustration clearly audible in the tone of my voice. Twice I had been transferred to departments that were closed for the evening. I was told that my order number, which I was looking at in the confirmation email, didn’t exist. I was given another order number, which was nothing like the one on my confirmation. I was asked to repeat my information at least three times. I was told to call back in the morning, by which time the CD I didn’t need would be packaged and shipped, and I would be at work in no position to make a call.

    Thankfully, HP was good enough to email a Customer Service survey to my email, and I filled it out honestly, which is to say that I ripped their Customer Service department to shreds. A few days later, I got a call from a very nice gentleman — I think his name was Paul — that clearly spoke English as a first language. He and I had a heart-to-heart, he credited my $10, and I was able to move on after having said my piece.

    If I could have talked to Paul in the first place instead of some drone in the Philippines, I’m sure my HP Customer Service experience would have been flawless, and I wouldn’t need to relay this fantastic story.

  • Lisa Wilder

    Wow, Marian…you SO have my empathy. It’s beyond frustrating isn’t it? I tend to be a really mellow, down-to-earth person who is great at finding the humor in just about anything, but ridiculously bad customer service is one of the few things that can get me really riled up. ; )

    Here’s my most recent horrendous, obnoxious customer service drama:

  • David B. Salkover

    Why People Steal — Marian Schembari via @marianschembari

  • Lisa Wilder

    Why People Steal via @MarianSchembari <- And why exceptional customer service is SO important.

  • Sara Beth Allen

    I think my customer service pet peeve are home repair people that can not give you an exact time that they will be getting to you. They always show up at the very last second so why not just say that?

  • davinabrewer

    Meant to comment on this a few weeks ago, never got around to it. If you ever get stuck and HAVE to get the MS Office, try eBay. IIRC I got mine for less than half of retail, didn’t do too bad on an Adobe CS update as well… real not stolen versions. FWIW.

  • groupon script

    I think you all worked very hard but Now you will feel easy… good bless you.

  • Anonymous

    First of all, I have an almost identical story with Microsoft, which is why I use Open Office now. I love it, but I have found that people with Word tend to experience some problems with margins, which is odd. I had a problem with Best Buy. After about 8 months, my ASUS EEE netbook stopped charging. It had a warranty under Best Buy, so I called them to get it fixed. Only to find out they wouldn’t help me because the warranty wasn’t in my name, as the computer was a wedding gift. So frustrating. I was finally able to track down the info and get it fixed, but it was beyond frustrating.  

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