e-commerce Hall of Shame

December 10, 2004 12PM PST

I ordered a product for download from the Adobe Store last week, for the first and last time.

I’ve made it a policy of never ordering downloadable software when physical media can be had. I’ve paid for various programs that are only available as a download, but when shrink-wrap is available, shrink-wrap is what I opt for.

Backup has long been the reason for my bias — at least with physical media, there’s always a safeguard. I’m not responsible for keeping the software protected from data failure, aside from storing the CD properly. Never did it occur to me ordering downloadable software might have even more consequences than data loss.

We’re currently in the ‘first pass’ phase of editing, which means chapters have been submitted, edited, and dumped into the book template. This is more or less the final review, unless enough needs to be changed to require second (and heaven forbid, third) passes.

Since the content is now visually mocked up, obviously Word isn’t going to cut it anymore. We’ve been passing back and forth PDF files which are best edited and annotated in Adobe Acrobat, a product I’ve never had reason to own.

So, time being an issue, off to the Adobe Store I went to pay for and download my copy. (Side note: as I’m sure is the case with most outside of the US, prices are magically increased by a margin I’ve come to refer to as the “non-American tax”. Acrobat Standard: $450 CDN in stores [pre-tax], $299 USD online [no tax]. Given the currently weak American dollar, it’s a no-brainer.)

Now here’s the process I expected, as my incentive for buying the downloadable version was to have it immediately so I could begin my notes:

  1. Add to cart.
  2. Input personal information, credit card, etc.
  3. Checkout.
  4. Download.
  5. Install.
  6. Begin editing.

I guess I have more faith in technology than I should. Murphy’s Law and a decade and a half of computing experience has taught me that nothing ever goes that smoothly, but ever the optimist, I still expected to have the product in my hands shortly after paying for it. You know by now, don’t you, that this wasn’t to be?

I made it as far as step 4, Download. Adobe has a custom download application that allows you to resume broken downloads, a great idea… with a horrible execution. Instead of ensuring I get the file, the download manager itself refused to start. Double click, wait, crash. Try again: double click, wait, crash.

Why not re-download the download manager? I couldn’t, the download had already been purged; as far as Adobe was concerned, the first few steps had been fulfilled and I now had everything I needed to complete the next steps. Except, of course, I didn’t. After a last-ditch effort involving a reboot and some finger-crossing, it was clear that I could do nothing but call the Adobe support line and have them help me out.

Here’s the process that ensued:

  1. Hit up Adobe.com for tech support phone number.
  2. Call support line, get told that hours are 6am to 8pm, and they’re closed for the evening.
  3. Wait a night.
  4. Call support line, summarize the problem.
  5. Provide name, phone number, order confirmation number.
  6. Listen and write down the non-toll-free number of the Acrobat support line.
  7. Call non-toll-free Acrobat support line, wait on hold for 10 minutes.
  8. Connect with Acrobat support technician, summarize the problem.
  9. Confirm that yes, I’m running Panther. Further explain that Panther translates to OS X version 10.3.6, more than enough to meet the 10.2 minimum requirements. Wonder if perhaps support technician ought to know that Panther is better than 10.2.
  10. Ask which file I was supposed to delete in order to try again? Confirm that I didn’t have that file, as I hadn’t even made it that far in the process. Suggest that download wasn’t the issue, whereas software quality might be.
  11. Listen and write down the toll-free number of the Online Store.
  12. Call toll-free online store support, wait on hold an additional 8 minutes.
  13. Summarize problem, explain support technician recommended a download reset on the online store.
  14. Receive confirmation of reset, hang up.
  15. Re-download download manager. Install. Watch it crash.
  16. Call back toll-free online store support, greet support line attendant with a growing sense of familiarity.
  17. Summarize problem, explain again that it really doesn’t seem like the download manager wants to work on my Mac, ask what further options are available.
  18. Confirm that no, I don’t have “Netscape” on my Mac, but okay fine, I do have Internet Explorer 5.02.
  19. Re-download download manager before hanging up; confirm that nothing has been fixed, suggest that perhaps the browser is not the issue since the crash happens only upon install, and not during download.
  20. Confirm that yes, okay, I do have a Windows computer.
  21. Boot Windows computer. Ask if I must really load up Internet Explorer to do this. Confirm that yes, I suppose I do have “Netscape” on this computer. Use.
  22. Login to online store. Download download manager, install, and run.
  23. Thank attendant for help.

Adobe has always been an extremely Mac-oriented company, by necessity. Have they lost touch with a large part of their core customer base? Needless to say, shrink-wrap is all that I will buy from now on, if at all possible.