Musings on Photography

Photoshop cross platform upgrades – How to really piss off a customer

Posted in business, photoshop by Paul Butzi on August 13, 2007

I wrote here about how nice my customer service experience with Adobe had been. Way to go, Adobe, I said. Especially on a weekend, I said.

Today, after no communication from Adobe whatsoever (for instance, an emailed shipping notice) the Fedex guy arrived to deliver my cross-platform upgrade copy of Photoshop CS3. In what would presage the remainder of my Photoshop CS3 cross platform upgrade experience, the Fedex driver attempted to turn his truck around by backing up into the narrow parking next to the studio, and promptly hit a big rock, putting a big scrape on the rock and seriously bending his bumper.

Ignoring this portent, I nevertheless proceeded to uninstall the demo copy (many thanks to everyone who saved me untold hours of heartbreak by telling me to do this, either via comments or email). Then I installed the real copy. Whew, it takes a while to spin all those data off the CD and onto the hard disk. Finally, at last, it was time to activate the software. I entered the 27 bazillion digits of the serial number, and got them right. But, of course, it was an UPGRADE, so I also needed to enter the digits of the OLD version, Photoshop CS2. No problem – I took that disk off the shelf, entered the number, and… no dice. That serial number doesn’t correspond to a copy of Photoshop CS2 for Mac, which was the option I had. Sigh.

So I called Adobe on the phone, and navigated their wonderful phone tree. And then I sat on hold, for 20 minutes. Once there, I explained the situation, and the friendly service rep transfered me to the ‘activation’ people, who asked that I read them 39 million digits of customer numbers, case numbers, serial numbers of old versions, serial number of new versions, etc. This I did, and I’m happy to report that despite a growing headache I managed to give them all the numbers without transposing digits even once (transposing digits over the phone is a special talent of mine).

And then they gave me the magic shift-command-double click trick, and I read them the challenge code, and they gave me the response code, and Ta-Da! the activation and registration proceeded nicely. And Lo! I was happy, having only spent about 40 minutes more than really would have been necessary to activate my perfectly legally purchased direct from Adobe copy of Photoshop CS3 for the Mac.

And then the bad thing happened. I asked, in a light, devil-may-care, pococurante voice, if I was going to be forced to go through this hateful phone process again when I installed (as allowed by the terms of the license agreement) a copy of Photoshop CS3 on my laptop. And, to my great chagrin, the answer I received was ‘Yes, so sorry, you will need to go through this again.”

And so I sat down with my laptop, stuck in the disk, let it grind for a frustratingly long time, and came around to the same roadblock, at which point I called Adobe Customer Service, and was promptly put on hold. Not just hold, but on hold being forced to listen to the most horrific nasty-ass pathetic jazz I’ve ever heard. This was, if I might expound a bit, nasty-ass jazz that was not just bad. It was not just offensive, or aversive. It was Guantanamo level abuse, really. And I had to listen to it, repeated ad nauseum, for 30 minutes. The damn track was six minutes long, and I listened to your crappy jazz track, Mr. Adobe, for 5 solid end to end repeats. And then I was disconnected.

I invented new words. I used the old words and these new, invented words in incredibly inventive ways, describing the genealogy and personal attributes of the person responsible in graphic detail. And then I called, on a lark, Technical support, where I was offered the chance to get priority routing by entering a case number (or maybe it was a customer number). Whatever it was, by this time I had three of them written on my notepad, so I entered one, and was promptly put on hold for 15 minutes. And then, when they finally answered the phone, the first thing they wanted was the number I’d entered.

But I recited the litany of numbers for the tech support gent, in three part harmony with feeling and what I thought was a sort of catchy syncopated rhythm. Customer numbers. Case numbers. You name it, I had it. And he told me he could give me the response code, it would take just a few minutes to get it for me. He put me on hold, and I listened to more (but different) bad jazz. He came back, and told me that if I needed to do this again, there was another number I could call – he gave me the customer service number that I used when I was on hold for 30 minutes and then got disconnected. And when I told him that this had happened to me, not only was he unsurprised but he observed that that was a downside to calling customer service.

So let me sum up things for Adobe – my experience today sucked. I don’t mean sucked as in I am dissatisfied with the customer experience I had. I mean sucked as in I would like for the people responsible to come to my home, so they can have a little chat with Mr. Stihl, my MS 310 chainsaw with the 25″ bar and the aggressive, fast cutting skip tooth chain. [update: No, I don’t really want to confront Adobe employees with a chain saw. I am engaging in hyperbole – outrageous exaggeration for effect.]

Why in the world would you send me a box, knowing a priori that I would have to go through needless hours of painful customer service phone calls to activate the product inside? Are you completely, utterly stupid? Do you think this makes your customers happy, or do you think it makes them angry? Here’s a hint, for free: it makes me angry. It makes me want to find the Adobe employees responsible, and subject them to horrific treatment. I’m not talking something subtle like the Chinese Water Torture. I’m talking “I am really angry” sorts of stuff. If you picture something akin to the Chinese Water torture, but replace the water with hydrofluoric acid and add high voltage electrified flensing knives, you’re about 10% of the way there. [update: no, I do not actually condone torturing Adobe employees under any circumstances. See ‘hyperbole’, above.]

I’m not really a customer service expert, but I have some advice for Adobe. Based on the comments on my previous post, and based on my experience today, Adobe is seriously pissing off customers. You need to fix it, and I mean really fix it. Because each and every user of photoshop, it seems, has a horror story about Adobe, and if they get a chance to jump ship, you’re going to find it damn hard to sell them anything at all.

If nothing else, at least make it possible for users to own and run your software on both the Mac and Windows without going through phone support hell.

16 Responses

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  1. Ed Richards said, on August 13, 2007 at 6:02 pm

    Bet you get to do this again if you change the configuration of your machine, but maybe that does not happen with Macs. I get periodic warnings from my legal copy of Acrobat that I need to reactive because something has changed, but so far I have been able to ignore the warnings without harm.

  2. StephaneB said, on August 13, 2007 at 11:07 pm

    That’s what lack of competition does. Adobe is not acting smart here, because competition is coming and they are slowly getting to the point where people will buy anything but Adobe in spite of the products quality.

    The complacency is not only in customer service. When I looked at PhotoShop CS3 I saw nothing that would make me change the way I work with CS. First time I looked at LightZone I saw something new and interesting that kept me trying all their betas.

    It looks like there is not much left to add to PhotoShop and Adobe does not know what to do. They could have looked at LightZone for brilliant ideas.

    In the mean time LightRoom does not turn out to be all that good either, with its broken library concept making the whole product a bit redundant.

  3. Prashant said, on August 14, 2007 at 1:46 am

    I tried a similar thing when I upgraded to PSCS2 from PS7. That damn copy got never installed, frustrated I decided to get a new copy of CS2 instead which fortunately works.

  4. Frank Armstrong said, on August 14, 2007 at 6:12 am

    StephaneB is probably correct. Adding to what she says about competition coming, Adobe will merely gobble up the competion like they did with RAW Shooter from Pixmantec — was the best RAW converter out there. Even their free version was better than ARC.

  5. Martin Koch said, on August 14, 2007 at 6:50 am

    So far it was my understanding that you receive a full version when you do a cross platform switch. At least thats what I got told on the phone and waht I received when I switched from Windows to the Mac: a full version of the CS3 Design Collection for Mac not an upgrade! What you’ve experienced is very sad.

    I had other issues though and I agree Adobe licence policy and customer service can really suck! On the other hand one must be glad that this cross platform upgrading is possible at all.

  6. Mike O'Donoghue said, on August 14, 2007 at 10:12 am

    I use Picture Window Pro, written by the author of Lotus 123, Jonathan Sachs. This is a nifty piece of software that loads real quick and does everything a photographer could want at about 12% of the cost. And you can use your license on your home machine and work machine without extra permission. There’s also a great forum where the mavens can and do answer queries within 24 hours.
    I’m sure PS (of CS?) is great for printing shops, but your photog doesn’t really need the overkill.

  7. Peter Lindner said, on August 15, 2007 at 5:31 am

    poor you…

  8. Lex said, on August 16, 2007 at 10:33 am

    Thank you! I just went through a similar experience after ordering a Photoshop upgrade for my new Mac. It seems I missed the fine print about upgrades being only for “the same platform”. I spent about an hour on the phone hoping for a fix, but all I got was a refund. I was going to order the “cross-platform upgrade” then and there, but between the transfers and the on-hold times I reconsidered — and it sounds like I made the right decision.

  9. latoga said, on August 25, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    Frustrating. Just this week I switched over from my PC laptop to a Mac laptop. The first thing that I moved over was Adobe Lightroom. I bought a copy for the PC and just went to the Adobe website, downloaded the Mac version, entered the same activation code and was up and running. One would hope that the Lightroom licensing engineer would have lunch with the Photoshop licensing engineer…

    (BTW: This isn’t making me look forward to moving PS over…)

  10. Mike Reid said, on August 30, 2007 at 5:23 pm

    I had a very similar problem where I had the 2.3 suite and then bought 3.0.
    Even though I bought it from the Adobe store the CS3 program refused either of my two 2.3 serials.
    Adobe “customer service” said they were 2.0 serials even though I was looking at my purchase history on their web site were it clearly states they are 2.3.
    Long story short (after 2 hours) they had me do the whole challenge response thing.
    I did ask if I would have to do this again for my second copy.. answer yes!
    It’s too much work when you’ve purchased your software and just want to use it!

  11. […] companie’s software during the holidays, and they find this very suspicious behavior, and instead of waiting for #$&*&^%$#$%^& HOURS on hold trying to connect with Adobe’s … they choose to notify other users of Adobe software of the behavior on their blogs. And they have […]

  12. Julian Robinson said, on February 6, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    If Adobe didn’t charge obscene amounts for their software, they wouldn’t need to be so fearful of theft, and then they wouldn’t have to employ thousands of phone staff to ruin millions of customers’ days in this sort of piffle.

    Adobe really have lost the plot, I loath how they work, how they increase the complexity of their product packaging for marketing rather than usability reasons, their appalling customer support, theif pricing, and the woeful ergonomics of most of their products.

    I’ve tried hard to use Lightroom, I really have, but it is a nightmare, not a lightroom. Obscure, ridiculous HMI designed more to look pretty than be useful. I cannot even work out how to flag several images at once. I mean, I just cannot do it. I have two degrees, I won medals, I have 20 years experience with software and photography and I cannot work out the most simple thing. (I know I’ve digressed, but if you select a group of images, then apply FLAG or anything in fact, only the ‘active’ item is affected. WHat are the others doing? What is the point of this sort of “conditional selection”? What does it do? AAAAgggh I hate ’em. Everything about Adobe. Even Acrobat.

  13. […] Adobe will happily sell you a cross platform upgrade, when you buy it you may find yourself in the same #$%&*&^%$%^&* screwed up situation that I found myself in. It’s not a good place to be. Trust me on […]

  14. Micki said, on January 30, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    I have been waiting since Dec. 27 for my cross-platform upgrade for the new MAC I got for Christmas – it’s now January 30.

    After at least 6 calls (3 or which I was assured that it was shipped and 1 where it was “marked urgent”) I am still waiting.

    The thing that amazes me is that when there is a problem with an order, they don’t call to straighten it out. I wait a week and call again. How do they stay in business?

  15. Adobe Customer Service said, on June 15, 2009 at 7:50 am

    […] Customer Service Nope. I need someone to generate a new serial #. I did find a blog that was a funny read on Adobe's customer service.. […]

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