Google Checkout sees poor customer satisfaction: Duh.

2007-01-21 19:01

Google Checkout Sees Poor Customer Satisfaction, says Slashdot.

Duh.

I recently tried using their system to buy something from a company I’ve been buying stuff from for years. I got $10 off, but it cost me about three hours of work. Google’s system makes it so the vendor never sees my “real” email address; instead, they see a magic one used by Google to forward mail to me. The idea is, if the vendor spams me, then Google can stop them. Brilliant!

Here’s the thing: It doesn’t work that way in practice. You see, because Google Checkout can supposedly stop the mail, they make no effort at all to track what mail I might or might not want. In particular, right after I got my order confirmation (definitely want that!), I started getting promotional mail, aka spam.

Well, here’s the problem. Remember how the address is secret? There’s nothing in the mail I receive (from Google) that the vendor could use to identify my complaint. They [b]can’t[/b] say “stop mailing this guy”. They have no ability to do anything but send mail to “everyone Google thinks should get our mailings” or not send it. Since some people probably want the mailings, that’s a rough choice to face.

Google ignored my initial support requests and complaints. Also, the “stop getting this mail” link didn’t work. I tried again, and again, and eventually it worked. (By this time, we’re talking maybe five or six mailings over a couple of weeks, multiple queries to Google and to the vendor, and so on. Searches of FAQs… You get the idea.) There’s just one problem.

The ONLY option available is “block every last piece of mail from this vendor”. That’s it. So if I’d gotten this done right away… No shipping confirmations. If I had a problem with the product, no way to communicate with the vendor through the “secure” channel Google’s supposedly providing.

And, if I buy from them again? The spam hydrant goes on again. There’s no way to express the concept “I want order confirmations, but not promotional mailings.” The ability to shut off all mail has blinded them to the possibility that you might want to shut off only some, and the net result is a useless system which replaces the slim hope you had before of getting order confirmation, but not spam, with an ironclad promise that you [b]will[/b] get spam until you take steps that [b]will[/b] block all legitimate contact from your vendor.

Neat idea, guys, but it needs work. Like, say, you need to not send promotional mailings to people who don’t ask to be put on the vendor’s promotional list, and you need to distinguish between transaction-related mailings and promotional ones.

Of course, they don’t much care. So far as Google’s concerned, the moment I succesfully got the contact stopped, everything’s done. Granularity of control is not something that Google Checkout is yet interested in.

This isn’t to say they’re worse than PayPal. Google’s incompetence left me getting promotional mailings I didn’t want. PayPal is part of eBay, who have spammed me with actual malice [b]and[/b] (later) with incompetence. Google doesn’t really have the flexibility to express preferences. On the other hand, eBay’s attitude towards them is worse; spam industry people refer to the act of changing people’s account settings to “I want promotional mail” without notification or permission as “ebaying preferences” because they were pioneers in the field.

Devil, meet deep blue sea.

Peter Seebach

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