Friday, July 30, 2010

Consumer Warning

Poor Kumar - I doubt if Microsoft pays him well enough to take the abuse I heaped on him yesterday  but somebody had to hear it and he was the only one available.

Here's what happened. I bought a new computer a month ago. Bob, at Radio Shack, asked if I wanted the latest Windows 7 operating system  or to stick with XP. I asked what the difference was and he said, not much, but he'd advise going with Windows 7 simply because it was the most recent version and eventually various downloads would become incompatible with XP. So, that's what I did. I also paid about $150 extra to have Microsoft Office 2010 installed.

Twenty or so days later, I got a screen that said my "30 day free trial" was ready to expire and if I already bought what I thought was the Office program, I needed to plug in my product code to activate it. I called Bob who said he thought sure he'd already activated it but he told me where to find the product code. I retrieved it and entered it into the space provided on the screen. My code was validated and I thought I was good to go.

But the same screen kept popping up and I kept putting in my product code. Finally on the 30th day, Microsoft informed me that my trial offer had expired and my e-mail program shut down. Huh?

My first problem was that Microsoft told me that I could activate online via the Activation Wizard or by making a phone call. Unfortunately, I also had to get the required phone number from the Wizard (because, you know, posting it right there on the Help screen would be too easy). Since I couldn't access the Activation Wizard, I was stuck in Microsoft hell.

I'm not a computer expert so I plinked around on various MS websites trying to find a number to call Tech Support. After a couple of hours, I discovered it tucked away in a place few people without the patience of a saint would ever find it. It turned out to be 1-800-Microsoft...duh! If my brain hadn't have been on total overload by then, I might have thought of that myself.

I called and eventually (after hundreds of prompts), I was put in touch with Kumar. I told him my problem. He explained that it wasn't Microsoft Office that had expired, it was Microsoft Outlook, the e-mail program - however, I could purchase it for $139 (plus tax).

First, I was stunned and then I was livid.

"Let me get this straight," I asked him, "I've had Windows-based computers for the last 25 years and every single one of them came with a free e-mail program installed but now, with Windows 7, Microsoft in all its greed has decided its loyal (albeit, usually, involuntarily) customers have to freakin' pay to have an e-mail program?"

Kumar allowed as to how that's the way it was. He then, very politely, listened to me rant and rave and curse. I told him that Bill Gates' vaunted generosity in giving to charity was a farce because he was donating with one hand what he was stealing with the other. I told him I thought it was a freaking (only I didn't say freaking) outrage. I said lots of other things too but I don't remember them all.

Kumar kept apologizing and saying he had nothing to do with it.

"I know you don't but you're the only person from Microsoft I have access too so you have to listen. And I was told that this recording could be monitored and I hope it is monitored because I want Microsoft to know that I think I've been totally screwed by them, not only by what they did but how they did it."

I know Bob at Radio Shack wasn't aware of this new development or he'd have told me. He couldn't figure out why I was getting a "trial program" screen. I'll call him on Monday so he can warn other customers that if they order a computer with Windows 7, it doesn't come standard with an Outlook program. That's sort of like discovering you have to pay extra if you want to keep the tires on your new car after 30 days. I expect there will be millions of other Microsoft 7 users whose e-mail program will suddenly go gray after 30 days. Then it will be, "pay up or else". So, Kumar will probably have to endure lots of curses directed Microsoft's way.

And it's not that I can't use another e-mail program. I can access the one that comes with Comcast. I guess I could use Yahoo, Hotmail or Gmail. But that's not the point. The point is that I'm used to Outlook and all its features. It's right there on my desktop. Everyone knows my e-mail address and I don't want to change it.  I had already transferred all my information over from my previous Outlook program. My address book and stored files were there.

Bottom line - I feel like I've been sucker-punched by Microsoft.