In a previous post I told a story about receiving mistaken invoices from my online backup service. It was a LOT of money and I made the mistake of reading my email during a bit of insomnia, and of course, my adrenalin surged unhappily even though I convinced myself it was probably a mistake (but it was tricky; the first review I read about this service, Data Deposit Box, explained how if your software creates temp files in the target directory, you may find yourself uploading HUGE HUGE files to their system and being charged for it – and at least once in that previous month I found that my DVD software had put some several gigabyte file down without telling me, etc. etc. so I had some rational basis for concern), and eventually they let us all know that they had sent these three invoices out by mistake.
So I blogged the story, because, hey, I’ve got a blog and I’m going to use it.
But the company I blogged about wasn’t too happy.
From: “Peter Carroll”
Subject: The Data Deposit Box problem
Date: Mon, 13 Jun 2005 09:43:07 -0400
We are again very sorry for the error that caused you to receive those emails. It was an embarrassing mistake that will never happen again.
I read your blog on the topic with horror this morning. We have all worked hard to communicate with our customers and clean up the mess this caused. These were only internal reminder emails for our accounting people to manually bill a couple of our very large clients. No customers were billed.
Clearly this was a dark day in our history that we would all like to put behind us. Unfortunately, with your blog showing up in Google I fear we will be reliving it over and over for months or years to come.
Would you consider removing your post in exchange for 3 months of free Data Deposit Box service? I assume you are otherwise happy with our service. This gesture would be greatly appreciated by everyone at Data Deposit Box.
Peter Carroll, CTO
This really threw me for a loop. I’m supposed to feel bad for them? I guess I do, but what about me? My monthly bill is about $20.00, so they’re asking me to basically censor myself in support of their corporate goals, for about $60.00. I don’t want to go off on a major integrity high-horse type of deal, but really? $60? Maybe they should offer me the three free months as a gesture of good will in apology for the upset. But not make it contigent upon me zipping my mouth.
Further, there’s an element of quiet coercion here, and really, isn’t a backup company’s core offering involving trust? I don’t feel they are behaving in a trustworthy fashion. And what if I refuse to take the posting down? Will that mean that maybe my data might (oops! We are SOOOO sorry) go away? Probably not, but even the fact that this exchange has raised the spectre of data loss suggests their approach to me was a wrong one.
I’m not out to change the world with this blog, and I’m still getting used to the fact (after nearly 4 years) that this blog can have some impact, but I stand by what I wrote.
I didn’t bother to share with people, by the way, my “icon” experience. Here’s a support request I sent in
Admittedly, this is a low-priority request, but I wanted at least to request it…
Every once in a while the icon in the system tray disappears and then reappears. This causes all the task bar entries to shift rapidly back and forth – in other words, it’s a fair amount of motion along the bottom of the screen. It’s VERY distracting. It’d be great if that didn’t happen, if it just stayed live all the time, or I’d be willing to disable the icon if that meant I could avoid this problem. I’ve seen this happen with other programs (I think PopFile had it with a recent version) and it cosmetic, but it’s also impacting concentration and productivity, so it is important in that way.
They responded nicely, and quickly
We had a problem with our icon in that it would disappear and we were unable to determine why it was happening. We decided to destroy and recreate the icon periodically to stop this from happening.
I will add a registry setting to the client application to allow you to disable this. The option will not appear in our options program, but will be only available via registry changes.
I will let you know once this is ready and send you instructions on the name of the key.
I’m no programmer, but a tech friend of mine was aghast at the problem and also the kludgey solution. Didn’t give him faith in their technical chops. Anyway, shortly thereafter they sent the registry key instructions. Playing with the Windows registry is sort of a dangerous manipulation of the secret guts of how things work. One typo can ruin stuff. Anyway, they told me what kind of key to create and what to put in it. And there was a typo in their instructions.
Under Software/Acpana/Backup/username please add a ERG_SZ value with the name DoIconRefresh and set the value to 0
ERG_SZ should be REG_SZ. I didn’t know that, but I figured it out. Still doesn’t give you the best confidence in them.
Anyway, back to the issue at hand – the blog entry. I wrote them back
Peter, I’m awfully surprised that you’d ask a customer to delete a posting they made about your product! And further that you’d offer me roughly $60 to do so!
Moreover, this sort of thing really impacts the feeling of trust between me and Data Deposit Box – if I refuse, what will happen to my data? For a service that provides backup, I would suggest that the trust is pretty important and this exchange kind of threatens that trust.
and heard back
If you refuse, nothing will happen to your data. I only ask that you please consider removing your post because of the ongoing negative impact it will have on our company.
As you point out, trust is a very fragile thing. Nobody understands that more than we do. There was nothing malicious in our action. It was an honest mistake and we have worked very hard to repair the damage it caused. My fear is that your post will continue to show up in Google and new damage will continue to happen.
Expression of individual opinion is very important right. But please consider what the effect is when they are amplified by Google. I�m sure you do not intend to cause us ongoing damage to our reputation. If you did, I am sure you would no longer be a customer. But negative comments are may times more powerful than positive.
I offered you some free service only as a gesture of good faith. I had no other intentions. If you are not comfortable with that I understand. Was our response to our customers not sufficient or appropriate in you mind? Is there anything more you feel we should do?
I truly hope you can forgive us for this mishap. If not, I apologize again and wish you all the best.
I don’t want to be a villain, or hurt this poor company. Discussions of forgiveness and malice and all this seem very emotional and very personal. Perhaps I need to be more judicious of my stories of bad service or bad experiences. I don’t think I’m using this a bully pulpit, though. Even though they won’t be happy to see their exchange with me also blogged, I feel it’s important. Look, this isn’t Disney sending a cease-and-desist letter or anything dramatic like that, but it’s a request to stop saying something bad about a company, because an honest experience (and really, that was NOT a screed, I’ve written screeds, that was mostly sharing an experience and sharing my own horror at it) is just that. What happened to me. My truth.
I’m still a customer of Data Deposit Box. They offer a unique pricing advantage (you pay what you backup, not by choosing from a variety of sizes that you think you need to store) and a unique backup process (you backup files pretty much all the time not on a schedule). They claim to offer multiple copies of files (versions 1 2 and 3) that change over time, but I haven’t figured that out. It may be working, or may not. I don’t know yet.
And, I’ve had a frightening billing mistake with them, and I’ve had a somewhat slapdash if effective and rapid support for something very cosmetic. I’m laying it out there for you to decide for yourself.