Category Archives: customer service

Says Vonage: Five Years Doesn’t Matter. Give Us All Your Money.

The following post is one we wrote almost two years ago (circa July 2009) but never published for whatever reason. We have since dropped Vonage–finally, after a long seven years as a customer–and thought now, about a month post-cancellation, would be a good time to go back over why we finally quit them.

In a nutshell, they didn’t–don’t–care about anything but the money. You may see this as a recurring theme around this blog; I’m not sure it’s possible to put too fine a point on that, either. Money is nice and all, but you can’t focus solely on that and expect to keep people (or your business) around forever.

About a month ago, I finally got around to calling at an hour when they were open to take my call to cancel–and attempt to keep me from cancelling.

I cancelled anyway; it just wasn’t worth it anymore. They became Yet Another Phone Company, leveraging fees for everything and generally behaving badly from a customer-service perspective. The whole reason we went to Vonage in the first place to get away from all of that with traditional telcos!

At some point a year or so ago, we switched from the $14.99 500-minute plan to a 100-minute plan for $9.99/month. That cheaper plan, with 40% fewer minutes, after all the fees they’re now adding, was costing us more than we paid for the $14.99 plan when we started with Vonage so many years ago. And we just weren’t using it. If you have Vonage, great. If you don’t, you’re really not missing anything Time-Warner or Comcast or AT&T or another traditional telco could offer you at this point.

We don’t miss Vonage. At all. At least what Vonage has become, anyway. The idea of Vonage–the core of their business model back then–is still appealing; we do miss that.

If you have and use Vonage, think about whether you’re really, truly using it. You may not need it anymore, either.

And finally, even though we dropped service with Vonage a month ago, we are still unable to access the website to make our final payment in good faith. We offered during our cancellation call, but were told we would continue to have access to the website to pay our final bill at our convenience. But clearly, that’s not quite true:

 [This was a screenshot of a regularly-broken
Vonage website before Twitpic shut down]

So professional.

Anyway, here’s the previously-unpublished post from 2009:


A-holes.

We recently tried to cancel, and failed. We called right away the morning of the first day of our new billing cycle; we had been billed at midnight overnight. After being strung along on the phone for a very long time, we were eventually told we would receive a credit for the billed-in-advance amount. Except, a short time later, our bumbling phone-center monkey handed our call off to someone else–a “supervisor”–who told us no, they were absolutely not going to do anything of the sort. Yes, certainly we could cancel today! And yes, they would gladly terminate our service immediately! But… they would be keeping our money for the rest of the billing period anyway–so sorry!

In the end, we opted not to cancel for the time being–we didn’t want to lose our money. Turns out that was stupid. We switched to a lesser, cheaper plan, and they issued a credit and a couple months of free service, only to end up coming up short on their promises and start billing us again a full month earlier than promised.

But first, back to the initial cancellation attempt and how we were treated. The fact that we’d been always-on-time, regular, loyal customers of theirs for a full five years prior? Well, it was utterly irrelevant to the a-hole “supervisor” we ended up talking to. He also insisted he could not–would not–transfer us to anyone else to discuss it further. We had our options: stay and pay, or leave…but still pay. Jerk.

Vonage does NOT want you to quit them. If you call to cancel–and indeed, you MUST call them to cancel, which is also completely ridiculous–expect to be hassled. They will NOT schedule your service disconnect to coincide with the last pre-paid day of service. They WILL, however, cancel your service immediately and keep whatever pre-paid amount of money you’ve given them. Even if you’re cancelling on the morning of the very first day of the billing cycle. They will not prorate any refund. They want it all. Inexcusable greed, pure and simple.

If you’ve got Vonage service, call them and attempt to cancel. You’ll see. And you’ll probably want to cancel for real after that. Quitting something has never been so difficult or fraught with sliminess.

Griping on Twitter got us somewhere. Shockingly. I was still treated like I was demanding some monumental favor, talked at like the guy was reeeeeeeally bending over backwards to do something Really Special for me. Like honor their promise to extend enough credit to cover not having a bill with them again until November? Nah, they hit us with a $20 bill in October. For a $9.99/month plan. Nuuuuh-uuuh.

So eventually the final day of our “deal” arrived. Except I didn’t call in by 7pm CST for a billing that doesn’t happen until midnight. Vonage only has open phone lines until 8pm Eastern time. I had called around 715–I was too late. That, to me, seems pretty evil and deliberate…or conveniently profit-inducing, depending on which side you’re on. So we’re screwed again for another month. All apparently by design.

Run away. As fast as you can. Eventually, we will be done with this.

HEXBUG Original (not Ant) Breaks a Leg

And so it goes. We have a busted leg, and the poor thing can barely walk. Our oldest son is bummed; he worked really hard at school to earn it as a reward. As you can hopefully see, the location of the break and the size of the leg both would seem to make repair pretty unlikely…

UPDATED (June 2013): Posterous.com folded, and with it, the images from this post. Only noticed it now; oops. We’ll see about finding originals from a backup and repairing things at some point. Maybe… this post IS pretty old.

[images were here… gone now until we fix it, if we fix it]

Got a response on Twitter about this earlier today, so we emailed the company. We’ve not had it very long, so maybe they will help us with a replacement or something…

UPDATE: The fine folks at HexbugCo are sending a replacement. Now that’s customer service. Quick, no-hassle assistance that I’ll remember the next time I see their product in stores–and buy more of it.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I screwed up when I looked up which bug this was. Replacement Ant came today, and I noticed it’s a different bug! Looking at the HEXBUG site again, our busted bug is an Original, not an Ant. Still, son will be happy and I’m glad Innovation First Labs has been so gracious and helpful.

Flip Mino HD. Empty. Time Left: 3:33. What?

Flip Mino HD failWe went on an overnight camping trip several weeks ago now. Several hours prior to leaving, I connected our Flip Mino HD to my (Ubuntu Linux) laptop to copy over the movie clips and recharge the unit. I did what I’ve done many times before: copied the files over, deleted them off the camera from the PC’s file explorer window, and that’s been it.

Except this time, when I whip out the camera for the first time on our trip. I’m now in the middle of nowhere, camping. Looking at the Flip Mino HD’s display, I notice there’s only 3:33 (three minutes, thirty-three seconds) of available recording time. But I erased the videos… or did I?

I double-check. The camera’s empty, it tells me. Umm, now what? I whip out my smartphone, so I can try to get online and check Google for any other instances of this problem. I find mention of a reset procedure using the pinhole inside the tripod mount hole on the bottom of the Flip. I had not known there was a hole and reset switch there before this, so hey, this could be great!

The hole itself is super-tiny. I finally managed to locate something small enough to insert into that hole (I pulled a staple out of some service documents for our Pilot from the glove compartment, straightened it out, and used that) and press the reset switch. The hole is that small, seriously. No ballpoint pen tip will work here. You need a needle or pin or thinner.

Hold the switch for 5 seconds. Then turn the unit back on, and without touching any of the buttons, wait another 5 seconds. Or something like that, I no longer recall.

Except, it didn’t work. Turns out this is a soft-reset for fixing the sensitivity of the touch controls, and that’s apparently it. Where’s a proper hard-reset, Flip?

I almost brought my laptop along, but didn’t because it was just an overnight thing. I was tempted to bring our Acer netbook, but didn’t. So we had no PC available. I break out my phone again. We’re not exactly in the best place for cell reception. I have a single bar if I walk up the hill from our camp site, face west, and hold the phone up like I’m engaged in some sort of offering ritual. My phone clearly doesn’t like being starved for towers, and the battery’s been draining since we got there, seeking and seeking away…

I finally manage to pull up Flip’s website using Pocket IE. I start filling out the form on their support page, because Flip apparently only offers email support. What? No phone number to call? This is a miss for Flip. Sure, they say it’s a 4-hour window for a response, so whatever; I’m thinking it’s better than nothing even if it’s kind of crappy having to wait.

I get the form as filled out as much as I can, but the site uses Javascript that Pocket IE apparently doesn’t comprehend, and I’m stuck. Can’t submit my support question. Pocket IE is an arguably common mobile browser; and it seems reasonable enough to make a support page simple enough that any functional browser should be able to access and use it.

I had similar results on my phone with Opera Mini, by the way.. and then we hit the point where my smartphone finally died from a drained battery… And after all this, the Flip still sits there, taunting me with it’s “Time Left: 3:33” display and continued insistence there are no videos on the device.

It would also only record 3:33 of video before stopping as it does when it’s normally full. I’ll basically have to know in advance if the next 3:33 I record will be more awesome and save-worthy than the previous 3:33 recording… This is terrible!

I wasted about an hour pecking away on my phone at this point, for nothing.

I only have my smartphone’s car charger along for our camping trip. I plug the phone into the car and left it to charge a bit. I come back later, managing to post to Twitter, hoping that maybe, just maybe, Flip monitors Twitter? Let’s try…

Flip Not Listening to Twitter #1

Flip Not Listening to Twitter #2

Flip Not Listening to Twitter #3

Flip Not Listening to Twitter #4

Apparently Flip does not monitor Twitter. As of this writing–now more than a month later–we have still not received any kind of response to any of my Flip-related tweets. Clearly it’s not going to happen. This is yet another (series of) miss(es) for Flip.

We have since learned that they do seem to barely maintain a @FlipVideoBrand account, though:

@FlipVideoBrand Crickets TwitterYou can guess: no response to that tweet, either. Flip, come on.

So we eventually return from our trip. Short, fun trip. Kids are young, fun, had a blast with us, each other, their cousins, and their grandparents. It really would have been great to have caught some video of their antics. We have… none. Huge disappointment.

Now at home, I plug the Flip camera into my laptop and look at the files and folders on the unit. The DCIM folder is empty. Fine, but the computer’s also telling me I only have a puny amount of free storage on the Flip, which seems wrong but consistent with the storage shortage issue. I don’t normally use the Flip software at all, by the way–ever, in fact, because I run Linux on my main laptop and the software’s not compatible. I notice a couple of folders with fairly recent dates on them: .cache and .Trash-nnn. Ohhhh. At this point, I delete those two folders. Suddenly my laptop reports 3.7GB free… and it seems we’re fixed.

I unplug the camera and fire it up. “Time Left: 60:00”. Hurr-freakin’-rrrah.

The problem? It looks like I forgot to “Empty Trash” before I unplugged the camera from my laptop, to flush those deleted images from the camera completely. Oops. But still, this should not be the showstopper it became!

Anyway, we’re now all charged up, and storage capacity is back to normal. Too late for this trip, but fixed nonetheless, it seems.

During all of this troubleshooting and searching/researching, I discovered I had missed Flip’s release of their Ultra HD camera. Two hours recording time, HDMI out, takes rechargeable (or regular) AA batteries… might work out better for us. Time to look for that Costco receipt?

How could this have been made better? Offhand:

  • Flip could more closely monitor Twitter. They obviously have at least one account. They’re a hip company with a great product; a well-maintained Twitter presence at this point is a complete no-brainer.
  • Flip’s website should not suck. Support pages that don’t support mobile devices isn’t helping anyone that’s out and needs help.
  • Flip should provide phone support. I’ve since read that they do, but I was unable to find this information when I needed it (and I’ve still not yet seen direct evidence of this myself).
  • Flip cameras should support a hard reset if they don’t already. I understand the Flip software is stored on the unit, but there needs to be some way to wipe out and fully reclaim the storage capacity of the unit without requiring a PC to do so. Again, if this is an option, I could not find it when I needed it.
  • The reset hole could be larger. Apparently not directly related to my situation, but even if the Flip had an available hard-reset option, I would have had a very hard time engaging it using the existing reset hole without something as thin as a straightened staple or needle that few people carry around with them on the go.
  • And finally: I could have not been an idiot when I failed to empty the trash after deleting the images from the camera. However, if we had a hard reset option, I could have still fixed the problem in the field without a PC to help, and we’d have more great videos of our kids!

And that’s about it. We still really love the camera a lot, overall; we take more video now than we ever did with a traditional camcorder. We’d happily take an Ultra HD or two as compensation for our troubles, Flip… Are you listening?