Clouds - Just waiting to piss all over you
Beware putting your whole business at risk. I wonder if some may actually go to the wall because of practices like this.
Thankfully my coat has a waterproof hat in the pocket. 'Be prepared' and all that.
A Reg reader has passed on the most beautiful email exchange we've seen this year, between himself and UK backup business Monster Cloud, after the company suddenly bumped up its prices mid-contract. The London-based reseller – now known as XL Cloud – came under fire from customers earlier this month when punters who had paid £ …
I've recently interviewed at 3 different companies in London, bizarrely all of them outsourced their infrastructure to a single provider (different providers for each of them), all because they didn't want the hassle of doing it internally - all of these companies have realised it was a short-term gain and long-term pain, now they are scrambling to either distribute the risk or bring it back in-house (hence reason for the interviews)..
I have to say, I'm working at one of the outsourced, cloud-based infrastructure places, and I'm not surprised that people have problems. We try very hard to make it as painless and useful as possible for people, but sometimes I have to put the brakes on someone chasing a totally inappropriate client who'll only suffer and badmouth us.
It can work. It does work. It doesn't work for everyone. Pick your fights (like usual).
Well let's see now :
- godlike opinion of one's own status - check
- inherent contempt for bog-level "lusers" - check
- expressing said contempt while still thinking oneself immaculate - check
- demonstrating abysmal social skills by spending 80% of the email exchange on everything but the problem at hand - check
Yup, you obviously are engineers. If you were in Marketing the company would have closed shop a month after starting.
Agreed and very well put.
And what a clever value-adding engineer he must be, "engineering" an already engineered product. They may be the most important "startup" out there in their own little world view, but they equate to exactly nothing if they have no customers due to catastrophic PR and business practice.
If that was one of my engineers he'd be looking for a new job by now.
This is great demonstration of why you have first line support. You put all the people without enough experience to have grown contempt of the users onto first line. As they gain experience, and lose their enthusiasm for tact and politeness, you move them further away from the users.
But yeah, a great advert for Monster. I'm already sorted for cloud storage, but if I was looking I would know who to avoid.
Marketing would have tried to convince you you didn't need a refund and that the prices hike was actually a truly good thing for you, while offering you at least three more expensive deals you shouldn't really miss because they are exceptional offers they give you at loss just because it's you.
This person is probably first-level support, and Monster is a reseller so probably a "Customer Service Engineer". Having said that, his response from the get-go was combative and totally uncalled-for.
I've done L1 support in the past and yes, I got it in the neck from angry customers. It's like a telephone/e-mail version of the Kobayashi Maru test from Star Trek, but you're still expected to launch a rescue, take the resulting arse-kicking from the Klingons AND keep your cool.
Losing it like that has just cost them a potential customer - a friend just asked me (in a personal capacity) if they were any good, so I've just sent them this article. "Right, they're off the short-list then !"
"demonstrating abysmal social skills by spending 80% of the email exchange on everything but the problem at hand - check"
This one is spot on. Have an upvote. If you think the customer is being abusive (and in this case they weren't really, just being pissed off) then the surest way of getting them off your back is to sort out what they're annoyed about, first.
All he had to do was pass on the request to the relevant dept and point the customer in that direction. He could have even given a snarky response in doing this, if he really had to. But this guy decided he wanted an argument instead.
I doubt if anyone with a real engineering degree would be working in customer support for a reseller of another firms storage.
In Canada its illegal to call yourself an engineer unless you have a degree or similar from an accredited institution. Giving a minimum wage zombie the title "Support Engineer" is an insult to all those who slogged though some of the most difficult and challenging courses available and go on to design build and maintain the fabric of the modern world.
(For the record I am not an engineer although HR once stuck me with the job title "Software Engineer" ).
Hear! Hear! I am continually disgusted by adverts for service providers that promise that "One of our Engineers will be with you the same day". No they won't! The true Engineers, those that have spent four to six years studying at university to get at least a BSc are not going to come running out to fix your broken boiler or start your broken down car for you. They are sitting at a desk or computer designing the next generation of equipment in order to make the world a better place. The grimy handed ones who come running are at best Technicians, or maybe only Fitters (not that I have anything against Technicians or Fitters, they do an essential job), but the general concensus of opinion in this country is that, if you get your hands dirty, you must be an Engineer. Would you call the local Butcher a Surgeon, just because he gets blood on his hands whilst cutting flesh? No, I don't think so. As James said, it is illegal in Canada, and also in Germany (where I have worked) to call yourself an Engineer unless you have a degree, but over here there is no such control, much to the annoyance of real Engineers like myself.
It looks they didn't like the customer said he/she was going to write to the media. It's funny how many companies trying to jump on the "cloud" bandwagon are so afraid of how easy today is to make known bad customer care - and abusing a customer and threatening legal actions is not the best way to hide it. You can' either expect customer be happy about price hikes and write you sweet mails. Just refund them when they are eligible and stop there.
One of the evils of the modern world is "reseller", which seems to be a synonym for "rip off merchant". Unless they actually add value.
A few years ago, working for a small company, I had to endure an hours sales pitch from a mobile phone reseller. One of the "services" they added was to sort out any billing issues.
Come month one, and the inevitable billing issue (this was Orange, of course) and we were told in no uncertain terms the reseller would not be able to intervene in billing issues. Repeated subsequent enquiries as to what the reseller actually DID suggested that they
1) got the handsets from Orange
2) helped us put the SIM in, (if we needed it)
3) told us where we could get online help if we needed further support
4) er - that's it.
The only way resellers can exist (IMHO) is because the directors of resellers have come from firms that then place business with resellers.
Yeah I don't understand it either, you just end up having arguments, erm discussions with a bunch of people who can't actually do anything because they are not the company you have a problem with. Go straight to the main company and wave the contract of money you pay at them far more effective.
Generally I'd agree although in the past I have had some good deals from mobile phone resellers that weren't available from the official website. I think they use them as a kind of outlet store albeit with up to date phones so as not to blacken the name of the official site with cheap and cheerful deals.
The one legitimate use for resellers is when the merchant himself doesn't want to deal directly with the customers. Think warehousing versus corner shops.
So for example I have an insurance policy which is through AXA, but AXA don't sell it directly to the public. It's only available through a broker.
This makes sense - small brokers specialising in niche products can get to know the field well and approach AXA with a proposal for a new policy, for which they think they'll be able to get, say, 1000 customers. AXA know and trust the broker, so they set it up and do none of the learning or customer interaction. Customers get their niche policy, with a broker (reseller) who understands them. Everybody wins.
Reselling a main stream product which is available to the public from the original vendor, though? Pointless.
Monster have made the same mistake some of our Banks made. The advice was "borrow long, lend short". Doing it the other way round, borrow for short periods and re-lend that money on long contracts, ends in tears when the supply of cheap short term lenders dries up but you still have a commitment to service the long term loans. (The temptation is obvious, when large short term loans are available cheap and you know you can write smaller long term loans at higher rates it looks like there's money to be made but...).
Monster's mistake (apart from employing some entertaining attitudes to customer care) was to undertake to sell at a price without locking in the wholesale price they were paying.
Even so, faced with an 8000% price increase surely they had the option of finding a better wholesale deal elsewhere.
As regards this customer - it may have been worth a careful look at the contract, did it indeed allow for this kind of change? If not then an attempt to require specific performance of the contract terms.
BTW if you want 1TB of cloud storage try the 5 user Microsoft Office subscription for GBP65. That gives always up to date Office, 1TB and 60 free Skype minutes/month for *each* of up to 5 users.
> One of the "services" they added was to sort out any billing issues.
If this was in writing, or otherwise recorded, and:
> Come month one, and the inevitable billing issue (this was Orange, of course) and we were told in no uncertain terms the reseller would not be able to intervene in billing issues
Then calling in trading standards would be entertaining, to say the least.
Yes, that's what I thought. I must admit I wouldn't have had that long an exchange - they'd be facing Trading Standards already (which IMHO they really, really should).
There is a golden rule with these sorts of communications: the longer they go on, the more you can build a case for the consumer as eventually conflicts start to appear - the sort of conflicts that will hang the business if it goes to Court.
Since the customers mail doesn't include a threat to call The Register, but if we assume that the customer service's engineer wasn't outright lying then some of those mails have been edited or are missing.
Which means we cant trust the whole exchange.
Which is a bit naughty El Reg. You are not The Sun.
Where the Monster Clown representative mentions that threat, I got the impression he was referring to a different email exchange - presumably the one referred to as being with Marketing.
The reason being that other references to exchange as published all describes it as "today" or "this morning" etc. Where the threat of contacting the media was mentioned it was "you have in past indicated you would..." - suggesting a previous round of contact, and that's in the same message where the Monster Clown rep mentions the previous contact was with Marketing.
I am still hiding my ID but the exchange was between me and the gentleman at MonsterCloud.
I can 100% catagorically assure you that you have read 100% of the email exchanges between us: there is nothing redacted/missing.added at all. His reference to previous exchanges I can only assume to be about the Tweets written on the day of the announcement.
The Register have been sent all the emails and you can all see the Tweets should you want.
Whoever wrote their T&Cs does not seem to have heard of the "Unfair terms in consumer contracts" regulations; from a quick look almost everything appears to be one-sided, in their favour. Have a browse here, specifically section 5:
The urge to at least try and get even with a truly obnoxious customer, should be done with guile and subtly, nuanced beyond their perception.
After all, how do you see a win, when the customer gets freebies as an apology for your unfettered remarks, and you are a step closer to unemployment benefit.
Think once! Think twice. Think bike, would be all you can afford when you're jobless.
is that you are not the suppliers customer - the reseller is. And generally, the reason resellers are used is because the supplier prefers to have *them* assume the risk (i.e. chasing the debts) than do it themselves. Resellers are effectively a financial buffer.
So when a *single* customer has a beef with a reseller, who will the supplier want to keep sweet at all costs ?
Sell also: car dealers.
"I'm sorry, did you want our help or did you think this was somewhere you could just be abusive?"
A true dick! Good news is this person will most likely lose their job and hopefully earn a life lesson. I expect this will be the start of the end for Monster Dicks and the whole support team.
People just don’t know how to communicate these days. If people stopped trying to point score with every email/txt and all the rest of the social media things, the world would be a better place. And Monster Dicks mights not be facing another black mark to their name.
In my book, that makes them "Account Administrators", not anything Technical or Engineering.
The word "Engineer" gets bandied around a lot in the UK, because it's not a protected title. CEng, IEng and EngTech are protected in civil law, but that's about it - and even with a CEng you can't even call yourself an "engineer" in mainland Europe unless you're on the FEANI register.
As a result of all this, you can be L1 telephone support and still have a job title like "Customer Service Engineer".
As a result of all this, you can be L1 telephone support and still have a job title like "Customer Service Engineer".
Yup. I have actually seen "sanitation engineer" somewhere. No price for guessing what specific area of the building that person was responsible for...
> Rockstar Coders, Ninja Sysadmins, Database Gurus
Avoid anything like that, and if given half the occasion, burn it with fire!
This is why I barf when IEEE design up another advertisement for
(Next up: "Rockstars of Counterinsurgency", "Ninjas of Extraordinary Rendition", "Mavericks of Legalized Illegal Surveillance", "Gurus of Quantitative Easing" etc.)
I thought they added engineer/director/vice-president etc to job titles where someone of that level wasn't required to justify paying you less than the market rate and hoping your ego would compensate for the difference....
In my company we have to call them engineers 'cause it looks like we are sending someone skilled to the customer, cable monkey is apparently derogatory.
"In my company we have to call them engineers 'cause it looks like we are sending someone skilled to the customer"
I'd rather they sent a "trained technician". At least I'd have the illusion he'd at least slept through a training class.
"Sending an engineer" sounds too much like I'm about to be railroaded.
Quite amazed me when I first went abroad and talking to locals said I was an engineer, they actually made comments like you must be clever, rather than what you repair cars? Shows how much we value one of the things that actually made Britain the force it used to be.
Given the wide spread abuse of "Engineer" as a title to mean something other than a professional holding at least a recognised degree in Engineering perhaps it is time to change the title of Engineering to something trademarked and enforceable in the event of misuse.
"Boffin" up for grabs? Bbof courses available from a local University near you
Couldn't find any clue as to who actually runs this Monster Cloud business. But it appears that the domain is registered to a sole trader (though not with real name, which might be in breach with Nominet's rules, but I can't be bothered to confirm that right now).
The terms of service don't name who they apply to, which is bad practice or may even render them invalid. And surely these terms will not hold water either:
You agree that, except where otherwise specified in these terms, fees paid to us are not refundable on any basis.
We reserve the right to alter pricing, including ceasing to offer elements of our Services. We will inform you by email if the charge for a service is to be altered. You can then decide if you want to continue to use such service. Your continued use of the service after the proposed fee modification has been notified will be considered acceptance of the proposed fee modification.
Well, I'm not a lawyer, but my feeling is that they leave a lot to be desired. I wouldn't be surprised if this Monster Cloud outfit is just a single person (nothing wrong with that per se) and that neither marketing nor legal department actually exist. This would also explain why he got so emotionally involved, as if this was a personal issue. If he was an engineer of the business, he'd have said something along these lines: "sorry, we're the tech guys here, but I've forwarded it straight to accounts, thank you".
Since the "engineer" was the first to mention legal, I would pick him up on that if I were the customer here. Letter of action; afterwards straight to small claims court or higher (depending on the amount of money we're talking about). I'd be surprised if he didn't refund after the letter though.
Most of what's in there is, afaik, acceptable as far as contracts go. If they increase the price you have a legal right to terminate the contract, and I believe they're required to give you a set amount of notice. The problem arises with the non-refundable lump sum for 12 months of service. That's not a subscription at that point, if there were to be no additional charges then they've already *paid* for the service, and I'm pretty sure Monster Cloud is required to provide that service for the full duration
edit: There may be exceptions to this in the case of abuse etc, but I don't see any reason why they'd apply in this case
"Couldn't find any clue as to who actually runs this Monster Cloud business. But it appears that the domain is registered to a sole trader (though not with real name, which might be in breach with Nominet's rules, but I can't be bothered to confirm that right now)."
Their web site gives a registered address in Regent St, London but there's no Monster Cloud on webcheck on companies house.
The whois registration address is given as Manchester and the registrant as Clever Consultants with a web address whose hosting has lapsed but with the same whois address as monstercloud.
Companies House has two Clever Consultants Limited, one dissolved with a registered address in Argyle St, not far from Regent St but not the same. The other has a registered address in Woking. Whether either was/is connected with the Clever Consultants (not limited) responsible for the registrations is not clear.
How refreshing it is to see people recognizing that simply having something in a EULA or other such shrinkwrap contract that someone lazily clicked through doesn't mean that contract has the force of law. The corporations like MS and their willing accomplices in government (such as those who brought the abomination known as the DMCA to America) sure have the people bamboozled.
The most recent example was a discussion that followed the news of the release of that patcher that re-enables updates on Windows 7 when installed on Kaby Lake or Ryzen platforms. My opponent in the debate (if you could really call it that) was arguing that MS was probably going to bring legal action against the patch author, on the basis that the Windows EULA forbids reverse engineering of any Windows component, which the author of the patcher had already said he'd done, not to mention that it was modifying Windows components, which the EULA also forbids.
Never mind that the loose definition of reverse engineering that would encompass what the patch author had done would also prohibit most debugging of any programs developed on Windows, which MS has permitted for decades (obviously). Never mind also that MS has never taken action against the authors of any other patchers, like the ones that enable third-party themes in Windows, or any other of a myriad of programs that customize Windows without patching any files (Classic Theme Restorer, WindowBlinds, 7+ Taskbar Tweaker, Old New Explorer, etc.) would have also required "reverse engineering" of Windows such that the author of this most recent patcher had done.
It's always the same... "you're not buying Windows! It belongs to Microsoft, so they can do whatever they want with Windows (and therefore any PC that has Windows on it)," and other such assorted stuff. MS seems to believe that putting Windows 10 on my machine essentially transfers ownership of that PC over to Microsoft, and there are a lot of people out there who would agree. It reminds me of a vulgar episode of South Park entitled (I think) "Human Cent-iPad." I won't go into the details, but the thrust of it is that the victims have ostensibly agreed to whatever Apple wants when they clicked "Accept" on the EULA without reading it, and Apple then went and grabbed them off the street and made them part of the product that is referenced in the episode title.
The bottom line is that these shrinkwrap contracts are on shaky ground, and they've never been put to the test in court. MS or Monster or anyone else can put quite literally any language they want in their EULA, but it doesn't mean it's valid. It also doesn't mean it's all meaningless; it would be foolish to think the EULA means exactly nothing. The reality lies somewhere in the middle, and we don't really know where it is. Maybe one day a precedent will be established that a Windows buyer has, in fact, "bought Windows," which the EULA-thumpers tell us we haven't. That doesn't mean the buyer has the rights to use Windows trademarks or redistribute bits of Windows code (or all of it)... but it would mean that things like prohibiting people from modifying components of their own Windows installations are not among the powers that Microsoft has.
This is the one guy who runs everything and he is emotionally fragile given recent events. As someone else said, an employee would never answer emails like this. My guess is all the emails, including from "accounts" will be signed "Monster Cloud" as there are not really separate departments.
This is what happens when you let techies with poor people skills communicate.
The initial e-mail from the reg reader was unneccesarily brash and unconstructive.
The reply from the company was unacceptable regardless of the above fact.
A PR nightmare caused by clever people lacking interpersonal skills.
The last time someone accused me of threatening them in an email I agreed to a phone conferece with me, the accuser and our bosses to appologise.
The meeing was cancelled when it became apparent to my boss that:
a) I expected the other person to appologise for accusing me of threatening them
2) I intended to ask the other person's supervisor to get the poor sod some professional help.
The final nail in the meeting-coffin was when I produced the unredacted message from my "sent" folder and challenged both supervisors to show me exactly where I had made any sort of threat to anyone whatsoever.
Either you're suggesting that Monster Cloud itself is owned by J2 (which doesn't appear to be the case) or your comment is misleading by not making clear who it's aimed at.
J2 Global own LiveDrive- mentioned in the article as the company whose price increases hit *resellers* like Monster Cloud- but it doesn't own Monster Cloud itself.
If you want to criticise J2 on that basis, fair enough, but you can't blame them for Monster Cloud's behaviour.
This is the kind of reason we don't let our "software engineers" anywhere near customers.
They might (e.g.):
a) tell the customer their idea is f**king stupid
or (even worse)
b) tell the customer something is simple and can be done quickly and cheaply.
I didn't get where today by telling the customers the truth.
I am a software developer. And God help me if I ever need to speak to client directly. Not because I would say 1) or 2) , but more likely:
1) I might use the language they do not understand
2) or even worse, language they think they understand (while in fact they understand wrongly)
3) or put marketing in bad light
4) or make something seem easier than it actually is (from deployment PoV)
5) or give away internal stuff they need not to know
6) or (most likely to happen) imply the above
So, the rule is I DO NOT SPEAK TO CLIENTS, full stop. The lost time this might cause is not worth it.
You know, it just occurred to me that Monster Cloud's representative explicitly stated that, because they were "abusive", the company will intentionally drag their feet over giving a refund beyond what they usually would need to. Are they actually allowed to do that kind of thing? Seems petty as hell, but also seems like they're not acting in good faith
They're like flocking dodos. It's the "cloud". It's "Agile". It's "DevOps"... you get the idea. Hit businesses with the latest buzzwords, baffle them totally with BS and PROFIT!!!! Due diligence and what things like this actually mean to a business including the risks aren't involved. Only that your business now uses the latest and greatest buzzwords.
The problem isn't with clouds (not "the" cloud - there is no such thing). The problem is with clouds run by idiots.
It's like catering. If you're a business you may well want to have another company run your staff canteen because your knowhow is in building widgets not in feeding people. But you wouldn't give the contract to a pair of spotty sixteen year olds with no catering experience and who don't wash their hands when there are firms out there that will make excellent food at a reasonable price.
Likewise, there are dozens of cloud companies that can look after your data better than you ever could.
The key is diligence.
The second a company thinks they can fuck me over and then tell me I have a bad attitude is the second they are dropped and they can sue me for any remainder.
I have literally almost come to blow with employees who thought I was inconveniencing them. In a car! I've gotten some fired. Do not fuck with me as customer.
Sounds very stressful, last time I got a complaint I talked to customer services realised they were useless, talked to them a couple more times in case I got a moron the first time, found out no the company really did have some pretty poor policies. So I found the emails for the board members and posted a complaint to them while sending them links to their facebook page, showing customers liking my posts on how bad the company was playing with certain laws around the sale of goods act and gaurantees.
Had a someone contact me from them and from the company that was supposed to be fixing the goods by the next day, got item fixed, recieved 80% (ish) of the cost of the item back as compensation/ go away money as well.
I do that as well, Triggerfish. I basically "nuke them from orbit" with all of the above.
It really depends on the level of bad service.
As for the physical confrontation, that was initiated by the employee, not me. That sort of thing rarely happens, but is not unheard of in the good old U.S.
I wonder if selling unlimited wifi to my neighbours on the back of my domestic connection would make me a reseller?
Well, only if, once the isp found out, they legitimised my business by charging me accordingly, and my neighbours agreed to the tenfold increase in price.
About a year ago, I purchased a piece of hardware that came with little documentation. After a bit of poking around and reaching a dead end, I contacted their technical support and was only given a link to their document download page. To download any manuals or guides, you had to register an account with them (username, password, etc), which I did, albeit with an increasing level of irritation. The manuals turned out to provoke more questions than they answered, prompting another email to technical support, in which I added that I thought it was "ridiculous" to have to register an account and remember a new password just to access manuals and the like. I received a terse email stating that because of my "abusive" treatment of their support staff, they would no longer be providing technical support and, if I would like an RMA number in order to return the (relatively expensive) hardware, they would be happy to provide one. This was somewhat surprising, as "ridiculous" was the strongest word I had used so far and, curious, I checked their website to see if there was anyone else at the company with whom I could discuss the situation. As it turned out, their front line technical support was also their CEO, which complicated matters, but eventually we took them up on their offer to RMA the hardware.
They compress well, and I keep all my ones elsewhere (in a pot in my shed) for backup purposes. I keep a 'map' on yet another medium (sheets of A4 paper in a safe) that indicates the actual order of the zeros and ones I've kept, so I can reproduce all my data even if the cloud is unavailable. The restore can take a while though.
Hmm! I got stung a few years back by a reseller company of LiveDrive.
The story as I remember it is, that the reseller found out that getting an unlimited cloud account himself, meant that he could offer an unlimited accounts to his own customers. He had his own branded software and it seemed to work quite well.
He confirmed what he was doing, and that he had an agreement with LiveDrive saying it was ok.
Of course, as you will have realised by now that things went pear shaped. LiveDrive seemingly changed its own rules and regulations, meaning that the enterprise wasn't allowed except at high cost.
Now I can make no judgement on this. The cost involved on my part was minimal and I was just dipping into it until it was seen to hold up, so I had no real problems when it went tits up.
What I think happened? One, or a variation of the following, an overkeen sales person at LiveDrive sold a product which the company was not aware of, took the commission and ran before they were found out; that the reseller set up an account through another reseller which was not allowed; that LiveDrive ran a promotion for 3 months after which the price of the service increased, in which if it was known about by the reseller does bring questions of honesty; that LiveDrive actually allowed the process to set up, either intentionally or not, then tried to get all the customers changed to them directly (by the way, I still have the emails from LiveDrive offering the service as a replacement, which I thought at the time was slightly unethical).
The result, whether rightly or wrongly, I will not use any product with LiveDrive involved, and there does seem to be quite a few around. Which does seem to offer another question.... The people who made money out of gold rushes, were the ones selling shovels. And if the shovels were made out of tin rather than iron, how many would be sold and at what price?
All you need to do (and I actively encourage people to pass this info on) instead of having customers DIRECTLY upload to a cloud service, use a redirection webpage which handles your customer selecting the file they want to upload.
In this way, if you change cloud provider, it's the matter of one single change to a single setting to redirect the customers uploaded file to another cloud provider.
The 'redirection' webpage is incredibly simple to setup (and can download dozens of free HTML ready-to-go redirector HTML pages which are free).
Doing this means you ALSO have a backup...your current cloud system goes down? An Admin just has to edit the redirection page to point to the backup cloud provider!
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