What I did and what I didn't do

Posted on January 10, 2006

I’m a tech guy, an engineer, I like complicated things, I like to understand what goes on behind the scenes and I do understand that, sometimes, things are hard to make easy.

But I’m also someone who has to use the Internet and I’m also a consumer and much as I do realize the difficulty of some things there is just no excuse for some of the things that go on out there…

Case in point: Symantec’s Norton Anti-virus renewal process.

I was at my parent’s and, as usual, whenever I or my brothers go over and there is something to do or fix on the computer we do it for them. No big deal.

This time around my Mom’s laptop’s anti-virus software was close to expiring it’s license so it needed to be renewed. My Mom decided to ask my Dad to do it (typical) and he decided to wait for a son to go over and do it (also typical).

So I was the lucky one, and when I got there and logged on to Windows XP, sure enough, the anti-virus status box popped-up warning me that the subscription expiry date was close at hand and asked me if I wished to renew it.

Well, I did, so I clicked on the link and followed the wizard until I came to the box where I had to put in the product key. My Dad dutifully gave me the printout he had made of it and I typed it in.

Only to be told it was invalid. Nice…

So after working at it for a while, trying all sorts of different goes at it and reading the FAQs and support documents on the site, it became apparent that Symantec would not let me renew my subscription for a product from 2004 easily and the best chance I’d have would be to upgrade the product to the latest version.

Fishy but I went along with it, I didn’t need the aggravation, so I went to the on-line store and began the purchasing process.

I tried to buy it with a credit card but I had so many server errors that I was on the verge of quitting when… Lo and behold, they support payments through PayPal. Well, that’s nice, I didn’t need to break out my credit card, I just clicked on the PayPal link and payed for the thing, upgrade to the newest version, download checkout, all good… Or not!

So the PayPal payment went ahead as expected, but when I got redirected to the Symantec store things blew up and my order got stuck.

Great… Back to PayPal to confirm that the transaction had been processed. Indeed it had.

So, as per instructions on the Symantec site and on the transaction confirmation email, I did an order search on the Symantec store and found my transaction, apparently complete, but no download link. And in the small letters in the bottom it does say that a transaction which didn’t go through OK until the end may then take up to 24hours to be reconciled and fully processed.

So let’s recapitulate on what I did, shall we?

  • I did try and renew the subscription for the service, but was unable to do it because of a software failure to recognize a perfectly valid product key;
  • I did try to renew on the website, but was unable to do so because of an arbitrary decision from Symantec that products from 2 years ago are no longer supported (hum… one year lifecycle… what the hell is the point of a renewal then?);
  • I did try to pay with my credit card, but was unable to do so because of problems with the store;
  • I did try to pay by PayPal and was able to do so, but the order got botched and I am now in a waiting period to see if I can actually get the product I payed for (at this point I’m hedging my bets…)

Now what I did not do was to go out on the net and get me a working renewal code for free and used it. It would have taken me, oh maybe 10 minutes to do it and I wouldn’t have lost the time and the patience with it I had to spend with the freaking Symantec site.

Sometimes you have to wonder… Do these companies really want our business? And, even more important, do they deserve it?