I am developing a conspiracy theory that Symantec has been taken over by Dick Cheney and the Bush administration. Only something that radical can explain why a culture of incompetence pervades what used to be a good company with a solid product. I give you the anecdotal evidence, which of course is all you need for a good conspiracy theory.
EXHIBIT A: The company that can't build it right.
If you have a product with a subscription-based revenue stream, like Norton Anti-Virus, you'd want to make it easy and painless to renew subscriptions, right? Also, you'd want to minimize the cost of support calls by making the whole renewal process easy to understand and relatively fool-proof to implement, right?
Here’s where it begins to get interesting. Symantec actually did the opposite of what is logical, leading me to suspect that it is a branch of government rather than a for-profit company.
I was using a version of Norton Antivirus for the Macintosh I bought last year when I got a pop-up message saying my subscription would expire in a month. I went to the web site, fumbled around Symantec's poor site navigation, and found the way to renew the subscription online. Rather than simply renew NAV, I opted to upgrade the product, Norton Internet Security, and downloaded it. I followed the directions, and registered the product, but was surprised when, the next day, I got another message saying that my subscription was expiring, and would I like to renew? I also got the option to enter a subscription code and make everything right.
“Surely,” I thought, “I must have a subscription code.” After all, I paid for their product. There must be something on Symantec’s site that tells me how to find the subscription code. Nooo.
Finally, out of desperation, I made a support call. Actually, I made a couple of them. One tech rep suggested I de-install Symantec completely, then re-install. “Been there, done that,” I told him. Actually, I did more than that. When it didn’t work the first time, I manually (and painfully) discovered the loose flotsam and jetsam of the Symantec product, left over after you de-install. You’d be surprised at the rag-tag job of de-installation it does. I didn’t expect this from a company that actually looks for such odd bits of code as evidence of malware.
So, here’s the thing. The product that blurts out non-useful information; the web site that leads you in circles, swirling around and around; the description in the Users Manual that simply fails to describe anything, the grossly inaccurate screen shots that show how to get the product code; and the baffled representatives who don’t seem to understand what is going on—all of these point to a magnificent “pyramid of incompetence.”
Connecting the dots, other "pyramids of incompetence" include the Guantanamo Bay detention system and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, suggesting the same architect is behind all of them.
EXHIBIT B: The company that can't communicate.
* See Exhibit A.
* Since their web site doesn’t actually explain anything, and you have to make a support call to a human who doesn’t actually know anything, we have what I call “The evil loop of non-communication.”
* Finally, there’s the issue of “When I say ‘rebate,’ I actually mean something else.” (See Exhibit C)
Connecting the dots, we have the Bush Administration example: "When I say 'war', I really mean 'peace.'" (George W.) Need I say more?
EXHIBIT C: The company that counts on consumers being idiots.
First, let me start by admitting that 'I am a fool.' Not only did I not get their product to work upon download, but I paid good money for the boxed product, thinking it must actually contain all of the information I need to make the thing work. I became an even bigger fool when I read the Users Manual, believing it would provide more useful information, and made additional support calls.
So, if I'm an idiot, why do I believe Symantec counts on people like me for revenue?
* See Exhibits A and B
* When we plumb these depths, we find legal twists as intricate as a knot of Calabi-Yau space, found in Symantec's rebate approach. Here's how it works. First, get people to buy your product by promising them a Big Rebate. Then (and Symantec is not alone here) put in a lot of fine print when you actually open the box, and make it really complicated to get the money. Finally (and this is where Symantec achieves either the apex or nadir of marketing, depending on your point of view) give people the rebate in the form of a credit card. Add more fine print saying that if you don't use the card they will deduct fees on a continuing basis.
Connecting the dots, this last touch seems to bring it all together. The same people who worked out the Symantec Rebate are obviously the ones who advised us that the Vice Presidency is an independent branch of government. Q.E.D.
Having exposed this major conspiracy, please excuse me while I run and hide from the 'Men In Black.'
P.S. After one final support call and many angry messages, I finally found someone at the Symantec support desk who just gave me the subscription code. I hope that Symantec has the good sense not to fire him. But then, I'm an idiot. What do I know?