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 Antivirus, 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 website, 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 deinstall Symantec completely, then reinstall. “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 deinstall. You'd be surprised at the rag-tag job of deinstallation 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 website that leads you in circles, swirling around and around; the description in the User's Manual that simply fails to describe anything, the grossly inaccurate screenshots 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 User's 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?
This is a copy of my email sent 3/7/07 to a "Manager" at Symantec. Currently, there has been no response. Yesterday, I spent 12+ hours either speaking to or “waiting” to speak with ** of your office. When not speaking or waiting, I wasted hours trying to fix a computer problem which was caused solely by the downloading of SystemWorks 2005 and the misinformation or absence of valid information furnished by ¾ of the above employees.
Do you care? Let's hope so, since I will take the trouble of detailing a “Symantec day of torture”. My computer uses Windows 98 – I have chosen NOT to buy new one since it is reliable and causes me little problems – until yesterday that is – but the fault lays not in my computer but as you will see, with Symantec. On March 1, 2007, after continual notifications that my subscription for SystemWorks 2003 will expire on March 7th, I paid you as urged – via my credit card and the internet – the requested fee of $29.99 for a renewal of my 2003 subscription.
Yesterday, March 6th, I noticed that despite payment my subscription had not been extended. After being unable to download the renewed subscription, your website told me to call Symantec. At approximately 11:00 AM (EST) I called 1-800-927-3995 - and as was repeated for every subsequent call - waited approximately 40 minutes before speaking to **. Summarizing my conversation, ** advised me that for the same price I could receive SystemWorks 2005 and a one year free subscription. Even with this “generous” offer I was reluctant to change what had worked for me for the preceding four years and chose to renew my 2003 subscription.
He activated it and when I ran it I noticed that despite the “renewal”, viruses were only “current” to June 2006! My subscription renewal fee had bought me nothing! ** more or less said, “I told you so” and offered me a credit for the 2003 renewal and for “only” $10 more a subscription to 2005. Ten dollars more is not “the same price”, but I digress. I gave him my credit card number for payment of $39.95 for 2005 and he promised to give me a $29.95 credit for my purchase of a completely useless renewal of my 2003 edition. I was assured that despite using Windows 98, I would have no problem.
He sent me via the internet the 2005 and told me to follow the instructions – one of which was to delete my SystemWorks 2003 edition. He assigned me “Priority number ** (omitted for privacy)” and we said goodbye and I went about following the instructions. At the point where the computer was opening Norton, I received for the first time but far from the last, the following message: Error 1723. There is a problem with this Windows Installer package. A DLL required for the install to complete could not be run. Contact your support personnel or package vendor.
I tried to load the 2005 version several times but each time Error 1723 showed up instead. Knowing to call Symantec meant waiting on the phone for 30 to 40 minutes, and wondering if the problem lay with my computer, I tried to “fix" the problem myself with nothing but frustration to show for my efforts. At about 7:30 PM (EST) I again called 1-800-927-3995 and after the obligatory 30 to 40 minute wait, was connected to ** who told me the problem was that there were still Symantec 2003 files in my computer and after leading me through a series of websites, sent me Symantec “Removal Tool” with the assurance that after using this tool, all would be well.
I was reluctant to “lose” a human being's voice and asked him to hold on while I followed the instructions. ** said don't worry and gave me a “special” telephone number to call that would eliminate the waiting – 1-800-927-3991. He also assigned “priority case number” ** and told me to use that number and I would get fast service in the unlikely event that I had further problems. Of course I had further problems – that's why I am writing you. The Removal Tool apparently did not remove sufficiently since I continued to receive the Error 1723 message. I called my “special number” and it was anything but “special”.
I waited the 30 to 40 minutes again and ** got on the phone. I told him my situation and he said for an additional $39.95, Symantec would download my 2005 version from their offices. Was I upset? What do you think? ** advised me that I had been connected to the “expert” line which would only help if you paid them. I told him this was the special number that ** had given me. He said I must have pressed the wrong number on the phone.
I said, at this point after waiting hours and hours and trying to fix a problem that was not of my making - it was possible but that in view of the circumstances, please, please, please do not transfer my call which would only mean another wait. He was not moved and transferred me and I waited. Next up at about l0:00 PM (EST) was ** who reviewed my “special case file”. He sent me to various Microsoft websites and instructed me to download several files (which he couldn't or chose not to explain what they were) and to run the removal tool again.
He also told me to remove “the Help Spot” file which CAME with the computer. He said, as is often said by Symantec employees, “that should work”. For some reason I was impressed with ** and he sensed this and told me I could write to his manager at the above email address. At this point I again was reluctant to lose a human's voice and I earnestly requested him to stay on the line while I tried downloading again. He said he could not, but would call me back in 30 minutes. I was quite moved. (For the record, he never called.)
At approximately 10:30 PM (EST) I followed the new instructions with the newly downloaded files and it worked! Let us summarize: Four calls – an average of 30 to 40 minutes waiting on each call. After deleting SystemWorks 2003 as I was told to do, I was without ANY virus protection and was wary of going on the internet. After trying to download the first time, I received a series of message from my computer that a number of other applications were not working. Symantec has cornered the market. The help that you render to your customers is deadly.
Here are just a couple of suggestions: Don't offer a renewed subscription which is completely worthless – the 2003 renewal. You waste everyone's time and money. Don't allow your employees to say for the “same price” when in fact it is $10 more. Don't allow your employees to give partial and incomplete help – this only causes the customer to call back again and again and thus jam your “help” lines. – which in turns creates a 30 to 40 minute wait.
Wouldn't it have been better if the first employee I spoke to stayed with me to see if the problem was solved – which it couldn't have been – rather than compelling me to call again and again? Nearly all of my friends and business associates use one of your products. A copy of this email is being sent to them and I am sure they are as anxious as I am to learn of your response.
DALLAS, TEXAS -- I purchased Norton 360 internet security because it had two $30 rebates in the form of VISA debit cards. While registering the cards, I discovered that there will be a $3.00 a month maintenance fee on each card until the card's balance is $0.00. This information was not previously disclosed. So much for a $30 rebate. If you don't blow it fast, there's no telling how much less than $30 you will realize. If you try to find a Norton person to discuss this rip off, lots of luck. Shame on you Norton!
350 ELLIS STREET, CALIFORNIA -- Norton Utilities 15 was installed on two different computers to give them a tune up. Before running the program, both systems functioned properly. After running Utilities, both computers crashed - fragmenting Windows. The data on one computer is now unrecoverable. Besides useless telephone assistance from India, Norton will offer no other support or help to remedy the situation.
After 7 weeks Symantec still haven't been able to install their Package on my computer. This is a free upgrade that they had offered me and till now have had 10 of their technicians in India work on my computer for a while then they just log off and promise to get back to me. Fortunately I've kept the names of all of them and intend writing to the Company and let them know exactly what I think of their product. They've also gone and uninstalled various s/w packages and just ** my computer.
CALIFORNIA -- I have worked in IT for over 20 years and I have never seen a company's tech support and customer care deteriorate as badly as Symantec. Anyone considering a corporate product such as Backup Exec (formally Veritas) or Corporate Antivirus (the server-based platform) should seriously consider alternatives before they commit to this company. Current case in point- One of my client's Backup Execs stopped working after I upgraded it to version 11d. I opened a tech support call a week ago and it took five days to get a callback even though I rated the call as critical since we had been without a backup for days.
I was on hold for 75 minutes yesterday after getting back in the queue and still never spoke to anyone. And by the way, if you happen to be on hold at 5:00 PST, guess what? They dump all the calls in queue and go home. Our company has an install client base of 50 or so that use Symantec products , and I am here to tell you we're MAKING EVERY EFFORT to throw them out the door. Talking to our software distributors (I will let them remain nameless) they confirm they are hearing this from many integrators such as ourselves. They should be ashamed of themselves. Their stockholders should throw the management out the door.
We were having license activation problems with our Norton Antivirus and were forced to call customer service to resolve or even find out what the problem was. There is no way to resolve activation issues on line. Normally, these issues are handled by staff. Because I happened to purchase this license, I offered to contact Norton. I was on hold for over 25 minutes. When finally helped, it was by an individual with a heavy accent. The individual's English skills may be excellent, but I was having trouble understanding her.
She proceeded to imply my company had abused its number of licenses and we were essentially dead in the water. I was stunned. It was a 'you have got to be kidding me' moment. I offered, at our IT guy's suggestion, to reinstall all active machines to resolve the issue and prove we were under the number allowed on our multi-seat license. She kept repeating an unintelligible scripted mantra over and over, refusing to have a discussion... then just hung up on me. After 40 minutes of my time regarding a legitimate issue that is the fault of the vendor, I was listening to overseas air on the phone.
It's not just the money we spent on the service/software. It's not the hours of staff time I have had to pay for. It's not the time I could be spending running a business. It is that I am the CUSTOMER. Norton, like some kind of authority, acts like we are at their disposal and have no choice in vendors. I doubt I am alone in this revelation and will keep an eye out to see how the giant is affected, as others act on their disappointment. I have sent emails to Norton. If any resolution is forthcoming, I will update this posting.
Symantec has started issuing a Debit Card instead of a check for its rebates. Aside from the need to treat it as a Charge Card, even when it says "Debit", the outrageous usage fees if it is not used immediately ($3 a month after 6 mo.), and the uselessness at gas pumps etc, there is a real catch: If the item you want to purchase is of MORE value than the balance available on the card, it will be refused IN TOTAL! You can't make it part of the payment!
So, you may never be able to get the full value of the card unless you can convince a merchant to ring up an exact balance on the card a the charge amount. Neat trick, huh! Oh, they say it was due to customer demand for this type of payment. Sounds like petty fraud to me!
ALABAMA -- Beware the Symantec (Norton) System Works 2005 combined offer of a $30 rebate on the basic software plus the $30 upgrade offer. The kicker is that one must submit the UPC code from the newly purchased software box with both rebate forms, an obvious impossibility! I submitted both rebate forms with the caveat that their offer was either flawed or purposefully deceitful. The upgrade rebate form was submitted sans the UPC code but with the previous Symantec CD as proof of ownership along with a detailed explanation of the duplicitous nature.
The upgrade rebate form was disallowed as not meeting the requirements, i.e. the UPC code, and therefore disallowed.. Their rebate operations center personnel either are not equipped to understand the problem as outlined, or there is a subterfuge involved. A certified letter with return receipt explaining these circumstances was never acknowledged. There appears to be no other means to seek redress other than a warning such as this for other persons who should not take the bait. Try getting a “live” person with which to interact! Hope that some righteous executive from Symantec sees this and is able to initiate corrective business practices.