Some years ago, I broke my pelvis in three places. For months, I literally sat in one place (couldn’t walk, couldn’t lie down). I was so bored, I started playing online games on a website called Pogo.com, operated by Electronic Arts. Non-subscribers get access to a limited number of ad-supported games. “Club Pogo Members” get access to many more games, and no ads, so I quickly became a club member.
I was pretty happy with the site at first, but over time my computer somehow got out of sync with EA’s technical requirements for Java updates. It was a constant hassle to make sure I wasn’t using a newer version than they supported — or the “right” older one, as they weren’t always prompt about supporting the newest browser or Java updates.
Eventually, I let the subscription lapse because it was just too much of a hassle to deal with it. I understand that not everyone feels this way — the site is popular with lots of people, and I have a friend who swears by it.
I guess I’ve reached the stage in my life where my memory isn’t what it used to be, and I had forgotten WHY I cancelled the service. So when my 14-year-old discovered a game on the site that he wanted to play, I went ahead and subscribed again. Here’s the receipt for that payment — note that it is dated before 9 a.m. on September 8, 2015. That’s three full business days ago.
You sent a payment of $42.63 USD to Electronic Arts
It may take a few moments for this transaction to appear in your account.
The site immediately upgraded the account from “non-subscriber” to “subscriber” and we tried to pay a few games. It was hit and miss — some worked, some didn’t. After three hours on their unhelpful “help” section and a number of failed attempts to bring our Firefox browser into sync with their Java requirements I’d had enough.
My Terrible EA Customer Experience
I searched in vain for a cancel subscription option. Not there. Then I tried to find a contact customer support email address. None is listed.
So I tried the Live Chat option. Three times. Each time, it said my wait would be less than 5 minutes. Each time, I gave up after 20 minutes. I tried twice yesterday during normal business hours (September 10) and once today (September 11). Never reached anyone.
Finally, I tried the option that said Have Customer Support call me back. Lo and behold, I got a call back in less than 30 seconds. And that’s when the real trouble started.
In general, I’m fairly calm when talking to customer support. But the one thing that’s guaranteed to get me upset is a customer service rep who is disrespectful, and assumes because I’m female, I don’t know anything about technology. I want them to solve my problem, not lecture me as if I am an idiot.
Dealing with William N. from the EA customer experience team ended my streak of calm customer support interactions. He introduced himself as Bill, and I quickly came to believe I was dealing with a belligerent and bellicose bully whose mission during the call was to explain in excruciating detail that he was right and I was stupid.
The call had lasted less than 30 seconds when I started thinking of him as Bellicose Bill. He started by telling me that (a) I wasn’t a subscriber (b) my last purchase was made on September 12, and I hadn’t bought a subscription, I’d bought “gems” used in the games. I tried reading him the receipt information pasted in above to give him the details (transaction number, time and date of the payment, etc.) to “prove” the September 8 purchase. He wasn’t interested. I also noted that I reached him from the “Club member help section” of the site. He wasn’t interested in that, either.
Bellicose Bill was determined to convince me that I was wrong. When I failed to agree with him, his voice became louder and more strident as the call progressed. No matter what I said, he talked over me, insisting that my last purchase wasn’t an annual subscription on September 8. He kept insisting that he couldn’t give me a refund for a club membership, because I hadn’t bought one, but instead had “bought gems on September 12”.
About the third time he brought up a September 12 purchase, I finally raised my voice enough to make him hear me say, “It’s still September 11 — I certainly couldn’t have made a purchase on September 12.” That’s when he started laughing. “Oh,” he said. “That was in 2012!”
Then he said that I had not made a purchase in the last three years. Every time I tried to give him a transaction number, or offer to send him a copy of a receipt or transaction report, he simply talked over me. I finally said, “Look, I can’t help it if the database they give you isn’t up to date. What I want to know is…”
I didn’t get any farther with what I intended to be a request for an email address where I could send my receipt and screen shots showing that the games site recognized me as a paying club member. Bill interrupted me, raising his voice to practically shout, “Well, I can’t help you with a refund on a payment you didn’t make.”
I asked him not to raise his voice, and he raised the volume again, saying, “I’m not raising my voice, I’m just telling you that you didn’t make a payment…”
So I lost it, told him to shut up using language I would not like to hear my grandkids use, and hung up. Then I went to PayPal and opened a dispute resolution ticket through PayPal, using the “Contact the Seller” option to request a refund from EA. Then I sent a Twitter DM to the main EA Twitter account asking for help with my customer service problem. I am not about to let this company charge me for a service that I can’t make work. Not after my experience with Bill.
I’d have let the whole thing go instead of blogging about it but then I got this error-ridden email from Bellicose Bill.
Thank you for contacting EA Customer Experience. As I was attempting to say on the phone, (missing comma) the account you presented me does not show any transactions after 09/12/12. This being said, (missing comma) it is possible that the subscription was setup (should be “set up” — two words) on a different account. (I only ever had one).
Prior to the call being disconnected, (missing comma, and it wasn’t disconnected — I hung up on him when he yelled at me for the third time) I was attempting to inform you of this and wanted to ask you some questions to help straighten this out. I understand your (should be “you’re” or “you are” — 3rd grade grammar problem) upset that it wasn’t as easy as you hoped, (missing comma) but without the transaction information, (missing comma) we cannot process a refund. (If he’d stopped shouting at me long enough and given me an email address where I could send copies of (a) the PayPal receipt and (b) the Visa charge transaction, he’d have had the “transaction information”. Or if his company had near-real time databases for customer support — three business days seems quite enough time to process a payment.)
Once your (third grade mistake again — it’s “you’re” or “you are”) ready to work with us in finding the proper account and the information we need to be able to provide the refund for this payment please setup (should be “set up” — another elementary school grammar error) another callback (two words) and we will try to provide you the refund. Should you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact us again.
What’s wrong with this email? First, I never gave him permission to call me by my first name. It’s one of my pet peeves — no one my age should be addressed by their first name unless they’ve given you permission to do so. It’s just rude.
Second, starting by thanking me for contacting him is just plain silly. I’m quite sure he had every bit as much fun on the call as I did — which is to say none at all.
Third, his grammar is atrocious. Who makes 9 grammar errors in a short email? That overlooks the factual mistakes.
Fourth, he puts the blame for his company’s lousy technical and customer support on me, and demands that I prove something without ever giving me a chance to do so. Payment was made 3 days ago. My state allows ANY contract to be cancelled if you report it within a specific time limit. The fact that his database isn’t up to date doesn’t change the fact that I am entitled to request a refund at any time within my state’s time limit.
I would think that a publicly traded company like Electronic Arts Inc (NASDAQ: EA) would require its customer service staff to draft grammatical emails, and teach them that yelling at customers is a bad idea. You’d also think that they would fix the technical incompatibility problems — or at least clearly explain the requirements to play their games BEFORE someone signs up — and offer an email address for customer support.
Last, but hardly least, you’d think that a company that accepts online payments would be able to process them in near real time. This one certainly was able to give me immediate access to ad-free games, but seemed unable to update the records that Bellicose Bill in customer support could see three days later.
It isn’t Bellicose Bill’s job to “set me straight” or correct me. I’m a paying customer who also happens to be a small shareholder in the company. But no matter who he’s talking to, it’s his job to explain his company’s policies and position clearly and politely.
If he had said, “I can’t process a refund until my system shows the transaction. Looks like that hasn’t been processed yet, so how about we talk again on this date…” the conversation would have ended amicably. But by insisting that I admit that I had not actually purchased the product I paid for, or had somehow purchased it for a separate account, he created a situation where both of us lost our tempers.
I’ll never do business with this company again. I’ve already put in a sell order with my broker for the stock. Too bad. It’s a good company, and I did like some of the games (when I got them to work). I’ll make a few bucks selling the stock since I bought it at a much lower price that today’s $68 per share. But I don’t like the products or the stock enough to put up with the Java hassles and the animosity I experienced from Bellicose Bill.
UPDATE: A month after my interaction with Bellicose Bill, the world’s worst customer service agent, and his employer Electronic Arts, I finally got a refund. Not from Electronic Arts, mind you. They never bothered to respond to email, forms submitted on the site, or a direct message sent via Twitter.
The refund came through PayPal, after I escalated the site’s “contact the seller” process to a “dispute”. When Electronic Arts ignored PayPal’s requests for information about the dispute, PayPal exercised its “buyer protection” clause, and pulled my refund out of EA’s account with PayPal, depositing the money back to my account. (This, by the way, is why I use PayPal instead of a personal credit or debit card when I make online purchases. PayPal is pretty good about taking care of customers, and I only have to provide my personal information to one site, instead of dozens.)
What a shame that this company ignored so many simple requests for help or a refund. I’ll certainly never do business with them again, and I am no longer a shareholder.
UPDATE, SEPTEMBER 2016: Unbelievable! These frauds just charged me again for the second year in a row! They’ve now disconnected all their public customer service phone numbers, and their online help system to dispute charges now links to the page where they charge for upgrades instead of the page to dispute charges. What a con! Looks like time to file yet another PayPal dispute.