• United States
by nobody

A reader’s experience with Hotmail

Apr 21, 20036 mins
Enterprise Applications

Editor’s note: The following letter was sent to Network World columnist Paul McNamara.

Editor’s note: The following letter was sent to Network World columnist Paul McNamara:

Dear Paul,

We’ve exchanged e-mail before (on Internet taxation and the already existing “use” tax) so I thought I’d write you again.

I just had a rather painful experience with Hotmail and Passport. It appears there is literally zero technical support for Hotmail (other than password resets). Have you heard of anyone else having a similar experience? How did they get it resolved?

For the last couple of weeks I have been unable to access my paid (I purchased the extra storage) Hotmail account. Every time I try to log in I get a message that states: “Account Temporarily Unavailable. We apologize, but your account is temporarily unavailable. This delay does not affect the entire site or relate specifically to your account, but the machine that holds your account information is temporarily unavailable. We do not expect this delay to last much longer, so please continue to check our site for your account status. We will do our best to make your account available as quickly as possible. We appreciate your support, and sincerely apologize for the inconvenience.”

The problem is that it has said this for weeks. Finally, today, I got fed up and contacted (or tried to contact) Hotmail.

At the bottom of the Hotmail login page, there’s a “Problems logging in? Click here for Help” link. Following that link takes you to a page that explains how to enable cookies and SSL. That’s not for me, so I selected the “Contact the .NET Passport team at the bottom of the screen,” which takes you to a page to submit a request to reset your password – also not for me as I know my Passport password is correct – I even tried entering an incorrect one and got a different message about an incorrect password.

Selecting the “Contact Us” link takes you to a nice page that describes who to contact about spam problems. At the bottom of the page is a phone number for “outages,” but it “cannot provide customer support.” I figured I’d give this a try anyway – and try and try and try. The phone number rings busy – I’ve tried it for days (for long periods of time) to no avail.

Fine. I decided I’d work backwards into this and contacted MSN directly. After speaking to a rather nice woman and explaining my problem, she informed me that she needed to send me to tech support. The woman on the other end of support was truly interested in helping me. She truly believed there was someone they (or I) could contact about this.

In fact, she took me to the Hotmail web site and tried all of the same links I had; and she determined (as I had) that none of these fit the bill. Her databases had no contact info, so she contacted her manager. Hold – hold – hold (she politely came back a number of times while on hold to tell me they were involving additional people). Thirty minutes later she finally got on the line and (rather sheepishly) said she was terribly sorry, but none of them had any idea on who to contact about this problem. She apologized profusely – but there was literally nothing she (or her manager, or anyone else in the organization, for that matter) could do to help.

When I asked her if I could just cancel my subscription and get my money back, she assured me I could and transferred me back to customer server – who transferred me to the “cancellation” department.

This is where it got interesting.

The initial person I spoke to said they could cancel my service, but they couldn’t give me a refund on my very recently renewed account. She was happy to transfer me to her supervisor.

Then came Justin the supervisor. I asked for his full name, but that was all he’d give me. I finally asked for his badge number, which he said was XXXX (but, having worked at MS nearly 10 years ago, I’d never heard of a badge number like that). I explained the whole situation to him and just got stonewalled. He attempted to find any support contacts for the entire Hotmail service and couldn’t find ANY! When asked about a refund, he said he had “policies and boundaries” that he was unable to cross.

There was no way that they could credit an account back, or even prorate it, regardless of loss of service (even though the majority, or maybe even all, of my service period on my recently renewed account had been inaccessible). When I asked how I go about ensuring my account doesn’t get automatically renewed next year, he informed me that he would have to cancel my account. Of course I pointed out it had just been renewed.

He said yes, but that is all he could do.

I asked to speak to his supervisor, but was told that they do not take phone calls. I asked to be placed on hold while he went and discussed this with his supervisor, and he said that those are some of the “boundaries” that he was not allowed to cross. WHAT? A supervisor who cannot discuss a customer issue with an employee is a boundary that cannot be crossed? The end of it was just him telling me that there was nobody that I could contact and nothing that could be done to remedy the situation.

So here I am – I have a paid service that I cannot get – I have no support contact to resolve the issue – and I cannot get the money back.

The truth of the matter is that I only use this account as an external test account to ensure that our email servers actually work. The only reason I’d upgraded to a “paid” account was so they wouldn’t cancel my account when it went unused for too long.

Surely it’s not the $20 (or so). In fact, my time along on the phone (nearly 65 minutes) was worth far more than that. It’s the principle of the whole thing – a service with no support – with no way to get a refund. I can’t imagine too many companies except Microsoft could get away with this and have the service remain viable.

Sorry for being long-winded, but it’s a long story.

Best Regards,

Scott Matthews