You can't expect a lot in the way of technical support from those free e-mail providers, even if you're kicking in a few bucks to get the so-called premium service. But no meaningful support at all? . . . From Microsoft?You can't expect a lot in the way of technical support from those free e-mail providers, even if you're kicking in a few bucks to get the so-called premium service.But no meaningful support at all? . . . From\u00a0Microsoft?That's what Scott Matthews says he got for his money when he signed up for MSN Extra Storage through Hotmail, an account he uses as a target in-box to test his company's internal e-mail servers. Matthews recently encountered this message when he tried to log on:"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."The word "temporary" apparently means something else to Hotmail than it does to the rest of us."The message has been there for weeks," Matthews wrote in an e-mail sent here recently. "Finally, today, I got fed up and contacted - or tried to contact - Hotmail."What he encountered was one of those maddening trips through sorry-but-I-can't-help-you hell. Since I cannot do his version of the tale justice - it's twice the length of this column - you can read his entire message\u00a0here.In a nutshell, Matthews was passed from polite-but-unhelpful person to polite-but-unhelpful person. His e-mails to Hotmail elicited polite-but-unhelpful canned replies. When all was said and done - and a lot was said and done - he was no closer to knowing how long "temporary" might be than when he started. He even tried to cancel his account, which had just been renewed, so he could get a refund and wash his hands of the whole unpleasantness. No can do, he was told.About a week after he gave up, the service was restored."I just kept trying [to log on], and suddenly the service came back. Nobody contacted me," he said.Companies that won't give their customers the time of day often will jump to it when a reporter's on the line and it's clear bad press is in the offing. So I tried to get an explanation from Hotmail."We sincerely apologize for Mr. Matthews' experience and are working with him directly to rectify the situation immediately," a Microsoft spokesman replied by e-mail, which was good because I had to stifle a laugh after reading the word immediately. "Customer support for MSN Extra Storage is currently provided via the chat function and through e-mail. We are expanding those offerings to include phone support in the near future to more thoroughly assist our customers and their needs."Chat and e-mail might be useful if you can access your account. If you can't, as was the case here, well, don't hold your breath waiting for that phone support.But there was more: "After reviewing Mr. Matthews' account further, it appears the issue resides with the cookies and cache within his computer's browser."Hmm, that sounds suspiciously like blaming the victim, which is pretty much how the victim saw it."The issue couldn't have had anything to do with cookies, as I tried to access the service from a number of computers, including freshly rebuilt machines in our test lab," Matthews says.The Microsoft bashers will look at all of this and say, "What do you expect?"The answer, of course, is better.You've just read 'Net Buzz No. 200 authored by yours truly; four years, give or take vacations and paternity leave. A big part of what keeps this fun, at least on my end, is that I get paid to do it. Another is swapping e-mail with readers, at firstname.lastname@example.org.