Software Company Shows How Not To Handle Negative Review
from the new-levels-of-fuckery dept
See update at the end, with more details from one of the co-founders of HRD
We’ve seen lots of terrible responses to negative reviews and other online criticism — most of which end with the offended party having earned plenty of new enemies and gained nothing at all in the reputation department. If it’s not completely bogus libel lawsuits, it’s bogus fees being charged to end users for violating non-disparagement clauses buried deep within the company’s terms of service.
Fortunately, a federal law going into effect next year will limit some of this bullshit behavior. It won’t prevent companies and individuals from filing bogus libel lawsuits, but it will prevent entities from using contractual clauses as prior restraint on negative reviews and criticism.
This tactic, however, is a new twist on the old “punish customers for negative reviews” game. A user of Ham Radio Deluxe wasn’t too happy with its apparent incompatibility with Windows 10. He posted a negative review of the software at eHam.net, calling out the company for its seeming unwillingness to fix the underlying issue.
I purchased HRD 6.3, only to find out Windows XP was not supported. So, I installed HRD on a brand new Windows 10 machine, and everything appeared to be working fine. Then, I installed Office 365, and it broke the LogBook. Known problem, they say. There is a whole page devoted to telling you how to tweak the registry, download things, repair files, etc, etc.
Alright guys, enough is enough. If you have known problems, like compatibility issues with Microsoft products, you need to release a hotfix. It would take a day to create a script to do all of the things your page says to do, and it would be idiot proof. Nobody should ever have to edit their registry because of a compatibility issue caused by your software using an old jet driver and ODBC for communications. ESPECIALLY if the issue occurred from installing a tried and true product like Office.
I can see a lot of development time went into the bells and whistles, but for goodness sake, make it a little more user-friendly and a little more stable before pushing it to market. I’d expect bugs and lengthy configuration procedures in free software. Caveat emptor. Know what you’re getting before you drop the money on software that, in my opinion, is not mature.
Sorry guys, I’ve tried to love it. It just isn’t worth the price.
Nothing out of the ordinary here. A dissatisfied customer airs his grievances about a purchased product. The user also opened a support ticket with HRD Software hoping it could solve his problems.
HRD Software replied to the ticket, telling the user to download a patch for the malfunctioning software.
The version of HRD you indicated IS NOT the latest release… Current Version: V 188.8.131.520 In order to provide proper support for your issue and to insure we are all on the same version, please download and install the current version of Ham Radio Deluxe. It can be downloaded by clicking on or copying and pasting http://www.hrdsoftwarellc.com/downloads.html into your favorite browser, to take you to the HRD Software Download page on our website. You could also click on the Current Version link in the “HRD Help Links” to begin an immediate download. Once you have downloaded and installed the current release of HRD, please test it thoroughly to see if the issue you have been having has been resolved.
Seems normal enough. But more problems developed.
I’ve tried to install the update according to your directions. Now when I click on the HRD icon, I get the splash screen from version 184.108.40.2060 for about a second, and then it disappears and nothing else happens. Was I supposed to uninstall the old version first? I downloaded the setup.exe file you highlited above. I am now completely dead because of a minor problem. This is exactly what I was trying to avoid. Please advise what steps to take from here. This is a new computer and v610 was a fresh install. Thank you
The company’s response? We’ve intentionally bricked your software because of your negative review at eHam.
We would also like to request that you NOT RENEW your support nor use our software due to the review you placed on eHam back in September. Remember that? http://www.eham.net/reviews/review/143372
The “customer support” at HRD Software then pointed the user to its terms of service, stating that it had the right to do what it had just done. HRD Software reserves the “right” to “disable a customer’s key at any time for any reason.” Then it told him the blacklisting would be revoked if he removed his negative review. Bonus: mention of a capital-A “Attorney” for added seriousness, I guess.
If you remove the eHam review, which was blatantly false, we will remove the blacklist from you call. You are not buying software, you are buying your callsign’s access to the software. the so called bug you reported is not one in HRD, but one in the CAT commands of the FT3000 radio, which have been verified with yaesu. Again refer to section 8 of the TOS, which was written by our Attorney.
And with that, HRD Software set its reputation on fire. A long thread at QRZ.com is the ham enthusiast forum’s version of Sherman’s March to the Sea, with HRD being razed to the ground like so many antebellum mansions.
But there’s a twist: 37 pages into this forum’s discussion of HRD’s brutally inept handling of a customer complaint, the co-owner of the company wades into the fray and apologizes. Then he spends the next twenty-plus pages engaging with the ham radio community in hopes of fixing issues, past and present, and somehow salvaging a future out of the barely-glowing embers of its reputation. So do some other members of the HRD team — including one who threatened the user with a lawsuit on top of bricking his paid-for software.
They’re not met with much enthusiasm, but it’s a far better response than ignoring the issue and/or sniping back with more complaints about the behavior of paying customers. In any event, this is yet another addition to the growing body of knowledge filed under the heading of “Customer Service: You’re Doing It Wrong.”
Update: One of the founders of HRD, Michael Carper, (who, as discussed above, waded into the comments) reached out, hoping to clarify some points. While the above story is an accurate portrayal of the events, and Carper admits that one of his partners messed up and is no longer with the company, Carper feels that there are a few additional relevant facts. Specifically, he argues that the company did not “trick” the user into downloading software that bricked his software (nor did we report that they did). He says a few different issues collided: (1) The user was out of his 12 month support period, but the initial tech didn’t realize this, and told him to download the upgraded version of the software. (2) When the customer contacted support again, to note that the upgrade didn’t work, the tech realized he was out of his service contract, and then told him he was “blacklisted”. (3) The customer was told that he could *revert* back to the version that he had purchased, and could continue using that software.
Carper claims (and he’s told some other sites this as well) that the reason the tech told the customer to upgrade to the new version was because he thought he was covered under the support contract, and he was trying to help solve the issues — not to brick the software. The “bricked” software was just the upgraded version that didn’t work because the customer was no longer covered — and then the tech from HRD did go on to make some stupid comments about the review, which is what this story is mainly about. But Carper’s main point is just that the company did not intentionally brick the software — it was just that the upgraded version was blocked because the user wasn’t covered… and then a staff member (who is no longer with HRD) went off on the tangent about the bad review of the software and a blacklist.
So… this still seems almost as bad, but the “more sympathetic” version is that the company didn’t intentionally brick the software, it just (intentionally) added the customer to a blacklist based on his bad review (and then later lifted that blacklist). The bricking part was a sort of incidental side effect of HRD incorrectly telling someone to download upgraded software that he wasn’t entitled to. So… still bad, but maybe marginally less bad than before.