You only get service until you pay

I do a project with a group of students every semester in which we pretend to be a company and produce a product, with all the problems associated. This tends to be a great learning experience, as Real Life (tm) rears its ugly head on more than one occasion.

The most difficult part of getting 5-6 people to work together is, of course, communication. (I like the book "Herding Cats" on the topic of getting programmers to communicate). So I experiment with different collaborations software every semester.

The student group suggested we be "Web 2.0" (since we are trying to develop a Web 2.0 product) and use basecamp for collaboration. The first steps were encouraging with the free product, and since we have a tiny bit of money we can spend for the projects, we decided to go for the first pay-for-function level.

First problem: Payment only works by credit card, and that has to be in the name of the person owning the project. No problem, the student who set it up could reassign me to be the owner.

Second problem: The company wants a monthly fee of 12$. We would like to have 3 months = 36$. I have to fill out a purchase order AND a reimbursement of funds form for each individual bill (and someone in the finance department has to organize the payment each time to reimburse me), so I wanted to purchase 3 months in advance. You wouldn't think they would make it difficult for you to part with your money, would you?

Well, we could find nothing, so we wrote an email to the company. Kudos - they answered inside of 2 hours, pointing us to the FAQ. There it said: click on the menu and then you get a lump sum button. Well, we looked all over, but no lump sum button. So we purchased 12$ for one month (with a reminder to cancel the subscription!!), and lo and behold, the lump sum button appeared!

The wording was kind of strange, but it sounded like: your fees are taken from this sum instead of your account. Unfortunately, there are only increments of 50 to be purchased (how silly, the credit card company does not care what the numbers it deducts are).

We were sure it would go wrong, but we are in the business of testing systems like this as well, makes for great learning experiences. We pressed the button, this time it reminded us that nothing is refundable. And bang: now we hat 12$ AND 50$ in our account :(

We wrote again, saying that we felt this was unfair, we wanted to have 3 months and pay 36$, we have ended up having to pay 62$ just because their application does not conform to what was promised. We got an answer right away: fees are not refundable.

We wrote again that there was no way for us to get what was promised in the FAQ. And now, no more answers. No entry on our account information. Deafening silence.

Okay, we'll use it. But we won't repeat the experience. And we'll tell all our friends about the bad experience we had with pay-per-function systems. I'll stick with completely open source in the future, I think.

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