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Dear Adobe…

So, I was initially going to write a blog post to tell you about how great Adobe MAX was and reveal a small video preview of the upcoming V2 of Lovely Charts, but since I’ve just wasted another afternoon talking with Adobe’s customer service, I thought I’d do a little post about my experience with those guys instead.
This may not sound so relevant for this blog, but on the other end it’s also such a perfect example of how I DON’T WANT my own customers (you know, the ones that pay money for your products) to be treated that I guess there’s some relevance to be found anyway….

So, here’s my (long, sorry) story :

In september, I switched from my old Windows XP machine to a brand new Mac. No big deal in reality, just changing machines, taking a fresh start, all that… Speaking of fresh start, I figured it was a perfect opportunity to finally upgrade my old CS1/Studio MX 2004 licenses to a brand new CS4 license, so I went to Adobe’s online store to buy an upgrade…
At the time, there was a great promotion on the store, where I could upgrade from any CS1, CS2 or Studio suites to a CS4 Web Premium for 799€, what sounded like a great plan at the time, so I went for it, ordered a box, received it a couple of days later, launched the installer….

Then the problems began. The installer refused my serial number, saying my CS1 serial number wasn’t eligible for the upgrade.

So I called Adobe’s customer support for the first time, explained the problem I was facing, gave them my name, serial numbers etc… All that at least 3 or 4 times…. The guy was willing to help, but he didn’t understand what the issue was, so he told me to install the entire suite as a Trial version, then call back and try entering the serial again (sic). So I did that, didn’t work, called back, reached another person and re-explained my whole story, gave serial numbers, name etc.
This second person didn’t understand what was going on either, so she forwarded me to Tech support.
There, I had to re-explain my problem, give my serial numbers, name etc (see a recurring pattern here? Case numbers anyone?)… Then we got interrupted by my phone which died because I had been on the phone for over an hour with the previous lady. So I called back customer service, asked to be forwarded to Tech support, what was denied because “it was 4:48PM, and Tech Support stops at 5PM, call back on Monday.”.

Voilà, here goes a first wasted afternoon.

So I called back on monday, asked for Tech support, got forwarded, explained story, gave serial numbers, name etc…. Then for the first (and last) time, I talked to someone who finally understood my problem, and figured out within a minute that it was simply because my CS1 license was for Windows, and my CS4 upgrade was for Mac. Silly reason if you ask me, but cool, at least we know what’s going on and we can work on a solution. So the tech support guy told me about the solution, then forwarded me back to his customer service counterpart to work out the details.

The solution offered is, hum, circumvoluted, but hey, at least we have a solution. What I had to do is:

  1. print a form to certify I had destroyed my CS4 install (easy, I never managed to install it)
  2. fill-in and sign the form
  3. scan the signed form
  4. send it back to Adobe
  5. Adobe sends me back an email with the address of the place where I need to return the box
  6. I return the box to Switzerland (obviously, I get to pay the postal fees)
  7. Get a refund
  8. Call back to get a new license, a full license for the price of the upgrade, that’s the deal I got offered.

That’s sooooo much easier than generating a new serial number, isn’t it?

But wait, there’s more :)

After I had completed all the steps, I finally called (french number, international phone costs apply) to purchase my new license… Explained story, gave case number etc…
So the Customer Support lady goes to check in the system, sees I am indeed eligible for what they call a “cross platform upgrade”, then gets back to me saying I need to pay 1733€ !!!
I’ll spare you the details of the conversation, but honestly, she’s been very unhelpful to say the least. I spent almost an hour on the phone with her, explaining that yes, I was eligible for an upgrade, as per the eligibility table that’s on the online store (she kept arguing upgrades were for CS3 licensees only), and no, I didn’t want to pay almost double the price that was originally announced and guaranteed to me by the other agents.
She kept wondering why on earth had I sent back my CS4 box, which was what I was asked to do.
She almost called me a liar when I explained the previous agents had certified I would get a full license for the upgrade price.
She also almost called me stupid for not enquiring before about the cross platform upgrade issue. Now, I agree I could have asked, but I’m the customer here, YOU should inform me. From my perspective, I’m just trading serial numbers, I have CS1 and I’m buying a CS4 upgrade, and your website/store doesn’t say anything hinting at any potential issues.

And I am paying for this.

So, where am I now? Well, I’ve litteraly wasted two full afternoons on the phone (should I send an invoice for the time spent?), I’ve been treated like if was trying to abuse the system, and I still don’t have a solution to move on with my work.

What am I supposed to do? Honestly, I don’t know.
I could look up for some warez serial number, and no one would ever care, except me and my sily conscience, I like to pay for the tools I use for my business.
I could keep using my old CS1 license on my old XP machine, but that’s just silly, no? :)
I could look for alternatives, such as open source software or independent solutions… Anyone got any recommendation?

The only thing I’m certain of, is that I will NOT pay 1733€ for this upgrade, but I’ve got work to do (work that, btw, generates a (small) revenue I just spent (big) part on a booth at Adobe MAX, ironic isn’t it?), so where do I go from here?

If anyone is listening… I know I am.

13 commentaires

  1. Stefan Richter :

    I’m going to send this link to some folks at Adobe. It’s time that this sillyness ends. It’s been going on for a while, check Tink’s story:

  2. David Bigelow :


    We HATE the idea of employing people to deal with this type of issue for our customers. We wanted to make licensing EASY, as self-service as possible, and NOT do the whole KEY-GEN, Machine, OS, bla bla bla crap that people never think of the ramifications of until they introduce massive support costs to deal with it.

    The only ones that suffer from those decisions are the CUSTOMERS!

    Kudos for outlining the frustrations. We had those same frustrations before we decided to solve it. No BS code-gens, No BS upgrade strings, No crap to put your customers through… it should just WORK!


  3. Eric D alias Merlin :

    Funny, we switched at the same time (my coworkers did too). I know that my boss traded a Windows version of a program for a Mac version. As the Mac version had less features, they did it for free.

    For Adobe, I would suggest:
    - When you get in line with such a backwards person, just hang up and call again. You’ll wait a bit but get a good chance of talking to a more willing person. I’ve even been suggested to do that by a Belgacom call center employee.
    - Do not hesitate to send a complaint by registered mail (accusé de réception). From Belgium, you pay the stamp plus the “registered” fee. So sending registered mail to France is not much more expensive than Belgium. (6-7€) Do not forget to include the URL of LovelyCharts.
    - Send them your bill. The worst that can happen is that they refuse it. The best is that they pay at least some of it and give you your upgrade.

  4. Himanshu Mody :

    Sorry to know about your experience.
    However, I just wanted to say that I visited your booth at MAX and I loved your product.

  5. Doris Smith :

    I had a similar run-in with Adobe, although in my case, it wasn’t even a cross-platform issue. I installed and registered CS4 as an upgrade from Macromedia Studio MX2004, then my machine died. So I bought a new machine, and I installed the CS4 upgrade there. *But* I no longer had the serial number from the previous version. When I called Customer Service, they insisted that they had no record of my having Macromedia Studio MX2004. I had bought it through Amazon, so I was able to find a receipt on Amazon’s site and sent it to Adobe, hoping that that would convince them. No such luck.

    Ultimately, I ended up going to a warez site to get a MX2004 serial number.

  6. Tracy Moisan :

    Jerome, I’m part of the Technical Services team at Adobe. I’d like to help, and get this resolved for you quickly. You’re completely correct that this should be a straight-forward and simple process; and I apologize for the frustrating experience you’ve had.

    I’ve included my contact information as part of this post; and will also reach out to you directly.

  7. Rachel :

    My last call to Adobe support was similarly unsuccessful. After several hours on the phone over several days, they basically told me that the problem I had was my environment, not an issue with their product. I ultimately abandoned it. I later talked to an Adobe employee about the issue and how frustrated I was at the sheer uselessness of the tech support reps I talked to, and he also advised me to just call back for someone different, and more importantly, to ASK to have your case escalated. You see, in all the time I spent on the phone trying things I knew wouldn’t work because the support rep didn’t understand my problem, I had never been escalated past front line support. I thought that if I jumped through all their hoops that at some point they would escalate me to someone who knew what they were doing, but it turns out that they won’t escalate any problem unless you ask them to. I hope sharing this will prevent others from having the same terrible experience I did.

  8. Curt Staubach :

    I had a somewhat similar experience. Without going into the gory details, I also spent a good 2 days on the phone and got similar treatment.

    I found the phone number for Adobe Corporate in California, told them my situation and they took care of the problem in 10 minutes.

    Any time there is jobbed-out customer/tech support, it’s a problem. Those people don’t care about the company they are representing, nor do they have the authority to solve a problem that doesn’t fit into Option A, B, or C.

  9. Adam :

    I have to say that this experience sounds horrible. I actually had a very great experience with Adobe CS when I moved my CS3 licenses from Windows to a Mac about 2 years ago - so it’s not always this bad. I have to applaud Tracy for commenting on this blog, (basically) recognizing there is a problem and offering to help. It’s just said to think that this same problem could have happened to someone without such a public forum to bring attention to the matter and it could have went unnoticed. Anyway I’m sure they’ll take care of you, good luck!

  10. Johan Dermaut :


    First of all, I admire you for writing down this horror story.

    I had a similar experience where I had to submit several times the same numbers, scan numbers, take a picture of numbers, I had to deal with four different people of customer service via e-mail and on and on.

    The worst customer experience and customer service ever. But I didn’t want to spend time writing the whole story down. That is exactly why they get away with bad service. I admit now that I should have because things like this are unacceptable especially if you look at the price of their products.


  11. Peter Grainge :

    I have a feeling that I have seen somewhere that upgrades are not available for platform changes.

    I wonder if you have tried the email address in this Adobe blog.

    I hope it gets you somewhere.

  12. Jérôme :

    Thanks everyone for the support and contribution, I guess pretty much everyone concurs that the two main issues here are the licensing system and the outsourced Tier1 support :)
    Let’s hope this will contribute to make Adobe realize and prioritize some of the changes needed to achieve better customer satisfaction .

    Fyi, my personal problem has been solved:
    If anything similar happens to you, make sure to make some noise and have your voice being heard, it can only benefit everyone.

    Now back to work !

  13. Amanda :

    Hey there,

    Just found a link to your software from webappstorm and I love you product.

    I also stumbled across this blog post and just had to contribute to the “noise.” My husband I purchased some adobe products back in June, and we were double charged due to some crazy processes they have for getting a student version of the software. We’ve spent hours on the phone with them trying to explain the problem, but we have yet to see a refund.

    I love Adobe products, but their customer service makes me feel like they only see people as dollar signs. This is a problem that they should fix quickly, because it only makes people want to download illegal versions. They should keep their paying customers happy.

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