Adobe: Bait ‘n Wait

Before I tell you why Adobe sucks so hard, envision this scenario…

Somebody’s birthday party is fast approaching and you need to get a present before the day ends. This particular somebody happens to like jewelry so, as common sense would have it, you go to a jewelry store to buy a nice gift. Inside the store you see many great products on display. You’re free to take them out and try them on but of course you have to give them back if you’re not going to buy them. After a little browsing, you find the perfect gift. You might think your shopping experience is about to come to a delightful conclusion but unfortunately you’re troubles are just getting started.

You tell the clerk behind the counter that you’ve found the perfect gift and that you’re ready to conclude the transaction. You point to the jewelry behind the glass, the clerk tells you the price and then asks if you’re ready to buy. You say you definitely want the jewelry and mention how fortunate you are to have found the gift in such a timely fashion since you really need it before the day’s end. He assures you that you’ll be leaving the store with jewelry in-hand mere “minutes” after your transaction by pointing to a plaque on the wall stating, “Buy our jewelry and walk out the store with it in minutes.” “Cool.” you say, that’s what you expected but you wanted to make sure. You hand over your credit card, sign on the dotted line just like you have many times before and your transaction is complete. But it’s not… But it is.

You give the clerk a few minutes and then ask for the jewelry you’ve just purchased. The clerk looks at you funny then simply says, “Ummmm… no.” You ask why and he says he’s not sure why, maybe your credit card is bad, maybe his boss doesn’t like you, maybe you look like a criminal, maybe, maybe, maybe. Besides, the clerk tells you, it doesn’t matter why at all because you’re not getting “your” jewelry now no matter what you say or do. Maybe you could come back and get it in 2 days. ??? !!! Now you might not be a mathematical genius, but you’re probably clever enough to figure out that ‘days’ are approximately 1,440 times longer than the previously promised ‘minutes’. As you gaze at the plaque behind the counter you feel as though you’ve been duped. Ye ole “Bait ‘n Switche” or “Bait ‘n Wait” if you will. “False Advertising” even. No matter what you call it, it doesn’t leave you with a very positive feeling after having made such a significant purchase. Besides, if you were willing to wait a few days, you would have went to the other jewelry store that gift-wraps your purchases for free.

Boy, that sure is unfortunate for you. Oh well, just get your money back or cancel your transaction and be on your way to buy a gift elsewhere. But the clerk once again says, “Ummmm… no.” The transaction can’t be canceled for another 24 hours. The clerk goes on to explain that there’s just no way you can magically cancel a transaction after it’s been converted to electrons and processed by a distant computational device, the bits have to cool down in a fully chilled potentiometer cell before they can be accessed and precisely manipulated; in fact, he tells you, it’s a miracle any transactions go through at all let alone in “minutes”. (Okay I may have embellished that part a bit but you get the picture). So you tell him to cancel your transaction in 24 hours because the birthday party will have been long over by then. He shrugs you off with an offhand, “Yeah, I’ll get right on that.” and then walks away.

Feeling disgruntled, to say the least, you vow never to do business with that store ever again but alas, you really need that jewelry because a certain somebody is completely heartbroken that their birthday gift wasn’t on time. Two days later you go to another branch of the jewelry store which is now open and has the exact same item. The clerk at this store Super-Duper-Promises you that your transaction will be trouble-free or else he’ll start kicking ass and taking names until the deal goes through and after that he’ll personally deliver the beautifully gift-wrapped box upon a swift white steed, building bridges from L.A. to PA. if necessary. The only catch… it’ll take 2 days. No problem. You’ve got all the time in the world. Now.

Boy, that sure was a long-winded tale of trouble and woe, wasn’t it? Thank goodness things worked out in the end. The beautifully boxed jewelry arrived 2 days later as promised, the first store was smited? smoted? smot? and peace spread across the land.

At least that’s how the story probably would have ended if it was actually about you. But the fact of the matter is that the preceding “tale of tedium” was little more than a thinly disguised account of my recent attempt to buy CS4 Web Premium from Adobe (the first jewelry store was actually Adobe Online while the second store represented Adobe Phone Sales). Similar to my previous attempt to install software from Adobe, things didn’t go so well.

About ten minutes after placing my “second” order for CS4 through the Adobe Phone Sales department, Adobe Online e-mailed me to say that my “first” order was now ready for download. Believe it or not, I don’t really need 2 copies of CS4 so I called Adobe again to cancel the first online order, one more time… again. They basically told me that there was no way to cancel the order now that it had been processed. First they said it couldn’t be canceled before it was processed and now they’re saying it can’t be canceled after it’s been processed, a Catch 22 of sorts.

After much yelling, screaming, tooth-pulling and a few “let me talk to your supervisor”s I finally discovered that I would now be forced to fill out and sign a mandatory “Letter of Destruction” (a form obscurely if not cleverly called an LOD by those ‘in the know’) which discloses personal information and hereby swears and affirms that I duly promise to destroy the software I had received (and was probably trying to steal) from Adobe if they should ever choose to refund my money. And just for kicks, Adobe plans on holding my money for 3 to 4 weeks while my “case” is reviewed. Never mind the fact that I wanted to cancel the transaction the moment I learned it would not be delivered within “minutes” as promised. Never mind the fact that I tried to cancel the order multiple times on different days. Never mind the fact that I had never downloaded the CS4 suite. Never mind the fact that the exact same software is widely and freely distributed by Adobe on a trial basis. Never mind the fact that the registration number they sent along with the download link can be deactivated electronically. Never mind the fact that they sent the registration key via e-mail and anyone could have gained access to it. Never mind logic or reason, just comply and shut up about it. Come to think of it, you really should have canceled your first order before it was fully processed.

Why Didn’t I think of that?

I don’t believe this type of behavior would be legal let alone tolerable in any typical brick-and-mortar business and I see no reason why a company doing business online shouldn’t be held to the same standards.

I’d really like to know your thoughts on this one. Leave a comment.

Here are the facts of the matter:


  1. I went online Saturday morning to buy the “downloadable” version of CS4 Web Premium so I could use it on a project ASAP.
  2. Early Saturday afternoon I get an e-mail from Adobe saying, “We are currently reviewing your order!”
  3. I called customer support to find out what was going on and ended up talking to Andy in India. According to Andy there may have been some trouble with my credit card (which otherwise has worked flawlessly for many online transactions in the past) but there’s nothing he can do about it now. I just have to wait 48 hours.
  4. Since the urgency to get CS4 will pass in 48 hours I told him to cancel my order. He said he needed to wait 24 hours before he could do so.
  5. Monday morning (48 hours later) I go online to check my order status and there’s no info on it. No pending message, nothing. I assumed the order was canceled (ERROR!).
  6. After thinking about it for a while I determine that it might be a good idea to have CS4 on hand just in case this situation comes up again.
  7. Rather than go online I opt to talk to a real person who can guide me through the process and make sure my transaction goes smoothly (i.e. no credit card issues).
  8. On Monday I call Adobe Sales and talk to someone named Jamie. He tells me he can’t see any evidence of my previous online order.
  9. After further discussion Jamie convinces me to buy the hard copy DVD version because:
    • I’m no longer in a rush and have time to wait for postal delivery.
    • He can verify that the transaction is processed immediately.
    • The download links expire after 2 or 3 years depending on who you ask.
    • The boxed DVDs only cost $5 more.
  10. Oddly enough the same credit card is processed without any trouble whatsoever.
  11. YAY!
  12. And then… 1/2 hour later my Online Order Notification e-mail came through (in other words, I just bought CS4 twice).
  13. Great. So I call Adobe Sales and ask to talk to Jamie but apparently even though he’s listed as the sales guy on the order, whoever I’m talking to now has no idea who he is and he definitely can’t transfer my call through to him.
  14. I talk to this guy for a bit and his solution is for me to cancel the online order after it’s processed, then sign some sort of waiver, and then send that in, and then wait for that to be processed, THEN the charge will be removed. Maybe.
  15. I got sort of pissed-off because I don’t think it’s my fault or that I should have to jump through so many hoops just to cancel this self-resurrecting-zombie of an order so I asked to talk to a supervisor or someone I could reason with. After all, I’m obviously not trying to steal CS4 or I wouldn’t have bought the damn thing twice.
  16. I spent 20 minutes on hold and then was patched through to Customer Support in India where I talked to MayRose. She told me she couldn’t put me through to a supervisor but she would take all my info, give me a case number, and I could call back tomorrow to cancel my order, sign the waiver blah blah blah…

12 Responses to “Adobe: Bait ‘n Wait”

  1. Gloria says:

    I feel your frustration! This is probably an abandoned site by now, but wanted you to know that 5 years later and people are still reading about your experience with Adobe Customer “Service” and have noted the difficulty you have had. I find myself wondering if they have gotten better or worse in the past 5 years regarding their “Service” to their customers. I also wanted to note that I personally feel cornered into buying their products because I create ecards for a well known online website and they only will allow Flash or GIF uploads. So I am teaching myself Flash. Hope I never need their help with anything…

  2. Chris says:

    The funny thing is all of the trouble companies go through to make their software copy protected, all of which is usually circumvented within 24-48 hours of the product being available. This has plagued PC game manufacturers as well since it’s usually the publishers who insist on using copy protection which occasionally causes game crashes and issues with *legitimately* bought versions of the game. The irony is the pirated versions of the game remove all of that stuff, which results in an improved game experience.

    I’m all for buying software that’s worth the money (eg: Photoshop, Lightroom, etc) but I wish they wouldn’t make it so difficult for legitimate customers.

  3. Kirk says:

    I’ve had similar experiences, tempered by sometimes rapid, expert handling of occasional concerns. As with any business, it seems to be important who you reach and how many of the facts you have in order, i.e., how “on the ball and ready for responses” you are when you contact Adobe. Unfortunately, in issues ranging from security to attainability, I’ve found myself somewhat more disappointed than thrilled in my latest experiences.

    I would recommend that anyone experiencing similar problems directly reference this writeup in their own concerns, to encourage Adobe to notice just how pervasive the issues can be, and remind them that some of us (with decades of experience) silently read these things IN FULL (or assign people to do so) before making a decision regarding product purchases. To wit, I’m currently evaluating several of their products, but I keep running into these stories.

    Thank you for taking the time to post this; as a seasoned professional, I don’t worry much about bitter, spiteful complaints–one never knows if these people are just never happy–but I DO put significant attention on stories that rationally and deliberately express issues that can be understood from any consumer’s standpoint. Duly noted.

    • Pixelwit says:

      Kirk, thanks for letting me know my message has found an audience.

      I wrote this article for 3 reasons. To alert people like you who purchase Adobe products so you can make an informed decision; to show Adobe that a little guy’s opinion still matters; and to explain to my bank why this credit card transaction was to be terminated even though Adobe was “working with me” to resolve the issue.

      I’ve reached you and hundreds of other people like you who have read this article. I’ve reached part of Adobe because I know a few Adobe employees have read this even though nobody has given an official response. The bank immediately canceled this transaction after I sent them a link to the article. I think it’s been a success on all 3 fronts.

  4. Connie P. says:

    I purchased the full version of Page Flip from you today. Unfortunately, my purchase didn’t go as smoothly as I’d planned and I received an error message on my transaction. I assumed it was my work firewall preventing me access so I used my personal computer to re-do the purchase request.

    When I received confirmation of my purchase, I noticed that indeed I had been billed twice and that the transaction with the error had actually gone through.

    I am very impressed with your customer service because immediately after sending you the email about the double billing, I was refunded.

    Too bad everyone wasn’t so diligent in their transactions!

  5. FJGamer says:

    I miss Macromedia.

  6. Scott Gartner says:

    I have had several similar experiences with Adobe. Their completely anal approach to copy protection, their complicated and confusing groupings (collections versus suites) and their completely unhelpful sales and sales support staff have left me completely cold. After spending many hours on the phone with them trying to resolve an upgrade issue for the “collection” that I purchased (that no longer exists and can’t be upgraded to a “suite” even though I own all the products in the “suite”) I finally gave up on them completely and switched to Sony Vegas Pro. If I can keep from ever purchasing an Adobe product again I will, and I share my negative experience with any colleague that is considering climbing in bed with Adobe.

  7. UncleNinja says:

    That sounds like fun… (Kidding)
    I didn’t have any of those problems… I got CS4 Design Premium and CS4 Contribute from Studica as education editions for my birthday(don’t ask) and didn’t have any problems. I suspect it was because I didn’t have to deal with Adobe.
    I am very irritated all these tech companies like Adobe and HP outsourcing their customer service to India! Not to be racist, but I can’t hardly understand what they are saying they have such a thick accents! Grrr!

  8. Xak says:

    Glad to see others are starting to see that Adobe has it’s head up it’s own ass and could give a crap less about it’s customers. I ordered, bought and paid for CS4, and had hell downloading it because it requires you to use their special download software. It took many attempts talking to Majubabi (John) and others in India and still not getting it right. After finally speaking to someone with a clue and who spoke English as a first language, I downloaded and installed the software. What a waste of time. That’s when I decided to hell with Adobe, I would be just as happy making Flash in Macromedia Flash 8 as I ever would with their *enhanced* crapola.

  9. Pixelwit says:

    @Kev, I’m all for using free software whenever possible but I also believe you should pay for any software that generates income, be it Freeware, Shareware, Pirateware or Whateverware.

  10. Kev says:

    I could make several witty comments about Piracy and its popularity, but I think you get the idea.

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