SECOND LIFE PUBLIC HEALTH WARNING: do not continue reading if you’re not a fan of the public rant!
For now, I am no longer a Second Life Resident. Linden Labs have decided to upgrade their system for taking payment from residents outside of the US and in the process are unable to take my payment and have suspended my account.
In mid May, I received an email from ‘My Friends at Linden Lab’ advising that I may experience problems in making payments because they’d upgraded their system for International customers and had ‘run into a few bugs and systems issues’. However, my friends provided a link to a post on their blog which reassuringly advised that ‘Recent Billing Issues Will Not Affect Your Account Status’.
I was at least prepared then, when 2 days later, I received an email advising that LL had failed to bill my account. I responded to the email and asked if their failure to bill was related to technical issues; after all I knew the credit card was good and had been since I started using it for Second Life payments in 2007. They replied and instructed me to call to sort out billing. They provided 2 telephone numbers, both of which were invalid when called so I emailed back and told them so. I then received a set of instructions, by email, on how to update my billing. The instructions involved a complicated 26-step process and required me to purchase L$600 to satisfy the new minimum transaction of at least $2.50 USD; ironic when you consider that the upgraded system, which caused the failure to bill in the first instance, was implemented to ensure billing would be ‘easier, and less expensive’ (quote taken from ‘My Friends at Linden Lab’ in their original email). I responded and advised that I had no intention of going through their suggested long drawn out process and purchase L$600 which I did not need in order to rectify their technical problem. I was somewhat pleased when I received their reply which advised that my case was being reviewed by the relevant department and that I would receive a response in 2 to 5 working days.
In my naivety, I expected that the response would take the form of an apology and offer to accept my payment without inconveniencing me or putting me to additional expense. Hmmm … no … the response was notification that they hadn’t received payment and that if they didn’t do so within 30 days ‘your account will be canceled, and your inworld land holdings (Linden Home included) will be foreclosed on’. At this point, my ability to log into Second Life was disabled. Having come to the conclusion that taking the moral high ground was going to result in my loss of account, possessions and land, I swallowed my pride and logged on to the Second Life website to update payment details. At this point, I was presented with a message asking me to call them or submit a support case. I called the provided number (plus others given on the website for billing support) 7 times, but every time I called I was cut off with the message “Call ended. Thank you for your call”. Unperturbed, I returned to my account and selected the link to submit a support case, at which point I was logged out of the system and invited to submit a question as a guest. There was an option to log in and I chose it and engaged in a few minutes of technical merry-go-round, eventually returning to my starting point – the guest question submission screen.
The introductory message on LL’s billing support advises that Second Life residents can find help on the website or through chat support. Running out of options, I decided to look for the chat support option on the website. I couldn’t find it, but in looking, I came across an option to restore my account and update my payment details (you have to wonder why the original message I received when logging into my account didn’t just direct me there?). I noticed that there was an option to change country of residence. As you may know, I’ve recently moved to the US. I intended to update my residency details and change billing to a US credit card at some point in the future, but as I was being forced into updating billing, I thought I’d might as well do it there and then. I successfully changed my country of residence to the US, but after selecting the option to make payment, I was advised onscreen that I was still being billed in pounds sterling. Not only that, but the amount being billed was $52.50 higher than I’d previously been notified I owed. It was at that point I saw a golden glimmer of hope in the corner of the payment screen – the elusive and magical chat support button – squeee! I was sure that a LL support staff member, once aware of my plight, would empathise and rush to take my cash; we could all then move on from this painful incident.
I’m not sure how long our chat lasted – it seemed like over an hour and I won’t take up your time with irrelevance. I more or less relayed the series of events as outlined above and in a stereotypical customer services styley, she reassured me that she was listening … I was hopeful. Afterwards, she responded by asking me if I’d followed the 26-step procedure to update my billing details. After realising my hopes were in vein and internalising a big sigh, I explained that I had not because I did not feel it was fair to expect me to spend time and money sorting out their technical problems. Besides, updating my billing details would not resolve the problems I was now experiencing after changing my country of residence in being billed in the wrong currency and for the wrong amount. She went on to explain that “the upgrade has caused a lot of issues that we are trying to resolve”, that my account should not have been closed, that they would move my account back to the old system, but that it would take some time to complete, the system was automatic and they had no control over it. I would have to log on again in 48 hours and attempt to update my billing information then. In the meantime, my account would remain locked and I would continue to have no access in-world.
I told the chat operator that I had no confidence in LL and that I felt would be faced with the same issues in 48 hours as I had then. I told her that I wanted a telephone number so that I could speak to someone. When none was provided, I advised that I wanted to escalate the issue and asked for the details of someone I could contact to make a complaint. All I received in return was a generic email address; she refused to offer me anything further except for some advice; after explaining that they knew they had problems after their upgrade, she went on to tell me that is why they had sent me the emails to tell me to update my billing information. Obviously, I felt a fool … it appeared that this was all my fault. My advice, for any International Second Life Residents who may be experiencing similar problems to me is, when asked to step up by LL with your time and your money to resolve their technical problems, do not shirk your duty. Do your bit and help them out … God knows, they need it!