SUBSCRIPTION PROBLEM - NO RESPONSE YET

Discussion in 'Photo.net Site Help' started by stevemarcus, May 3, 2004.

  1. This is a re-posting of queries that were initially posted to this
    forum on April 15, then re-posted on April 22. I am posting again
    because I received no responses to my original queries:

    PROBLEM 1: I signed up as a subscriber during the December/January
    "Sandy" Subscription Drive when an 18 month membership was offered for
    the cost of a 12 month subscription. However, my Workspace page shows
    that my subscription expires on Jan. 6, 2005. My payment was verified
    by PayPal on Dec. 31.

    Could you please change my subscription expiration date to July 6, 2005?

    THANK YOU.

    PROBLEM 2: I e-mailed the above query to subscriber-services@photo.net
    on April 15. I received the following automated reply:

    "Hi. This is the qmail-send program at www.photo.net. I'm afraid I
    wasn't able to deliver your message to the following addresses. This
    is a permanent error; I've given up. Sorry it didn't work out.

    <subscriber-services@photo.net>: Sorry, no mailbox here by that name.
    (#5.1.1)"

    Has the subscriber-services@photo.net mailbox been shut down and, if
    so, to whom should subscriber queries be addressed?

    THANK YOU IN ADVANCE FOR TAKING THE TIME TO RESPOND TO THESE QUERIES.
     
  2. Steve, it is eight months before it matters whether your subscription expires on Jan 6 or July 6. Considering that we give people a few months of grace before removing their suscriber priveleges, it is even longer. If we haven't sorted it out in time, then you should complain.
     
  3. Brian, will all due respect, this is the wrong answer to a serious overall problem.
     
  4. No offense intended, but this sounds like a lame, and shameless response to a politely serious inquiry by a PAYING member.

    When a person sees a problem with not getting credit for what they’ve paid for or not receiving a widely advertised and enticing subscription bonus, they should complain, and should expect a timely resolution to the problem, after all they are paying for that service. Here a timely resolution is eight months! Pleeeeeeze!…

    Subscriber services’ mail boxes down, now that is an issue. I bet people would love to be able to touch base with someone who they have paid when subscription problems occur.
    ------------
    How about,

    Dear Steve Marcus,
    Sorry that you were unable to reach someone through Subscriber services’ email. I am checking into your account now and will credit your subscription if warranted. If you haven’t noticed your expiration date changed in XX days, please send another inquiry with “non credited payment” in subject line.

    We value your subscription and participation, thank you for bringing our attention to this matter.

    -----


    What kind of profit does Photo.net actually make after all the bandwidth, computer infrastructure, and employees are paid for? Another words, is someone getting rich, and would they consider hiring a person experienced in receiving payments and posting accounts to reduce or alleviate the problem. I’m sure you could get someone locally; all one really needs is a PO Box, bank account and access to the system.

    If someone sends payment, the person opening the envelope or receiving confirmation through paypal, bank transfer, etc… should credit the subscribers account right then. Is it really more complex than that?
     
  5. Agreed, Kenny. Many members (or would be members) post questions on the board as that's the only access available for resolving subscription problems. They often (usually) go unanswered. I've sent in 2 checks for membership, one on 11/21/03 and another on 3/10/04 and still have not been signed up nor have the checks been cashed. If I've done something wrong in the submittals it would seem someone would have 30 seconds to type and send an email telling me that so I could correct it. I'm beginning to think the problem isn't with me but somewhere at photonet. I don't think I've ever had a problem with giving someone money, they always find some way to take it. Oh well, at least I'll have a $50 cushion in my checking account.
     
  6. It would probably be more reassuring if the system were dependable enough to give you some idea that your checks arrived or not. Does it take 5 months for a $25 check to clear? Stopping payment at your bank on these overdue monetary instruments is not free either. Maybe you’ll hear something soon.

    Hint…hint…
     
  7. Brian, I think the real issue here is the lack of response to valid inquiries from people WHO WANT TO GIVE MONEY to photo.net. The only thing that pisses people off more than being ignored, is being ignored by someone your trying to give money to. FYI, my membership is now expiring, and I'm still waiting for my check to be cashed since the January fund drive too. My two posts and emails were also ignored.
     
  8. My subscription check from January also hasn't been cashed; I raised
    the issue on this forum on March 5. Still no resolution....
     
  9. The problem with the 6 months credit is this. Almost everybody who paid by PayPal got credited with their bonus subscription time a couple of days after the end of the drive. This is more than 95% of the people. Some time later, I realized that some people were omitted because they had paid via eCheck rather than credit card, and PayPal doesn't notify us until after the eCheck clears. There were also a few credit card paypments that came in on time but were not notified to us by PayPal before the date when the bonus time was added.

    Because of the way the database is set up, this created a mess. Our database was not designed to handle the concept of a 50% extension.
    Only the expiration date is recorded, and the original registration date. So, because of renewals, it is quite hard to separate the few cases where the bonus time had not been added from the bulk that did.

    We do have the original PayPal data, and we can reconstruct the information. I have to go though about 600 subscriptions from the drive and try to reconstruct from the expiration date, the original registration date, and perhaps the PayPal records, which ones are which. I haven't had time -- either to do it manually, or to write code that will apply some heuristic.

    We will find time before the subscriptions expire. It should be long before this, because we will have someone working part-time this summer to handle subscriptions, in case it has to be done manually.

    As for mail in subscriptions, we are behind by about six weeks on handling them. On the subscriptions page, it states that the processing time is a month on mail-in subscriptions. This is because I batch them up and do them once per month. With only about 10 mailed-in subscriptions per month, it is not practical to make time to do them one-by-one.

    The uncashed November check that was mentioned was probably lost in the mail or in the processing; the March one is probably in the next batch to be done, and indeed it may still be in the P.O. Box.

    Incidentally, with rare exceptions, PayPal subscriptions are recognized automatically -- the credit card ones almost instantly, and the eCheck ones when the checks clear, which is normally a couple of days. If people have credit cards and live in a country where PayPal is available, they do themselves and us a big favour by using PayPal.

    As for the subscriber-services box, I'm not even sure what that address was. I've never received mail for subscriber-services@photo.net, and I'm not sure where that mail went when it was going anywhere. It doesn't look like we even have a subscriber-services mailbox any more. I don't know when we last did.
     
  10. Brian, in this day and age, six weeks is a lifetime. Based on the very limited "window" I have on the goings-on of photo.net, I would recommend that the 6-week backlog be addressed now, perhaps the workload be divided among some folks, and work through it in a couple of days, because this backlog will simply continue to get worse, not better. This would lighten your workload AND make some photo.net users happier. It would be a win-win situation for everybody. BTW. for folks in this discussion, I took time joining but jumped in and my payment was processed quickly without any glitches. For those taking part in the discussion who are NOT paying members yet, join up now. The fee is equal to a couple rolls of film and the developing cost, so go for it...
     
  11. John, keep in mind that we get about 200 subscriptions and renewals per month and that only about 5% of them are mailed in. About 90% (PayPal credit card payments) have a response literally within seconds, and another 5% (eCheck payments) have a response within a couple of days, when the check clears.

    The ones that are slow are the mail-ins. As I said, there are only about 10 of these per month; that is, generally two or three per week. They have to be batched. We only go to the P.O. box every couple of weeks -- normally when we are expecting checks from Google, Adorama, etc.

    When there is only one person handling everything, it is not practical to handle just one or two checks at a time. We aim to handle them monthly. At the moment, it is about six weeks since I last did it, because I have been extremely busy with other things.

    If batching the mail-in subscriptions is unacceptable because of the delay and/or processing errors, and there is too much dissatisfaction and too much bad will generated by forum complaints, then it would almost be better not to accept mailed-in subscriptions at all.
     
  12. Brian, you could be absolutely correct. I think the sign-on for new members needs to be quick and efficient. If older snail mail methods are causing problems, they might have to go. My input is as party who sees photo.net as a resource, and I realize the effort required to make it work. However, having a small business myself, and having worked in a VERY LARGE BUSINESS previously, I also know how an excessive workload can cause a party to literally smear himself all over the place until there's nothing left to go around, at which point the vultures will show up "to help you" (Large companies love workaholics, because they're essentially working for free!!!) I would personally recommend that any problem that cannot be addressed within 2 weeks requires immediate delegation or assistance. This will give you breathing room.
     
  13. Hi Brian:

    I have assumed that I am one of those who fell through the cracks. At the time of the "Sandy" drive, I had just re-upped but I thought I would subscribe for my SO and sent a Pay Pal in his name and didn't know you couldn't do that. I e-mailed Bob because I (wrongly) thought he wroked atp.n about it and he said he had sent it on to you. I had requested that it just be credited to my account. When I got home, I decided to add to my other two subscriptions and sent another PaayPal for myself. That should have brought me to about 3 1/2 years, roughly. If I go to my workspace, I have no deadline. I'm not worried about it but and I have just assumed you would get to me someday. PayPal has charged my account for all three subscriptions that were made on my crdit card.

    I am a heavy user of the information on the fora and I appreciate your efforts. But it has not been a good postion to ignore those who have been concerned about their subscriptions. People wouldn't continue to spend money with a "live" business that said they'd get around to them sometime before the subscription ran out.

    Again, I have not been concerned and you haven't heard from me, partly because I made the original mistake in thinking I could subscribe for someone in a foreign country.

    Conni
     
  14. Brian:<p>
    The issue is not that it will take 6 weeks, 6 months, etc to resolve the problem, but the issue is that it took numerous threads from different people and several months to get a response from PN. Had you provided the response that you did in this thread (or actually any response) back when people started complaining, I assume that there would be no need at all for this thread.<p>
    Arnie
     
  15. Brian, we all appreciate the fact that this site keeps you exceedingly busy. We all appreciate your efforts. That said, I am of the very strong opinion that you are spending more time defending yourself for NOT responding to queries regarding subscription and site problems than you would spend if you simply copied and pasted the following text, which could probably be used as a reply for >90% of the queries:

    “Thank you for bringing this problem to my attention. I will look into it.”

    The reason you should do this is simple. Photo.net is a business. In any business, the customer comes first; period; no IFs, ANDs, or BUTs. Don’t argue otherwise. It’s an indisputable fact. If you don’t accept this indisputable fact, then YOU should not be running the photo.net business; period; no IFs, ANDs, or BUTs.

    I believe that there’s a general consensus among paying photo.net members (subscribers) that the customer service department of photo.net stinks. YOU apparently are the customer service department of photo.net. However, this seems to be by your choosing. You appear to have a serious problem with delegating responsibility. I am willing to bet that there are many well respected and highly qualified photo.net members who would be willing to volunteer their time and knowledge to help you better manage all aspects of photo.net. The bottom line is that you need help and you are not getting the help that you need. If you are going to maintain your role as the customer service department, then I suggest you change your attitude. If you don’t, you may find that many of your stock holders (subscribers) are going to dump their stock.
     
  16. I apologize for the problems, and I feel quite defensive about it; but there is a limit to how much I can do by myself. If photo.net were financially successful, it might pay people to handle administrative tasks and to answer all the email it receives. It might also not give so many benefits for free to so many people as it does.

    The vast majority of people who signed up during the drive in January already have their "bonus" time, and those others who are entitled to bonus time and have not yet received it might not even know they hadn't received it yet if we didn't tell people when their expiration date was exactly, since they have their subscriptions, their icons, and their subscriber benefits.

    Indeed, to repeat, the bonus time for most people entitled to it has already been property credited. We are talking about the bonus time of a few exceptional cases, probably numbering about 20 to 30 people in all, out of the 600 who participated in the drive, or the 3000 subscribers total.

    Because "bonus time" isn't something we expected to give, and isn't something that we were set up to handle very well, finding the exception cases and handling all of them is a fairly complicated task that we need to find time to do. Since the beginning of February, I have been pretty busy trying to get the site to run speedily using the new hardware we purchased with funds from the subscription drive. For a while replacing our old hardware with the new actually caused more problems than it solved. I am convinced that we will get there, and doing that seemed more important to me than making sure that for about 30 people, the expiration date shown in "Your Workspace" says July next year instead of January next year. I apologize to those 30 people for the wait and any stress that the erroneous date might have caused. I hope you don't disagree too much with my priorities.
     
  17. I appreciate your candid reply, Brian. There is no question in my mind that you are devoting extraordinary effort towards the operation of this site. Again, I will echo the sentiments repeatedly expressed in this forum that your efforts are GREATLY appreciated.

    I doubt that anyone wishes to make you feel defensive about the site problems. We all know that you’re working hard to fix them. I do wonder if you could use some additional help. I know nothing about computer programming or web site management, but if there is some other aspect of photo.net that I may assist with so as to lighten your workload, please do not hesitate to contact me.

    I urge you to please follow my advice and copy and paste a simple and polite reply (like the one I suggested above) to posts regarding site problems and concerns, as this will greatly improve your public image.
     
  18. Brian, As someone who owns a business and still works another full time, I truly do feel for you regarding the large scope of your responsibilities, always trying to do five things at once, but I fear you may still be missing the point. It isn't the fact that the subscriptions weren't extended that is ticking people off so much that appears to be the problem, it's being ignored that bothers people. It just gives the impression that the company your giving your money to just doesn't give a damn, and that's not a company you'll be quick to give to again. I'll repeat: "The only thing that pisses people off more than being ignored, is being ignored by someone your trying to give money to".

    In regards to Paypal, some of us don't desire to use Paypal for whatever personal reasons we have and shouldn't have to be forced into signing up for it just to contribute money to pnet. I have no problem with you bundling checks once a month if that's what it takes.

    With all that said, it's good to hear you'll be getting some help soon. Good luck and kind regards.
     
  19. I think the photo.net subscription price is unnecessarily cheap, certainly not enough money for people to start complaining about silly things such as expiration of their subscription. Perhaps there should be separate 3rd world and student prices. (What else in photography can you get for $25? A couple of rolls of film + low-quality proofs.)

    I don't think photo.net is an ordinary business which tries to make money. It has a purpose for existence and the nature of the legal entity was chosen, as far as I understand, in order to allow for the existence of the site, not for making money for the people involved. So, since it's primarily a voluntary worker based site, users should have a little respect for the people doing the voluntary work, instead of picking about petty little bureaucratic details.

    Thanks for making the site work so smoothly. There are few web sites which are as useful as this one.
     
  20. Let me put some perspective on it, because I can sense what has happened here. To a large extent, Brian is working as an island. This only works for a given time period, then something called time span of expectancy steps in. Manifestations of the time span are now showing. The competency of Brian or his performance is NOT the problem its what he has to work with and the fact that gradual changes of "the state of equilibrium are not always recognized as being so" As sample, the flight deck of a very, very old B747SP on which I just finished doing some major work. Flying this item requires some teamwork that goes far, beyond the 3 folks sitting up front. The effort to make sure that everything in here is feeding them the correct information enables their performance, and happens to be something in which I excel, but only as part of a team.(And yes, even tho its old, there is some major computer software at work in here as well) Heavy maintenance as part of this process is shown in this image. I consider the feedback that we are given "the instrumentation of photo.net" Brians part of the team is to recognize this feedback as valid, and he must act upon it.
    008AAO-17869984.jpg
     
  21. John, it was me who created the Site Feedback forum.

    The adage "The customer is always right" really means "You can't win by arguing with the customer", since of course customers can be wrong. But even when they are wrong (which is quite often), nothing is usually achieved by arguing, other than maybe a lost customer, since people can seldom be persuaded that they are wrong, and furthermore, thanks to the adage, they now all think it is impolite for "the vendor" to argue, since they have been told repeatedly that the customer is always right.

    However, the existence of a Site Feedback forum, which represents a public forum in which dissatisfied people can air their complaints publicly (and it generally is the dissatisfied ones) does put a new a new light on the adage. Despite that, you notice that the Site Feedback forum still exists.
     
  22. A point well taken...and in all honesty I'm not a disatisfied customer at all. And despite the complaints (or sounding like complaints neither are the people above, who actually even offer assistance). Please note that NONE of them, myself included, want the site to be run as a business, because we all know what would happen...but, some business PRACTICES can be effective and can virtually eliminate some negativity and reduce your workload, which I am assuming is 7 days and nights a week, which is not healthy. Why not hand the billing problems over to somebody and keep tabs on what they're doing...delegate that stuff. Teamwork and delegation can produce incredible and effective results in short periods of time, and can help photo.net with improved cash flow..win win all the way.
     
  23. <P>Brian,
    <P>If you can trust me with a few dollars, a simple solution to this headache for you would be to let me help you collect the subscription checks or in whatever forms of payment for you and on behalf of Photo.net. Once the checks are deposited and cleared, I will credit their payments thru my own PalPay account to Photo.net. My own staff goes to the banks two/three times a day, this should not impost a problem. Let me know if you need my help.

    <p>I can come up to see you in Boston on my next trip to the East Coast if you'd like the idea. I will explain to you about the logistics at that time. I want to be part of your solutions, not your problems. Just let me know.

    <P>B rgds/Sandy

    <P>PS : If we go by how much we have given to Photo.net, shouldn't my subscription be "Life Time"??? Cheers.
     
  24. I am amazed by your statement that there are only 200 subscribers per month...Thayt is an income of only $60,000 per year....That's crazy!!.....You can't run a world-class photographic website on that...For Heaven's sake, start charging everybody $10.00 after a 30-day trial period, get some REAL INCOME and call in some help for both the finances and the technology...You can't do it all yourself..This site is a poential winner for evrybody, but at the moment I sense that it is floundering from day to day.
     
  25. Perhaps here is an opportunity to assist Brian from burning out but to also discuss photo.net. I, for one DO NOT want photo.net to evolve in a photo site like others out there. The basic layout and the concept is sound, as is proven by the volume of its usage. The basic Greenspun concept that made it work however, needs to evolve to adapt. i.e. a fixed business model is a formula for disaster. Part of the current problems appear to come from attempts to maintain the Greenspun concept, "as interpreted" while the masses are knocking at the castle gates, not with pitchforks and torches, but with gifts and food. One of my premises would be to assess the workload of paid parties, see if it is "too much" and adjust fees to allow an increase in staff. In turn, this staff must be accountable to a board. Members of the board only serve for a limited time and must also be accountable in terms of participatory acitivity. As a cautionary tale: The Center for Creative Photography in Tucson. I remember this unit as starting in an old bank building off-campus from the U of A, and was started by John Bischop, who still lives in the area. Things were loose, lots of fun, and the image library rapidly increased past the capacity of the bank building. Ultimately they got a large but ho-hum building on the University of Arizona campus and came under the dictatorship of the main library. The informality was gone and the politics started. Basically, control freaks took over from creativity. That is the inherent danger that photo.net must face up to. I think it might be a great idea to get some outside input, get Mr. Greenspun in there, but also get folks like John Bischop involved, inasmuch as photo.net is probably one of the most dynamic image collection centers going right now. I consider it totally unique and worth preserving..
     
  26. I assume that this site gets a large number of visits each day. Because of this, the potential exists, IMO, to make advertising more prominent than it already is. I appreciate the fact that many might be philosophically opposed to relying so heavily on advertising revenue. However, this view is not practical from a business standpoint. Perhaps it's time to lure in more advertising dollars.

    How do the average daily site visits here compare to www.dpreview.com, a site that appears to be generating substantial advertising revenue.
     
  27. Robert,
    Sorry to disappoint you, but Photo.net do not get 200 subscribers a month, that is only wishful thinking.
    When the Subscription Drive ends, we have approx. 2973 members signed up and paid. Today, we have about 3107 members. That is a good five months for only less than a hundred more... you do the maths.
    rgds, sandy
     
  28. John, with respect, photo.net is a privately owned organisation, not a democracy. The future direction of photo.net is in the hands of Brian and the investors not the subscribers and I for one am thankful for this. God forbid that the subscribers should decide the path that photo.net should take. Can you imagine the arguments?
     
  29. I'm fully aware of the current configuration. It has pluses and minuses. One major problem is the funding. Regardless of its private or public stature, funding is not being addressed in a manner that will allow photo.net to adjust to changing conditions. Having one party working flat out to keep the system going is a clear sign that a failure mode is already in operation. The arguments are already there, they're part of the environment. As for the board and such, not nesseccarily a democracy. Turnover of the board is only there to prevent behavior patterns from becoming embedded. The requirements for reporting to the board to show performance/productivity is not a democratic concept, but a project management aka business concept to allow examination of workload, quality of product and to ensure that problems are nipped in the bud.
     
  30. -To carry it one step further with acknowlegement to its current structure, as I mentioned above, the Board might or might not have subcribers on it. Instead it could be an advisory council of qualified parties. This is why I mentioned the founder of the Center for Creative Photography, because this center despite its struggles, is thriving and surviving. By having such parties on board, funding could be addressed as well through other channels than invoking the advertising concept as the only solution.
     
  31. Brian:<p>
    The thank you goes for me too!
     
  32. I agree with Robert. Photo.net should have a free trial run, and then charge - straight up. $25 is not a lot of money. People who want to use this site should be paying, or they should go away. This is the only site I know of on the Internet that is this inexpensive, and this useful. Anyway, that's my two pennies.
     
  33. At about $.50/week, subscriptions to Photo.net should probably be viewed as token donations rather than real subscriptions. I know that most people are not going to see it that way, but we should probably be voluntarily donating as much as we can rather than complaining that Photo.net is not giving us our money's worth. It is--and a lot more besides. Paying to be here is almost on a par with "subscribing" to listen to NPR, since we get to use the site whether we pay anything or not. I could cut my uploaded photos in half and lose that little emblem signifying membership and still be getting a lot more out of Photo.net than I have ever put in.
     

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