A customer manifesto: Pen or sword

Who knows?

But my desktop computer seems to be more or less up and running, and I have even reinstalled IE7, and so far none of the evilness I’ve been experiencing is happening again. So far.

I am declaring war on Microsoft. As with so many wars, it has to be adjudicated and waged in an environment in which I need the company. You can’t blow someone sitting on one quarter of the earth’s oil supply off the face of the map. At my age, I’m not sure I’m up to learning all of the stuff I would have to learn to divorce them entirely. I actually like MS-Office and know how to use most of the applications. XP works great for me, too, most of the time. And even IE7. . .most of the time.

But upon reflection, I think my problems started when I got tired of looking at the little yellow shield on my applications bar that said an update was pending. The update was Microsoft’s “Genuine Software Advantage,” a Newspeak name if there ever was one.

So I opened up the little shield and got to the place where I had to accept or decline the license agreement.

At this point I should tell you this about me: I actually buy software. I have no aversion to paying reasonable user license fees for the product of someone else’s brain. So it wasn’t the idea that Microsoft might find out I had pirated stuff on my computer that got me worked up. It was the thought of MS trying to be the morality police, I think, and I went a bit over the edge.

So I declined the license agreement. That’s when my troubles started.

Several days and I no longer know how many hours later, my desktop computer seems almost normal again. We’ll see what happens when I boot it tomorrow.

But I am still really angry. A couple of days of gardening and fixing some really good meals (I’ll write about wienerschnitzel later) can’t mitigate it, and these are my common refuges in an increasingly uncertain and annoying world.

My anger at the moment is focused on Microsoft, and I have to decide what to do about it. Some of you have suggested abandoning MS applications–loading Ubuntu as my OS, using Firefox instead of IE, and the like. But I actually like the applications. What I resent is the anti-customer attitude that MS seems to be adopting increasingly frequently.

I don’t need a policeman, for Pete’s sake, I need a software vendor. When something gives me value, I buy it. When it doesn’t, I don’t. And I sure as heck don’t need a vendor looking over my shoulder to check for the dotted i’s and crossed t’s. I have a moral code that Microsoft could only hope would be emulated throughout the land.

And I’m not willing to be subjected to the kind of nonsense I’ve dealt with for the last several days because others might not have the same moral code.

 Josh Bancroft turned me on to the marketer’s manifesto in “Cluetrain.” It begins with 95 theses, in emulation, I’m sure, of Martin Luther. Having once sat through Lutheran catechism classes (another story for another day), I always thought Luther was a bit long-winded. Here is my customer manifesto, which is a great deal shorter (Microsoft, I hope you’re listening):

  • Offer me something that makes my life a little bit easier and I will buy it.
  • I want things to work the way that you present them, with no ifs, ands, or buts, no fine print, no “beta” qualifications.
  • If something breaks, I want to be able to fix it quickly and at a reasonable price. Ask me sometime about boomboxes.
  • I trust you to deliver the product as advertised. I want you to trust me also. If you don’t, then we probably don’t have a good vendor/customer relationship.

But I’m not going to go blow up MS’s headquarters. I think instead I will write about this experience and see if someone like “Wired” won’t publish it. Maybe I can shame MS into treating customers as they should be treated.


17 Responses to “A customer manifesto: Pen or sword”

  1. wordworks2001 Says:

    Microsoft has really pissed me off too. I have been working in Nigeria for theh past two years. The natives are getting restless and its time for me to make hay in less profitable but more peaceful pastures. I have been sending my resume to headhunters, the job-offering, not the head-offing kind, and I have found that either MS Vista or Word 2007 has eaten my resume. At any rate, I just wanted to commiserate with you aand invite you to visit the website I have set up to help get literary agents interested in my manuscript.


  2. whig Says:

    Microsoft is a convicted monopolist, it has no intention of catering to your desires, only maximizing its own profits. Surely, if enough customers took your stance it might change their corporate behavior, but most people get Windows pre-installed on their computers and never interact with the company at all, so why should they make a special effort for you?

    Well, maybe they should. But they won’t.

  3. OmbudsBen Says:

    What makes me most incredulous about the company was their decision in the 90s not to support their own products.

    Buy a Ford or a Frigidaire or a Maytag and you can find a guy to service it.

    But MS decided they would leave the servicing to others. They just make new stuff you’re obligated to buy or update to — they want to keep us like the red queen, we must all keep running to their tune to stay in the same place.

  4. Josh Bancroft Says:

    There are lots of alternatives to MS for whatever activity you’re trying to accomplish – Google Docs and Spreadsheets, OpenOffice, etc. And they’re not as dodgy as they used to be. 🙂 Let me know if you’re ever looking for a way to ditch a particular MS product, and I’ll see what I can recommend.

    Good luck!

  5. mklekacz Says:

    Wordworks, thanks for the empathy. I can imagine your frustration a bit, I think. Nigeria sounds like a very scary place to be working these days. Best of luck in your search.

  6. mklekacz Says:

    Whig, I’m not sure why you thought I was looking for a special deal. I think that’s the way companies should treat all of their customers.

    But having said that, I can think of lots of reasons why companies should pay attention to / even offer special deals to customers like me. 1) I have discretionary income and enjoy finding reasons to spend it (although that’s getting harder and harder); 2) I buy based on perceived value (including soft value like how I’m treated) rather than on bottom-line price; 3) Once sold, I’m pretty big on brand loyalty, and my vendors will get more of my money with less effort and expense on their parts. Those things should make me a pretty attractive customer.

  7. mklekacz Says:

    Ben, I love the Red Queen analogy and may find a reason to steal it. The Alice books (the originals, not the watered-down Disney versions) are among my favorites of all time.

  8. mklekacz Says:

    Josh, I don’t want to leave MS. I don’t want to think about software at all. Having to do so defeats the main reason I use one of these infernal machines–to make my life easier and more interesting (actually I guess that’s two reasons, since those things do not necessarily go hand in hand, in my experience).

    But thanks for the offer. It may come to that, and believe me, you’ll be the first call in my rolodex of support folks. . .

  9. whig Says:

    I guess I don’t understand, when a company treats you badly, and against the principles that you think they should, why would you expect them to change if you will continue to do business with them and pay them whatever money they demand anyhow? It’s cheaper to ignore you unless you’re actually willing to take your business elsewhere.

  10. mklekacz Says:

    Whig, of course you’re correct. And frankly, it may come to that.

    My particular annoyance in this circumstance is that. as a consumer, I shouldn’t have to be dealing with this at all. I want it to be seamless. And for MS or any other company to pay attention, it’s going to require that a bazillion (a somewhat imprecise number, to be sure) of their customers vote elsewhere with their pocketbooks.

    But I’m wondering how we got to this place in the first place, that companies can feel free to ignore what customers want. MS has built an amazingly efficient suite of applications. Why are they using this as a F*** Y** attitude?

  11. whig Says:

    Software isn’t perfectly seamless, of course. Bugs happen, and sometimes they are hard to fix. Some bugs are errors of design, rather than implementation mistakes, and these may be impossible to resolve without a complete rewrite.

    Microsoft invested a lot of money in an infrastructure that wasn’t designed for the internet. It can’t be fixed. Apple ran into the same problem with their MacOS, and ended up rewriting it and porting it to run on top of a FreeBSD-derived (Unix) system (which itself was made to run on a portable microkernel called Mach).

    Windows is a dying cash cow for them now. Whatever they may have done in the past (and Microsoft’s ethics have long been questionable) the only thing they can do is squeeze as much money out of it as they can before its inevitable demise. Their migration plan was to get you and everyone to switch to their new version, called Vista, but it has been widely panned.

  12. Philip Ferris Says:

    The pen IS mightier than the sword….and a heck of a lot easier to write with

  13. mklekacz Says:

    Whig, I was actually thinking at one point of just buying a new machine and starting over. Then I realized they all came with Vista, so I’m not really interested.

    Phil, “tee-hee” to you, too. Thanks for the smile.

  14. whig Says:

    Marianne, I’m curious what caused you to not want Vista. While those of us who are technophiles may have lots of reasons, I’m obviously not sure what reasons become understood by most people.

  15. mklekacz Says:

    Whig, it’s probably just old age. I like things that work and that I can acclimate to intuitively without having to think too much about it.

    I do run multiple computers. That may sound a little strange for someone who’s not connected to the power grid, but it’s true. I want them to work and I want them to work the same. That’s part of what was so distressing when I had to downgrade one of them to IE6 and why I’m glad IE7 is now working again.

    If I bought a new Vista computer, at some point I would have to upgrade my other machine. I have seen nothing that makes me think there would be any significant improvement for the applications that I use on a regular basis–mostly e-mail and WP. So why would I WANT to do this?

  16. whig Says:

    Good points, plus Vista is much slower and would cause your old machines to be less useful.

  17. mklekacz Says:

    Whig, my “oldest computer is a P4 that would probably just need another half meg of memory. But it is becoming the principle of the thing.

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