This Passport Prevents Travel!

By: Mike Valentine

Last week Microsoft bCentral required all users of it's ListBuilder
Service to sign up for and use the Microsoft .NET passport system by
converting to that system before allowing log-in to their existing
accounts.

I normally distribute my list through ListBuilder on Sunday evening for
delivery by Monday morning to my subscribers. I got NO NOTICE there was
to be a change to the system until I tried to log in to my list last
Sunday evening, December 3, and couldn't.

The sign in system crashed my Netscape Browser twice, so I opened up
Explorer 5 and it just locked into a loop of agreeing to the terms of
service, I mark the "Agree" radio button and click "next" to be
returned to the terms of service agreement over and over again. I give up with
Explorer and return to Netscape. Now my computer freezes entirely. I
give up after 2 hours of trying different approaches. The "Help" screen
is worthless.

Monday A.M. I try to log in again on Netscape and go through the
process again at bCentral. Now when I click the "Next" button . . . NOTHING
HAPPENS AT ALL! I open Explorer 5 and try again to get back to the
terms of service feedback loop once again. Click the button that says "I
Agree" to the TOS and get returned back the default "I do not agree"
button checked over and over again.

I call customer support. I wait on hold for 45 minutes before giving up
fed up with the awful loop of loud Christmas music I've heard
repeatedly, along with that wonderful recorded, "All of our customer
service representatives are busy. Please hold and your call will be
answered in the order received" Well either there is one person that
can't get satisfaction who won't hang up or there are six hundred angry
callers ahead of me (or both).

I give up. I try again, for a WEEK!

I still don't have my ezine out two issues later, I still can't get
through the customer support phone waiting list. I sent an email to
bCentral support and got no answer. I have a paid advertiser for the
ezine and now I've got to explain that I'm locked out of my list host
and refund the money.

This has got to be one of Microsofts' finest hours. I could care less
about passport as I never intend to use it for anything but this
service and will not share my personal info with them to save my life after
this debacle. So I'm willing to sign up for passport for ListBuilder only,
but all I want to do is access and distribute my newsletter! My
subscribers and advertisers will love me for this absurdity!

After attempting for a full week to send out two issues of my
newsletter, that I can't get by the ridiculous feedback loop of
agreeing to the terms of service over and over again or getting signed in with
the passport I create but then being prompted to convert my account to
passport. When I follow instructions I still get the following message.

"The Microsoft .NET Passport you used to sign in is valid, but we
cannot locate your bCentral account"

When I attempt to convert again, I get the message over again. I still
can't get through on the phone and cannot afford to spend much more
time trying.

They have not answered my queries sent to support and now I've gone two
weeks without sending my newsletter out. I sent a post to LinkExchange
Digest, but of course as a Microsoft sponsored publication, they won't
publish my complaints.

I'm locked out of my account, I have only a two month old subscriber
list for backup and I can't get any attention. This is the most absurd
thing I've seen since trying to change registrars from Network
Solutions to a helpful and reasonable vendor that charges less and actually talks
to me when I need help.

We're forced to use passport, but then can't convert from our previous
account when we establish a passport. This behavior could only come
from a corporate behemoth that doesn't give a flying @#$% about individual
customers. Only the mass market. And then only when they don't
complain.

I found a page at bCentral for support phone calls and found that phone
support costs $9.95 monthly with a minimum commitment of one year! or
you can save $20 and pay for the year in advance. So, in essence, you
can pay us now or pay us more now. But waitFree Reprint Articles, at the bottom of the page
it says the following:

bCentral Subscriber Phone Support is available to current subscribers
of:

Traffic Builder
Commerce Manager
Customer Manager

So the truth is that you can't even PAY to talk to them about
ListBuilder! Does anyone find this in the least bit objectionable? I've
never seen worse customer service for paying customers anywhere!

Can you imagine signing up for the .NET passport zwallet and getting
this kind of help when they have control of your money at (if they get
the adoption they are hoping for) HUNDREDS or even thousands of sites
across the web? This ought to be a warning call for those considering
handing over personal information to passport and .NET and a clear
signal that they won't provide customer support when you have trouble
with it.

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