(If you couldn’t tell from the title, this is gonna be a rant.)
When I was in college, I was involved with a creative writing club / literary discussion group called the Literary Guild at UCI. I built a website to post club information and collect our writing projects, and we set up a listserv for online discussion and collaboration.
After a while we started getting complaints from people about how they never received their books, or they were sick of getting junk mail from us, etc. and it became pretty clear they were complaining about the Literary Guild Book Club, which at the time didn’t have a website.
Now think: You’ve signed up with a company that lets you order books from a catalog. The website you find is all about college students and weekly meetings on campus. No mention of catalogs, or ordering books, or even customer service (oops, I mean “customer care”). Don’t you think you might wonder if maybe, just maybe this wasn’t the same group of people?
So we put up a note on the home page stating “We are NOT affiliated with the book club!” Over time it became bold, and then red, and when we noticed the “other” Literary Guild had set up a home page we added a link, and occasionally people would still send us their complaints.
Fast forward to today. The company I work for, SpeedGate Communications, has a fairly generic domain name, speed.net. Since it doesn’t match our name exactly, people will occasionally send tech support requests to speedgate.com by mistake. This is understandable to an extent, but always annoying, especially when they complain “we emailed you three days ago with this urgent problem and you haven’t done anything!” Of course I have to explain they sent it to Korea or Alabama or someplace where we never had a chance of seeing it.
Then there’s speed.net.id, an Indonesian company which either allows its customers to send spam or has never bothered to secure its mail servers. Every once in a while someone will get spam which originated from speed.net.id and complain to us.
Today I had two cases to deal with. One was someone who, two weeks ago, had sent a tech support request to someone who hasn’t worked here in months. You’d think the “Message could not be delivered: user is no longer with company” would at least have clued him in that it didn’t get anywhere, if not why.
And the latest was a support request sent through our website. A month or two ago we got a few requests from people who seemed to think (despite the fact that they were mentioned nowhere) that we provided technical support for SpeedStream routers and modems. Now think about this one: On one hand: SpeedGate Communications, Internet service and hosting provider. On the other: SpeedStream modems and routers. Yes, they both have the word “speed” in them. And yes, they are both network related. But given that you could find the exact name, type of product and model number at Efficient Networks’ website or the SpeedStream website (the names that are printed on your router, the box it came in, and the manual, assuming you didn’t throw it away), wouldn’t you at least check there first?
After two of these in one week, we added a note to our support request form stating that “we do not manufacture or support SpeedStream network products” and linking to their website. Right now this is the only mention of the word “SpeedStream” anywhere on the website.
So what happens? Tonight someone sends us a nasty all-caps note – with an email reply trail – about problems with their SpeedStream router. Given that the attached emails from Speedstream include a mention of speedstream.com, how the hell did this guy come up with our website? And how the hell did he miss the sentence right above the form, stating that we don’t provide support for these products? I guess I’ll have to make it bold and red…
I wrote that this wasn’t the first time someone had made the mistake – that’s why we put up the notice, after all. I very much wanted to add “But you are the first person to make the mistake since we put up the notice.” It was so tempting, but I knew I couldn’t do it.
Well, now in a way I suppose I could after all.