Read the Fine Print

For some reason, I utterly fail to develop any sympathy for this allegedly screwed-over Lycos customer, regardless of the fact that the story percolated to BoingBoing(*). It seems like what this blogger was asking for (in a passive-aggressive and not particularly polite or artful manner) was to be treated as an exception to the terms of use (which are, as argued, one click off the homepage). The terms of use may suck, but that’s a reason to not use the service in the first place, not an excuse to whine when they enforce them. The final response from the “manager of all of Customer Service” (clearly a Howard Stern fan) is refreshingly honest:

“I’m sorry, no one here has any intentions of helping you with anything.”

Fuckin’ A man! Stick to your guns and don’t sugar coat it.

On another note… Lycos still exists?!? Well there’s your problem right there.

13 thoughts on “Read the Fine Print”

  1. you got it wrong. The manager of Lycos customer service vindictively deleted a customer’s private emails. This is a violation of their policy and probably a violation of law. Whether you can muster any sympathy is beside the point, (though you seem to have a lot of sympathy for Mike Janderiu for some reason) the guy was a trifling dick and should not work with the public. NOTE: their terms of service was changed in the last 24 hours, note the “NEW” next to it. What A-holes.

  2. YOU got it wrong. Mike J. did NOT delete the writer’s email. I used to work at that hellhole of an armpit of a company, and I know for a fact that there is a script in place to automatically purge email accounts that have been left stagnant. Customer service has NO WAY to actively delete anything in Lycos Mail. It’s all done in Korea!

  3. I’m just going by what I read in the original post. A quick look at the Wayback Machine indicates that Lycos has listed a 30-day deletion policy since at least April 2006.

    The initial response from Jandreau is obvious boilerplate. Idaho-hum’s response to that was inflammatory (“you’re holding my emails hostage”).

    I’ll admit that it’s unclear whether the archived email exists at this point, which may make the initial response slightly inaccurate (we don’t know what “the previous contents of your account” refers to). It’s impossible to tell from what’s provided. Lycos claims 48-hours notice was given (presumably after 30 days). We have no idea how much time has elapsed or what other communication or attempts transpired.

    A red flag for me is Idaho-hum’s “nothing requires you to” argument. This is classic escalation abuse. It basically says: I read your policy and now I want to work a social hacking exploit on you to make an exception for me. Nothing “requires” Lycos to kiss the (non-revenue-generating) customer’s ass in this situation either, and none of Idaho-hum’s displayed behavior would make me want to make an exception if I was in this customer service loop.

  4. Read the whole thing. First he says: “…Should you want to restore the previous contents of your account, you will need to upgrade to the Lycos Mail Plus service…”
    After the guy complained he says: “Your e-mails have been completely deleted, and no amount of money can now restore them.”
    This is vindictive, unprofessional, and probably unlawful. It’s not a matter of who you like the most or who’s the biggest asshole – the guy deleted private emails for his own petty reasons. Where does it say they can delete emails for complaining?

  5. > This is vindictive, unprofessional, and probably unlawful.
    Unlawful? Nonsense. Repeating the nonsense doesn’t make it true. (Feel free to argue this point with _actual arguments_ if you have any.)

    >It’s not a matter of who you like the most or who’s the biggest asshole – the guy deleted private emails for his own petty reasons.
    Says who? There’s presumably a reason they have that policy in the first place.

    > Where does it say they can delete emails for complaining?
    The 30-days limit is stated quite clearly on the website. What does this have to do with complaining? (No, his tone wasn’t friendly, but that is not a point of discussion here)

  6. You’re assuming facts not in evidence. We don’t know what the boilerplate text “previous contents of your account” refers to. This is the part of Lycos’s statement that is least clear. Going by the original policy, the email may have already been permanently deleted, making the wording of the initial response merely unfortunate. It’s possible that paying the fee would only restore the email address and contact list, for example. That would have been a whole other policy argument–i.e. I didn’t get what I paid for–which isn’t applicable in this case since the customer did not upgrade.

    I really feel like the customer got back exactly the tone and level of civility they dished out. I think many people feel they have a license to manipulate, threaten or otherwise abuse customer service representatives to get their way, but I don’t support this position.

  7. it’s pretty clear the emails are archived, and the CSR said they could be restored if he upgraded. They are talking about his email, which “previous contents of your account” refers to. the email address or contact list wouldn’t need to be restored, it’s a free account.

    It could very well be described as “unlawful” in that they changed the agreement he clicked on in 2000 and gave no active notice as such, (many never visit the main pages of their mail carriers, let alone constantly check to see if a user agreement has been updated.)No, no cops are gonna bust doors down at Lycos, but if highly important documents were deleted by the CSR outside of their standard policy, this guy could sue and would likely win. It’s not nonsense, it’s contract law, and if you need more arguments please go to an accredited university and get a degree in it.

    Aside from the anonmyous guy who claims to have worked at Lycos and says email is automatically purged by somebody in Korea, they have to keep everything cached for legal reasons. And, while it’s possibly true that the CSR cannot “actively delete” somebodies email, they can hold it hostage for $18.50 until you upgrade – bad policy – or they can claim it’s gone forever to be a dick: highly unethical and legally dubious.

    As far as theories that this revenue generating (banners)longtime lycos customer getting what he deserved, I take it dickdiamond is no longer working in customer service industry – good for him, and for the industry as a whole.

  8. It’s not at all clear that the emails are available. This is never stated. Tony is inferring from “previous contents,” but I’m not willing to assume that. Our outside knowledge of the requirements imposed on U.S. ISPs by the Patriot Act and other legal strictures would seem to indicate that these emails might be archived in some form, but this tells us nothing about what customer service can or cannot accomplish. Even in the digital realm, some actions are irreversible–just let a domain name expire and then try to get it back.

    In terms of tone and attitude… First of all, nothing in this situation is actionable beyond the choice of continuing to give Lycos one’s “business.” Even in our litigious society, you can’t sue just for bad customer service, just for being told to piss off. Nothing demonstrated here indicates that Lycos broke a contract. In fact, Idaho-hum never addresses the contractual issue with customer service–with good reason, having no leg to stand on in this territory–preferring instead to berate the customer service person about the poor of customer service at Lycos. “Hey, you suck! Now please help me!” Dumb move. My personal experience with customer service–as a customer–is that you get nowhere by getting in their face. If you prostrate yourself, make yourself the hapless victim, be polite and solicitous every step of the way, then maybe you get somewhere, or maybe not. But get confrontational early in the game–as clearly happened here–and you’re assured of garnering no sympathy.

    Also, as I said before, we’re being given carefully selected excerpts of the total corpus of communication that transpired between Idaho-hum and Lycos. Like any blogger (and I’m no exception when I’m personally involved with a topic, which I’m not in this case) Idaho-hum has constructed a narrative for us which has been tailored in certain ways–maybe to entertain us, maybe to induce outrage, clearly to portray the author as the wronged little guy facing the evil corporate giant. In trying to get past this technique and discern what really happened here, I’m not seeing a crime, not much of anything to be outraged about, and nothing that would come as any surprise to anyone who has been using the Internet for more than a month.

  9. If I am to assume (counter intuitively) that “previous contents” refers to something other than the emails in question, then what else would it refer to? Given that they are discussing emails, and there is no other immediatly plausable items they might be referring to, it’s a safe assumption that “previous contents of your account” refers to the subject of the inquiry – the emails.

    Whether or not anything is “actionable” is not in question. Probably nothing, unless a highly valuable document was destroyed by a Lycos CSR. Then you bet this is actionable for a good many reasons: breach of contract, arbitrary and capricious application of stated company policy to name but two. And it would be a pretty solid case that would likely be settled out of court to avoid public airing of this guys horrible demeanor.

    AND, it was terrible customer service. Why would the head CSR take the time to compose numerous snide responses to their lowest tiered customer? How is this proper use of company time? They don’t hire a Customer Service team to restate the company policy like a robots, because the policy is posted already. Customer Service there to smooth things over if a customer gets snagged by one of their draconian policies. After the second exchange he should have restored the emails for 24 hours so Voiciferous Blogger could see if there was anything important, and thanked him for his business and been done with it. No nasty blogs to deal with, minimal time wasted, and another satisfied customer. No reason to battle a customer for 20 bucks that they, now, will clearly never get.

    Sure, this could be artfully arranged to make the Lycos guy look bad and the blogger the hero. Who knows? the whole thing could be fabricated whole cloth for all we know. But, it seems like a pretty straightforward example of bad corporate policy. I see no reason to accuse the guy, because he clearly recieved bad service – not a surprise to anyone – and a perfectly reasonable thing for a blog post.

    Okay, I’m done, lets get a beer.

  10. Setting as many of the hypotheticals aside as possible, I’m not convinced that Jandreau typed that original response (we’re only seeing a part of it, and it already seems lengthy for a personal tier-one response). I think it was a cut-and-paste response to anyone who writes in and asks why their account was deleted. My evidence for this is the abrupt change from legalistic, distant third-person prose in the initial response to a direct, personal, eventually confrontational style later in the exchange. I believe the initial canned response mislead the customer into thinking the emails were still available when in fact they were not.

    Admittedly this comes down to interpretation. Mine is but one vote on the jury of the Internet. I find in favor of the defendant.

  11. I wish everyone would stop saying this Mike guy went and deleted this girl’s emails on purpose.
    They were deleted automatically due to a monthly cleanup. Sure he was a dick about it, but, she asked for it.

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