When Google Goes Bad...
Remember years ago when the concept of "Customer Service" didn't exist and if you had a problem with a product and called the company, you got nowhere? Perhaps some of you have worked with products or services that came "as-is" and offered no additional feedback, and only token support -- no actual support, but a suggestion for "where to go" if you had a problem...and the alternate meaning for "where to go" was more likely the intent, as the actual "where to go" was nothing more than a relatively barren wasteland populated only by others searching for solutions to similar problems?
That's what I'm dealing with at this moment. The product is one that is well-known for ~not~ being officially supported. Problem is, the support forum that users are directed to appears to be wholly void of any Google-ish help beyond the basic FAQ information (at least for this problem).
The product? GMail...specifically, when a GMail account has been shut off for a "violation of TOS" when it's highly unlikely that any such violation occurred, and affected account is a one set up for a professional non-profit organization's headquarters.
A few weeks ago, the primary hosting provider for the non-profit's website started experiencing problems. The site server began acting very sluggish, and attempts to work with tech support resulted in responses that wavered from "You're right, there's a serious delay in network response time" to "it's all fine from our end" - the latter of which was easily disproven by running a traceroute from 4 different locations across the US and getting nearly identical results.
Eventually, the server stopped responding more often than not, and the site was moved under emergency conditions to a new hosting provider. The email was set up to utilize Gmail at that time in order to minimize downtime, as it had been reliable in the past and would enable the folks at the new HQ to continue to correspond with folks signing up for the upcoming convention, which was just gearing up for a two-to-three month registration drive.
Gmail's been reliable when set up for similar reasons and uses, and there was no reason to believe there'd be an issue. Google doesn't offer any support for it beyond some automated 'contact us' options and a support forum, but that wasn't considered to be a big deal.
Until they deactivated the account today with the enigmatic "This account has been disabled due to a TOS violation." No information is available as to what could possibly be conceived as a violation, and the client has no capacity to send or receive mail for the key personnel at this time.
Google's automated "contact us" option still hasn't responded; their online forum has questions akin to "Why was my account deactivated for a TOS violation?" laying unanswered save for a few fellow Googlers, some of whom attempt to help and some of whom simply appear to be being smartasses.
No Google folks.
The essentially unanswered questions go back at least through most of 2009.
An attempt to contact the Corporate Headquarters and ask them to have ~someone~ at least dive into the fora to try to address questions gets the same noncommittal "I'm sorry you're having problems, but I have no resources for this -- you need to visit our online forums" as a response.
Google, the mighty behemoth of search engines and supposedly effective, user-friendly computing, has yet another flaw that detracts substantially from its reputation for relative excellence: they are failing to provide even anemic responses to serious problems encountered with their own policy enforcement.
It's not a technical glitch or a support request per se -- it's a problem that directly stems from actions they've taken w/o any option for information or recourse.
It's an issue I might not have been as surprised to encounter from other vendors -- particularly on products offered freely, and clearly denoted as not having support included -- and yet it smacks of complete indifference and arbitrary (random, inaccurate) enforcement of policy.
Google, you can do better.
The apathy, the lack of due diligence, the dysfunctional support forums and absence of customer service all combined fly directly in the face of the image you've so carefully cultivated.
I'm disappointed and frustrated.