Saturday, February 27, 2010

motivation to blog

Even though I have turned into a primitive species of homo sapien, doing nothing but sleeping and a little eating while nurturing life within, I have found motivation to blog.

First of all, I am awake beyond my 3-year-old's bedtime. This is a unique situation in itself that I wasn't awakened by Baby Bird insisting that I "sing 4 songs not 3" and "why was I sleeping in his room?" But what better reason to blog than pure unadulterated...anger?

In order to solve our "being in another country while most family and friends are in the US" problem, we started using skype. But as any addict can testify, skype's free service wasn't enough. We eventually bought skype credit and then a subscription and even a US phone number (all through skype) so that even our most technologically-impaired family members could still manage to call us. (it helped. somewhat.) We even began to like wearing our McDonald's "take-your-order" headphone and microphone.

We were happy with the service and the price until we had a problem. (I will try to make this short)

The first problem occurred when I decided to change our subscription plan to something that fit us better. I just had one teensy little question about interruption of service. Due to a very ill family member, we didn't want our service to be interrupted. I went to their customer service and didn't see a phone number so I decided to online chat with a customer service representative. (online chat has now been eliminated). This was the first indication that I should give up on skype. It took between 6 and 23 minutes for each response for the rep to reply. Some online "chat". 3 emails and 1.5 weeks later, my question was finally answered. Outraged yet?

Earlier this week, I was unable to log on to skype. My password didn't work. The Scientist insisted he hadn't changed our password. I typed in my email so that I could retrieve the password thinking that perhaps pregnancy-induced memory loss was responsible for the changed password.

Turns out Skype did not recognize my email address either. Uh-Oh. Even with pregnancy-induced memory loss, I am POSITIVE I did not change my email address. I don't even have any other email addresses!

I frantically looked around for some way to contact customer service so they could immediately suspend service in case my account was hacked. Although I don't think we did, most people have sensitive information such as stored credit cards and links to their paypal account.

No such luck. I found someone on twitter, a forum where you can contact moderators, and a way to email customer support which suggests a turn around time of 72 hours. Working hours that is.

We used all of these to no avail. The moderator told us to fill out a customer service email and that we should hear from them by next Thursday (Yup-one week for a hacked account) and then flagged us for contacting more than one moderator. (If you were going to lose a bunch of money-wouldn't you contact more than one mod? And where did it state to only contact one mod???) We also received an email back from customer support for more information that was ALREADY LISTED ON THE BOTTOM OF THE EMAIL THEY SENT BACK TO ME THAT I HAD ORIGINALLY SENT TO THEM!

The fact remains, this very same scenario happened recently and skype made no effort to fix the problem or even acknowledge it as far as I can tell. Thousands of people seemed to be hacked through no fault of their own. So here I am, with no hope of regaining the remaining credit I had in the account and no phone service. (I won't tell you about the real emergency that happened last night when I really, really needed to call the US)

The moral of the story? Use skype at your own risk. They are the Ryanair of VOIP.

Guess we'll be looking for a new VOIP service....any suggestions?


lettershometoyou said...

Never used Skype. Isn't it free? I guess you get what you pay for...

That said, there are free alternatives.

Gmail has a really good quality voice and video chat. It's not like you dial a number though - you just start chatting when you see the person online and away you go.

cliff1976 said...

Yelli's complaining about service they actually paid for. I have never had SkypeIn service, only SkypeOut. They do remind you that Skype is not to be considered a substitute for tradtional telephony in emergency situations, so I guess that I wouldn't have relied on them for anything critical - like concerning family member health.

That said, their online chat support sounds sucky.

Our friends locally in Regensburg use SIP to route calls dialed to a local upstate NY exchange across the pond to their SIP router over here. They said the service only costs them a few euros a month (don't forget the router investment, if applicable, and please don't ask me for the details because I don't know anything about this stuff) and for the family in NY, it's the cost of a local phone call (i.e., nothing).

We use Vodafone for our landline service and pay an extra 5€ a month for unlimited Western Europe and North America calling. It mostly works - when the networks are congested, you can tell because the audio signal starts getting choppy. Sometimes we fall back to Skype or SkypeOut in those cases.

arturgreensward said...

We've had very good luck with the G-mail voice chat but I don't think you can route out to a real phone so that probably doesn't help much.

bopper said...

I use "MagicJack". It is a device you connect to your computer and you get a VOIP service. I pay $20 a year for it. You get a US number.

Yelli said...

@letterhome- the free service is the only service that works! I need an actual way to call the US. I don't mind paying but I also expect with paid service that I actually receive phone service!

@cliff - we have a landline for emergency calls (police, fire etc)but we made a bad call relying on skype. They are fine as long as you don't have any problems and need customer service!

Yelli said...

@booper - I looked a bit around the Internet at magicjack and it seemed like a lot of people complain about the service. Have you had good experiences with it?

Jul said...

We have a Vonage phone which allowed us to keep our old US number. It's one of the more expensive options out there now, I think, but the quality has been good.

Yelli said...

@Jul - Thank you for that. I had forgotten about them. You use them here in Germany? Expensive? If they have ANY customer service and are hack free than they are probably cheaper than skype in the long run!