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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Don't Pay Us, We Must Punish You First.

Linden Lab, the creators of Second Life, have a long history of doing things to make life difficult for their customers.  This blog post is about their latest idiocy.  If you prefer keeping your blood pressure down, or don't like rants, just click and browse away now, Dear Reader.  You Have Been Warned!

RANT MODE ON!

To be a Premium member in Second Life, or to own land, you pretty much have to have an accepted method of payment on file.  Linden Lab doesn't accept prepaid or debit cards, but they do accept most major credit cards, as well as "verified" PayPal accounts.  "Verified" means that you have gone to the PayPal web site and gone through their process to link your PayPal account to a major credit card or to a Real Life bank account.

All well and good, except for the huge numbers of people, especially outside the USA, who don't have and can't get a major credit card or a PayPal account.  But it's been that way for ages, and that's not the subject of today's complaint.

Those of us who like to keep ahead of our obligations and don't like to see those charges from Linden Research on our monthly statements have two ways to pump up our Second Life accounts to meet those bills from LL for Premium membership and land tier.
  1. We can collect enough $L from other residents with our in-world businesses to meet our bills (after selling the $L and converting them to money in our $US dollar balance.)  Or,
  2. We can send money proactively to Linden Lab with an "Increase Credit" option on our Second Life account controls. 
A lot of us do both.  Our SL business ventures don't bring in quite enough to pay the bills, so every so often, we give our accounts a little infusion of cash from our PayPal accounts.

But now, LL won't take our money!  I just found out about this today, but for at least the last two months, hitting the Increase Credit link takes you to a sweetly worded web page that tells you that the "Limit Buy process has been streamlined" and that you no longer need the Increase Credit option.  So they took it away.

Well, gee, Rod.  Maybe some virtual currency traders used Increase Credit to play the $L markets, but most of us ordinary mortals used it to keep you from having to bill our Payment Methods.  Did you ever think of that?  Apparently not.

Now, that is bad enough.  Still, you'd think that the new, "streamlined" system would work.  We'd sell our $L, the Lab would drain what was in our $USD balance, and then bill our Payment Method for the shortfall.  But nooooo....

To add injury to insult, if there is not enough money in your $USD balance to pay your bills, your account is placed on an IMMEDIATE HOLD!  WTF, Rod!?  I mean, really, *W*T*F*!!!??  The Billing Department, by the way, will blithely assure you not to worry, nothing bad will happen, they will simply bill your Payment Method as I've sketched out above.  Apparently nobody told them, either.

The only way that the shoestring and duct-taped LL billing system will charge your Payment Method is if your $USD balance is ALREADY at $0.00!

Rod, this needs an immediate fix, please.  Even before you finish the Server Side Baking rollouts.  By preference, put the Increase Credit option back into the system.  But if you can't figure out how to do that -- my kid could probably suss it out, back when he was in middle school, but never mind -- then at least make sure your billing software exercises the Charge Payment Method branch before it suspends the account.

And while you are at it, how about holding a senior staff meeting and ask your people one simple question:  "Why do we make it so hard for people to give us their money?"  Then have them turn that around, on pain of losing their heads.  Don't you WANT your company to succeed?

RANT MODE OFF.

Drat, I had intended a much stronger and more inventive rant, but the sheer massiveness of this stupidity has left me nearly speechless.

EDIT:  After reading a bit more about this new "streamlined" system, I found that someone has come up with a clumsy, but workable way around it.  Here's how:
  1. Make a "Limit Buy" of enough $L to be equivalent to the $USD you want to add to your account.  When setting the limit, set it high enough so that the order will NOT be filled.
  2. Once the order is placed and your payment method has been charged, cancel the order.  The amount of funds you would have paid for the order will be placed in your $USD balance instead.
This workaround avoids the conversion fees from $USD to $L and back to $USD.  Thanks to Vania Chaplin for this suggestion!

4 comments:

  1. Wow! I've never been exposed to your rant mode before. Awesome and I agree with you.

    LL's business processes seem to have been developed by Rube Goldberg himself!

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  2. This is why I'll never, ever get a Premium account... because if, by no fault of your own, you ever miss a payment, they can really screw up your account, and you lose potentially thousands of US$ worth of stuff. oO

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    1. This is very true, Nomad. Even so, I find the benefits of Premium membership are worth this small risk. I like the Live Chat support, (and, at my level, the Concierge support). I like the weekly stipend payments, and most of all, I like owning and living on the Mainland. Your Mileage May Vary!

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  3. Thank you for the workround, I've been battling with this for a couple of months now.

    And for what it's worth, you do seem to have a period of grace of about 10 days before things go belly-up (at least I've had this in the past few months when I missed a payment because of being in hospital and my paypal billing limit not being high enough (I set it down to $20 each month so that if I get an impulse to spend USD I have to carry out the extra step - then I have to remember to increase the limit at the end of the month to allow tier to be taken out).

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