Saturday, 1 March 2008

A Tale from Dreamland

Yesterday I wrote about the frustrations of dealing with Linden Lab when trying to pay for corporate land in Second Life. The timing turned out to be rather spooky. It was the end of the month, and therefore tier payment was due on my own plot of land in Second Life. And this, too, is turning into a bizarre and frustrating, almost Kafkaesque, experience. Let me explain...

Avid readers may recall that, owing to circumstances beyond my control, I had to move into new accommodation back in November. After carefully considering my various needs, I settled for buying (whatever that really means) a plot on Rhododendron Island, part of Anshe Chung's Dreamland estates. I had several reasons for opting for Anshe Chung, one of the most important of which was the apparent ease of payment - via a PayPal subscription.

What I did not know was that, a few weeks after I moved in, ACS would change their payment methods. Allegedly making the whole thing easier and more flexible, they cancelled my PayPal subscription (an action about which I had received no prior warning, and that put the screaming bejabers up me) and told me that henceforth I'd have to pay monthly at a pay station. Exactly how was this making it "easier" for me to pay? I cannot guarantee to be inworld at month-end, or indeed any other time. Surprisingly perhaps, I actually have many calls on my time - and finding the opportunity to get inworld is not always that easy. Well, anyhoo...

The 5k square metre plot that I have attracts a tier of 30 USD per month. So on 1st Jan I duly trotted along and paid my 30 bucks. At the end of January I went along again, and was surprised to find that I was about 300L$ in arrears. What? I paid the right sum - so how come I owe anything - even a relatively trivial amount? I am not master of my own destiny in this - if they so choose, ACS could blow away the content of New New Alville, regardless of the state of any billing query, if there is outstanding monies. For the sake of good customer relations, I would hope they wouldn't - but I did not want to take that risk, and duly paid the balance, following this with another 30 bucks, to cover February.

Now... part of the blurb I got from ACS back in December said they were withdrawing subscription payments. But if you follow the PayPal payment option from the inworld pay station you arrive at a web page that lets you do 2 things. First, you can pay any outstanding charges by a one-off payment (actually you can pay as much as you like - including the full month tier if you want). Second, you can set up a subscription. Yay!

So back at the end of January, not only did I pay the strange L$ amount and my February tier, I also set up a subscription to pay the 30 bucks. At the end of February, yesterday, the said sum was duly paid over and I got a nice statement from PayPal to that effect. Phew! The system works!

I was therefore somewhat disconcerted to get a message forwarded to my email account from ACS, telling me my tier had been charged for March (OK) and that I owed them 673 L$. What the hell is going on? What is this sum? Does it represent one day's tier and will go up in increments until my land is reclaimed and my inworld credit record is blasted to shit? Or is it some sort of balance left after subtracting 30 USD paid from a tier of... ummm... 30 USD due?

In the former case it would indicate that the subscription facility is not working - and they have 30 bucks of my money that is not being allocated against my tier. In the latter case, I am struggling to see the maths (I have a theory - but I will await an explanation first).

Once again, I have opted to pay the extra money rather than risk losing the parcel - and I have raised this as a support/billing query. But I really do not want to go through this shag'n'hassle every month. The subscription looks like a great method for circumventing this. If, as may be the case, there is a charge to go with this then it'd be nice to be told - and I can make the appropriate adjustment. Right now it feels like I'm making a number of smallish (but not insignificant) payments without any reason being offered as to what these adjustments might mean.

I wonder how this one will resolve itself?

Oh... I nearly forgot. You might think I should get a transaction history from ACS, then I would have a better idea of what was going on. Damn good idea - so I've asked for that. The pay station offers a "History" option that will email me with my transaction details. Unfortunately, this seems to be a non-automated option. I raised the request a few hours ago, but still nothing in my inbox. ho hum.

UPDATE 3rd March: I finally got a reply from ACS support. It seems that the difference is due to the PayPal charge - however, they are still not telling me what that charge is, so I can look at uplifting the subscription amount. The message also contains the comment: "We really expect your understanding and hope you could have nice time in dreamland." The first phrase, about "expecting my understanding", had me ready for some serious harrumphing... but on reading the whole sentence I can see it is a classic case of Denglish. Still... some indication of the actual amount would be appreciated.


Alex said...

As I understand it was not 'them' who cancelled the PayPal(r) option. It was PayPal(r) itself. :)

Aleister Kronos said...

But the PayPal option is still there... and still happily pumping money at ACS.

Digado said...

I love Engrish - and I really dislike ACS's way of doing business. They are a social media marketers nightmare: They keep proving you can be hated, have crappy service, treat your customers like junk, have a website that's utter crap, as long as the price is good and the name is known people will buy...

Aleister Kronos said...

In my case, I went with ACS because:
the price was good;
I liked the covenant (so many were so restrictive);
I liked the hassle-free PayPal subscription (others used pay stations);
and friends recommended them.

I have since found the support to be slow and patchy, and information hard to obtain. All of which is not a problem, until it's a problem.