A little over a week ago I finally decided to give in and pick up your hardware. I'll make no bones about it, I bought the system because I needed a Blu-ray player, but I heard it can be used for games too so I figured, what the hell, let's buy Burnout Paradise – as there's a rather awesome complete bundle on sale. Little did I realize the amount of grief this decision would bring me, all because of one broken security system. I am of course talking about the marvelously non-functional Address Verification System you've implemented for credit card management. On the surface it seems like a great idea, but when it's excluding a good portion of your customer base for stupid reasons, something needs to be done.
My problems began, as I mentioned above, when I tried to buy Burnout Paradise. As this was the first time I'd ever attempted to buy anything from the PlayStation Store, I was prompted to add a credit card so I could put funds in my wallet. Frankly I was more than happy to because unlike the Xbox LIVE Marketplace and Wii Shop Channels, on PlayStation you only charge the actual amount required. No stupid money-in-limbo problems. Alas fortune was not with me for your system promptly informed me that I had entered incorrect information. Now I'm fairly certain I know my own place of residence, but hey, banks can be a bit weird and AVS systems can be stupidly anal, so I grabbed a bank statement and tried again. Nope, we're sorry but your information is invalid. On the off-chance that there might be something funny about adding it during the purchase phase, I backed out and tried from account management screen. Nope, same problem.
By this point I'd spent about 20 minutes trying to get this sorted and was getting rather annoyed. I know my address, I know it's correct with the bank and I don't have to deal with this kind of crap on either the Xbox or Wii. As a desperate last resort I tired entering the info for my other credit card and was now informed that they were unable to update my credit card information. A lock out that would last for 24 hours. Profanity filled my mind. That's the polite way of saying, "Now I'm really pissed off!"
Angry, I followed the advice of the onscreen prompt and phoned up Sony support. After several bland IVR entries I was into the PlayStation Network Support menu where I had two choices: Assistance connecting to PSN and Trouble Adding a credit card. This is a big enough issue to warrant it's own damn menu entry but nothing has been done to correct it? WTF Sony? After a moment of utter bewilderment at a recorded message informing me to do exactly what I had been doing, I was dumped to a menu where I could finally choose to talk to a real person. Well, I suppose you could call it a person, but really it was little more than a worker drone. Here's a sample of what talking to Sony support is like:
Sony Peon: "Thank you for calling Sony Support, can I get your name please?"
Canadian with Good Anger Management Skills: "Jason"
Peon: "So your name is Jason, J-A-S-O-N. Is that correct?"
Peon: "Can I get your Last Name?"
Me: "Westhaver, W-E-S-T-H-A-V-E-R"
Peon: "So your last name is Westhaver, W-E-S-T-H-A-V-E-R. Is that correct?"
Me, wondering if this is a computer: "Y-yes"
Peon: "How can I help you?"
Me: "Something you probably get a lot of shit calls about. I'm unable to add my credit card and I know the address information is correct."
Peon: "So you're trying to add your credit card and it's not working. Is that correct?"
Look, I've worked in customer support and this is not how to talk to a customer. All it did was convince me I was talking to a person who had no free will, no desires and no soul. I was filled with an overwhelming lack of confidence in his ability to assist me and sure enough, I was right. After several minutes of explaining my issue while he repeated it back to me with, "Is that correct?" crudely grafted to the end, I finally got a response that didn't sound like a skipping record. "If you are entering your information correctly and the system is rejecting it then there is nothing we can do for you. Unfortunately you'll have to buy PlayStation cards instead." Yes how unfortunate that I can not use the system as designed. While that solution may be well and good for a lot of your customers, it leaves me with cash stuck in my account, and that's exactly what I was trying to avoid.
Not being one to roll over and take it like a bitch, I took my search for an answer online and found that several dozen people had been able to get around this problem by using the PlayStation Store for PC (and several thousand more getting the same error code). So I wandered over to http://store.playstation.com and was redirected to a UK site that told me to use my console. Now I realize this is the fault of a bad cookie and I should have been redirected to the Media Go site, but I've repeatedly switched to the US PlayStation site and it's never bothered to update the cookie so some of that frustration falls on your head. After some further research I discovered that the Web Store was now a part of Media Go and I would need to use this software to access it. After the experiences I had with ATRAC software and the legendary XCP rootkit disaster, I'd feel safer installing StarForce. But seeing as this was my only option, I soldiered on and downloaded the software anyway.
Following the unpleasant installation that also forced me to install Quicktime, something I had been avoiding, I was finally able to access the PlayStation Store on my PC. I logged in, clicked the account management icon and was immediately redirected to a publicly accessible webpage that loaded in Firefox. Now forgive me for my following rudeness and unprofessional banter but, YOU FUCKING ASSHOLES!
I just went through all the trouble of tracking down a piece of software, installing it and other mandatory software that I did not want, just to be redirected to a damn web page your fucking website could have linked to in the first place! This is completely unacceptable. I understand the desire to get people using your software and I have no problem if you want to force people to use it to access the store, but if your account management page is just a normal public web site, just let me access it directly!
Anyways, after all of that the service still isn't verifying my credit card, so today I called my bank and had a talk with them and you know what? They were surprisingly helpful. Not only did the personal answering the phone talk to me like a real human being, she actually volunteered that she had the ability to view the incoming verification requests so she could tell me what was wrong. Guess what Sony, the problem is on your end. You are submitting different information than I entered into the form. Specifically, you're getting my expiration date wrong by a month. The issue isn't even address related. I'd call back to Sony support and ask them to look into this, but after the experience I had with them I don't trust them to do little more than write my complaint on a piece of paper, neatly fold that paper up and throw it at the nearest basketball net adorned waste receptacle. I have no confidence left in your company's ability to help it's users. I am more than happy to forgo buying Burnout Paradise and all PSN content, than continue to deal with this nonsense.
The worst part of the whole affair is that it's neither new, nor restricted to just me or just my bank. Since day one users have been complaining about the Credit Card verification system, but as far as I can tell nothing has been done to fix it. In the end my problem wasn't related to the AVS, but a far more serious issue. It's one thing to deny a card because the address doesn't match to the letter, but it's another to submit the wrong information to my bank in the first place. On top of that, I've now twice been locked out from entering my information for 24 hour periods. It would be one thing for a bank to do this, but why are you compelled to? Especially when you know the AVS will require several verification attempts by users.
It's not like these problems are hard to over come if you try. Just do the following:
- Drop the 24 hour lock outs
- Fix the submissions so they're at least sending the bank the correct information
- Provide an alternative if the AVS fails. Try setting up a web interface that uses Verified by Visa or Secure Code instead.
- Let your support staff be themselves. A happy call centre employee helps your customers and makes them feel confident.
- Don't be evil
Until then I think I'll take my business elsewhere.