COMMENT | Over the last 19 years, the Microsoft COA (certificate of authenticity) labels have become smaller and harder to read, and harder to peel off and affix to the computers. It is almost as if Microsoft is trying to discriminate against those with poor eyesight or dexterity in their hands. Their latest move of placing over the product key what resembles some form of ‘scratchie’ has baffled me. Not only is there no chance of winning a prize when removing this sticker, but also the odds of actually not destroying the product key it covers is about as good as the odds of cashing out on a $2 scratchie. Once this number has been damaged, prepare for chaos.
In January, a customer presented me with a new motherboard, CPU, memory and, of course, a new OEM copy of Windows 10. Upon encountering the ‘scratchie’, I tried to gently remove the sticker – and initially it looked like it would easily come off. After about five minutes of not getting a good enough grip to peel it off, I noticed it was behaving somewhat like a scratchie, and if I scratched the surface with my nail it would expose what was underneath. I proceeded to scratch it off gently and mostly it did come off; but on one section, not only did it come off, so did the number underneath.
Not happy with this state of affairs, I contacted Microsoft via its online support page and was asked to provide my Microsoft ID and telephone number. To my surprise, I received a call almost immediately. After explaining the situation to the support staffer I was told that I would need to return the software to the point of purchase. Of course, this did not make me happy, so I explained to the support staffer that it was not the retailer’s fault that this problem occurred; it was Microsoft’s fault. The support staffer would not budge on his stance and insisted that I would need to return it to the retailer where it was purchased. I asked to talk to a supervisor and was then placed on hold while the support person found me one.
Perhaps the supervisor was in a different building on the other side of town and whoever was sent to retrieve him was issued with the call centre’s slowest push bike, because 14 hours and 17 minutes later I finally disconnected from the call. I needed to leave for work and the joke had worn off.
Yes, I confess that when I was placed on hold I recalled that Microsoft called me on my mobile, and from the uninterested tone of the support person I really did not expect him to fetch a supervisor.
It is becoming far too prevalent for large organisations to frustrate customers into just ‘going away’ by wearing down their patience, so I wondered how long I could stretch this mobile call that Microsoft was paying for. So I plugged my phone into the charger and contacted the support staff again, this time opting for live online chat.
Two hours later I was issued a replacement key after I had had to contact the customer and ask him to send me a copy of the original purchase invoice. The customer lives in a remote area with extremely poor mobile signal and, of course, had no computer. Eventually, after photographing the invoice and standing on his tippy toes at the sweet spot in his backyard, he was able to send me a copy of the invoice, which, along with the damaged COA, I had to upload to my own PC. I then had to give Microsoft remote access to my PC in order for it to verify the legitimacy of my request for a new key. During this time, I was still on hold with the original support staff. Being annoyed that I had to spend two hours resolving an issue of Microsoft’s doing and not being able to charge for my time, I at least needed to get some amusement out of the event.
Unfortunately, the joke turned out to be on me, as the next day I received another OEM copy. Armed with the knowledge of what had happened the day before, I proceeded extremely cautiously, but failed to remove all of the sticker covering the product key. I handed it to my daughter who is enrolled in a nursing degree, hoping that her age and intelligence combined with really great eyesight and steady hands would provide me with a solution that I was unable to reach given my advanced age, lack of dexterity in my fingers and poor eyesight. After a few minutes, when she thought I could not hear her, she started swearing like a computer technician who has just spent two hours on the phone with Microsoft. She also had no luck removing this label without destroying the number it was covering.
I guess this culture of implementing new ideas before actually testing them in-house is to be expected from Microsoft.
By the way, the support staffer who actually ended up resolving my issue mentioned that Microsoft had already dealt with several other people with the same complaint. Perhaps we could all get together and send Microsoft a bill for our time?
Derek Bothma is the director of Queensland-based company Bothma Holdings, he also ran Gold Coast reseller The Tech Shop for 19 years.