Buying Adobe Photoshop CS6 (or not)

Evidently a guy named Pat Dryburgh had some trouble buying Photoshop. His trial ran out, and when he purchased their Creative Cloud option to continue working, he discovered that his license number wouldn’t arrive for 24-48 hours.

All I have to say is, 24 to 48 hours? That’s nothing.

I preordered Photoshop CS6 the day it came out. Like Dryburgh, I’ve been using CS4 for quite some time; I originally purchased the CS3 web development suite while still in college, faithfully upgraded it to CS4, and decided I’d put up with enough of Adobe’s bullshit when I discovered that you cannot downgrade from a suite to a single product (of course, they don’t advertise this fact, so I discovered it by purchasing Photoshop CS5).

A little over a year later, and I’d forgotten my solemn vow because Photoshop CS6 looked like such a big improvement over CS4. So when CS6 preorders opened, I preordered it that day. Of course, preordering it took about 20 minutes, because Adobe is apparently incapable of supporting Safari, which I only discovered through trial and error. Probably because they rely on their own technologies to build out their web services.

In any case, I finally got my preorder in. I ordered a full boxed copy of Photoshop (I absolutely don’t trust Adobe to keep a downloadable copy available if I need to skip upgrades, so I’ve always bought boxed copies), since I have no use for the vast majority of the rest of the web suite and the difference in cost was only a hundred bucks or so. The Adobe store said they’d be filling the order in 7-10 days, which I figured would be 7-10 days after Photoshop was released on May 7th.

On May 14, my preorder had still failed to ship. I knew preorders were going out, because several of the people I followed on Twitter had received their copies. I tweeted my frustration:

@ianbeck: I wonder if Adobe will ever actually ship my Photoshop CS6 pre-order.

The next day, I received a reply from Jeffrey Tranberry, who is apparently “Chief Customer Advocate” at Adobe:

@jtranber: @ianbeck @thinkofdave Send me an order # so I can check on it. You can use the trial version to start using immediately.

I received the tweet about 20 minutes later, replied with my order number, and within minutes was told that Tranberry was “checking” what was wrong. I was pleasantly surprised; I’m generally not a fan of companies lurking about on Twitter trying to address customer complaints they find in searches. It’s one thing if I mention a company account; by all means, reach out to me then. It’s a bit weird when they jump into a conversation I haven’t invited them to, though. It’d be like if I were sitting at a deli, complaining about Obama with my friends and one of Obama’s PR people called me. “Hey, we were monitoring your conversation as part of our ongoing fight to maintain national security, and wanted to address some of your criticisms of the current administration.” Don’t do that. It’s creepy and invasive.

But I digress. In this particular instance, it appeared that Adobe was finally going to do right by me.

I’d forgotten that “Adobe Customer Care” is a contradiction in terms.

By May 18th, eleven days after CS6 was released, I figured enough was enough and contacted Adobe’s chat support to try and figure out what the heck was going wrong. Tranberry had clearly taken no action, and I felt justified complaining more directly now that were were clearly outside of their estimated shipping window.

It was, of course, a complete waste of time. Although the chat personnel did manage to extract my email address from me, presumably so that they could sell it to spammers. They certainly didn’t use it to contact me or provide me a way into any sort of ticket system.

The most information I could get out of the chat personnel was that there was a “preorder lock” on my order (whatever that means), and they said they had escalated it and the problem would be resolved without requiring further action from me within 2-3 days. I had to ask for the timeframe three times before they’d say that much, though, which made me a bit suspicious.

But whatever. I frankly don’t use Photoshop anywhere near as regularly as I used to (and mostly then for personal websites), so I figured I could wait.

I waited until May 25th, giving Adobe a full week to do anything at all. At that point, I decided enough was enough, and it was time to sit on hold for a while in order to talk to an actual person.

Ha. I would be so lucky.

When it comes to orders, Adobe offers three contact options: 1) phone support, 2) the online chat that I had discovered for myself was more of a waste of time than sitting on hold, and 3) a link to their knowledge base which is, in point of fact, not a method of contact. I called the 800 number.

After navigating through their phone tree, I was delighted to discover I did not need to sit on hold for a long period of time. Instead, very soon after being transferred, I heard a click like someone had picked up, a very faint voice saying who-knows-what, and then a sudden and repetitive beeping.

beep beep beepbeep beep beep beep

It just kept going and going. It sounded like I’d tuned onto a national news station on TV when they were testing their emergency broadcast system. I was still connected (the conversation timer on my iPhone continued to plunk away), but clearly was going to get nothing resolved talking to an electronics system suffering a panic attack.

I hung up and tried again. This time, I again got to a person very quickly after navigating the phone tree. He asked my name and order number, and in the middle of reading the order number to him there was a beep and I lost the connection. Checked my phone, connection to Verizon was fine. Tried a third time, and it once again cut me off as the person on the other end picked up (but this time without the repeating beeps).

At this point I’ve been building up a bit of Twitter rage:

@ianbeck: Tried to call Adobe Support about my *still* MIA preorder of Photoshop CS6, and got nothing but constant beeping. Might just cancel order.

@ianbeck: Oh lovely. “If you placed a preorder and the product has not shipped, you can cancel by calling Adobe Customer Service.” ‘Cuz that works.

@ianbeck: @Adobe_Care Is your call center is experiencing technical difficulties? I can’t get a call to stay connected.

@ianbeck: And there’s the third consecutive time I’ve gone through Adobe’s phone tree only to have their end drop the call. Total waste of my time.

@ianbeck: Seriously considering calling my bank to see if they can block the transaction if Adobe ever tries to charge me, and call it good.

Well, what a surprise. My old friend Jeffrey Tranberry pipes up:

@jtranber: @ianbeck @Adobe_Care sorry you’re having trouble. Do you have a case or order # I can help with?

Oh, Jeffrey. I certainly do. I sent it to you a week ago.

@ianbeck: @jtranber My order number is AD005051095. But I told you that last week, to no effect. Hope this time is the charm.

Adobe cares about exactly one thing, and it isn’t me. It is my credit card number. I forgot this fact because CS6 looked like it provided a lot of shiny new features that would be legitimately useful to me, but thanks to their customer-hostile policies and general incompetency I have thankfully remembered it prior to being charged.

I’m reaffirming my pact with myself not to buy software from Adobe, and now that one of their “customer care” people have finally contacted me via email I’ve asked them to cancel my preorder. I don’t feel cared for. Hell, Adobe wasn’t even capable of facilitating my original purchase.

Good-bye (again) Adobe. I hope when CS7 rolls around that I remember to read my own blog before I waste more of my time and energy on you.

A shout-out to the people on the ground

Okay, whew! Rant done. I’d like to take a moment, now that I’ve finished raging, to point out that I am not angry at people like Jeffrey Tranberry and the other customer support people I’ve interacted with at Adobe.

Or perhaps I should rephrase: they are the focus of my anger, because they’re the sole human points of contact I’ve been able to gain. But I’m not angry at them personally. I’m angry at an institutional system that cares so little for its customers that it provides its support personnel with inadequate tools (and likely very limited personal reach when it comes to addressing the varied needs of the people contacting them). One that as a matter of course releases only one to two minor bugfixes in their year-plus product cycles and planned not to patch known security vulnerabilities in CS5.5 after releasing CS6 until internet rage forced their hand.

Adobe needs to rethink its policies and put some effort into improving their purchase and support infrastructure, but I’m pessimistic. Sadly, despite their user-hostile policies they appear to still be making a fair amount of cash simply because when it comes to high-end graphic design software they’re the only game in town.

I can only hope that people like Pat Dryburgh and myself exiting that zero-sum game will start to put a crimp in the one thing they do care about: their bottom line.


Just a quick update about how this little fiasco ended: after emailing Adobe to ask for them to cancel my order outright, I got a receipt thanking me for my order. Sure enough, I’d been credited and the product had finally shipped. Fortunately, the customer support person I had finally been able to get in contact with was able to get me a quick refund once the product arrived (since they needed the serial number to process it), and they ended up sending me a complimentary copy of Photoshop to try and make up for the pain.

Frankly, I’m not sure if it does, but at least I get to use some of the fun stuff in CS6 now without having to financially support Adobe. I sincerely hope that they take a better look at their customer support system, because although I’m grateful for the gratis copy of Photoshop, I’m still unsure if I’ll ever upgrade it again after the stupidity I had to wade through in order to get into contact with someone who could actually help me.

6 responses to “Buying Adobe Photoshop CS6 (or not)”

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  1. Marc says:

    Ouch. What a painful experience. I can say I upgraded during the grace period without an issue and even though I only ordered the download version of cs6 I received the disks in the mail! Not complaining!

    Owns originally excited about the cs6 release as photoshop has had some great new features. As for the rest of the suite I’ve been disappointed. They feel like minor updates.

  2. GP says:

    What a terrible experience. Sadly though, this is how Adobe rolls.

    May I ask what graphics package you use in place of Photoshop now?

    • Ian Beck says:

      Photoshop CS4. ;-)

      I’ve been experimenting on and off with a number of possible replacements, but so far none of them sufficiently cover the things that I use in Photoshop. In particular, I require easy an repeatable export to web for portions of the image, masks, non-destructive layer effects, simple vector tools, and excellent font handling.

      I’ve always enjoyed and wanted to rely on it, but Acorn is currently my go-to editor when I don’t want to launch Photoshop, particularly as of version 3 which offers non-destructive layer styles. The downside is that the layer styles are a lot more primitive than Photoshop, and there are some things you simply can’t do with them. Acorn also is more designed as a general-purpose single-image editor, rather than an image editor for web and app designers. Additionally, font handling is something of an achilles heel for Acorn; fonts look a lot different when you are editing them vs. when they are displayed, and it is sometimes impossible to get them pixel-perfect.

      Most recently I’ve been eyeing Sketch 2, but I am hesitant to buy it. I am not a huge fan of Bohemian Coding; my experience with their past software is that they create things that look great and get a lot of hype, but don’t work well. The regular crashes I experienced when playing with the trial for Sketch 2 did nothing to allay those concerns, but your mileage may vary. This is currently the only editor that appears to be targeting web and app developers explicitly, and the general philosophy behind it is close to perfect.

      For a while I also played around with Opacity, but it hasn’t been updated in a very long time (I suspect it has been abandoned in favor of consulting on the dev’s part) and although I loved its factory-style image exporting, it has some severe minor problems that make it impossible to use regularly for production (in particular, no easy way to get vector images from other apps into and out of the program, and the vector tools tend to screw up their vertex placements at the drop of a hat).

  3. Chris Campbell says:

    I ordered cs5.5 design suite, just before the official release.

    Once I found out about it I was to say the least a little frustrated, after contacting Adobe I was told that I was days outside the window for a free upgrade, I was told by an online customer services agent that I should escalate my case which I did.

    After reporting the same issue more than once I jumped through many hoops and was told that I would get a free upgrade… Yeehaa, or so I thought, after 9 days still no upgrade and my order still shows pending.

    I asked the same thing about lightroom 4 upgrade and due to my mistake I NEVER ACTIVATED MY LICENCE IN TIME SO THEY SAID THEY WOULD NOT HELP ME OUT, thinking that this is not too bad a deal I decided to order Lightroom using my debit card, 3 days later my activation codes arrived.

    Still no CS6 codes to activate my trial version, after editing many pictures in both Lightroom and Photoshop my subscription is now out of date for CS6 and my licence for CS5.5 has been cancelled.

    To sum up my computer is now full of images that I can not view or edit all thanks to Adobe.

    Please Adobe if you fish on the internet and read these comments sort your customer service out, its no good speaking to people 24/7 and sorting nothing out.

  4. tony says:

    other than the software
    there is nothing good about adobe

  5. Jack says:

    I am now a retired graphic designer and my memory seems longer than Adobe’s. Years back Quark Xpress was king of page layout software, it had no real competition. When InDesign came along I dumped Quark, largely out of years of frustration at the way company treated its customers. In my years in advertising I have seen unassailable companies and products loose their market to a new kid on the block, usually as a result of corporate arrogance and the belief that their position is so strong they can not be eclipsed. It would appear Quark thought that. Your greatest asset is your customer’s loyalty, betray that and you have a legion just waiting to go elsewhere.

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