As regular readers will know, I sometimes post a few photos here with a link to the set. The photos are actually hosted at Flickr, as I’m a paid-up user of what they call FlickrPro.
A couple of weeks ago when logging onto Flickr, out of the blue I was confronted with the message "We can't sign you in on this device. Please try from the device you use the most often."
Now I don’t own a smartphone or a tablet. In fact I pretty much own one “device”, the computer I was using to access Flickr through, as I had always done before. So this advice was not what you would call terribly helpful. (I joined Flickr in Feb 2010, and bought a new computer sometime in 2012. I suppose that’s officially a “new device” but I’m going to suggest it’s not a likely cause of the problem here.)
So I contacted Flickr’s owner, Yahoo, on the assumption they would be able to assist me accessing my account. Oh how innocent I was in those long-done days of a couple of weeks ago! They proudly tell you you can’t call them, you can only raise an on-line ticket. Which I did.
The reply came back telling me to access their on-line “help channels”, and closing my query with the somewhat ironic phrase “I'm glad I could help you today”. As it turns out, I had looked through those help channels, and they had not helped me. And, seeing as my problem was Yahoo locking me out of my account, the chances of my fixing the issue on my own seemed remote.
So I raised a new ticket, asking them to refer back to the first as things were not resolved.
This time they asked for extra information. Much of which was clearly irrelevant to my query. I hadn’t recently changed my web browser or operating system, so they were scarcely likely to be the cause of the problem. They then told me I’d need to raise a new case with this new info, and closed the case I’d raised “as we believe we've fully addressed it.”
In the same breath as asking me for extra info, they closed my case as they’d believed they’d fully addressed it. Fast work, guys!
So I went and raised a new ticket.
This time they told me “it looks like we do not have enough information on this account to securely verify your identity as the account’s owner. Because we can't confirm it's your account, I will not be able to help you with this particular Flickr account.” And they closed the case again.
Why my identity should suddenly become a problem after seven years, what “information” was mysteriously missing and how if they didn’t know who I was they had previously been able to take payment from me, these were not matters they saw fit to elaborate on.
I had paid for a two year subscription in March of this year. So I told them if they weren’t going to do anything about reconnecting me to my account, I expected a refund on the remainder of that subscription. Of course, when I say “told them” I mean via the whole new ticket I was made to raise.
They asked me to enter some information on-line about the payment I’d made, which I did.
They then came back with “unfortunately, we didn't receive enough information or we couldn't match the info you provided with what's currently listed on the account.”
What are the odds? They didn’t have enough information on an account I’ve had for seven years, and then when I ask for a refund it turns out they didn’t have enough information on a payment which I can clearly see on my bank statement. Are the Yahoo offices based in the information equivalent of the Bermuda triangle?
Ever hopeful, I asked them what information might be missing. They replied ”your account security is serious business and we take precautions to protect your personal info.” (emphasis theirs.) I was glad to hear that they took my account security so seriously as to embolden a line. But I was still none the wiser as to what information seemed to be missing, so I contacted them again.
And they replied with the message they’d previously sent, which I’d been asking for them to elaboration on, pretty much word for word. (“I am really sorry but it looks like we don't have enough information on this account to securely verify your identity as the account owner.”) Back to square one.
Messages from Yahoo are phrased in that irritatingly breezy Californian fashion we’ve all had to become accustomed to. They pretty much all open with a line like “thanks for spending the time to reach out to us again”, as if my motivation was just to get in touch with those great guys at Yahoo and not actually get my bloody problem fixed.
And then beneath that veneer they make it as difficult as possible for you to contact them, ask for extraneous information, repeatedly ask for the same information and when asked questions themselves give replies so vacuous as to be useless, or else completely ignore the question altogether.
After their last message, I asked for the issue to be dealt with through their formal complaints procedure. However, from my experience so far I’m not at all sure they’ll even have one. They would seem to operate on the basis that they are entitled to take your money, an entitlement which bears no relation to their obligation to provide a service. If you query this they pretty much hold up a set list of semi-meaningless excuse cards, then tell you they now consider this issue to be resolved. In short, they want you to pay up and then shut up. I am of the opinion that what they have done constitutes theft.
I have no power to tell anyone else what to do, nor would I be interested in doing such a thing. But anyone thinking of taking out or renewing a FlickrPro subscription may want to note that they have done this to me, and presumably would be perfectly willing to do this to you.
Should anyone reading this have any previous experience of dealing with Yahoo, or know of what recourse a consumer would have in cases such as this I’d be grateful.
And if anyone could recommend any other on-line photo-sharing platforms, I’d also be grateful. I’m looking at entirely free ones at this point, as paying the buggers for the service seems to give you no rights whatsoever in their eyes.