If you own a device that runs either Apple’s iOS, or Google’s Android platform, you may be familiar with a website called Free App A Day.
FAAD is a decent, moderately well-designed website that negotiates with different developers of apps for your device and convinces them to offer their wares for free for a limited amount of time. The developers get access to more users, and more users equates to more reviews, which, in turn, can give the developers greater exposure even after the app returns to its full price. Most, but not all, apps on this website are games, so if you’re “into” games on your device, you might want to consider checking out the website. (Or the apps that mirror the content of the website…)
Back in September, 2010, they launched their sister site, called FAAD VIP. The idea behind this site seems to be a natural progression from the original Free App a Day website. Instead of negotiating with the developers to offer their apps for free, FAAD VIP instead asks their users to pay full price for a given app, play with the app a little bit, and write a review of it. Every review will, in turn, earn you “points,” which can be redeemed for credits in the iTunes store. (I can only assume that a similar model is in the works for the Android store…)
I joined this and paid the $0.99 for the game Battle Bears -1 almost immediately. This is an unremarkable shoot-em-up game that gets tedious really quickly. The best thing I can say about this game is that they did a fairly good job ripping off a Monty Python sketch in the opening sequence. I wrote up my review of this game within 24 hours of downloading it, and haven’t played the game since.
About a week after I downloaded and wrote my initial review of the game, I noticed that I hadn’t yet received my credits and I returned to the FAAD VIP site and it asked me to confirm that my user name was exactly the same as the name I use for my reviews. It wasn’t, so I corrected my user name on FAAD VIP and, just for good measure, I deleted my original review and rewrote it.
That was September 23, 2010.
On October 12, 2010, I sent an email to their support mailbox, asking about the status of my credits. I gave them a fair amount of information about how to identify my review from a sea of a large number of reviews for the game (many of which had been generated as a result of their promotion of the game).
A few hours later, I received an email in response that said, “It usually takes around 24 hours to get the credits but sometimes more.” The support rep also asked me to verify that everything matched between iTunes and their website.
Considering that I sent this email more than three weeks after I had written my review, this response was, to be polite, less than satisfactory. So I responded by reiterating what I had said in my original inquiry, and concluded by asking, “Please advise how much longer you expect me to wait.”
The response I received back from this email was quite brusque: “As I told you in my previous message, we validate reviews and send credits as fast as we can.
Thank you again for your patience.
On November 4, 2010, FAAD made a comment on Facebook about their FAADVIP program and I related not only my frustrations at not having received my credits by that point, but also about the brusqueness of my last correspondence with their customer service. The person who saw this comment advised me to contact their customer service again. So I did, including my comment about the brusqueness of the response.
The response I received addressed the brusqueness complaint thusly: I am really astonished when you say my answer was “brusque”, for I am always very polite with everyone. I think this person — whose name I still don’t know and who has never referred to me as anything other than “customer” — could teach our politicians a thing or two about giving a non-apology apology.
The customer support rep asked me, once again, to confirm that my iTunes nickname was the same as my nickname on FAAD VIP, and also advised that s/he transferred my issue to technical support. I responded back the following day to inform them, once again, that the names matched, and explaining the source of the brusqueness.
I received a response back on November 8, 2010, informing me that technical support is in charge of validation and that they work as fast as they can. As far as the brusqueness accusation, this is what they had to say: “Then you interpretation of my message was incorrect for there was no “brusqueness” in it. Sometimes, there is just nothing more I can answer than “we do our best to satisfy you”, and that is what My message meant.
Some time between then and December 20, 2010, Apple made a change to their iTunes software that enabled me to actually get a URL for all of the reviews I’ve written for things I’ve downloaded from their store (apps, music, movies, etc…) I wrote back to FAADVIP on December 20, 2010, asking about the status of my credits and providing the URL. If you have an iTunes account, you can see my reviews here. By now I had given up on the brusqueness complaint. They responded by saying they were still working on it.
Since then, I have reached out to them monthly — subsequent outreaches have taken place on January 20, 2011 and February 26, 2011 — to see what is going on and each time they have advised that they are still working on it. I haven’t formally asked why they can’t use the URL I provided as validation that I have, in fact, downloaded that app. (Apple doesn’t let you write reviews of apps you haven’t downloaded.)
Six months have now passed since I rewrote my review of the Battle Bears app, and I’m officially done with the site. Fortunately, I only lost a dollar, which I chalk up to being a lesson learned; I feel bad for those who might have lost more. Simply put, if they weren’t ready for inquiries like mine when they went “live” six months ago, they went “live” way too early. Theirs is a model for poor customer service and how to lose customers for no good reason.
Please note that all quotes from their customer service are copied verbatim from the emails I received.