Oct 042011
Ranty McRantington logo

UPDATE AND RESOLUTION, Friday 14 October 2011, 4:12 pm PT: There had still been no contact from Xbox Support/Fraud, but we had a few other avenues we were attempting to pursue. We had the ear of someone with the moderation team in the Xbox Live forums who was willing to see what, if anything, she could do if Fraud kicked the issue out again. We also had attempted to talk to XBL’s policy and enforcement director, Stepto.

Stepto was, in fact, the first person I tried to contact about this, via Twitter, before I had even gotten off that first endless phone call. I never got a reply from him though, and then realized later that day that this was in the middle of his dog passing away, and so wasn’t sure if the lack of response was due to distraction or simple refusal to deal with issues such as mine.

But we put in an email to him all the same. What could it hurt, right?

Some time went by without an answer on that front either. You guys know that story already. But then this morning we got a bulk email apologizing for lack of response. That one we replied to and a few hours later, Stepto asked us for details so he could check into it.

Good lord, someone who wanted to help.

I wrote up a fairly lengthy summery. I didn’t expect anything until Monday at the earliest. To my utter surprise, half an hour later I received my first correspondence from Xbox on this mess. Not only was my account unlocked, but all the points that had been spent from my account were returned, and I received two one-month codes for XBL Gold for the downtime.

It’s done. Hours on the phone, weeks of irritation, being so furious that even turning on the console to stream a video made me grind my teeth – all done.

I’m far beyond relieved, and so appreciative of Stepto for not only taking the time to hear about my situation but then to fix it? Thank you, sir.

The fact remains however that this is a broken system. I understand that there are policies in place and that in most cases they probably serve fine, but in this instance, all that happened was that I got screwed. I suspect that what happened was someone in Fraud was looking for a quick and easy way to close out another ticket. “Oh, her name was changed, the policy is to shut it down!” A few button clicks later, on to the next ticket. Why should Fraud care about that? They’re an autonomous and entirely isolated department. You can’t call them, you can’t talk to them. They don’t even report to you on the decisions they’ve made, that’s the job of some poor phone jockey who, I am beyond certain, hates to make those phone calls. But really, I get that. It’s in the company’s best interests to have a detached group of people who only have to deal with facts.

But what happened here shouldn’t have needed six weeks, a dozen phone calls and externally contacting the director of the department to get resolved. They’re only human and mistakes are made, so there must be a process in place to challenge decisions when those inevitable mistakes happen. I was lucky enough to be angry enough to fight against being told I had no options open to me, but not everybody will. I can’t be the first and only person that this has happened to in nearly ten years of Xbox Live. How many people have simply given up when told nothing can be done?

I’ll still be writing to Xbox’s corporate offices, and hopefully they can open up a new process so that innocent people don’t get screwed over. But it is heartening to find someone at a high level with Xbox who cared, and sincerest thanks again to Stepto. I’m glad that my story can have a happy, satisfying ending. Hopefully this experience will help make sure everybody can say that.

UPDATE, Monday 10 October 2011, 2:09 pm PT: The previous person I had spoken to said to call back on Friday if I hadn’t heard anything; I didn’t hear anything but also wasn’t prepared to go into my weekend with a head full of impotent steam, so I held off calling until a few moments ago.

I spoke with Crystal. She told me that my new ticket was still open with no new notations with this issue specifically or on my account in general. She said that it would likely be another week before I heard from Fraud, which I’m obviously not too happy with but the whole thing has me so nervy right now that I don’t even want to breathe wrong for fear I’m going to knock over the Jenga tower that this mess has become.

I got her to confirm her understanding of the issue based on the notations on the account however, as well as that the “false information” issue looked to have been independently corrected years ago and shouldn’t be an issue. Everything sounds good and logical, but then I would’ve thought that a five or six weeks ago too and here we are. Still, she was very polite and as encouraging and optimistic as it was possible for her to be, so thank you, Crystal.

Another week of waiting ahead. Hooray.

UPDATE, 8:48pm PT: First, thanks everyone for the reading and the support. This is picking up a bit of steam, and my hope is that someone with Xbox will realize just how insane this situation is and how utterly not-supportive this customer support has been.

As to my situation, there’s been some movement. Another round of phone calls uncovered a representative who, much to my surprise, actually wanted to help. After about 15 minutes on hold while he sorted through all the notes on the account, he came back with what felt like genuine disgust at how all of this had been handled. He seemed especially appalled with how something had been notated on the account, but I was so shocked to be having a conversation that didn’t involve telling me nothing could be done that I never found out what exactly.

It seems the root of the problem is when I signed up for the service, about five years ago. I apparently used “Jet Wolf” as my name, which I don’t exactly remember doing because hey, five years ago, but I could see it if I thought at the time it would be the name everyone on Xbox Live would see. But here’s the crazy part: I changed it a month later. To my ACTUAL NAME.

The insurmountable stumbling block in this process was going from a handle used for one month five years ago to an actual legit name that is actually legitimately on my credit card that you actually legitimately took not three weeks ago because I thought you needed it to move this process along.

If nothing else happens with this, I have so very much to say.

But perhaps something will. The guy I spoke to noted the heck out of my account and escalated another ticket to the Fraud department. I have a new case number and instructions to call back if I haven’t heard from them by Friday. I’m not sorted yet, but at least things are moving again.

An explanation and a recourse. That is all I wanted this afternoon. I was unable to get it in several hours on the phone talking to three separate people in an escalation chain.

Thank you, Guy Who Genuinely Wanted To Help.

Whatever happens, I’ll be writing a very nice letter to Xbox Corporate. A month now, this has been part of my world, and I’m relieved to be back at Step One. That’s messed up.

ORIGINAL POST, Tuesday 4 October 2011, 3:25pm PT:
So here’s a fun thing. Last month I logged on to Xbox Live and saw that my bank of Microsoft Points had been drained. Checking billing history showed the purchase of two games that neither Mike nor myself did or would have bought. Somehow, someone had hacked us.

I immediately changed passwords and contacted Xbox Support. They took down what happened, verified that I’d re-secured the account, and submitted the report to their fraud department, saying it could take up to three weeks to get a resolution. Not too happy about that, but yeah, okay.

About a week later, my account became frozen. I could log in locally, but not connect to Live. I’d heard nothing from anybody with Xbox so I called them. They confirmed that research was underway and that the account being locked was routine with the investigation. Again not too happy, but okay.

Nothing the next week. I called for an update, but they could only say it was still being researched.

Next week, same thing. Called for update – same thing.

I was going to call again tomorrow – exactly one month after my first call – but they called me first, just a few hours ago. It was a representative, passing along what Fraud had to say.

What they had to say was that apparently there was “false information” on the account which was a violation of the terms of service and so they closed the issue without further research. No points reimbursement, nothing. He then went on to tell me that they were ALSO not going to unfreeze my account.

No points returned. Account locked for all time.

When there was nothing he could do, I got myself escalated. But the result was the same. Around and around and around we went. I wasn’t even focusing on the points at this stage, I just wanted my account back. Or hell, maybe just some better information. WHAT was false on the account? I could probably explain whatever didn’t make sense on the damned thing. He wouldn’t tell me for “privacy reasons”. He could do nothing. *I* could do nothing. There was no appeal process, no way to reopen the issue. Sucks to be me.

I got passed to another guy, but the same thing. Logic was impossible – If the root of all this was that it was such obviously false information on the account then what possible privacy issue could it be to tell me what it was? And if it WASN’T obviously false, then it MAY be legit so we should be able to discuss it and resolve the issue. Nothing. I eventually got to the “I’ve told you all I can about this so if you have no other questions I’ll terminate the call” stage. At no point was I given any kind of alternative other than “suck it”.

Unbelievably, I am now in a WORSE situation than I would’ve been had I never turned to Xbox for support in the first place. I am absolutely floored that this is where I am.

$50 in Microsoft points, gone. Several months of XBL Gold, useless. My account, frozen. My options, none. I feel like a mugger stole the money from my wallet and when I went to report it, the police stole the wallet too.

Xbox. Jump in.

All I can see that’s left to me now is to try and spread this as far as I can. When a customer support department can legitimately screw you even more, that’s information everyone should be keenly aware of before they call.

Share this link. Share this story. If you have suggestions for me, please don’t hesitate to say. I’ve already filed a consumer complaint, plan to put one in with the BBB, and will physically write Xbox corporate before the week is out. Any kind of customer support structure that leaves you in a worse situation is deeply flawed and should never be acceptable to either customer OR company.

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