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A startup’s Firebase bill suddenly increased from $25 to $1750 per month (medium.com)
952 points by lpellegr on May 17, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 497 comments

Reminds me of getting Bait-and-Switch'd by Google App Engine in 2011. From 10's of euros to 1000's.

> They have no phone number to contact, no way to dispute this other than email — which they have ignored us for over a month now without replying to our continued requests. Trapped. Doomed. We have no further options.

Sounds like Google did a great job with Firebase. Definitely gives you that Google-feel of unresponsive support and no hope when you have problems with any of their services. I bet they also have a "community" support forum or Google Group full of helpless people talking to a virtual wall. (Edit: Yep, they recommend Stack Overflow, Quora, and then their Google Group.. lol. Some things never change)

I learnt this lesson the hard way. Solution: get a separate debit (not credit!) card for all cloud stuff. Make sure you only transfer enough money on to it each month to cover what you reasonably expect your bills to be (and that you can quickly top it up in hours if you legitimately need to).

Worst case, if AWS or Google decide to fuck you over, let the bill bounce. This way you've still got funds on hand to deal with the fall out and some leverage to negotiate a solution.

Of course, this approach only works if you're happy to have your service cut off more or less abruptly if your card bounces, something the author of the article explicitly mentions isn't an option.

The problem (in the article at least) isn't being surreptitiously billed a large amount, it is cost of a critical service changing dramatically without warning.

They won't cut you off immediately and the gain you get is some breathing space/wriggle room to decide what your next step is going to be once you've been landed with a huge, unexpected bill.

Also, nothing gets them talking to you faster than a bounced invoice :)

Perhaps. Or perhaps they block or throttle your account. Stopping payment is the nuclear option, you can't expect any cooperation with outstanding payments on your account (not that you necessarily can with a fully paid up account), and your position, if you should choose to pursue legal action, just got a lot more complicated.

To be clear, the only time any of this matters is when a huge, unexpected bill arrives. Day to day, you should anticipate any big, legitimate bills and make sure funds are there to settle them (or you scale back usage to avoid getting smacked).

It's when a big bill lands in error or is introduced sneakily that having a separate "cloud only card" can save you. In that case, it's the supplier that's gone nuclear and you're just responding in kind.

Sure, but that's just not what we're discussing here. The author of the original article clearly authorised the increased spend (but obviously not the sudden change causing it), and could have declined (presumably at the cost of having his app throttled or shut down). Nothing about a "cloud only card" would have changed his situation the least.

Totally agree. If he/she authorised it after being given an opportunity to decline then, yes, it's absolutely on them. /me clearly didn't read the article ;)

I've had an invoiced account with AWS since 2007. We have been 9 months behind on payments at times and they have never suspended the account. Keep a line open with then and they will be reasonable. We are currently current with then but have been behind for more that 2/3 the history of the account.

> The problem [...] isn't being surreptitiously billed a large amount, it is cost of a critical service changing dramatically without warning.

Sorry, but this is the risk of using somebody else's service -- especially Google's -- as a critical component of a business. It may be marvellous for developers not to bother with infrastructure for their own service, but this strategy likes to come back and bite in the ass.

You always have to use someone else's service - even if it's just the electricty supply. But different services come with different risks, and you have to try to gauge them.

No, this is the risk of using somebody else's service without getting your rates locked in with a contract. You know, a Service Level Agreement? Those things companies used to sign with their hosting providers, before all this IaaS stuff made developers feel like they could "start using now, talk to legal later"?

In Sweden we have at least one bank that has e-cards where you can set up a new card for each transaction. You decide how long it is valid in months and for how much total and recieve a unique card number and ccv. I have been using this at least 15 years for payments online. You set it up, make the payment and then immediately close the card again if you want to be extra safe.

Unfortunately my bank (Nordea) removed this excellent feature and instead refer to having Visa 3D Secure verification, which basically only works in Sweden and is voluntary for the entity charging the credit card. Now I have to pay for two cards just to be able to do this.

Final is doing a take on this as well for the US: https://getfinal.com/

There's also Privacy:


I like the look of Final, but $50/year seem pretty pricey for a credit card. Why's it worth it?

Bank of America has this in the US.

Or at least they used to. I used to use it all the time on my Bank of America credit card but haven't used it in a few years. I just tried to use it last week and it seems like the option has disappeared. Maybe it's just bad web design, but I can't find it anywhere now.

Go to your credit card summary page and scroll down. There's a box on the bottom right titled ShopSafe.

For those interested in this concept in other countries, check out the SudoPay app which lets you spin up and spin down virtual cards just like this.

And before you get your hopes up, it's IOS only =(

Citibank does this as well, at least with my credit card.

Does anyone offer this service in Canada?

what is the bank name if i may ask?

Swedbank has provided this service for many years (https://www.swedbank.se/privat/kort-och-betalningar/kort/log...). You could also use one of the many independent sparbanker affiliated with Swedbank (they use Swedbank's platform).

I agree, let the providers take the risk. Typically, the providers will let it bounce a few times before cutting things off as well. This might just give you another week or two to sort things out, without having to lay out possibly significant funds that you may or may not be able to reclaim.

I only wish setting up virtual cards were as easy as setting up a new mail box. I know there are services out there that lets you do this, but I've yet to find one that works globally and is easy to work with.

To be honest, the best way is setting up a completely isolated account with card. If you're extra paranoid, use a different bank for this account.

To be honest, this all sounds like it should be a primary bank feature. I should be able to cap a recurring payment at $X for a specific vendor otherwise have it go through automatically.

My personal bank sort of gives me that with their fraud protection. If a one off huge charge appears from a company that regularly bills me (but at much smaller amounts), their fraud system sends a text asking if I want to authorise or block the charge.

The second bank account is really more for protecting you against black swan events. If all your accounts are under the same bank and have the same owner, there's nothing stopping the bank taking funds from one of your accounts to make up for shortfalls in another.

CaptialOne does this pretty well. So far it is the only bank I have come across would alert me they are blocking the transaction for a few days so I have a chance to review and if I don't they will release the block. Every 6 months or so they have someone called me up to verify recent transactions.

Hell, their mobile app alerts me the moment a recurring charge posts for a different amount than normal, if I put my NYT delivery on hold for travel or something I can guarantee the next two months I'll get an alert to review the transaction (though they don't outright block it)

I know that bank of america offers this feature on all its personal credit cards. You can create a temporary card number (and related info) as well as how much can be charged in a given month and how many months the card number should be active for.

The only reason I don't use them for everything is because I get better cashback/points with other cards.

This works well in India, with 2-factor auth — Indian companies can't charge my debit or credit card just because they have the card number, expiry and CVV. I have to approve each transaction with my bank.

I'm wary of giving my card information to companies outside India because I don't have this protection.

>Indian companies can't charge my debit or credit card just because they have the card number, expiry and CVV. I have to approve each transaction with my bank.

True for Indian companies but what if you get charged via Forex abroad? For me - Google or Steam - don't required 2FA. All I have to do is to enter my number, confirm CVV then zap. It gets debited. I do get a call from my bank (HDFC) asking if this transaction has been initiated by me, if I say yes, they let go.

Yes, foreign transactions are exempt, which is why I said I was wary giving my card to companies outside India.

My bad.

Isn't that effectively the same?

My bank (in Sweden) lets me generate virtual debit card numbers with a specified cost cap and expiration date. It's some ancient-looking Flash widget though so I suspect it's a legacy feature...

I'm in Sweden – which bank is this?

Swedbank. The feature is called "e-kort" and is found in the internet banking under "Kortöversikt".

The Flash UI looks like this http://mayoyo.tokyo/jJ7.png

They used to have a mobile app but it was discontinued since it didn't support 2FA.

I'm not in Sweden, but my Swedish bank SEB offers this. It's part of the "order a card" UI, not flash as the parent is talking about though.

That South African hackable (in the good sense of the word) bank that's been making the rounds on HN might be able to do this. (I forget the name of the bank.)

That's the one, thanks!

I applied for a new credit card with a low credit limit and I am using this card for all my SAAS payments

Well, that's pretty much what a virtual card is – you transfer funds to it like you would with any other bank account, and it's not in your bank. It'll be a debit card with no overdraft, so any charges over what is in the account will be denied. This won't fly with places that require a credit card, like car rental agencies for instance, but that's a non issue in this case obviously.

Definitely use a different bank. A friend had a separate checking account for their PayPal purchases. And when PayPal clawed back some money (as they are wont to do), the bank manager helpfully transferred money into the account to avoid an overdraft charge.


Alas it's US-only[1], like so many other services:

> What countries are you available in?

> We're only available in the United States at the moment.

[1]: https://privacy.com/faq


Looks great, but like many other services like it, it's US only[1]:

> Is Emburse available outside of the U.S.?

> Only companies incorporated within the U.S. may register for an Emburse account. In addition, the primary account owner must be a resident of the United States with a Social Security number and a verifiable physical U.S. street address (no P.O. Boxes). We do not offer Emburse accounts to residents of Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and other U.S. territories.

[1]: https://www.emburse.com/faq

This is excellent advice. In general, I've personally imported lessons about accounting controls I learned running a company to personal finance. Yes, it is a pain.

But Paypal, for instance, can only empty a bank account that is used for nothing else, any service like this (open-ended liabilities with shitty/no support) is isolated to debit cards, etc. Nobody gets permission to charge open-ended amounts to credit cards, and nobody gets automation rights to the "real" bank accounts, period.

There's a business model here somewhere for someone to automate all of this. It involves substantially more time to keep organized than my prior two-banks/two-credit cards model. Personal finance apps just aren't designed to treat, for instance, debit cards as transient.

As others note, sure, services that do something like this can still come after you. But who has the money in their pocket right now matters a lot when resolving disputes like this.

Or the bank can just automatically give you an overdraft for that amount, add some fees because you accessed that facility, and require you to pay the full amount.

After all, they're just being helpful in managing your money and paying your suppliers.

Can you not ask the bank not to do this, though?

Now in the USA as of 2012, banks cannot turn on overdraft protection on a debit card unless the customer requests. Prior to this they were taking your day's debits and applying the largest one first. So suppose you bought lunch for $10 and a coffee for $3 then your cable company later in the day billed you for an amount in excess of your account. They would then apply the cable company bill first, then the 2 smaller charges to maximize overdraft fees and hit you with 3 $30 charges.

The order wouldn't matter in that case, would it? Either way it's still deducting the sum of those three transactions at the end of the day.

I thought what they were doing is applying all your debits, charging you if that puts you into overdraft, and then applying any credits. If they applied the credits first, you wouldn't go below zero.

The order still matters. If you have $20 in your account and get hit with three debits for $6, $10, and then $30, processing them in order means the $6 and $10 debits go through, leaving you with $4 in the bank, then the $30 debit causes an overdraft and a single fee. Comparatively, processing the $30 debit first immediately causes an overdraft, and the $10 and $6 debits cause two more overdrafts for three total fees.

Either way, you're trying to charge $46 against an account with $20, but one method results in 1 fee and one method results in 3 fees. The issue of credits vs debits you mentioned can compound this issue.

I had this happen to me in real life, back as a broke college student. The difference is the number of transactions you get hit with the overdraft fee for.

Consider a bank account with $20 in it, the day before payday, when you forget your World of Warcraft subscription hits today instead of tomorrow. That's $15. But you buy:

  * Lunch: $5
  * Coffee: $2
  * Dinner: $5
  * A late-night snack: $5
Then, the subscription hits at midnight.

If the transactions happened in-order, the subscription causes the overdraft, and you're charged $25 or whatever (yeah they are very high). But in the way banks used to do it, they'd take your total ledger for the day, and order it by highest $ first. So, subscription first, $5 left. Lunch, $0 left. Coffee, dinner, and snack are three transactions when overdrawn, so that's $25 * 3 = $75 in fees instead.

Banks claimed that this process was because you'd probably want your highest-amounts paid first, as it'd be something like rent money. In the end, it means way more fees for them, though.

$75 in fees is especially brutal when you don't have much money in the first place; it pretty much caused me to not be able to even go to 7-11 for a candy bar for two months.

I have been told that that law only applies to consumer accounts, not business accounts.

Yes, you can. The last few banks accounts I've created have all asked if I wanted overdraft protection. You say "NO! decline ANY transaction that would cause an overdraft"

But they seem to be able to delay debits for several days, perhaps a week? At least on WellsFargo. Isn't this a backdoor/loophole to get around the no overdraft issue?

Not sure who you bank with but our bank will bounce it if honouring it would require going overdrawn beyond €500.

There are limits to overdraw facilities, sure. But they are also included by default in many accounts.

You can usually have them turn off the ability to overdraw.

This is why no reasonable person should use debit cards for recurring payments.

I'd advise not using debit cards for anything, under any circumstances, and relying on the better protections that credit cards provide, but it's a losing battle. My debit card is ATM-only.

You're right and the trick is setting up a separate account for the debit card (ideally with a different bank).

This is generally a good approach for all sorts of reasons, not just protection from over enthusiastic cloud bills.

Keep most of your funds in one bank (and never use the cards). Transfer from this account to one or more other accounts with other banks and use the cards on these secondary accounts to pay for things. This way you're protected from suppliers over billing and banks going crazy with unarranged overdrafts (which aren't secured so absolute worst case you just tell them to fuck off and default on it).

Basically, the trick is holding on to your cash. Much harder to fix things rapidly if you're having to negotiate with a third party between you and the supplier (which is the case with a credit card company).

Google stopped accepting my Debit card a year ago! Even after 14 months of calls / emails the issue is still here. I don't have other options rather than throw Google Cloud to the garbage bin (where actually it live).

Google's ahead of you on that one. They don't accept debit cards. (At least the last time I tried with Google Cloud)

Maybe you can use a credit card that allows you to generate virtual card numbers with dollar limits. I use one all the time.

Interesting! For AWS, DO, Linode etc, I use a debit card with no problem.

Edit: just remembered we're using Google's Cloud Vision API and that's billed to the same debit card. So, for UK accounts at least, they take debit cards.

Maybe it's a regional thing? Most banks here (Ireland) issue debit cards by default and most people don't go out of their way to get a credit card, so they'd be cutting off a large chunk of their customer base by banning debit cards.

Are your debit cards really just debit cards (i.e. bank-specific "ATM" or "client" cards), or do they work using credit-card payments infrastructure? If you plugged your Irish bank debit card number into e.g. Stripe as a credit card number, would it take it?

Most are visa debit. I think one bank issues a bank specific bank, or at least did a few years ago.

That isn't true. I use a debit card for GCP.

Does your debit card have a credit card number?

For Google Cloud can't you set a billing limit for it to not exceed? That's what I have done but I have not come close to exceeeding it yet so IDK if there is something I am missing.

You can. Beware though! It can take 24 hours to increase the limit - horrible if you get a sudden spike in traffic from, say, a techcrunch post or something.

Should be fine I think providing there are no circumstances where Google can decide to ignore the limit (don't have much experience with their cloud stuff).

I think these billing limits only apply to AppEngine services.

Ahh I think you are right. Just checked and you can set limits for App engine, but there are budgets in Google Cloud which is confusing and doesn't seem like it actually limits anything, it just keeps you notified of how much you are spending relative to your budget

Nowadays with some banks having virtual cards that you can create/kill at any moment, this sounds like a great idea.

I just started using privacy.com and so far it has been an excellent experience. They provide everything my previous VAN-providing CC company did, and more. The one and only downside is that at present, the VAN uses ACH debit to draw immediately any funds used; there's no credit as such (although they are looking into that).

EDIT: I have no affiliation with privacy.com; I'm just a satisfied user.

My preferred VPS provider (and DNS provider) both accept wire transfers, no card required.

Won't they legally force you into paying (assuming everything they did was legal)?

Yeah. This is where something like Final[1] would be super helpful.

1. https://getfinal.com

I thought either way you get oversrafted fee or at least in the case of a debit card unless the card comes with a cap limit.

Nope, debit card is not allowed


> They have no phone number to contact, no way to dispute this other than email — which they have ignored us for over a month now without replying to our continued requests. Trapped. Doomed. We have no further options.

I don't understand why the larger internet/tech community keeps giving Google a pass on this. Anything where money comes in or out should ultimately have a support line where ultimately a human customer service agent can respond.

So naive. That's not how you get support in this day and age. You get support by kicking up a storm on social media.

Shout far and wide (twitter, facebook, reddit, etc) that [Big corporation] is screwing you. If you can give it some sort of spin - like racism or gender equality - all the better. Just kick up as much of a storm as you can.

I guarantee that [Big corporation] will be forced to respond.

(I say this semi-jokingly, but it is sad that this a) works, and b) that sometimes it is the only way to get their attention)

As far as I can tell, that's pretty much what this post is.

That only works if you have a large enough audience, or if you are lucky enough to get a post upvoted enough to get proper exposure.

I don't know if Firebase has a reseller program, but for other cloud offers from Google, my advice is: if you want someone you can scream at, buy from a reseller instead of buying directly from Google.

Last week at thegoodfellas.com.br a disgruntled ex-employee managed to erase all their Gmail accounts and change the administrator account in order to prevent recovery. You can recover a deleted account in 5 days, but you need access to that administrator account. Unfortunately they could not recover access to the administrator account in time and lost all their G Suite data - you may blame them for their flawed firing process but shit happens and when it does a reseller can be fast enough to prevent a tragedy.

Disclaimer: I run a G Suite reseller operation

I administer a couple G Suite accounts for small business owner friends purchased direct from Google.

G Suite has incredible phone support. I've called 3-4 times over past 5 years and never waited more than 30 seconds to talk to a knowledgeable and capable tech who resolved the issue immediately. No BS troubleshooting steps, just straight to the heart of the issue.

I recall a couple Irish guys, one Eastern European and one Indian, but none with too-strong to parse accents (these were their locations -- relevant to make the point that Google clearly does have multiple live phone support centers around the world). All fully willing and capable of resolving the issue without passing me around. These weren't incredibly complex issues, but at least a couple were glitches requiring fixes on the backend (vs. mistakes on my part).

Has anyone with a G Suite account and a Cloud account ever tried contacting G Suite Support for the cloud side? Might be worth a try -- they've been helpful for me in one case where the issue wasn't strictly related to G Suite.

G Suite support from Google improved a lot, but for good reasons it is not easy to recover access to an administrator account that was modified to prevent recovery. In a case like this, how support personel can tell a legitimate customer from someone trying to gain access through social engineering?

A local reseller can pay you a visit and verify the situation but hands are tied for the friendly Kumar sitting at a helpdesk facility in India.

Here in Brazil it is even harder, because most customers are unable to communicate well in English and support in Portuguese is not done by native speakers.

> In a case like this, how support personel can tell a legitimate customer from someone trying to gain access through social engineering?

Pretty simple: opt-in KYC. Give people the option to email/fax you their passport or birth certificate or whatever, at any time after they set up their account but before the account is compromised. Extract the relevant ID numbers from the images; then store those numbers, encrypted, the same way you'd store "password recovery" info.

If the account is later compromised on their end, just ask the person attempting to do the recovery to send through the same stuff again, and compare with your recovery fields.

It's essentially the pseudo-biometric, pseudo-"something you have" equivalent of a Secret Question.

GCP sells support as a separate product. If you're a hobbyist, then that's great, as you can keep your costs lower.

If you're a business, there's no excuse not to pay Google for support. It's $150/mo; significantly higher than the $25/mo infrastructure bill the OP was discussing, but not unreasonable if you want to have a chance of guaranteeing QoS to your customers.


There NOT getting a pass ... I don't know anyone who is willing to bet their business on Google Cloud, but plenty who will do so with AWS and Azure. Google needs to replace whoever is running this section of the business with someone who can emulate what Amazon & Microsoft are doing.

Is it because so many of Google's customers would then feel obligated to also offer support or service? While it's easy to pike at Google as a huge company which should provide this level of service, where do you draw the line? As I look across the collection of services I pay for, I don't see many of them with much more than "contact us" forms on sites, and in-app, no way to contact them at all.

Is there a certain size of vendor or price point where we expect to have human support and an SLA for response?

>Is there a certain size of vendor or price point where we expect to have human support and an SLA for response?

Yes, when they control the switch that can kill your business.

> I bet they also have a "community" support forum or Google Group full of helpless people talking to a virtual wall.

This is Google support summed up perfectly in a single sentence. It really is appalling.

> It really is appalling

Never quite understood what's "appalling" about it. They've never had strong support for any dev/cloud-oriented services. I know some folks who've had good experiences, but those were exceptions, not the rule.

I'll say, I get the frustration with it, but it's why I've never considered using their cloud services for anything. I had a client who asked me to migrate all their stuff to google 'cloud compute' and their 'sql cloud' offering last year. It was a performance disaster; queries that were minor .1ms on localhost or in the same network were suddenly 18-20ms hitting google cloud. Spent a few days trying to dig in, and a few responses from various groups were "shouldn't be that slow" and "works for me" and that was about it. Gave up trying to get any real response from google (we may have got a 'looking in to it' response - I don't remember).

Thing was, I knew going in it wasn't going to end well, I just wasn't sure exactly why (maybe that's just too cynical of a view, but I prefer 'realistic').

I don't think it's fair you're being down voted, I get your point of view, so I gave you an upvote. But the thing is, this isn't some kid-in-a-basement free-but-ad-supported service where you-get-what-you-pay-for. Google's cloud offering isn't free (for any use beyond hello world anyway) and as a paying customer I'd expect:

1. Things to work 2. People to answer when things don't work 3. Things to start working again in a timely manner, with timely and concise updates along the way

Points two and three carry a lot of nuance, but Google's support does not. It's a virtual wall that people cry to and get no response back from, except for the rare few occasions when the Google deities decide to grace forums or mailing lists with their presence. It's just not a serious offering.

Now, you can pay extra for support, but even so it's going to be appalling. You probably will get to talk to someone at least, but in my experience you rarely get ahold of anyone who'll actually read what you've sent them, much less actually try to help.

My take away is that support and customer service is just not a priority for Google, what so ever. It's not even a low priority thing, it's a no priority thing.

It's appalling because you're a paying customer. I can understand free services not having support, but any service that's costing money should at the very least have a human being responding through email.

I believe that the standard approach for getting support from google is to hire an ex-googler who has good relationships with relevant people still at the company. It's ludicrous, but I've seen it work.

But you KNOW going in - there's no support.

You know this by

a) hundreds and thousands of horror stories from people saying "I did not get any support from google". You can counter that with "here are people who did get support", but the existence of the thousands of support nightmare stories out there gives you enough evidence to know that this isn't really "supported" in the way you might expect.

b) there are no phone numbers. https://firebase.google.com/support/ - no phone numbers. That's, of course, not the sole criteria you should use to judge potential support, but... it's google.

It's 2017. We have multiple years of knowing what Google's track record is re: support for paying customers. Outside of large adwords advertisers (where they make a lot of money), it's non-existent from a practical standpoint.

The big problem here is that firebase was fine until google acquired them.

I'm reminded of a time when I had a bad experience at a restaurant. Local place I went to with friends from work. We went... probably 4-5 times per year, and I loved the chicken sandwich they did. Last time I went, it was ... bad. Not what I'd expected at all. It was different.

Server asks "how's everything?". I said I was disappointed that the chicken sandwich had changed - it was not as good as before. Now... I wasn't actually complaining as in "comp the meal", but I was not a satisfied diner.

"Nothing's changed sir".

"um... yeah - this is nowhere near as good as it used to be".

"You're wrong, nothing's changed".

We had a back and forth, and they went back and came out "the cooks say the recipe is exactly the same".

This was getting a bit ridiculous. Manager came over, same exchange. He leaves, the comes back and says "they're right - the recipe is 100% the same. We have changed a few ingredients last month, but it's the same".

Maybe that doesn't actually relate to the google service situation at all now, come to think of it, but I was reminded of that situation when I started typing it :)

Oh yeah - nothing changed from OP's end, except how the new owner (google) decided to start monitoring and accounting for usage. Think of a "$9.99 all you can eat buffet" getting loyal diners, then changing owners, and the new owners giving some people a $95 bill at the end of the meal because they'd decided to also charge for any visits to the salad bar over 2. Most diners would never hit that limit, but a few - loyal diners for years - would have been (rightly) upset at the after-the-fact change.

> But you KNOW going in - there's no support.

I know this but to say everyone does or should isn't exactly fair. As well, you assume I am holding the purse strings, that I'm in any way responsible or even have a say in procurement. This may be true in my own business (it is) but not necessarily elsewhere, like my clients (it more often than not isn't) and you'll just have to live with poor decisions made on your behalf.

Also quite often, there's a sunk cost that makes switching that much harder. So no, it's not fair to say "Google has shitty support but that's ok because we all kind of know this." Paying customers can and should complain about this, loudly, shouting it from the roof tops. Ideally they vote with their wallets and just leave Google, but again that's just easier said than done in many cases.

Some semblance of professionalism shouldn't be too much to ask from one of the world's biggest corporations, an ask coming from paying customers no less.

"Ideally they vote with their wallets and just leave Google, but again that's just easier said than done in many cases."

That's the ONLY thing that will ever make this change, but it rarely happens because "sunk cost" rationalizations (and "maybe it'll get better next year!").

Shouting from the rooftops for years has not worked. This is not anywhere near a 'new' problem.

Yes, possibly some people don't know it, and yeah, I totally get that "you'll just have to live with poor decisions made on your behalf.".

I live with poor decisions all the time (mine and others'). But the notion that we can bitch about it on forums, or make 'formal' requests for better support - none of that makes a lick of difference to them (or, demonstrably hasn't for several years). It's "google", so some people will flock to it because of the brand, or because it's not azure, or aws, or whatever. Or to tick the 'cloud' box on their spreadsheet. Or because google gave them thousands in free credits to switch.

"Some semblance of professionalism shouldn't be too much to ask from one of the world's biggest corporations, an ask coming from paying customers no less."

But... it demonstrably is, and has been.

And... you'll get a client who will say "I can't believe this, email someone, get this fixed". At some point you have to push back and say "no, this is simply not fixable, you have to live with XYZ, or pay the cost of moving somewhere else".

An extremely large customer, maybe, possibly, might have a bit of say, perhaps. But even if you're dropping millions with them... for a company that measures revenue in hundreds of millions of dollars per day, you probably won't hold much sway. If you had that sort of budget to spend, and it was that critical, you'd likely be doing enough due diligence that research in to actual support/service levels (vs what the sales contact tells you) would be on the agenda.

Vote with the wallet is the only viable/impactful approach, and people have to be willing to forgo the sunk costs.

And for people that don't know up front - they always had the opportunity to search (google) beforehand. If they choose not to - caveat emptor.

10 years ago, we could possibly be forgiven for choosing google's services (GAE, etc) because there wasn't as much of a track record to look at re: support, etc. There's no good excuse for starting a project today on google compute and claiming ignorance of their support levels.

Ok, I've missed your point now – what are you actually trying to say? That Google being unprofessional and delivering on the whole sub-par services is OK because a lot (but not all) people already know this, and so really paying customers should just suck it up or go elsewhere, regardless of whether or not they even can in the first place?

If I've misrepresented what you're trying to say here please do correct me, because I clearly don't get it. If I haven't, I suppose we'll just have to agree to disagree – I think customers should shout from the rooftops till they're blue if they want to, even if it seems to lead nowhere.

I think it's shitty. But it's also avoidable.

But to avoid it, you generally do research ahead of time. And/or be willing to actually walk away from your 'investment' on their platform and start again somewhere else.

In the OP case, they didn't sign up with google in the first place. It's doubly shitty for them, because they didn't ask for this, and could not have known in advance that google would end up being the support provider. Similar to when I refinanced a house, and 6 month later, my 'servicer' sold my loan to someone else with much crappier service (charge me $3/month to take an electronic payment from me? I wouldn't have chosen this as a service option).

Yes, paying customers should go elsewhere. Complaining about it to google directly and indirectly for a decade has not noticeable improved their support for their cloud offerings.

Suck it up or go elsewhere. You can keep registering complaints with them, or organize digital protests, or whatever, but to get better service, you will likely have to go somewhere else.

"I think customers should shout from the rooftops till they're blue if they want to, even if it seems to lead nowhere". Of course they can. They just need to realize it will not change the quality of support. Someone earlier (you?) said to 'vote with your wallet'. Shouting from the digital rooftops about how crappy service X is, but continuing to pay them, is a waste of time at best, and enabling at worst. Leaving for another service is voting with your wallet/budget, and it needs to happen.

Sure but voting with your wallet isn't, as mentioned previously, always an option for various reasons. Shouting from the roof tops is little recourse, I agree, but if nothing else it can be cathartic. I don't think that should be discouraged.

"as mentioned previously, always an option for various reasons. "

In the very short term, agreed - it doesn't do much good. But shouting from the rooftops internally (at client, management, stakeholders, etc) may do more good in the medium term.

So, you agree that Google's service is appalling, but claim that it is not appalling because the degree of appal has not changed over time? I cannot follow this logic.

Nothing you've said makes that any more acceptable. I don't care if we "know going in"; it's still unacceptable, and they should be investigated for it.

> But you KNOW going in - there's no support.


Also, from the article, Firebase wasn't google when they went in, plus it was a side project that suddenly took off, not a thought-out business plan.

totally agreed that it wasn't google. people signed up for firebase and expected whatever level of service they had with firebase to continue. google acquiring them, then changing things for the worse for existing customers with little-to-no documentation/warning/etc - it's inexcusable. but people will stay with them because "we're already here", and they'll continue the abusive cycle for years.

And yes, on the comic - ok, not everyone "knows" everything up front. But... you have search engines (google, even!) to do actual research beforehand.

I see small business folks and small consultancies do far more research on comparing various $7/month hosting plans via hosting review sites than I see people researching their decisions to use AWS vs Google vs Azure.

I made it a point a long time ago to never use any SaaS, PaaS, or cloud solutions from Google for anything important. First off, their offerings tend to be much more expensive than competitors. Second, Google tends to randomly drop features, services, and support for applications without warning whenever they want. Third, they don't have any actual support at all for anything. I use Linode for all of my hosting, and I can get tech support on the phone in less than 5 minutes even without the upgraded support plan. On top of this, Linode and DigitalOcean offer extensive community curated documentation for almost everything.

The above reasons are also why I don't use any open source software developed or maintained solely by Google. There's no guarantee that Google won't just stop maintaining it after a year or less. For a somewhat recent project, my co-founder and I evaluated using Angular2 for the front-end of our application. During our evaluation, we learned about Angular4. Knowing about what happened between Angular1 and Angular2, we decided to steer clear of the angular ecosystem. This decision also made more sense from the performance and ecosystem side of the argument. Most groups that develop open source software do their best to ensure that there is a well documented and simple upgrade path. Look at Django, rails, React, Vue, postgresql, etc for example. As far as I have experienced, Google products offer no such simple upgrade path.

To be honest, I'm not really sure what value Google is offering anymore. The only quality product from them I still find any use for is Gmail. Even Gmail has competitors that do Email better. I guess there's also youtube, but Google are kind of shitting that up as well.

I think the tech space needs to walk away from worshiping Google and Facebook. In all reality, the technical quality of their products is lacking and their entire goal is to lock both consumers and developers inside their own walled gardens.

I hear you. I've made an exception on angular2, partially because it's being baked in to some other tools I use, and I think those communities will help support it as well. And from what I can tell, the 'a2->a3->a4' is much more minor support numbering vs the "everything is redone" from a1->a2.

But this is a somewhat easier choice to make because I still have the code locally. Google could stop supporting it tomorrow, and it would not be fun, but things wouldn't stop working, unlike the firebase situation above, where the option is "turn off your app".

That said, I've generally been using knockout and vue (more vue recently than knockout) and both have been fine.

"Third, they don't have any actual support at all for anything". There's a lot of people on this thread that feel like because they're paying for something they should get support. And... while I'm sympathetic to that viewpoint, and agree they should, we've had 10+ years of seeing google consistently under- or non- support many services that people seem to want to base their entire businesses on.

Just as a restaurant can be appalling from when it was first opened and even if you don't visit it ever, other services can. Appalling doesn't depend on personal experience or lack of prior knowledge.

is there a typo here? 18ms seems like soemthing that could be designed into their whole infrastructure for some reason you don't know about (such as partitioning of networks, whatever) -- after all, it's a cloud solution, right? Maybe 18 ms tacked onto every request is fine for them.

To be honest, if all of my Internet requests were 18 ms slower I wouldn't even notice.

if I read you correctly and it wasn't a typo, could you mention why you cared so much? The .1 ms you quoted on localhost is extraordinarily quick and I wouldn't expect it to translate to a cloud...

Because we had a shitty codebase that made 350 SQL calls on one page (the user dashboard), so the primary page that everyone used went from < 500ms to > 8 seconds, and the end client who had to test and accept this change didn't like it. It became unusable.

To (re?)clarify - this was 18ms per query to the SQL cloud (from a google compute engine).

Yes, were there things that could be done to reduce that? Of course. The other guy on the project put some caching in, reduced duplicate DB calls, etc, and got it down to around 3-4 seconds, but without severely diving in and learning far more about this inherited codebase, there wasn't much that could be done to make it much faster.

The other steps involved heavier caching, which changed the actual functionality of the service that was contracted before. "real time status updates" had a functional definition of being within X seconds, IIRC. Caching everything so 'new' information wasn't necessarily available to an end user for, say, 3 minutes, wasn't an option, without getting a lot of buy-in from a lot of people. Not saying it wouldn't work technically, but the client relationship was already strained.

The move to google was primarily to 'save money' (because someone had $10k service credit with google), but the effort to make it work well on google cloud and SQL combo (wasn't my call) was too much.

You can say this isn't google's fault entirely - you'd probably have a strong case - but not everyone is moving pristine clean/strong/good code over, and problems with the original base were amplified by seemingly small issues.

Thanks for that pretty detailed write-up.

I hope you don't think I'm blaming your code base, but just out of pure curiosity, as an amateur question could you mention why the SQL calls couldn't be done in parallel -- did each one depend on the next or something?

At the high level I get everything you just said, just curious about this point, if you remember.

Jup, had the same issue with Google App Engine. Luckily I could contact support...

"What do you mean, you retain a running instance of every previous instance I pushed?!"

Fun times.

Yep. For me it was running instances that didn't respond to requests to delete or stop. They kept charging anyway.

Support was somebody in a different timezone who complained when I didn't answer my phone in the middle of the night. I quite liked the Google Cloud offering, but to get so burnt so quickly... stay away.

Sorry to hear about this. I work for our cloud platform support team ( we don't cover firebsse) and this is not the impression we want our customers to get.

We don't want to be calling customers in the middle of their night while they are sleeping. Its not an effective way to resolve issues. We need help identifying when we fall short so we can fix the issues.

Ways to let us know: 1) fill out the survey when your case is closed. We review every survey but less then 1% of cases get the survey filled out. 2) tweet your case id at us and it also goes through our review process 3) email me (tsg@Google.com) and I can correct the problems. 4) GCP slack community has a whole bunch of active Googlers (and the community will flag one us down) if you are having problems with the support team.

Surprise there is a support team!

I've fallen again in this parallel universe where Google has a support team. How do you go back again? Ah, here it i—click

"you retain a running instance of every previous instance I pushed?!"

What? Seriously? Is this documented anywhere?

Would you recommend against using GAE?

> Would you recommend against using GAE?

I've been burned so hard by them, I'd recommend against using anything Google.

It's getting to that point for me too now. I'm really really close to removing them from every aspect of my life. Professional and private.

I did that. It took me two years to move everything over (email took the longest time), but it's been totally worth it. I still have my @gmail address, but it's only there to forward email to my real address, and I never log in or send email. Besides junk mail and spam, I am now at a point where I get maybe 1-2 real emails on my @gmail account, and then I tell the sender to use my new address.

My google usage is now

1. Occasionally watching Youtube videos in an incognito window

2. Very rarely using !g to search Google via DDG

3. Using Gmaps in an incognito window a couple times a month

and that's it. I don't find that I miss it at all. If I had to stop using Youtube and Gmaps, I won't miss 'em.

Uhhhh using Chrome?

No, Firefox.

Gmail still rocks

I pay for G Suite and basically the only thing anyone uses is Gmail. I don't have hard proof but I feel that all of my emails from my domain never go to spam. I one time had to use Godaddy's email system and ALL emails went to people's spam folder. It is like Google makes you pay for email or your emails won't get delivered properly. Maybe it was Godaddy's mail system's IP that was blacklisted but I think you have to pay to play these days.

Is there some criterion by which GoDaddy is not the worst service provider? Given their popularity with domain parkers and other less savory parts of the IT world, I would assume that the blame was entirely on their shoulders. That said, configuring an email server correctly seems to be rather an involved process[0] so we should perhaps not rule out some measure of incompetence as well as shadiness.

[0] https://serverfault.com/questions/218615/mail-server-checkli...

The reason we're all here, support. One of the reasons GoDaddy is a company I still use and have used for years is that they have 24/7 telephone support that's reasonably decent. I have called and gotten domain issues sorted by GoDaddy at 2 AM on a Sunday by a dude who didn't have a foreign accent.

I'm not a big account with them, surely trivial compared to those mass domain parkers you mention, but they've never made me feel like I was less valued as a customer. I have received calls from humans just to ask me if I am currently satisfied with my service with them.

Especially if you have a business-critical service, this should simply be a baseline requirement for support, but it's becoming shockingly rare these days.

I've had the complete opposite experience with GoDaddy support. Many of them are not so knowledgable and can easily waste time, and billing matters in particular can be quite disorganized with them if something goes wrong. I moved all my domains way from GoDaddy.

Did the sender domains in question have SPF records at any point?

SPF is essentially a self-maintained whitelist.

Blacklists are public and searchable. Something to check after dealing with an infected machine, for example.

> SPF is essentially a self-maintained whitelist.

Ironically, commercial spammers have the best SPF records. And DKIM. And all the other goodies.

I switched to fastmail a year ago and have never been happier. Their support also responds!

FastMail is so much better than GMail. I don't know why I didn't change earlier.

Yeah, I thought I'd miss GMail, but I really didn't. I used Google Inbox for a while too and thought I'd miss that, but now I use Spark as my mail client so I don't even miss that either.

It was more of a mental "but but my decade-long history of gmail" thing, but it turned out that really was less of a big deal than I thought. I now have a nice custom domain and I forward my gmail to my fastmail, updating subscriptions every so often. Eventually gmail will receive no more mail I care about and I will remove the forwarding altogether. Its getting there!

This. I too dreaded the switch because of all the history, but the migration to fastmail was quick and painless, and I lost nothing. (Arguably, losing everything would've been better, so much useless noise in my history.)

Looking back on it now, about a year after migrating, my only regret is I didn't do it sooner.

Exactly the same experience for me. It's so much faster, more convenient and useful, and the migration tool was a breeze to use, I should have done it years ago.

I just stopped by to join the little FastMail fan crowd over here.

If you aren't a FastMail customer yet, you're gonna assume we're shills. We're not, it's just the sort of quality product that makes you want to tell others. It's like having found Gmail in 2005.

That seems like a minor issue in comparison to the issues with google discussed here. I mean, sure, they should honour the lifetime membership, but is it really worth losing sleep over something you paid $15 for 15 years ago (at the time of that message)?

Well, to be perfectly honest, you are paying for Fastmail, while Gmail is free.

Oh, you're paying for Gmail. Just not in upfront dollars like with Fastmail.

Sure, but the sentiment in this entire discussion is how unreliable googles paid for service is (never mind their free stuff - have you ever tried to get support from google for gmail or other feee service? From what I've heard it's like talking to a wall). I'd rather pay for good service than get unknown service for free.

Same here Marcus.

Now, if only good and valuable startups weren't getting bought by google by the dozens :( I guess it's your cue to start migrating to something in house when it happens.

I use GCP for "small stuff" and never have any issues at all: using GAE with the maximum number of instances set to 1 on a paid plan, using cloud storage to host static web sites, and occasionally spin up a really large VPS (their maximum memory and CPU core offering) for a short time periods to run machine learning and other large tasks.

So, for some applications, GCP works very well.

> What? Seriously? Is this documented anywhere?

Yes, for that reason a POC I made for a side project costed almost 100 bucks to me (I was the single user)... I never checked the current bill because I was sure the total cost would have been around 15-20... when I got charged I noticed all the previous pushed versions had a single instance running, so the costs were incremental...

Let's just say that testing out the platform by pushing a 1 page test app a few times and then being burned by a $200 bill has put me off the platform for a while.

It may be my fault for not adequately reading all their caveats, but it seems to me that the default experience shouldn't be like that.

I love Google, but their Cloud Platform is still incomprehensible to me.

AFAIK this doesn't happen by default, since by default the autoscaling will reduce instance count to 0 if the old versions aren't receiving any traffic.

The easiest way of dealing with Google is to just cancel your credit card... You won't get your money back (unless a CC dispute gets it back). Google are impossible to get any customer service from, which is why I refuse to use any of their non-free offerings (and have limited my use of their free stuff to hangouts and google docs).

Take them to small claims court, if you have a legitimate grievance. In most jurisdictions a lawyer cannot represent a defendant. At best it will get them moving. It will be sure to at least make them take notice, even if you you have at least costed them and made them account for your grievance.

edit: Meant, even if you lose you have cost them significantly an that has the intended effect of signaling they should improve customer service.

That sounds like a good way to ensure your access to every Google service gets permanently revoked.

That is so crazy. Sounds like Google really shot themselves in the foot on the PR front here. All over $700 USD.

If it was the only way to recover several thousand dollars that they stuck me with I'd absolutely do it, and make sure to do a couple orders magnitude more damage to them with widespread recommendation of AWS, Azure, Linode and basically anyone but Google. It'll catch up to them eventually.

Does that matter if every Google service is run like the one in the article? That sounds a bit like saying you'll ruin any potential friendship you could have if you fought back against a bully

Ironically, if you use AdWords, they constantly mail you with offers of phone support and love.

Google new motto - Speak to the Wall™

Isn't that motto registered by Facebook?

No, that's 'the walls have ears - ours!'


Google needs to fix this kind of thing if they ever want to be a real threat to AWS. AWS has publicly stated their goal to only ever lower prices and do so continuously/periodically. This kind of lock in make people leery to even try a GC service or at the least build an abstraction layer to easily be able to swap.

Funnily, I was working on cloning a particular piece of Firebase functionality, and inquired if they could help me with that (or if they had that particular piece in open source), and got more replies from them for that than apparently this paying user ever got.

Very typical from Google.

Some individual Google employees are very helpful and open.

Unfortunately Google as a company and their corporate practices are nothing like that.

Some of their teams, for example tensorflow, are very very helpful.

Yes. They are in the "Embrace" phase of the "Embrace, Extend, Extinguish". Sure they are helpful. Have to be (considering the API drift between the Tensorflow releases and how late they were - Theano is the same exact idea and great implementation, only first released in 2009-ish).

But it's pretty easy to look a bit into the future, and predict what we would see during "Extend and Extinguish" phases of TensorFlow project.

Google support team is a python scripts. You cannot call someone and get real help.

Project Fi support is good, I got a human who solved my problem in less than 5 minutes.

Also AdSense, but there's obvious reasons they support that.

Adwords, actually

On the other hand, I am working with tensorflow now, and they reply on stackoverflow within a day, which is really great.

Oh I'm glad my Google App Engine service never became popular!

Not? Sure it is not as big as AWS or Azure but I think they are number 3 or 4.

You misread their comment

Well of course they would charge that much: their customer support is stellar but it comes at a cost ... Errrrrrr ;)

[Firebase Founder here] I’m very sorry for the surprise and frustration experienced by the poster, especially due to problems working with Firebase support. We’re embarrassed by the level of communication on our side, and we’ll be working directly with this developer to resolve the issue.

There are a couple of things I’d like to clarify for the group, to help folks understand what happened here, and hopefully help others avoid the same problem.

1 - The Firebase Realtime Database charges for SSL overhead on all requests (we charge for all OSI Layer 5 network usage). We’ve always had a policy of charging this way. Unfortunately, we introduced a bug late last year that began undercharging for SSL, so when the bug was fixed it surprised many people who had gotten used to the lower numbers. For most people, the change was very small. For a small number of people though with exceptional use cases (ie. tons of small network requests from IoT devices without support for session tickets), this can result in a larger change. We identified and contacted developers who were significantly affected, but this customer didn’t get the email. We should have done better. (we mention this change in our FAQ -- https://firebase.google.com/support/faq/ -- under “Why was my Realtime Database reported bandwidth lower than average”)

2 - We recently started actually enforcing overages on legacy plans and our current fixed-price ($25/mo Flame) plan. This is new -- in the past, we allowed unlimited usage on every plan, since we hadn’t built the tools to control this. This meant that many of our developers were getting far more than the listed limits for free. So you may start receiving emails now warning you of bandwidth overages, not because your usage patterns changed, but because we’re now enforcing limits for your existing usage. If you upgrade to the Blaze plan, you’ll start being billed for your full usage amounts -- so double-check your database’s “Usage” tab before upgrading.

I’ll be looking into our profiling tool to see if we can improve it to give a more complete picture of costs.

Again -- I want to apologize to the poster for the poor support experience. If others on the thread have had similar problems and feel they are not getting the attention they want from support, feel free to email me directly as well: andrew@firebase.com

What about thousands of users that will not see this reply? The gymnastics that an average user needs to do in order to contact support are ridiculous, and according to many stories here, it mostly solves nothing. Your explanation is fair enough, but I assume you guys should make a solid plan for increasing support quality and make it more available.

As of wrongly billed resources - to be honest, you are half blamed for that. I often create apps and base on SAAS reporting to see if the script behaves as expected and uses as many resources as needed. You have misled developers to believe everything is alright and now you are punishing them. I would expect some credits for time being and "transition" period.

All fair points and things we're working on.

We do often give credits to help in situations like this, though I can't speak to specifics publicly. We're working with this developer to try to resolve the issue, and we'll do so with other users who run into similar problems. This user did contact support, but we dropped the ball here. We'll be reviewing our support to find other devs we might have missed.

Your responses are encouraging. Hopefully the customer service example you set today will be followed by the rest of Google!

I'm sure it will be followed the next time a post reaches the front of HN

This problem was posted on stackoverflow 9(!) months ago http://stackoverflow.com/questions/38959321/firebase-databas... It has been updated recently: "After 9 months of back-and-forth emails (over 40 emails), Google has acknowledged that they have found some bugs that may be responsible for high bandwidth usage, but bandwidth usage is still too high. Resolving this issue does no appear to be a priority for Google/Firebase (it took them 1.5 months to respond to the last email)."

Andrew, Firebase is great, you did a great job and looks like you are continuing to do so by engaging directly like now. Having said that, it's time you, your team or even the entire google start looking seriously at automating your support workflow. How on earth can such a popular product ignore support requests, whether it's via email or any other medium?, especially for paying users. You should have a CRM/CSM tool that should automatically assign tickets based on the email received and if not resolved within a time period should escalate directly to senior person(s) until it's acted upon.

I can only guess from my limited experience talking to people at Google and reading about their systems, but I would guess the problem is over-automation of customer support.

I also wonder who shifts through the tickets themselves. Is it the engineer straight out of Stanford with 150k combined compensation and no serious training in customer satisfaction? The curious developer who built the product and wanted to see what people thought of his/her baby? A lower paid employee in a country with a lower cost of living? Some combination of the three? I feel like the culture at Google might preclude it from ever having good customer support except for the highest paying customers.

Clearly we have some work to do here!

This has been the case with every google product

I think you meant Google project.

Googles real products are made out of meat [1]

1. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=7tScAyNaRdQ

I don't understand.

> The Firebase Realtime Database charges for SSL overhead on all requests ... We’ve always had a policy of charging this way.

So it's always been charged.

> Unfortunately, we introduced a bug late last year that began undercharging for SSL

Except it hasn't always been charged?

> We recently started actually enforcing overages on legacy plans and our current fixed-price ($25/mo Flame) plan.

In fact, if you're on a Spark or Flame plan, it's never been charged?

I feel like this response is straight from Office Space or something. "So we just went ahead and fixed the glitch."

My interpretation: 1) they always charged for SSL overhead; 2) they introduced a bug in late 2016 that underestimated SSL overhead; 3) that reduced charges for SSL overhead, and also broke flagging of Spark and Flame plans with too much SSL overhead; 4) they just fixed the bug, restoring normal estimates of SSL overhead; and 5) that restored accurate charges for SSL overhead, and also restored flagging of Spark and Flame plans with too much SSL overhead.

I'm guessing that OP's SSL overhead spiked after the measurement bug was introduced. Maybe also Firebase wasn't enforcing their limits before introducing the measurement bug, because they weren't confident about the data.

For a service that is billed based on a metric that only be measured by the provider, that provider has an important responsibility to accurately measure the metric, because important financial and technical decisions will be made based on that information. The fact that the metric was under-estimated (and therefore the costs were lower than they should have been) certainly constitutes some kind of compensation, the actual damages might be far beyond the temporary reduction in costs.

A feature might be rolled out "as is" to the entire user base after it was determined, on a small sample, that the costs per user were acceptable ; if the costs were greatly under-estimated, the company is left with a choice of discontinuing the feature (angering users) or scrambling to optimize the software, possibly starting from scratch with another technology. Or a yearly budget might have been designed based on usage estimates, only to be revealed as insufficient once actual estimates become available, and requiring an emergency cash injection for the company to pay for it.

I'm not a user of Firebase, but if our cloud provider (Microsoft Azure) were to announce that our costs had been underestimated by 2x or more, we would sue and argue that a 50% cost reduction for the past few years does not even begin to cover the strategic impact of the incorrect metric.

It's great that you're going to help the one guy who amassed a bully pulpit here on HN.

I have a question though...Why does Firebase charge ONE DOLLAR per gigabyte? 1995 called and wants their business model back.

This alone has limited my use of Firebase to Dynamic Linking for my app. Not that my app is going to smash any records, but paying customers are a good thing to get, aren't they?

The $1/gb includes all queries, something that you'd get charged for with say DynamoDB for both read/write queries and for reserving capacity.

That said I would be curious why storage is so expensive compared to DynamoDB ($5/gb/mo storage vs. $0.25/gb/mo).

It's at least potentially valid to suggest that charging the same rate for SSL overhead as for normal traffic is maybe not the best system, though, since I'm assuming that the overhead does not affect load on the value-adding servers but rather at a much more straightforward piece of the networking stack (LB or wherever SSL terminates before data gets into the proper Firebase stack).

Say, the $0.12/GB that Google Cloud Functions uses, since there's no value to the user or cost to the provider beyond what you'd see there (and indeed, one solution seems to be to simply route through cloud functions).

Is that possible, mayop100, or am I misunderstanding the system? Obviously it's not up to your users to dictate your pricing, of course, but if it's feasible it would probably earn a lot of goodwill.

> We’re embarrassed by the level of communication on our side, and we’ll be working directly with this developer to resolve the issue.

That gets to the heart of the issue -- I think most people believe that if there had been an effective channel for communicating then the issue would never have been such a problem. But "we'll be working directly with this developer" only solves ONE PERSON'S problem. The message I would like to see you taking from this is that your team needs a better way for ALL users to reach out for support in those situations where the support is necessary.

What support? Google has no support, ever. You care about "users" but don't give a shit about any one user.

I'm starting to really fucking hate Google.

Google doesn't have support for free products but they certainly do for paid. Whether the support is good or not is another question but it's there.

Just go to https://support.google.com/googleplay/?hl=en and click "Contact Us" in the top right. All the menu items I clicked that don't have straightforward solutions went straight to a menu where within 2-3 minutes I can get live chat or a phone call.

I've also had no problems getting help with my paid Google Apps account when I need it. For cloud there's paid support with a 4-hour response time: https://cloud.google.com/support/

We pay $150 a month for google's "silver" level support for GCE, appengine etc.

It's consistently very good - they helped us with code debugging, performance optimization, load balancing and other fairly complex issues that typically need an experienced engineer.

They do have support. I was stuck once with a friendly fella, that spent 45+ minutes talking about weather and weekend adventures to me, rather than solving my issue. It took less than 5 minutes to solve the issue, almost an hour of talk time. I would even bet money that the guy was heavily stoned.

At the end he asked me to provide positive feedback to him in exchange for friendly service. He said he will redirect me somewhere and I should give him a proper feedback. This is even while I was telling me I have no time and this is an urgent matter. At the end of the call it turned out it took him 5 minutes to solve the issue and he just wanted to chat while I was stuck at talking to him, thinking he is waiting for a solution to propagate.

I can't say this is a good support.

This is what happens when you try to drive work-morale with a stick and carrot approach. Teach your workers good morale and lead with good example, every customer is important. But also your employees.

Google's customer support for Project Fi has been absolutely fantastic from my perspective, and is very flexible.

It is hard to believe that tools to prevent overage use in the $25 plan haven't been developed earlier. All the necessary components were there: It has always been possible to track the use of resources per user, and it has at least in the early version of Firebase been able to send out warning emails if the enforced limits are approaching. So, to me it seems like a no-brainer to combine these two, in particular for a large company like Google.

This feels like a way to make more money off of developers. If you can't set a limit, you might end up spending more.

Andrew, you are a credit to Firebase, and I salute you for dropping in here and apologizing for the situation. Though you'll get some heat, I think your attitude of humility is a rare one these days, and much appreciated.

At the expense of revenue Google could lower the price to before the SSL billing fix to keep developer mindshare. There's at least one viable startup whose whole basis was baked on the 25 bucks a month use case.

just out of curiosity, is there a way to set a spending limit? Or at least an alert when crossing a spending threshold?

So the sudden 7000% cost increase is just the normal course of business due to a bug? Wow, great business plan -- tell them the first one's free ..then they pay.

Pricing mistake 101: You never ever change those old plans. Instead, you grandfather them. Especially so if you're still a young platform and have most growth ahead of you, the "loss" of not charging the new - and supposedly higher - pricing is gonna be trivial 2 years from now, with lots of new projects coming in. But the NPS hit from pissing your most loyal users off and the subsequent damage to your growth curve are huge.

Also, I do love Bezos mantra of always becoming cheaper over time. That is the core of Amazon's brand. Whereas Oracle, IBM, and the old guard always make you pot committed and charge an arm and a leg, the Amazon guys will leave money on the table. That is how you earn trust.

Tell that to FastMail, who have pissed me off by deciding to end-of-life the "lifetime" 16Mb member account I set up for my father with a one-time $15 payment.

16Mb is modulo zero these days, but it's enough for him - he just deletes some emails when it gets full. He also gets imap access and FastMail's spam filtering, which is really very good. I can also assign him an email address from a domain that I own that is associated with my FastMail enhanced account.

I don't want my $15 back. What I DO want is for FastMail to honour our existing agreement, which was a LIFE-TIME 16 Mb member account in exchange for $15.

See also here:


Text of their latest email is below the line:


Back in January we contacted you with some important information about your @.* FastMail account.

We're now contacting you again to remind you that from 31st July, 2017 our 'Member' level plans will be discontinued.

To continue using your FastMail account after this time you'll need to select one of our current plans. Please note: your email address will remain the same.

As a long-time FastMail user we're offering you 50% OFF all upgrades until the end of July, which includes our already discounted multi-year subscriptions.

And if you upgrade now we'll also add all the remaining time until 31 July for free!

As an added bonus we've also given you $15 credit to put towards your subscription, which is equal to the amount you originally paid for your account.

This means if you were to upgrade to a Basic account today for one year, with the discount and account credit you are effectively getting FastMail at no charge until 31 July 2018 with a massive 2 GB of storage (up from 16 MB)!

Thanks for sharing this. I had recently set up an account with FastMail, but now that it's clear that they won't abide by their own promises, I'll look elsewhere.

Yeah, don't be so fast. I've had a legacy Enhanced account which they show no signs of removing - I went to renew it today and could (though I went to the Standard).

I've had nothing but excellent, and personal, service from them, for years. Very high availability, no canned responses.

Even when bitching about Google's support of "this address used to be with Gmail but is now external, but we'll make it problematic for other users to send it calendar invites", though in no way did I imply Fastmail was at fault, they jumped into the HN thread to say "Hey, let us know if we can be of assistance figuring out the issue".

I would be cautious about extrapolating from that. Yes, it sounds like an unfortunate decision, but I've been a FastMail user for many years and have been very happy with them.

I'm a long-time and happy Fastmail user. I'm not defending their decision, but I personally never trust "lifetime" plans of any kind -- it's impossible for a business to know they can sustain you forever, and dishonest for them to say they can.

I think you're being a bit hasty. This is literally the first negative thing I've seen anyone post about FastMail, and my experience as a customer of theirs has been fantastic.

I am a long-time Fastmail user who also was on the "lifetime" 16MB plan. Last year I switched because I wanted some features that were only available with a newer plan. I was a little annoyed to have to give up my lifetime plan but in my case it was more understandable.

I've been very happy with Fastmail for over a decade and this seems like one of the few missteps they've made. New "lifetime" 16MB accounts have not been available in years. It really doesn't seem that there could be very many of them still in active use that it would hurt anything to just continue to grandfather them, especially since they were sold explicitly as "lifetime" one-payment accounts.

There could be technical issues with keeping grandfathered plans around. Maybe the 16mb email accounts were on an old system that was getting increasingly difficult to maintain?

I'm sure that's true.

But then it's not my problem.

FastMail made an agreement - $15 in exchange for a lifetime member account.

Now they don't want to honour that agreement.

And they've created work for me: What to do about my father's email account?

I have his email address as part of the domain that I have associated with my (legacy) FastMail enhanced account. They've discontinued family accounts for new signups.

Then they should upgrade the account to a new plan without cost imo.

Yeah but you could move their account over physically but continue to not bill them. I doubt 16MB is anything more than a properly enforced column value in a CRM.

I don't think this should have ever been offered.

Curious - how could FastMail ever properly close/sunset these accounts? Were they going to regularly check on all of their customers to see if they had passed away? Was there some 'we close the email if you don't log in for 5 years straight'?

Serious question - how should these type of lifetime promises ever be properly managed? (especially when the customer is an individual)

From a business point of view, they are generally regarded to be a bad idea. See various comments on what is now the main FastMail thread:


My point is simply this:

FastMail unwisely offered lifetime email service for one-time $15 payment. I accepted that offer on behalf of my father.

FastMail should now honour that agreement.

I decided to submit the link that I gave:


I'm not sure whether my chosen title follows HN guidelines - admins please feel free to edit

Pricing mistake 202: Relying on services that don't charge enough to be sustainable.

They will go bankrupt sooner or later, it's only a matter of when.

> the Amazon guys will leave money on the table

What? they're a business like any other and they're not interested in minimizing profit, there's lot of thought that goes into their pricing and you can be sure that your opinion and trust is an outcome of their strategy to make more money.

> they're a business like any other and they're not interested in minimizing profit

Actually they are. Minimizing profit is sacrificing short-term gains for long-term gains. Increasing prices helps your short term profit, but you tend to lose customers to competitors. Decreasing prices means less profit right now, but you tend to convert more customers.

Companies aren't purely RIGHT NOW profit-driven. That's why many companies burn cash and take on debt. They're driven by growth (whether vertical or horizontal). Bezos is obsessed with growth. That's why they've only recently started making money. Enormous investments in AWS, FBA and a host of other products put them in the red, but in doing so, Amazon has incredibly horizontal growth.

The timeframe does not change between my first phrase and the last. Overall (as in lifetime) the company is maximizing profits (as companies are designed to do). They certainly aren't "leaving money on the table" unless it's a plan to extract even more, so I don't see why that's so great as the GP comment says. They're good competition for the industry but I don't understand how their pricing automatically engenders trust. Also value is not equal to price and many major companies understand that absolute price is rarely the significant factor.

> Minimizing profit is sacrificing short-term gains for long-term gains.

That would actually be maximizing profit...

> The timeframe does not change between my first phrase and the last.

The timeframe dictates behavior. But, you responded to a comment that said Amazon will leave money on the table, arguing that they won't. They will, and do, leave money on the short-term in order to benefit their long-term strategy.

Short-term vs Long-term profit motivations are actually MASSIVELY different sets of behaviors.

> That would actually be maximizing profit...

Yes, if you assume a company is infinite that's true. But since there's currently not a company that's existed forever, I can safely assume that such a thing doesn't exist.

You can't argue profit without arguing time. Particularly when your argument was that all companies focus on profit at the exclusion of all other things. Growth companies focus on growth over profit. And while, yes, over time that can result in more profit, it also may not. If pure profit were the only motivation, short-term MASSIVE profits would be the only goal ever, since it's vastly more real than potential profits if everything works out.

„...you can be sure that your opinion and trust is an outcome of their strategy to make more money...“

Is exactly what the parent comment said...

..making up in scale what you lose in margin.

I think Amazon pulls this off because their prima donna is the paying customer, not the programmer who thinks talking directly to customers is the worst possible reflection of their ability to automate. Automation is great and all, but Google has a major problem when it comes to empathizing with the customers.

Also, is there any possibility of legal action against Google for this bait and switch, which seems to be quite clearly the case here?

I would seriously look into small claims court. It's allegedly somewhat effective with airlines (e.g. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/travel/small-claims...)

What trust does that earn exactly? It's a strategy, not some noble cause.

Trust that you won't be ~extorted~ bait and switched in the future?

How so? Because they haven't done it yet? Where does this extra trust come from?

> What? they're a business like any other and they're not interested in minimizing profit

Of course, they are a business. But they look at minimising the price, increase the scale, have a monopoly and earn money.

Boy, how do you look like a company like Amazon and conclude they're not interested in minimizing profit. That is exactly what they do.

Bezos is worth 80B. Amazon is a global empire operating in practically owns the ecommerce industry and extracts an enormous amount of profit. What exactly are they minimizing?

Charging less to make more is actually maximizing profit for the company.

I have a game being mostly used by kids and it doesn't generate revenue, and it has been in the free tier of Firebase for about 2 years. This month suddenly my account got disabled due to DB usage (I only keep sessions and ids, still can't believe I exceeded DB usage). But the traffic was same as old. About 1.5 weeks ago I woke up at 6am with an e-mail telling me my account was disabled. And I had to switch to something else, spending hours. I don't recommend using Firebase to anyone anymore.

They don't seem to understand that once you lose trust and reputation in a community you will struggle to get it back.

For example this thread has more or less convinced me to take Firebase off the table for any future projects I might have used it for.

Exactly, for me Firebase was among those "group of cool tech I might want to try/use someday" and now it's off that list. I actually try a couple of things from thay list per month, so it's not one of those ever-growing lists.

Yep. Completely turned off from pricing to database "storage" to everything in between. Completely taking it off for my React project which I will transition to deepstream -- maybe.

Yet they keep doing it, so are their numbers showing otherwise?

not all business decisions are well-grounded in financial upside. a lot of dysfunctional outcomes are a result of organizational dysfunction and broken culture. a company can be making bad decisions for reasons related to internal dysfunction, and be losing money on it, and persist in this because of their dysfunctional culture.

as many in this thread have pointed out: Google has a dysfunctional culture w.r.t. customer service.

Wowow! In this position my first step would be to determine if there's any legal basis for disputing the charge (an informal conversation with a lawyer or even just someone who's been through a similar experience is a fine start). Even when a billing change is disclosed in advance and the customer actually uses the bandwidth, massive spikes in metered pricing are a tricky area and have attracted the attention of regulators in the past--for instance telecoms have come under fire by charging sky-high overage fees for mobile data and not warning you until you've already racked up a few extra zeroes worth of charges on your next bill.

Also, immediately dispute the charge with your credit card company, as you want this on their radar. Their interests are aligned with yours to at least some degree (if Google's causing financial distress for one of their customers with thousands of dollars in unanticipated charges, how many others may get hit?).

Aside from that, if things played out as described: major dick move, Google! Is "do no evil" a bad joke these days? Seriously, though, Google is not a dumb company and my guess is that if the right person was made aware of this case (e.g., anyone who understands that the most important word in "customer relationship" is the second one), they would make it right.

I'm totally on the side of the author: when possible, it's worth a little extra elbow grease to build your business on top of free, self-hosted software instead of proprietary SaaS. Think of it as insurance against cases like this one.

> immediately dispute the charge with your credit card company

This will result in the shutdown of their service, and ruin their app.

I would also doubt that it would be worth it even without keeping in mind the risk of loosing the service. Google is usually pretty clever when it comes to TOS Agreements.

> telecoms have come under fire by charging sky-high overage fees for mobile data

Telecoms is a very heavily regulated industry.

> Also, immediately dispute the charge with your credit card company

No, don't do that. Most credit card companies require you to try and resolve the issue with the merchant before filing a chargeback. Sometimes they give you a time period, e.g. at least 30 days.

> In this position my first step would be to determine if there's any legal basis for disputing the charge

Let's calm down.

The first step is to pay the bill, set up better infrastructure monitoring on your end, so you don't act surprised that you are consuming 7000% more resources than third party service is reporting.

Then, if you want to burn some money, you can file a petition and tell the court that you deserve to get free service because you did not know that you have been going over the reported data by 50%, I mean 7000% for... two years.

> third party service is reporting

As far as I understood, Firebase didn't report it before. As mentioned, the meter "suddenly jumped" to 100GB and then 180GB (if I remember the numbers correctly).

The author decided to figure it out with support later, which makes sense if the previous number was something like 20-30GB and you guess it's simply in error.

"Don't be evil." was dropped in 2015 or thereabouts IIRC. I'd guess when they realised it was becoming more of a joke than a motto: "Google, the company who's motto is 'don't be evil' angered customers again today when ...

I continuously see this mentioned, but it's simply not true. The Google code of conduct is still prefaced with that phrase: https://abc.xyz/investor/other/google-code-of-conduct.html

Alphabet created a new code of conduct when it was formed that didn't use the phrase, but it was never dropped from Google.

Can you link to a report or some source, stating they dropped the "don't be evil"? where do you get that, and the date, please?



... The new code of conduct has a close approximation of the philosophy—though perhaps more formally phrased—in the very first sentence of the preface: "Employees of Alphabet... should do the right thing – follow the law, act honorably, and treat each other with respect."

"treat each other with respect"

Sounds like a loophole, not just 'more formally.'

As opposed to "evil", which is extremely subjective already?

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