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Google not paying developers in Europe, support nonexistent (groups.google.com)
193 points by alvarosm on Mar 13, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 44 comments

A few months ago Finland's banks switched to SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area) and IBAN bank numbers permanently. This meant that old bank account numbers would no longer work. This is obviously a change that has been in the works for years and it's something that every company should have been prepared for.

Well, apparently Google failed to realize this and update their systems. October's payout failed and I received a generic automated e-mail message about it. I realized what the problem was instantly and tried to figure out how to contact Google about it.

Google Checkout doesn't have a direct contact form nor a phone number: instead, their "contacting support" page [1] presents a list of options about "the topic of your question". Only after I chose something vaguely related, filled out a contact form that didn't have a freeform text field and received an automated form reply I could tell them my real issue by replying.

After they fixed it and re-entering my bank account details, I had to wait until December (the next payout date) to receive the failed payout.

(I've received this month's payout successfully without any issue.)

[1] http://support.google.com/checkout/sell/bin/request.py

Many people have tried contacting them through multiple support forms about this march payment issue and they're not managing to get any humans to answer them.

Not that it excuses Google's notoriously bad/nonexistent customer service, but I suspect you could quite easily get the attention of the relevant people on G+.

Attention has been gotten.

(Notice that the one Google employee who has replied in the thread is being derided for not doing enough quickly enough. It was 9 AM in California when he replied. This is why nobody speaks up until the issue is resolved.)

The point is not that it's 9am in California, the point is that it's the 13th March already, and the first human answer we get, just minutes ago, is a developer of the new 3-man team being assembled to take over that derelict product -that processes millions, by the way. Is this a joke? no, it's just the Google way, it seems. Developers have to give Google 30% of revenue and this is the kind of support they get. Not customer relations, not support, a lone developer of a meager, newly assembled team who used his good sense.

>>>It was 9 AM in California when he replied.

Sorry, but that excuses nothing. Do VISA, MasterCard, American Express start business at 9AM? They're 24-hour operations. So should any op dealing with payments.

The problem is not the time of the reply, it's the date.

Did you try posting it here or to reddit? That usually gets some attention.

jiazou a developer has commented:

Hi all, I'm really sorry to see there are so many problems with the checkout merchant center. Unfortunately the checkout merchant center team is going through a major transition. Many of the past owners of the code base have left, which leaves many of you without proper support :( I'm part of a three person team that's getting transitioned to take ownership of the code base, in fact we have a meeting in 15min to get an overview of the basic architecture and start looking into some of these bugs. I assure you we will work very hard to address your issues as quickly as possible, but please remain patient with us as our team makes this transition.

Thanks and Sincerely,


Holy God this is messed up and I hope it isn't real.

If it is real...

Dear Google - An unknown employee communicating through a random forum is NOT the right way to tell developers why they are not getting PAID!!!!


To the op of this post: It appears you personally feel an obligation to communicate with the people who want to be communicated with the most. I truly hope that you do not get in trouble for this and that your desire to communicate with us is applauded and replicated over and over and over again as the old team vanishes and your new team takes over.

If accurate, I really hope this guy doesn't get hammered for stepping outside corporate comms protocol.

I hope so too, because it's pretty obvious to me that's what he's doing (stepping out), out of sheer common sense, and I'm grateful for that.

At the same time, it is also common sense that you don't need to explain how poorly mismanaged your employer is when communicating with external customers.

With that said, had Google said something earlier, Jia wouldn't have had to say anything and this would be a non-issue.

Oh Dear Lord. The fact that all of the previous people left at once, leaving them without decent support looks like bad planning/management from Google.

I was once the tech lead of a 4-person team of programmers. One person quit to go be a middle school math teacher, a second to move to another city, a third to move back to his home state, and then I quit to move into a different area of work (and ended up moving out of state a few months later).

When I gave my notice our manager was baffled, and genuinely wanted to know if it was something he'd done that had driven us all away. There wasn't.

I don't have any idea what happened in this case. Perhaps all those people moved to other groups at Google or got recruited to startups. Or perhaps that group's manager was a jerk and everyone left to get away from them.

This appears to be real. There is a Jia Zou working at google who has been there for 8 months. Source: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/jia-zou/5/301/9b9

To be fair, they said they wanted to be more like a startup :)

It's an aside, but I no longer do business with anyone that doesn't offer appropriate contact methods for the products/services they provide. It's now the second thing I check after price and the primary reason I refuse to use Google products but "go large" on Amazon products.

Thinking is: "If I have a problem, can I get help?". If I can find a solution to that question in a few clicks, kaching, you get my CC details and we're good to go, else, x.

Customer service is not a cost center, if done well, it's the best marketing/PR channel you can get and it pays off massively in the longer term.

The one place lacking with customer support for Amazon is Amazon FPS. I actually had to completly abandon my integration because the support wasn't there. The only way to get support was via an outsourced forumn and responses would take days if one was ever recieved at all. Response times like that make it way to risky to use for payments.

>I receive emails from customers that they get Google Licensing Errors and I get one star reviews for my app due to this. They don't understand that this is Google's fault, not mine.

This is a danger in the market, and I see it in reviews all the time. Every limitation of the system is the fault of the developer of the app, and the reason the app is slow is because the developer is bad (not because the customer picked a phone with a 700mhz CPU).

The app markets really need a way to protect developers from abusive customers. Amazon lets other customers respond to a review, and Newegg lets the maker of the product respond. Maybe the Android Market needs this, too.

Google Play definitely needs this. However,

> Every limitation of the system is the fault of the developer of the app, and the reason the app is slow is because the developer is bad (not because the customer picked a phone with a 700mhz CPU).

I think it is the responsibility of the developer to ensure their apps work on the devices they are selling to. If a user is able to install the app from Play, it should work. Google Play shouldn't be a wild-west scenario, where some apps work and some apps don't. If the app doesn't work on the phone, I would definitely suggest the developer has some of the blame.

Testing apps and ensuring they work on all phones is clearly impossible, but by limiting the availability of your app to high-end phones and detecting hardware in code and acting appropriately is our responsibility as developers in a diverse ecosystem.

>Google Play shouldn't be a wild-west scenario

Unfortunately, this is what Android is, so this is what the marketplace has to be. I don't have apps on the Google Play market, so I don't know if you can restrict your app to only be visible or purchased by phones known to run it, but there are some apps that slower phones just can't run.

Take Grand Theft Auto III for example (or any other high-end game). You can't expect it to run on an HTC Aria with a 600Mhz processor. Should we stop making these high end apps, or should we expect that there would be some kind of control system to help prevent people from making uninformed decisions?

> Unfortunately, this is what Android is, so this is what the marketplace has to be.

I don't think so, really. Android is the wild west because it's open source and unrestricted. But the Market is Google's own, proprietary and closed system. They have total control over it. App developers can restrict on a device-by-device basis, but it's a pain and I don't really expect anyone to do that (there are maybe 1,000 devices or so out there). However, you can also restrict based on phone feature set like screen size, hardware capability, etc.

I think we should hold both Google and the developers to a high standard when it comes to marketplace apps.

> Should we stop making these high end apps

Of course not. Developers should stop selling them to people who they know can't run them.

Unfortunately most of us aren't able to buy the million devices out there to test with. More annoyingly we usually only find out about a device not working when someone writes a 1 star review such as "dont work HTC <xyz> cm7".

I've had people email me and get nasty because my app didn't work on their Touchpad with ICS. Or even better when people write low reviews from Tegra 2 devices such as "Textures missing" but they are using a kernel which reduces allocated video RAM from 128mb to 64mb.

I love Android from a user point of view but I hate it as a developer.

If you are lucky they will write that review. More likely they will just say "does not even run, the biggest disgrace since wwii".

I'm sorry to hear that any Touchpad + ICS users have been so frustrating for you. In general I've been very happy with the Cyanogenmod on Touchpad community, but with the huge number of TPs that got dumped into the market there are some people who really don't get that when software is labelled "Alpha" and has warning about most apps not working, it's not the fault of a 3rd party developer when something doesn't work. Weirdly enough the webOS side of the community seems to be a lot more understanding despite really high overlap between the sides. Maybe it's the unity through adversity thing? Either way, hopefully as CM stabilizes on the Touchpad the users will get less annoying for you.

Ah, I didn't know if apps could be restricted (as I mentioned). Maybe there should be a flag in the market that tells the developer "it looks like your app might not run without a 1Ghz processor". I would imagine smaller devs wouldn't have a wide range of test devices.

There has to be a better way.

It'd be nice if the market could offer a free copy to the first user of each phone model and then asked him for simple feedback ("Does it run smoothly? [Yes/No]").

You can limit (by device) which phones/tablets can download your app from Google Play. If the developer doesn't take the time to consider the requirements of his/her app and limit its availability accordingly, they deserve the poor ratings.

Yes, customers should also be aware of what their phone is capable of, but the developer has some responsibility here.

Take Grand Theft Auto III for example (or any other high-end game). You can't expect it to run on an HTC Aria with a 600Mhz processor.

Don't know if it has changed but when GTA III was new (on android) my phone, Nexus S, wasn't supported - and thus I couldn't even find it in market.

Offtopic.. But I'm not so sure about this.

I used to work on downloadable desktop apps, and we always played to the lowest common denominator. It ended up being a big weight around our neck when we wanted to do something 'cooler' but a little more resource intensive. I think we supported Windows 95 even after Microsoft stopped... simply because so many end users were still running it.

Another example: We have a "lesser" brand of mobile phone now, and I notice angry birds is frustrating to play on it... Even though it's perfectly acceptable on an old 8Gb iPod touch I had. Sure, they could spend a lot of resources on it to make it better, but that's likely to be a poor usage of resources.

You definitely need to hit the sweet spot of the performance bell curve, though.

What you're quoting is not about fragmentation. It's that the Android Market and Google chckout payment fail. A LOT. You get a lot of transactions declined because Google apparently doesn't trust the credit card, AND a lot don't go through because of an Android Market "internal error" (some have said as high as 10% for this latter issue).

Google's lack of support can be really scary. I've had situations in at least three different areas where something went wrong with their automated tools and I lost access to a service[1], and every time it was completely impossible to get a person to look at the problem. I still use their stuff for small projects because a lot of the tools are hard to replace for free. But that icicle feeling when you realize that something you're relying on is broken, you can't easily switch away and people want to know what's wrong and the answer is there's nothing you can do to fix it ... it's stuck with me.

[1] Google Group disappeared entirely for a couple of days; AdSense upgrade failed partway through; attempt to switch primary and secondary domains on Google Apps resulted in a month of downtime ...

From the Payment FAQ quoted in one of the comments:

Note that in the event of a technical issue, your payout may be delayed and is expected to be initiated by the 15th of the month.

Maybe wait until after the 15th to start worrying about it?

Some people need the money because it's their only source of income or because they need the cash flow for their business, or whatever. Tell them to start worrying 15 days later. About the payments, on Google's side they show up as having been initiated on the 2nd and Google has been deaf and mute about the issue.

Outside of the Android market, Google Checkout generally seems dead. I created an account months ago to integrate with E-Junkie. Despite numerous requests for support the account has never been blessed with an "integration" tab, as indicated in their documentation, so the relevant information cannot be passed into E-J.

I'm guessing they're letting it die and are working on something else.

Google Checkout is indeed dead, they want you to use Google Wallet now.

AFAIK, they're not different products, they just rebranded checkout. I guess it's still checkout for the Android market because they haven't migrated that yet.

Forget fragmentation, lower app spend per user, etc complaints about Google play and android this is the big one.

This is the only issue that has seriously given me pause about selling apps on Google Play. If something goes wrong you're stuck in forums, unhelpful issue submission forms, and you can be left out in the cold for weeks.

The lack of support for end user market issues compounds the problem. There's no easy help from google so customers contact the app developers who can't do anything to help but direct them back to the Google support labyrinth.

It blows my mind that a company like google would be oblivious to such a glaring problem ... I really can't process it. Does that mean nobody monitors this kind of thing at all over there?

On a related note, AppEngine has horrible, horrible, support for paying users. I learned the hard way not to use products without phone support.

I've been successful in getting to talk to an actual _human_ in no other way than through the #appengine channel on freenode. Quite a few of the devs on the appengine team hang there, might be worth a shot.

With all the automation Google tries to implement, couldn't they set up each service with a support email address that has its incoming mail analyzed, held for a limited time, and then expunged? Then all they'd have to do is get someone to look at the mailboxes when unusual patterns show up.

Dangerous to try to engineer your way out of customer support. How about this instead: they should just hire support staff like everyone else who cares about customers.

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