Your experience is not even irregular. I'd say this is the typical experience for people dealing with Google when everything doesn't go 100% correct.
http://contact.googleapps.com/?&rd=1 and http://support.google.com/adwords/bin/answer.py?hl=en-GB&... for example.
AdWords support is outstanding. As a client getting started with Google advertising, I had a dedicated account manager who set up the entire campaign for me, who would call me back whenever I had any questions I'd email to him and was very intelligent and helpful.
I am not surprised that their free services don't have a phone number to call. Can you imagine providing call-centre support for 400 million Gmail users, or 1 Billion+ Google search users?
Of course, if they want to enter other customer facing businesses like selling hardware or broadband Internet, they will have no choice but to set up call-centres for those departments.
Google, for a company that reputes to perform
services, is probably the single most consumer-
unfriendly company on the planet.
Try dealing with some kind of loss-making monopoly, where the people who work there don't care or may even have a perverse grudge against customers and want to cause them harm.
Look at the way united airlines treated a passenger whos guitar they busted up: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo
There are companies who wage campaigns against their customers. They have a policy of not paying credit notes except under extreme pressure. But they might also have call centre staff with no job tracking system call you to chase you for your bill, where the staff don't even know whether you've paid it or not. Why? Because some stats somewhere said that bullied customers are more likely to pay.
Google is flawed but has some endearing things going for it: the employees are intelligent people, they tend to be caring types.
They are real people and they do care.
Google simply utterly ignores any kind of complaint. There is no worse way to treat people than to completely deny their existence.
For example I was having problems with a payment in Google Wallet for something off the play store. I was able to ring them, speak to someone from America and get the problem resolved in under 5 minutes.
Two Nexus 7s I ordered for Christmas were not delivered and then returned to sender without contacting me. Google not only sorted this out within a day or so, I spoke to people on the phone and by email with a quick turnaround.
I've heard many horror stories, but I just wanted to add that they're definitely not universal. The fault was not with Google but they still sorted it out to the best of their abilities within a day or two.
In a way, that they do so many things right makes the terrible support harder to swallow ;)
Customers/users should never be left guessing about whether they've been forgotten or not. If you have users, have some flow like this:
1) Receive the customer communication. If you can't fix it immediately, then you immediately respond to the customer to tell them what you're doing, and clearly indicate when they will receive their next communication from you. It might be "we can't even look at this for six weeks", but if you've taken their money you should give it back.
2) Set a calendar event for your team so that they know about this if you get hit by a bus.
3) On the date, you contact the customer. If you haven't fixed the issue, then you indicate what you're doing at the moment, and give a new date by which the customer will hear from you.
If the customer is unlikely to be happy with the resolution then you describe why and describe their options.
Unless you do not, as in this case.
Indirectly? Read the blog post. $5 moved from the customer's credit card to Google's bank account. Clearly, Google is directly making money from this person.
Not that this excuses their behavior. App developers are a source of revenue, and treating them as such would be less evil.
As someone who used app engine a few years ago but also used the much better customer service recently, I still choose to whine. And I will for a long damn time considering the shit I put up with.
The problem is Google is trying to approach other industries the same way they have with Search: If it can't be solved by a group of engineers and a rack-full of servers, it shouldn't be solved.
Is that a problem, though? If people in a particular market segment value high quality low cost services over accessible customer support, the strategy succeeds. If customers in that market segment value accessible customer service enough to pay extra for it, it fails when another competitor comes in to provide that and takes all the customers.
But what Google is providing seems to be what most customers want most of the time: People bitch about bad customer service when something goes wrong, but they still choose the free service over the paid one pretty much knowing that that will be the case going in.
The market decided that what Google is doing is what people prefer. The general population could have a change of heart and decide to start patronizing companies with better customer service who charge correspondingly more, but they probably won't.
It's a problem to the OP, and it's a problem to a lot of users who suddenly lose access to their GMail accounts and don't have the luxury of getting to the front page of HN. Just because it's not a problem for 95% of people doesn't mean it's not a problem.
I'd also argue that most people aren't aware Google doesn't have customer support going in. Did you explain to every person you recommended GMail to, if you've recommend it to anyone, that there isn't any customer service should they get locked out of the only email account they might be using for the next few years? You might be a smart hacker and know to back up your mail on multiple drives each night, but most folks assume good faith about a company they deal with.
It's not a problem for 99+% of people. That means it's not a problem for 99+% of people. It's like any rare but unfortunate event that people rationally choose not to insure against. And it sucks to be you if you're the statistical outlier, but you already know what to do if you're worried about that: Choose a different service that has a worse overall user experience because they spent their money on giving you someone to talk to on the phone instead of on producing a well-engineered service.
All this time I've given Google no money at all.
It goes somewhat like this:
If you paying money, you might have luck getting a phone support based on your investment. However, if you are on the other end of receiving money, good luck having someone respond to your email or on the forums.
I shot a mail address using a contact form and in less than 24 hours I got a phone call which solved all my issues in that same call.
I've been locked out of my AdSense account for breaking the TOS, but they won't tell me which point of the TOS I've broken (which, as far as I can tell, was none) and the only way to get around this was just to create a different AdSense account. Which is against their TOS BTW.
That interaction with Apple was not the first not last, but the only related with an online service. They've fixed hardware, dealt with recalls and even took care of stuff outside warranty.
It's unfair to compare a retail company's availability to a SaaS provider such as a Google. It would be wise for Google to start opening retail locations if it intends to get into the retail game for this very reason.
And (serious question) what's stopping Google from providing support, when other SaaS providers can (and do, profitably) and other ad/media companies can and do?
They didn't need to become a retail company, but they understood that the customer would be better served that way.
Also you've probably got a willing acquirer in Google, providing you can prove out the model.
Only thing is you would need to have plenty of connections into the inner workings of Google to actually be able to serve your customers.
1) it would instantly flounder due to an overload in requests
2) a service department only works when it can deliver customer satisfaction, and you couldn't
The only party that can fix this is google, and they'll only fix it under competitive pressure.
>We offer email support for our higher-earning publishers. To find out if email support is available for your account, visit How can I contact AdSense support?  Publishers who have access to support via email will find a contact form where they can email our specialists.
It turns out I'm lucky enough to be "eligible for email support". How flattering!
I don't get any email support from a soda vending machine.
I know this applies to others too (worse at times) and that there is some rationale behind this (reduce hoards of crap), but it just stinks, to me, in principle, and i'm sure there would be better ways of going about it.
 My example search is always 'youtube downloader': https://chrome.google.com/webstore/search/youtube%20download...
You stole my hard earned money in adsense for over a couple of years. All of a sudden you decided to close my account for activity fraud. I swear to god I never clicked a damn ad. My stats show no abnormal visits (analytics from google) just a steady flow of a hundred visitors a day, just ten cents a day in adsense.
But you stole it without any explanation, just that you can't give any info to protect your algorithms and your sponsors.
Well fuck you, then who protects the user?
You stole just $100 from me, but I hope you lose it all. I'll do all I can to see you on your knees.
Fuck you google.
Google can't answer the millions of cases like yours one by one specifically, nor should they since somebody who's trying to game the ad sense system shouldn't be told where they messed up anyway.
Why not start your own version of ad sense if you think you can do this better.
I'd expect you to expect algorithmic customer support from Google.
People had their accounts closed with messages like: "Your account is now closed permanently. We won't tell you why. Don't try contacting us, we will not respond. Fuck You."
They have some real people working with customers, but they're meant for big, rich customers-they-want-to-keep. You get the algorithm treatment, and you're not supposed to even reach the real people there.
I suppose Customer Support is the least of their concerns
But ironically enough as you have posted the problem on HN , it will surely be solved very swiftly less in the sense of customer goodwill but more of a PR move. This just reminds me of how are governments work - You have to know somebody from the inside to get the work done - and this is what Google is becoming.
Google checkout/wallet is less than good, combined with virtually non-existent support is a terrible combination.
If it works: great, if there's a glitch, well, tough.
I had an issue where Paypal never refunded the $2 fee for verifying my account and instead pocketed the cash instead. I got my bank to issue a chargeback over the phone - it took all of five minutes.
They're eating the Internet. The more you depend on them, the harder it'll be to cut ties when they give you crap.
Complicating the transaction with a dispute/chargeback could make that real goal even harder to achieve, not just by making the previous purchase attempt appear 'unpaid', but also perhaps giving his account/card a 'uses chargebacks' flag within Google.
I wonder how many customers Google owes money to for things like this? Maybe we could tally this up and petition them to pay out.
Their B2B services is also lacking, turn over for their employees is high y/y.
..maybe this is the new of state internet services at scale?
Story: An acquaintance got on the phone with support department to troubleshoot a problem. The support person was struggling to help. As the 3 minute mark approaches, the support person gets increasingly anxious. Finally, he straight up confesses that he has a 3 minute call limit beyond which he may get penalized.
And then hung up on my acquaintance seeking help.
Steam has a similar flaw. If you file a chargeback on any game you purchase then you'll be locked out of every game you ever 'bought' until you resolve the issue.
I refuse to pay for anything which can be taken away at the whim, process or incompetence of another.
Unfortuanlty for Google, because they have essentially no human face, public shaming is our only option to open up a dialog with them.
Hopefully they'll get that done in time for them not to be out-competed by a company that actually cares about their audience / customers.
Do a chargeback, and they go on the "never do business with this person again" list.
2. Customers do not call for chargebacks. When customers call, they get a refund from us. A chargeback happens when a customer does NOT call us, but rather goes to their credit card issuer, and claims they did not authorize the charge on their credit card (which is generally a lie).
Wen that happens, the credit card company reverses the charge, AND accesses the merchant (us) a fee of around $20. Even if we were able to prove to the credit card issue that the customer is lying, and so the chargeback would be denied, we'd still have to pay the $20 chargeback fee.
Doing a chargeback without even trying to contact the merchant when you wish to undo a purchase is a very scummy thing to do, except in cases where it was definitely a fraudulent charge.
Free services are AWESOME.