Hitting a dead-end with Google's customer service? ✓
Have an existing audience you can leverage to get some random Google employee's attention? ✓
Reach front page of Hacker News? ✓
Good news! You should have your problem fixed in 2-5 business days. The rest of us suckers relying on google services get to stare at our inboxes helplessly, waiting for a response to our support ticket (which will never come). I feel like it's almost a right of passage these days to rely heavily on a Google service, only to have something go wrong and be left out in the cold.
(Unless, of course, you work in an industry where longer retention times are mandated.)
That said: I've found Google personnel highly responsive (though not always immediately so) to issues I've raised. Most recently with the Data Liberation Front's lead emailing me directly (after finding he couldn't reply to my G+ posts because I'd disabled interactions there) while on sabbatical to find out what's up.
Not to say that Google don't have their warts and have been highly insensitive to human-factors issues of late. But even some pretty testy and frustrated folk have found that there are contacts from deep within the machine.
Though JOOTSing -- jumping out of the (nominal support/ticket) system -- does seem to be rather too frequently required.
I won't say I haven't been a thorn in Google's side (large or small I'm not entirely sure). But I've managed to develop some level of a relationship with some folks on the inside. I'm largely in the process of extricating myself from their services, but I had seen multiple positive responses.
I can only imagine it's similarly frustrating on the inside. Remember: they're trying to address the needs of hundreds of millions (or more) users with a pretty finite staff. It's the dual-lever challenge of automated systems: you can provide for the world with a staff of 40, but you're stuck with providing for the world with a staff of 40. Unless you come up with ways of 1) automating support 2) self-support and 3) very effective triage you're going to have horror stories.
A problem of their own devising. I don't have any sympathy for them, they've intentionally built up their image of a company of geniuses who hire the best of the best, and they have made it a primary corporate goal to acquire those hundreds of millions of users.
I speculate that the reason they have effectively zero customer support is that to employ and train that number of people would require them to appear obviously as a clone of Walmart, GE, or AT&T (et al), which is necessary to become in order to deal with that kind of headcount.
I actually made the comment more in the spirit of a "hey, you HN types looking at starting your own worldwide Web based service / company, heads-up, this is a problem you'll face."
That said: I've actually pretty much given your "they're Google, they're smart, they can figure this out" response when I've have noted weaknesses in Google's response / user support/service.
Though there are some companies / organizations which have gone a long way to building very-low-overhead organizations. Wikipedia and Craigslist both come to mind (and yes, they've had their problems).
Another story emerged out of the ACA/Obamacare rollout. One news item I heard concerning it noted that when Social Security rolled out, there were staffed offices located in cities and towns throughout the US where people could go for support. That's something which the online/automated world has largely done away with.
Though the thought occurs to me: what would the required infrastructure (and cost of development) be for producing a paper-record based application process for ACA? Would it not perhaps be simpler than the online version?
When Social Security rolled out, there wasn't any other choice. (Well, paper mail.)
Phone support might have been an option. Even if household phones were rare, most people could get to a location which had a phone. However 1-800 (toll-free) lines didn't exist yet (though you could reverse charges with operator assistance). Hrm ... I'd heard a tale that 800 toll-free service began as the result of a request from President Ford for some way for the White House to accept calls from citizens, though Wikipedia's history of toll-free service doesn't make any mention, might just be a red herring.
More to the point: the idea of individually staffing offices is now pretty much a non-starter. Though I wonder what the real economics are compared with creating a national-scale Web infrastructure.
I'd say that the base instance of something like this would be expanding Medicare instead of inventing ACA, but that seems to have been politically untenable. There are certainly problems there, as well as in the VA system, but the point remains...
"Well, that part about Google having customer service was pretty good."
rite of passage