Thursday, December 21
I decided to try out Microsoft's adCenter recently since Microsoft was running their $100 credit promotion for new accounts. Even though adCenter's interface breaks often, is not at all intuitive, and happens to be very slow, I decided to keep my two test ad campaigns going since I was making money off of them - after all, it is the holiday season, and people tend to buy lots of gifts.
I spent my entire $100 promotional credit by December 21st, and my overflow charges by December 21st were $11.85. Invoice is pictured below (click to enlarge):
The invoice sub-total was $111.85 minus the $100 promotional code that had been applied, which came out to an account total of $11.85. Pretty straightforward. Now, the credit card that I have attached to adCenter is a virtual credit card through Citicards, which allows me to put a limit on transactions from specific merchants. I decided to put a $50 limit on adCenter transactions, to make sure that any possible screw-up in their billing system would be caught instead of charged to my card.
To my surprise, I checked on my ad campaigns on the afternoon of the 21st, only to find this (click to enlarge):
The balance of my account was listed as 11.85, yet adCenter tried to charge my card for $111.85 - the billing system ignored the promo code! Now, since this charge was over my current virtual limit of $50, the payment was declined. At this point, my ad campaigns was paused, but I hadn't received an email from adCenter letting me know that my payment was declined - I just happened to check on my campaign, and found that in the billing section.
Here is a basic summary of my phone calls with adCenter customer service:
December 21st - Spoke to a customer service rep (CSR) who thought that I had to pay the full $111.85, and then I'd get another account credit of $100. He really wasn't sure, however, so after arguing with him on how to read an invoice, I was finally transferred to a supervisor. The supervisor told me the same exact thing that the first CSR told me about paying the full $111.85 and not $11.85.
Me: So, what you're telling me, is that I have to pay the sub-total on the invoice, and not the total - correct?
Supervisor: Yes, that is correct.
Me: Okay... let me use a restaurant as an analogy. If I get a bill that says my food cost $20, which is the sub-total, and there is $5 tax, the total line on the bill reads $25. What amount do I pay?
Supervisor: You'd pay $25.
Me: Right, that's the total, not the sub-total.
Supervisor: Well, you have to pay the sub-total on our bills, not the total.
After going on & on about this, trying to show the supervisor how to read an invoice, I asked to speak to somebody in the billing department. I was then told that the billing is an automated system, and that I wouldn't be able to speak to anyone who could actually modify charges - all the CSRs could do was press a button called "force bill", that would make the billing system attempt to manually charge again. Unfortunately, "force bill" attempted to charge $111.85, and not the correct amount. The supervisor said that he would put in a ticket to see if anybody else could see what was going on. I was able to resume my campaigns a few more times until a credit hold was placed on my account, so my final account balance came out to be $21.28 (with adCenter attempting to now charge $121.28).
Friday, December 22
I called adCenter in the morning of the 22nd, where a CSR repeated what the previous two CSRs stated about the billing, ignoring the actual account balance and invoice. I asked if she could visit anybody in accounting or billing to review the invoice, but she said it wasn't possible and that adCenter was right with their charges. She then offered to get a supervisor, to try to explain what she was trying to tell me... I didn't have time to listen to another CSR explain incorrect information to me, so I asked the CSR to have somebody email me as soon as possible, with a resolution. I received an email a short time later, with this response:
Date: 12/22/2006 10:33 AM
This is XXXXXXXX from the Microsoft adCenter Support Team.
As per our conversation yesterday I followed up on whether or not there would be a way to have your current pending charges split into smaller increments.
I have confirmed that, due to the nature of adCenter's automated billing system, it is not possible for us to divide your pending charges.
Thank you for contacting Microsoft adCenter Support.
Microsoft adCenter Support Team
This email had nothing to do with correcting the incorrect charge, and I had never asked for adCenter to split my payment into multiple charges.
I called back in the afternoon of December 22nd, and spoke with a CSR who finally realized that my only charge should've been $21.28 and not $121.28, but she told me there was nothing she could do about it - it must have been an error with the billing system. She added some notes to the ticket, and reassigned it to the supervisor. I heard nothing the rest of the day, and of course nobody was working over Christmas weekend.
Tuesday, December 26
I finally found an FAQ on Microsoft's website letting me know that I was right in assuming that my only charge should be the $21.28:
About promotion codes
Promotion codes are a special offer from Microsoft adCenter. Promotion codes can be acquired through Microsoft promotional events, from online marketing drives, or through other special offers.
They are redeemable for adCenter service at no charge. Each promotion code has a specific dollar amount and an expiration date. You can apply promotion codes when you first sign up for a new account or you can redeem them later through an existing account.
For example, if you have a promotion code worth $50 to use when you sign up for a new account, and accumulate $100 in charges for your campaign, you will be only be billed for $50.
When your promotion code has expired or been depleted, your ad campaigns will begin or resume accruing charges.
I called back the customer service supervisor who had been handling my case, and showed him the documentation on adCenter's site that proved that all but one customer service rep had been giving me bad information. He apologized, but then stated that there was nothing more he could do! He said the only thing he could do was to change my ticket to "high priority" and add some notes to the ticket, and then wait for somebody else to look at it... which could take 24-48 hours, maybe more! The supervisor reiterated that there were no people working in billing that any customer service reps could actually contact by phone, because the billing department "doesn't have phones". I was told that it would be impossible for him to do anything to the account (such as resuming my campaigns) until the credit hold was lifted, so I was out of luck for the time being.
It doesn't look like customer service can actually do anything at Microsoft adCenter... they don't have the ability to modify aspects of a customer's account, correct billing mistakes, or even get in touch with others who can correct the mistakes! I wonder if this will actually ever get resolved.