Mistakes were made

New York City meets Munich

August 28th, 2001 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Kafka Lord

(Editor’s note, September 20th, 2001: While I still agree with the sentiments expressed in this post, I posted Joe Williams e-mail without getting permission, and in hindsight, that was hugely inappropriate. I apologized to Joe about this, and he was gracious enough to forgive me this breech. I’ve left this post as is as a reminder of my own ability to get carried away sometimes. In the future, I will never post anything from someone’s email sent to me without asking first.)

I’m watching television last night, and I’m scanning through the channel guide. I see a film festival coming up on a premium channel that I don’t get. I figure “What the hell?” and I call up my digital satellite company to order the channel.

I look on my bill, and get the customer service number, and call.

“I’d like to upgrade my subscription, please?” I say.

“I’m sorry, you’ll have to call back during office hours for that,” the operator says. “I can only sign up new subscribers.”

I’m stunned. “Are you kidding me?”

“No. Sorry.”

“Is there anyone else I can talk to? Maybe some other way?”

The operator pauses, thinking. “You could try the web site. Might be able to do it there.”

With that bit of advice, I browse over to the web site, and look around. There’s pricing for premium channels, and there’s an order form to sign up if your a new customer, but no way to order extra channels for an existing customer.

It’s a personal pet peeve of mine when a company skews itself to selling to new customers, while providing bad service existing customers.

There’s a place to send general inquiries by email, so I do that. I’m optimisitic I might get a prompt response still.

I’m getting a bit hungry, so I figure I’ll order a pizza. I call up the one place that delivers to my building.

“I’d like to get a pepperoni pizza delivered.” I say.

“Sorry. The boss isn’t here. We can’t take any orders while the boss isn’t here.”

“What? Are you serious?”

“Sorry,” says the voice on the phone. “Only the boss takes the orders. You’ll just have to wait until he comes back.”

“Forget it.” I hang up. I’ll just go to the Burger King up the block. They don’t deliver, but it’ll do me some good to get out for a stretch. The walk is short, and I enter the brightly lit and empty restaurant. At least there isn’t a line. But there’s also no one at the counter either. I think I hear people shuffling around in the back, so I stand and wait.


“Hello?” I call out. “I’d like to get some food!”

No response. But, damn, I am pretty sure there are people in the back somewhere.

“Can I get some food please?” I yell out.

I can smell the food cooking, and my stomach grumbles.

“Sure!” a voice yells from somewhere, unseen in the kitchen.

At last. It’s about time, because I am really hungry now. But, I still stand waiting, and no one shows up at the counter.

“Is someone going to help me up here, please?” I shout.

The voice from the kitchen responds almost a minute later. “Yeah, the guy at the register will help you. Place your order with him.”

There is no one at the register. I sigh.

“I would if there was someone, but there isn’t.”

This shouting to unseen people is really getting on my nerves. I’m trying to be a customer of this place, and they won’t even deal with me directly. There’s a long pause.

Finally, a response from my unseen friend. “Only cashiers can take orders. He must have stepped away.”

I clutch a twenty dollar bill in my hands. “I have cash, in my hands, which I would like to give someone in exchange for food. All I need is someone to do it.”

“Sorry. You’ll have to wait.”

I’m ready to blow a fuse.

“Why… won’t… you… take… my… MONEY!” I scream.

…and then I woke up from the horrible nightmare, and back to the safety of my bed. Agitated, but relieved at the same time, that I didn’t really live in a world that operated on the same principles of customer service that Delta Tao uses.

Delta Tao has been running Clan Lord as a money-making venture for almost two years now. I personally pay Delta Tao for five serial numbers, because apparently, I’m an idiot. And, I pay for them at the higher monthly rate. I pay more for Clan Lord than I do for my broadband access.

I suppose I am being unreasonable to think that after almost two years of running Clan Lord as a business, I should be able to hand them $20 to buy two additional characters and have the process go smoothly, easily and quickly. Remarkably, in all the time Clan Lord has been running, the process to purchase a character has never been automated, and it’s never even been documented. If you go to the Delta Tao web site, there’s a vague suggestion that calling an 800 number might yield results, but if you call outside of Delta Tao’s office hours, you get an operator who can only sell you a new copy of Clan Lord.

The secret process for getting characters, and I hope I’m not spoiling some sort of perverse meta-quest, is you email Joe Williams. That’s right. You ask the president of the company to add a character. And, if you are lucky, and in the past, I have apparently been, you get it done in about 24 hours, some times less. But, if you are unlucky, nothing happens.

After sending an email, and then a reminder email, I started wondering. How hard to I have to push these guys to take my money? What if Joe is on vacation? I pop into the game to see if I might be able to get some hint from a GM. The two not so useful answers I got were “See the website” and “Wait for Joe.” At least I did get answers, so I’m grateful for that, but that just shows how beaten down I am. As a customer of this company, I am grateful when I can get an answer. It feels like a favor. And that’s just not right. I shouldn’t feel bad for wanting service, especially when I come with cash in hand.

I think it’s clear Delta Tao has Clan Lord in maintenance. The goal for them is keep all costs down, take in as much money as possible, and just ride it out until it runs out of steam. No need to spend money on customer service, no need to grow the game, no need for a Windows client. Who cares? Money is coming in, that’s good enough. They just Tom Sawyer out the bulk of the content work, and stay at home and open checks.

And of course, it’s us, the customer who send in the money, looking for a modicum of customer service, who are the jerks for not appreciating the pearls they cast before us swine. We’re whiners. “Take a break” Helpful might tell me. Or better yet, “If you’re not happy, stop playing.”

If a company can’t be bothered to grow their customer base, or to provide a basic level of customer service, or tells me it’s my fault when I don’t enjoy their product, frequently talks down to their customers, openly insulting at them times, why should I work overtime to pay them even more money?

So, I canceled the order, with this email:

I sent an email to Joe, Sunday, requesting two new characters, one on the [Serial#1] account, and one on the [Serial#2] account. I sent a follow up on Monday night, in case the request got lost in the shuffle.

It’s Tuesday. Nothing.

1. What is the OFFICIAL, RECOMMENDED process for getting more characters?

2. When is this process going to be documented on the web site?

God help a new customer trying to figure out this process. Unless they get lucky, and call the 800 number during business hours, they are going to be hard pressed to get an answer.

I think you need to look at your character ordering process. The least you can do is create a special email address called “” and Joe can check that account and deal with orders, as per usual. But, when Joe has to be away for a few days, he can assign the task to someone else.

In any case, cancel the order. I’m going to save my money.

Within moments, I get this email:

> Joe:


> Please add one character slot on:


> [Serial#1]

> [Serial#2]


> Thanks.



–Joe Williams

President, Delta Tao

Coincidince, apparently, because after I sent this:

No Joe, it’s too late. Read all your email. Remove them. Don’t bill me. I don’t want them.

You need to review your process of adding characters. And you need to communicate this process on your web site.

I get this reply:

Yes, two days is longer than I usually take to handle such an order. I


If you’d really like me to delete those slots, and credit your card, I can

do it — but I’m going to be grumpy about it (emphasis added by me).

Paypal is recommended.

My reply about handling the order did (according to my time stamps, anyway)

come before your cancellation request — I didn’t rush out to do it once you



Timing not withstanding, it’s a day late, and a dollar short, so to speak. My reply to Joe, in closing:

“If you’d really like me to delete those slots, and credit your card, I can do it — but I’m going to be grumpy about it.”

Not nearly as grumpy as I am.

The order is canceled. You’ve had almost two years to figure out a way to deal with these requests, and the level of innovation has been zero. If you can’t be bothered, neither can I.

I know you’re a nice guy, Joe. I don’t think you’re stupid or a jerk. I think you mean well. But I’m tired of feeling like I care about Clan Lord more than you do.

Frankly, after the sheer amount of money and time I’ve thrown at your product, your apathy breaks my heart. You can’t even see to documenting the character ordering process, as flawed as it may currently be, on the company web site.

I just guess noone can be bothered with updating the Clan Lord web site. There’s still that bullshit about “getting a secure server” which you and I both know is never going to happen. Clan Lord will go dark long before anyone will be bothered with that, especially since PayPal is “good enough” (though it shoves a burden upon your customers, since they have to sign up if they aren’t already on PayPal.) Is there any mention of PayPal on the Delta Tao pages? No. Another player sent me the address to your personal site which has Delta Tao ordering stuff on it via PayPal (huh? Does THAT make sense? Why is ordering Clan Lord on your personal site?), and there is no means to order a character on your site, just another serial number. If there’s a way to do it there, it’s not obvious, not documented, and I’m not about to fire off a PayPal payment into the dark void without knowing what I’m getting.

There is so little effort to in the basic art of reaching out to your customers in something as fundamental as selling them more service. All we are talking about here, at a minimum, is to update the Delta Tao web pages and make them clear. As it stands, I’m choking on the dust of neglect. It discourages me so much that I realize that more characters are a waste of money.

So, thanks, but no thanks. Sorry to have bothered you with my efforts to make a purchase. I’ll try not to be such a bother in the future.

The writing on the wall, for me personally, is clear. Now is not the time to be investing more into Clan Lord. I’ll just coast for now.

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