Is this what Abobe Calls Customer Service?


Bill Harrel coauthored this book in 1993
Bill Harrel coauthored this book in 1993

I have been writing about Adobe products for about 17 years. Adobe has always been anal about protecting their licenses and making sure they get paid for their products, but they seem to have forgotten about customer service. And that’s too bad, because those of us who work in the design field, nowadays, are pretty much relegated to Adobe products.

(BTW: Apparently, this is only one of many Adobe horror stories. The Web is full of them. Checkout the complaints at

Recently, I went online to upgrade to Master Collection CS4. To avoid paying taxes and shipping, I chose the Download option. At the end of the process, a message displayed saying “We are reviewing your order. You will will receive an email within 3 hours notifying you of the order status,” or something to that effect.

Ok. Most websites just process your order and let you download your software. But this was a small annoyance. I went back to work and waited a few hours. And a few hours more… The email never came. So I called Customer service, waited on hold for some time, and then was connected with somebody some place offshore. (How do I know this? Well, yes, the accent. But I am not jumping to conclusions. Each time I called I got a different person, but each had the same accent.)

The conversation went something like this: After stating that I had been waiting several hours for an email to download the software I had purchased, and providing the order number, the Adobe rep said, “Website orders take about 24 hours.”

“Hmmm…”, I said. “The Website says within 3 hours.”

The rep responded, “No, it takes about 24 hours.”

“But, mam the Website says within 3 hours.”

“I know what the Web page says, but it takes 24 hours.”

This was getting me nowhere, so I asked that since the next day was a Saturday, would there be anybody available if I don’t get the email. All she said was, “It takes about 24 hours to get the email.”

The next day I got an email saying that my order had been “cancelled,” No explanation, just cancelled. So, I decided to wait until Monday; maybe I would get better service during regular business hours.

A cancelled order is cancelled, right? So on Monday I went back to to place a new order. As soon as I started, a chat window came up, a rep asking me if he could help. I told him I was ordering Master Collection CS4. He said, “I can help you with that.”

Now we’re getting somewhere, I thought. I typed, “So now what?” He typed back, “Go ahead and place your order and tell me when you are done.”

So that’s what I did, using the same debit card I used for the first order. Then, in the chat box I typed “done.” He asked me for the order number.

Hey, I thought, This is great, he is gonna process this order for me while I wait. He asked for the order amount, then typed, “Ok, got it. Anything else I can help you with?”

Hmmm… I typed, “Now what?” He responded, “Is there anything else I can help your with?” I said, “When can I download the software?”

“Did you get the email?”, he asked. I checked. Yes, I got another email telling me that I would get the status of my order within 3 hours.

At this point I am wondering why he needed the order number and order amount. Must be for some kind of comission, is all I can guess. I typed, “I did this once a few days ago, and the order was cancelled with no explanation….”

He said, “I can’t help you with that. You need to call Customer Service. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

Dumbfounded, I sat there a moment, debating whether going in to chat rant would help. Decided it wouldn’t, and typed, “No.” Then I called Customer Service.

On hold again. Finally the call was connected to somebody offshore. After I gave him the order number, haughtily (as though I were a deadbeat), he responded that the credit card had been declined, to which I responded that I used a debit card, and that there was plenty of money in the account.

He interrupted, “Sir? You used a debit card? We don’t take debit cards.”

Huh? Never heard that one before. I explained to him that it was a VISA debit card and worked the same as a credit card, to which he continued repeating, “We don’t take debit cards. We only take regular credit cards.” I told him that during ordering process, the option I selected was VISA Credit/Debit Card, to which he responded, “I don’t care what the Website says, we don’t take debit cards.”

Finally, giving up, I said, “Ok, so how do I buy the software?” He offered to connect me with Sales, to which I said, “And do they take debit cards?” He said, “No.”

Payment Method page in Adobe Store
Payment Method page in Adobe Store

Speechless, I sat silent for a moment, until he said, “Ok, Sir?”

I said, “No. No, it’s not ok–as far as a merchant is concerned, there is no difference between a VISA credit card and a VISA debit card. I want to speak to somebody else.”

He said he’d be right back. Then after a few minutes, he came back on the line and told me he was transferring me to his supervisor. A moment later I was listening to a voice prompt that went something like this, “There is nobody available to take your call right now. Goodbye.” Click.

I decided that maybe I didn’t really need to upgrade. I went back to work. Several hours later–far beyond the three-hour window, I received an email from the Adobe store with serial numbers and download instructions. Remember the order I placed earlier that day–the one with the same debit card? Adobe store ran the card and delivered my software…. This had nothing to do with my conversation with Customer Service. I hadn’t even told him I placed another order.

The good news is that Adobe Download Manager delivered the software without a hitch, and the serial numbers worked! Adobe made their $2,500 sale and I got my software, no thanks to Customer Service. Master Collection CS4 is very nice, with a bunch of cool new features and steller integration between all the applications. But I was ready to do without it….

Granted, Adobe pretty much has the design market cornered nowadays, but they don’t need to treat their long-time loyal customers this way–even if they are the only game in town.

There are many, many Adobe Customer Service issues posted around the Internet. Here is one from a guy like me–he was just trying to buy some software:

Bill Harrel –


One Reply to “Is this what Abobe Calls Customer Service?”

  1. I had a similar experience trying to order the hardcopy version of an Adobe product. The folks a Customer Service don’t deviate from their scripts. It’s more like Adobe No Customer Service.

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