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My Experiences with O'Reilly's Safari service

I've had a couple of interesting experiences lately with O'Reilly's Safari service.
For everyone's amusement, I'm going to write down what's been happening.


02-11-2005

Loaded about 20 pages, using Firefox's bookmarks and tabbed browsing feature. Safari immediately complains sending me this email:

"This e-mail is to notify you that an unusual usage alert has been
triggered on your Safari account. Safari does this to protect your
account in the event it is being compromised and to protect Safari's
intellectual property. Please see Safari's Terms of Service for
specific information regarding the acceptable use of our books.
Continued alerts will result in the system locking your account.


Please make sure that you are not running programs that 'speed-up' web
browsing; or that spider, crawl or automatically capture web pages for
offline viewing. These types of tools will trigger further alerts and
violate the Safari Terms of Service.

Thank you,

The Technical Support Team
Safari Tech Books Online

North America: 800-775-7330
Outside North America: 707-827-4118
Hours: Monday-Friday, 6 a.m. - 5 p.m. PST
E-Mail: customer-service@safaribooksonline.com

Let's find out what this is about:

From: Mike Schilli
To: customer-service@safaribooksonline.com
Subject: Re: Unusual activity on your Safari account
Date: Thu, 6 Jan 2005 00:53:19 -0800 (PST)

I'm NOT spidering your site. I'm using tabbed browsing to load
10+ bookmarked pages to read them offline. I don't think this
violates your terms of service. If you think it does,
let me know and I'll cancel my subscription.

-- Mike

No response from O'Reilly until 03/09/2005 (a month later). Read the response below.


02-13-2005

Another problem. The day before, I had added a quite unusual book to my bookshelf, "Postal Clerk and Carrier Exam Cram (Exams 460 & 470)". It had shown up on the "New Books" list, and, hey, isn't Safari about books you would never buy, but are vaguely interested in? The next day, the book disappears, leaving a hole in my bookshelf. No notice from O'Reilly, it's just gone. Let's tell them.

From: Mike Schilli
To: Safari Customer Service
Subject: Book disappeared from my bookshelf

Hi Safari customer service,

last week I put a book on my bookshelf which now

a) suddently disappeared from my bookshelf, leaving an empty spot and
b) isn't available on Safari anymore.

The title of the book was "Postal Clerk and Carrier Exam Cram
(Exams 460 & 470) and it was available on Safari at
http://safari.oreilly.com/0789732610. It had been announced in
your "New books" section, that's why I picked it. I've started
reading it last week and would like to continue doing so now.

Questions for you:

* Why did a book that I selected just disappear?
* Why didn't I get notified?

I'm looking forward to an explanation.

-- Mike

No response from O'Reilly for about a month. Read on, it gets quite funny.


03-01-2005

Yet another problem. Tried adding a book worth 1.0 points to my bookshelf. I had an empty slot left. Safari responds with

"Sorry, you have 1 slot(s) available on your bookshelf.
The book you would like to add takes 1.0 slots.
To add this book to your bookshelf, you must first free 0 slot(s)
by removing one or more book(s) from your bookshelf .
Or, you can upgrade your subscription."
.

See the irony? There's 1 slot available, but the new book takes 1.0 slots. Hmmm. I need to free 0 slots to get the book. Ooops. Check out the screenshot, it's almost comical:

Sent an email to Safari's customer service on 03-01-2005.

Response from Safari:

First, a trouble ticket confirmation gets sent out.

Then, a couple of hours later, another email: A bounce message, seems like the support person's mailbox is full:


The original message was received at Tue, 1 Mar 2005 13:03:36 -0800
from xxx

   ----- The following addresses had permanent fatal errors -----
rt2jsl@sbolui.com
    (reason: 550 Gateway: 550 This user's mailbox is full (rt2jsl@sbolui.com) -
Try again later)
    (expanded from: )

   ----- Transcript of session follows -----
procmail: [29633] Tue Mar  1 13:03:36 2005
procmail: Assigning "SHELL=/bin/sh"
procmail: Assigning "LOGABSTRACT=all"
procmail: Assigning "LOGFILE=/var/log/procmail"
procmail: Opening "/var/log/procmail"
... while talking to pmx02.itza.net.:
>>> RCPT To:
<<< 550 Gateway: 550 This user's mailbox is full (rt2jsl@sbolui.com) - Try
again later
550 5.1.1 rt2jsl@sbolui.com... User unknown

    [ Part 2: "Delivery Status" ]

Reporting-MTA: dns; tracker.oreilly.com
Received-From-MTA: DNS; xxx
Arrival-Date: Tue, 1 Mar 2005 13:03:36 -0800

Final-Recipient: RFC822; customer-service@safaribooksonline.com
X-Actual-Recipient: RFC822; rt2jsl@sbolui.com
Action: failed
Status: 5.1.1
Remote-MTA: DNS; pmx02.itza.net
Diagnostic-Code: SMTP; 550 Gateway: 550 This user's mailbox is full
(rt2jsl@sbolui.com) - Try again later
Last-Attempt-Date: Tue, 1 Mar 2005 13:03:44 -0800

No response so far. Magically, after a week the problem goes away. No notice from O'Reilly.


03-09-2005

A month(!) after my first complaint (02/11/2005), Safari customer service responds to the Firefox tabbed browsing problem:

From: customer-service@safaribooksonline.com
To: m@perlmeister.com
Subject: [Tracker #459930] Re: Unusual activity on your Safari account
Date: Wed, 9 Mar 2005 16:06:38 -0800

Mike,

One solution to avoid getting alert messages is to not capture Safari
content to your Firefox browser the way you are currently doing it. At
this time we do not have a mechanism for allowing one account (yours)
to be exempt from our content protection mechanisms.

-Randy
-Safari Customer Service


03-09-2005

Well, at least I got a response after a month. Let's take the opportunity to ask what happened to my previous complaint, about the book that disappeared from my bookshelf. A couple of emails go back and forth.

From: customer-service@safaribooksonline.com
To: m@perlmeister.com
Subject: [Tracker #459930] Re: Unusual activity on your Safari account
Date: Thu, 10 Mar 2005 13:16:37 -0800

This question has been answered in the other email thread you have
going with us. As mentioned in that thread, all known emails from you
have been responded to. You mentioned one that I could not find and I
requested additional information on it.

Given your indicated level of dissatisfaction with Safari, dropping
your subscription may be an appropriate choice for you to make.

-Randy

Turns out that Safari customer service can't find my previous email anymore. I'm resubmitting the one about the book that disappeared.

A couple of hours later they're sending this:

From: customer-service@safaribooksonline.com
To: m@perlmeister.com
Subject: [Tracker #471925] Can't add book to my bookshelf
Date: Thu, 10 Mar 2005 18:04:41 -0800

Mike,

The title "Postal Clerk and Carrier Exam Cram" was added to the Safari
library by mistake and was removed as soon as we realized it was
there. We're surprised to hear that any IT professional put it on
their bookshelf. We'll reexamine our procedures for pulling down
titles and may include notification.

-Randy

Note that they're "surprised" that I put that book on my bookshelf. Not "sorry" for pulling books from my bookshelf without sending an explanation. And they're "reexamining" their procedures. Is this "Randy" for real? Let's find out:

From: Mike Schilli
To: customer-service@safaribooksonline.com
Cc: m@perlmeister.com
Subject: Re: [Tracker #471925] Can't add book to my bookshelf
Date: Thu, 10 Mar 2005 21:13:25 -0800 (PST)

On Thu, 10 Mar 2005 customer-service@safaribooksonline.com wrote:

> The title "Postal Clerk and Carrier Exam Cram" was added to the Safari
> library by mistake and was removed as soon as we realized it was
> there. We're surprised to hear that any IT professional put it on
> their bookshelf. We'll reexamine our procedures for pulling down
> titles and may include notification.

Actually, I'm a mailman. I just read computer books at night.

I couldn't help but notice the absense of any "sorry" phrases in your
email. Clearly, there was a mistake on your end, so any American
customer service rep would have said "sorry" in some form. Let me
guess: Did O'Reilly outsource customer service to Canada? Holland?

-- Mike

But alas, no luck:

From: customer-service@safaribooksonline.com
To: m@perlmeister.com
Subject: [Tracker #471925] Can't add book to my bookshelf
Date: Fri, 11 Mar 2005 07:20:51 -0800

Mike,

It sounds like we've resolved all your problems that we can. Feel free
to write again if you have something new regarding Safari.

-Randy
-Safari Customer Service


And, shortly later, without any communication going on, Randy suddenly goes ballistic:

From: customer-service@safaribooksonline.com
To: m@perlmeister.com
Subject: [Tracker #471925] Can't add book to my bookshelf
Date: Mon, 14 Mar 2005 09:21:33 -0800

Mike,

Your Safari account has been locked and your last billing cancelled.

Your emails continue to demonstrate your desire to pick a fight rather
than resolve issues, and it is not surprising you chose not to publish
the emails you've sent to Safari.

Hard as it may be for you to grasp, we are real people doing our best
to solve problems for our valued customers. Should you decide you are
ready to engage in a constructive dialog, feel free to contact me.

-Randy
-Safari Customer Service

"Chose not to publish emails" I've sent to Safari? What? I've only listed relevant emails, to keep it interesting, sure. But if I've missed out on anything important, I'm certainly going to fix that.

But Randy is clearly hurt now.

Hopefully someone like Tim O'Reilly (whose work I admire, by the way), will find out what's going on in his out-of-control Safari customer support department by searching the web for "O'Reilly Safari Customer Service sucks" or similar, and end up here. Hopefully soon on Google or Yahoo.


03-15-2005

Requested to talk to the guy's manager, who turned out to be a reasonable guy. After a short phone call, my account got reactivated.


05-09-2005

Every time I'm adding a new book to my bookshelf, Safari displays this message and won't let me. I've reported the problem three times to O'Reilly already, but the response is usually that they a) don't know how to fix it and b) add the book manually every time. Makes you wonder.


07-21-2005

Instead of charging $9.99 to my credit card once a month, they kept charging $9.99 every day for two weeks in a row! This is probably the longest credit card statement I've ever received:


08-01-2005

Called and complained, all charges have been credited back. Phew.


10-01-2005

Cancelled the service, since we get it for free at Yahoo! now.

But it's been one hell of a ride. Thanks for reading!


Latest update: 20-Oct-2013