I’ve been using Flickr since 2005 or so, when a coworker introduced me to it. Her love for the site was so infectious that she talked me into signing up even though I didn’t have a digital camera, and very few scanned images to share. But since then I’ve acquired several cameras, and a scanner, and built up quite a collection of photos on the site.
Last week I tried to do the same thing I do each year: renew my pro account to keep all those thousands of photos and sets live on the site. Except for the first time, it didn’t work. I got most of the way through the process (go to the order page, go to Paypal, approve the purchase, back to the site) and received an error page. The kind of generic, blank, “Something went wrong, but you can contact customer service if it stays that way” error that I hate inflicting on users. There wasn’t even a link to tell me how to contact customer service.
I waited a couple of days and tried again. Same error. Now Paypal reported I had two payment requests pending with Yahoo, but still no pro account. It seems something went wrong when the payment request was redirected back to Yahoo.
I dug around in the footer links on Flickr and found a link to file a help request. So I explained what happened, sent it off, and waited.
Yahoo customer service replied, asking me to confirm my account and billing information before they can help me. They requested my address and phone number. I explained that I pay through Paypal, and I don’t think that information is on file on my account. They emailed back asking for my date of birth, and provided a link to check what personal details Yahoo has on file. It doesn’t include my DOB.
So I responded, explaining that my DOB isn’t listed there, thus I don’t know whether they have it in the first place, and it’s completely beside the point to ask for this given that I 1) initiated the request from inside my Flickr account while logged in, and 2) need them to investigate a bug in their system, not a problem with my account (as far as I can tell).
Yahoo customer service’s reply to this is to ask for me to provide the answer to a security question, one that I also can’t find a way to confirm I have set. (Surely I’m not the only user who sometimes puts nonsensical answers in those fields.) By this point I felt more than a little frustrated. I did everything by their directions when I tried to renew my account, and now I have to do the work of convincing them to help me (Do you know my date of birth? Good for you! So does anyone with spare time and a search engine!). And meanwhile they wouldn’t acknowledge that there could be a problem with their billing system.
We’ve gone back and forth a few more times on this, with me trying to explain that I think there’s a bug on their end, and them asking for my DOB. Still. I even asked if they could escalate my ticket to someone who could explain why they need personal information I can’t verify they have on file. No luck.
(Personal info, over non-secure email. If verifying that I’m the account holder is really the issue, why not use Flickr’s internal message service?)
At this point, I think maybe I don’t even want a Flickr pro account. Sure, I loved having an easy way to put photos online, and share them with friends, but I don’t know if I want to deal with an asinine “service” system to get it. Flickr stopped being easy to use the second time I tried to renew my account and got that error. I don’t want to spend hours on email trying to get a resolution to this.
I don’t know what I’ll do next, though. I think it’s not worth the time sorting this out—either Yahoo will get a clue and resolve the error, or not. Meanwhile I’ll have to figure out what to do with my photo archives and all the dead links on my blog posts and other pages. I know there are other photo hosting services out there, but I haven’t seen one that wasn’t cluttered and ugly. Flickr always won on simplicity.