OMGN: Online Movies & Games Network

One Man's Xbox Live Support Issues

Feature; Dec. 14, 2011; Channels: Video Games; By Robert F. Ludwick
Subtypes: Column, Opinion
Justin Massongill just couldn't catch a break ... Until Major Nelson stepped in.

Usually, customer service and support departments operate relatively smoothly. There may be glitches and hiccups sometimes, but in the end, customers get helped. This is especially true if you're talking about companies such as Amazon, which has such an exemplary track record with customer service that, well ... I can't even think of a time when it didn't go above and beyond to help me with issues.

Microsoft

Unfortunately, sometimes issues can linger unresolved for long stretches of time at other companies. In this case, it's Microsoft. This is the story of Justin Massongill and his journey through Microsoft's support system.

For Justin, this all started more than four months ago, even before the FIFA hacking allegations cropped up. His account was broken into in early August, with a hacker buying $125-worth of Microsoft Points using his credit card. Said hacker then proceeded to go on a shopping spree on the Xbox Live Marketplace. Thankfully, Justin caught the activity rather quickly, and his bank got his money back to him the very next day. Yet Microsoft's response to the hack has been sub-par, to say the least.

Justin is an editor over at Nukezilla, one of my favorite indie video game press websites. He actually wrote an article regarding the hacking incident when it first happened. To me, the worst part of his predicament is explained in his words:

"The part I’m most upset about, more so than the fact that I’ve been Identity Theft’d for the first time in my life, is that while my account is locked down I can’t log into my Xbox Live profile, on or offline. That means I can’t access any of my saved games (I was really close to finishing Bastion!) or save new ones. Thankfully, I recently started a new game of Final Fantasy Tactics on my PS3 so that’ll keep me busy for a while."

It sucks when your account on any website or service is hacked into, but when it's your Xbox Live account (or PlayStation Network, etc.), everything becomes inaccessible.

This isn't an uncommon response. It's a security measure to ensure no further hacking happens, and it also allows Microsoft to look over the account and internal logs without them getting added to or modified. In Justin's case, though, it became locked and stood locked for a month before the company got back to him again.

Xbox Live

In September, about a month after the hacking incident happened, Microsoft gave Justin a call asking for his console's ID and serial number. He was unable to take the call at the time, but a couple days later, he gave them a call back to get them the information. Justin kept in contact with Microsoft over the next few months, but his account was never unlocked again for use during that time. He says:

"I called back a few more times over the next few months, and each time I was told there's no way for them to tell how much longer it's going to take, and that I just need to hang tight. The reps were consistently very friendly, but ultimately not helpful. On two of these calls, I asked if they could give me something in return for all the trouble I'd gone through, and each time they gave me a code for a month of XBL, which they assured me would be in addition to however many months I was out of service once this was all sorted."

What a slog, right? To be honest, I'm surprised he worked with them as long as he did. This just screams, "We don't care if you move to our biggest competitor." Justin also has a PS3, and he could have easily given up on Microsoft entirely and dedicated all of his future gaming to the PS3 and the other systems he owns. In fact, he threatened to do just that a few times with Microsoft. While on the phone with their customer support representatives, he broached the possibility of leaving them for a competitor. It didn't get him anywhere closer to getting his account fixed.

This all finally came to a head Dec. 13. He got an email from Microsoft telling him he had regained access of his account -- four months after this ordeal began. When he went to log on to his account on Xbox.com, however, he still couldn't access it. He called up Microsoft to discuss the issue, and what happened wasn't pretty. He detailed this particular part in the story on Google+. It's pretty disturbing, actually, to see how this particular representative backtracked on what earlier representatives had told him:

"Once I got on the phone with the supervisor, she said she'd give me TWO months (not the four I was without an account, since I had gotten two months previously, though I was told at the time those would be in addition to whatever time I was down), and that was all. I tried to illustrate the absolute ludicrousness of this to her, and we ended up yelling at each other for half an hour, me insisting that what she was proposing was both contradictory to what I was previously promised, and her insisting that that was the absolute best she could do for me."

By this point, Justin had pretty much reached the end of his rope. He tweeted about this latest setback as well, and that is what helped everything get resolved the morning of Dec. 14. He copied Microsoft's Major Nelson (Larry Hyrb) on his tweet. If you actually read the Google+ post I linked to earlier, you'll have noticed that Larry Hyrb responded to Justin there and said he'd see what he could do.

Indeed, Larry came through for Justin. Just this morning, Justin announced via Facebook that he had finally regained access to his Xbox Live account. Microsoft ultimately gave him the four months back on his account to replace the time he was unable to use his account and also tacked on a half-year as further compensation. It also dropped more Microsoft Points into his account just for good measure. It turns out Hyrb really did help Justin, as well as a wonderful woman named Beth in Microsoft's Exceptions Management department.

I think this whole thing is pretty unbelievable. First of all, nobody who paid for access to something should have their account locked for four months. And nowhere along the way should the company that locks the account not compensate the account holder for the entire time the account was unavailable. Especially if the account was hacked by somebody else.

Something else that is unacceptable is the fact that it took one of the most public figures in Microsoft's Xbox division to intervene to get things fixed. Larry Hyrb is a stand-up guy, but he shouldn't have to get involved in cases like this. These things should be handled by the people who are supposed to handle them.

Finally ... I find it interesting that Microsoft has a department titled Exceptions Management.

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