Adsense Nonsense or Dell Hell 2.0

I’ve been interacting with Adsense customer service for a week now, and I empathize with Jeff Jarvis’ Dell Hell saga and the resulting frustration that he must have felt. I know I’m frustrated. After a full week of email exchanges (there is no other method provided to contact Adsense), I’m turning to my blog in the hopes that someone at Google might be listening just as Jarvis did with Dell two years ago.

Guy Kawasaki wrote a post analyzing the performance of his blog over its first year called, A Review of My First Year of Blogging. One of the measures Kawasaki examined was his Adsense performance. What was significant in that bullet was not his reported low CPM, but this aside:

(This assumes that I can get Google to pay me. I’ve tried several times during the year to get my snail mail PIN so that I can get paid, but I’ve never received it. I don’t mind Google getting the float…)

There was an update which stated that the Adsense Product Manager, Rob Kniaz had read the post and Kawasaki’s problem was resolved fourteen hours following his post about it. I’m no Guy Kawasaki, and I don’t have his audience reach, but with that sort of responsiveness can you blame me for trying after a full week of Adsense Nonsense?

I’ve used Adsense on almost from its beginning. Many bloggers, myself included, thought if we receive a bit of revenue for something that we were doing anyway, all the better. I never went into the Adsense relationship thinking that it would provide me a living, but heck, something is better than nothing. I allowed my tiny ad revenue to collect at Google, and finally when I had a purpose for it, on May 15th 2007, I requested my first check to be mailed and simultaneously changed my address to ensure the check would arrive at my current residence. That’s where the trouble started.

I read all of Adsense’s FAQ docs and even watched a video on the payment process and checked my account which showed my first Adsense check was processed on May 25th and should be on its way. Two weeks later, I checked in with Adsense and noticed that the address my check was mailed to was the old address I had updated on May 15th. I checked my Adsense account information and the new address was displayed. The problem must be simple to resolve, I thought, afterall, this was an error by Google. I thought wrong.

According to the Adsense help files, if you must request a reissue of a check, you must wait until one month following the release date of the check, request the reissue, and wait for the next month’s check cycle for payment to be made. Some quick math in my head and I realized that my check wouldn’t be released to the correct address until July 25th. More than two months from the time I requested it. That’s bureaucracy that would make the government blush. (okay, maybe not)

Of course, since the problem in my case was created by Google there must be an expedited process. Wrong, again. My email exchanges with Adsense customer service were professional and pleasant on their side, but my ability to gain the attention of anyone other than anonymous emailers felt like insult to injury.

I assured that my “feedback” would be shared with the “appropriate people.” Hello! This is a problem created by the company not feedback, and if you can share my email with the appropriate people, then why not share me with the appropriate people and give me a way to contact them. I was told the following:

I understand that you would like to be able to contact a particular AdSense specialist directly. In order to protect the privacy of our employees, Google’s policy doesn’t allow the release of contact or personal information for any of our specialists.

I appreciate your understanding.

To which I replied:

No, Suzie. I don’t want to talk to Adsense specialists. I want to talk to their managers, directors or VPs. I do believe that Adsense owes me this much after destroying our business relationship. Can you do that? Or does policy require that you blow off (ignore the requests from) a customer who is so clearly mistreated and unhappy?

And received this reply from payment specialist Suzie:

This privacy policy applies to other Google employees as well but please be assured that I will take the appropriate escalation measures.

Privacy? Isn’t Google a public company doing business with the public? What sort of escalation measures are involved here, given that I’ve been told there is nothing that can be done other than I wait another month for a payment requested and processed on May 15th? Suzie had instructed me that there were no expediting processes available to her, so what is there to escalate? From Suzie on July 2nd:

Thanks for your reply. While reviewing our system, I have confirmed that your address was changed on May 15th but was not properly updated in our system until June 15th due to a technical delay. I apologize for this inconvenience.

Please be assured that the process to have your payment credited back to your account and issued again has been started. Although I would like to expedite this process for you, we only issue payments on a monthly basis. I appreciate your patience.

Why should I have patience? And 2 1/2 month’s worth of it? So let’s rewind.

  1. You’ve told me that the error was an Adsense technical problem.
  2. You’ve told me that there is no expedited process for correcting the problem. I must wait until Adsense reaches its check issuing cycle.
  3. You’ve told me that I can’t communicate with anyone else or anyone higher up at Google, because it’s a privacy issue for Google employees.

So, what is there to escalate? Suzie did have some advice for me, though. Her recommendation:

One way that we’re improving our payments system is offering the Electronic Funds Transfer payment option (EFT) to more publishers. EFT is a payment option that allows you to have your AdSense payments deposited directly into your bank account at no additional cost. With EFT, there’s no risk of having a check lost in the mail and you don’t have to wait for a check to clear. Within about 10 days after a “Payment in Progress” line appears in your AdSense account, you should see your earnings credited to your bank account.

Okay, so I’ve let my Adsense account accumulate at Google for a year. The first time I request payment, Adsense has a technical problem and doesn’t recover from the system fault for a full month. My address change was processed on June 15th although it was submitted on May 15th. And now, I’m suppose to give Adsense access to my bank account? You can’t be serious!


Thanks for your note, but I, now, have no confidence in Adsense and, therefore, wouldn’t let the system near my checking acct…. There’s no reason to expect that some technical glitch from Adsense wouldn’t screw up my bank acct., if it can’t recover from an address change. I find that prospect too frightening to consider.

My first communication with Suzie following her admission that indeed the error was created by an Adsense technical error provides the best summary of how I continue to view this situation.

Thank you for your diligence and honest reply. However, a system that can’t recover from faults isn’t a working system. What if Google’s search engine experienced a fault and couldn’t recover for a month or two? How many customers could Google retain with that sort of performance?

I find you’re inability to expedite my payment not as your fault, but a systemic fault which renders Adsense unreliable. What a shame that this is my first and last experience with Adsense [payments]. Customer service that is incapable of dealing with corner cases (especially those it creates) is no service at all. It is my view that you should be empowered and should have the ability to run this issue up the chain and get it resolved. You are, afterall, the face of Google to me and other customers. tsk, tsk, on Google.

Darren Rowse, author of the excellent Problogger blog, responded to Kawasaki’s conclusion that Adsense wasn’t a good solution for bloggers with a post prophetically titled, Does Adsense Suck for Bloggers? Well, Darren, for this blogger…it does suck. Not because of the low income involved, but because getting service including the service of getting payment is just not reliable.

As I explained to the first customer service person to email me from Adsense, I finally requested payment from Google because I had a use for the money. I need to buy a car. I planned to use my little Adsense check to add to a down payment for a car. No Adsense check, incomplete down payment, equals no car. The impact for me in this event is real and significant. Google…are you listening?

UPDATE:  Today from, If Trust is Lost, Google Will Crumble.   Money quote:

Google’s business model is built on trust. If users’ perception of the company changes, its business perspectives and profits will come under threat.

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