There is no worse betrayal than spending time and energy evangelizing a Company’s technology only to have that dedication spun on you with a calloused disrespect.  Today, I share with you the story of how — and I’m still wondering why — Google Apps Premier stole $150.00 from me on Saturday.


Our story is simple and timeless:  A company gets so big and so arrogant that it stops doing the right thing and begins to ignore inquiries from early adopting supporters.

If you pay for Google Apps, you are charged $50.00USD for each account you create.

Google has their administration of user accounts set up in such a devious way that once you purchase an account you cannot remove that account — even if it is stale and unused — and you will continue to pay for that account even if you instruct Google not to charge you.

Instead of getting auto-charged annually by Google Apps Premier for only the active accounts, you are re-charged for every single account you have ever purchased!  That means if the economy slows, or if the use of accounts changes — you are still forever bound and owing, in perpetuity, to pay Google for every account ever created.

That is a stunning cruel and, frankly, stupid policy for doing business in a declining economy.

The Google Apps Premier auto-renewal process has bothered me so much that, six months ago, I removed the option to auto-renew because the Google Apps Premier administration dashboard made it clear I would be charged for all my accounts and not my active accounts.

A month before my renewal date, Google Apps would give me a dunning notice every time I logged into my Admin interface warning me that if I did not set up auto-renewal, my account would be dropped to the free level.  How’s that for a silent, enforced, kneecapping?

Ten days before my auto-charge date, I contacted Google to ask them not to charge me for the three accounts I was not using.  I told them I only wanted to renew my active accounts and not all the accounts I had ever purchased.  I received an auto-reply but no human response.

I then tried to get an answer from Google on two more separate occasions and I was ignored in the same manner.

Then, on Saturday — auto-renewal day — I was burned by Google as expected, and I and was charged for every single account I had ever created even though that makes zero sense from a business standpoint:  Does “Google, The Company” continue to pay for their employees that leave or are reduced due to economic squeezing?  Of course not:  Google deletes them, and their accounts, and no longer supports a dead, phantom, Google account.

When I received the bill from Google Checkout for the full auto-renewal price, I immediately asked for a $150 credit and asked why I was being charged for accounts I was not using. 

I consider that $150 stolen from me since I repeatedly, and expressly, forbade Google — in writing — from charging me for accounts not in use.

Again, I received only a robot reply from the Google, and no human has yet dared to respond to a single inquiry for help to resolve this matter.

In my experience with Google, when they have no clue how to answer you, or how to fix a problem, they just ignore you.  They will first blame you and then only if you viciously fight back will they deign to consider you might be right.

From the start I was in the right about this ridiculous auto-renewal program for Google Apps Premier — I guess it is beyond Google’s human want to understand or to ever consider someone would want less Google and not more forever — and yet the fix, to me, appears to be simple:  Give us the choice at renewal time to set precisely how many accounts we want to renew!

Doing the right thing isn’t hard — and Google must step forward in the public square to set this right and stop stealing $150 from loyal users when the error of their ways had been brightly, and correctly, pointed out to them for a good, long, while.

13 Comments

  1. Thievery, pure and simple. I don’t get why Google would resort to picking every last penny they can get when they are pretty much swimming in money like Scrooge McDuck.

  2. It’s disturbing and disappointing, Gordon. I checked my saved/pending email folder, I have no less than four, official, open and unanswered Tickets with Google on this matter alone. The oldest one was created on July 16. No response from them on any of those matters.
    I replied again to each unique ticket this morning and included the URL for this article as evidence of my frustration. We’ll see if we actually get a response — let alone a solution — my hopes are not high on that happening.

  3. Hey David,
    I don’t have my own company running on Apps, but I searched for this:
    http://www.google.com/search?q=google-apps%20renew%20change%20accounts
    The first result was:
    http://www.google.com/support/a/bin/static.py?page=guide.cs&guide=20878&topic=20881
    Which says:
    You may not select a number below the current number of created user accounts. You must first delete the excess accounts and then return to Change Renewal Terms. [Instructions to delete user accounts]
    Sounds like it is possible, no?
    -BobS

  4. UPDATE:
    Chris, from a Google support team in California, just called and left a kind Voice Mail message to set things right with the overcharge for unused/unwanted Google Apps Premier accounts.
    He said he wanted to talk to me about my experience to help make Google better and that he’d try to reach me again in an hour.
    Five minutes after his call, I received an email from Google Checkout confirming a $150.00 refund was being processed on my credit card.
    This is great news, and I’m delighted Google did the right thing by giving me my money back first and then try to figure out how and why things went so wrong — wasting my time and theirs — I only wish I didn’t have to always take to The Boles Blogs Network to express my frustration with Google every time they disappoint me in order to proper action from them.
    My hope is that Google will begin to always strive to inherently and naturally do the right thing with everyone and every business entity — instead of often needing to be publicly shamed into it every time.

  5. UPDATE:
    I just finished a 30 minute conversation with Chris and his supervisor Rich at Google.
    We had a great chat about the confusion in getting the user/account/user account situation fixed.
    The problem, it seems, is that when you turn off auto-renewal for your Google Apps Premier account, you are then unable to choose how many users you want to renew unless and until — you turn auto-renewal back on and then re-enter your Admin interface and then set the renewal terms. The current process is confusing and Google is working to make renewing less of a hassle in the future.
    Because of this misunderstanding, Google decided to let me keep the three extra accounts for this year — even though they already processed a swift refund — and I appreciate that forward-thinking and proactive customer support response: Now that is the Google we have all come to know and love! SMILE!

  6. Hi BobS —
    Sorry for the delay in publishing your comment. It was marked as Spam.
    You’re smarter than me to use Google to google a solution to the problem! SMILE!
    Yes, you’re right — the trouble I was having was if auto-renewal is turned off, you are not allowed to change your renewal terms… in fact, that link disappears altogether.
    As I said in my updated comments, Google and I worked this out together over the phone. We did a step-by-step re-enactment of my issue and found the confusing spots to fix in the future.

  7. Hi,
    I’m currently tearing my hair (or what’s left of it) trying to cancel an extra user account from our Enterprise account. We’re still on trial period for both but can’t find a cancel button!
    if you’ve got any idea would love to hear about it 🙂
    Ken