Latte Nation

Mugged by the New Economy

Don’t you Yahoo! Don’t even think about it.

By 11.6.03

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"Warning: Your mailbox is full!" was not the message in my in-box I expected to see this Sunday morning when I returned home from a night of partying, movie going, and sleeping on a friend's couch. In fact, it was the last thing I expected. And it was more -- much more -- than a trifling annoyance.

It meant that half a dozen essays that were supposed to come in had bounced back to the writers, with a note telling them (erroneously) that my e-mailbox was all full up; try back later, once I had done my part and taken out the trash. It meant that I had to reactivate an old back-up e-mail account and try to alert people to use that one instead. It meant coming in to the office on Sunday night and calling people all over North America to put the Monday edition of the website together. And it meant another little piece of my past had been lost.

I should explain: A few years ago, on a lark, I registered the domain name deviantreadings.com. It came, as most domains these days tend to come, with up to 10 free e-mail accounts -- remote access e-mail accounts. Think of it as Hotmail, but with monthly fees, an odd name, and unlimited storage.

It was great. When one article brought down the wrath of several thousand angry Muslims, I didn't have to worry about it overloading. The address was highly memorable: I often quoted it to people at social gatherings and received e-mails that night or the next morning, or sometimes a few days later. Rarely did I resort to the old pen and a cocktail napkin trick. I could log onto it from anywhere. It was so convenient that I continued to pay the monthly fee just for the e-mail, long after I had lost any interest in the website.

And I would gladly have continued to pay the $15 a month, but as part of their new ongoing efforts to screw the customer, the good folks at Yahoo! Website Services announced in the middle of September that they would limit accounts to 10MBs. They would hack all the accounts down to this limit by unilaterally deleting enough old e-mails to bring them under the line. Under massive protest, they agreed to (a) set the limit at 20 MBS and (b) allow the users to make room themselves. If the accounts went over 20 MBs, an All Full sign would be sent to would be correspondents, until we made room.

That was the theory anyway, and I decided to reluctantly live with it rather than switch e-mail programs. Out went thousands of angry e-mails, interviews, letters to and from former lady friends, pretty much everything that made the account worth keeping. I figured that I could make it work within the new limitations, but I obviously didn't count on the massive incompetence I was about to run up against.

This Saturday, having gone slightly over the 20MBs, I was told that the account was full. So I threw out several MBs and went on my merry way. Then, Sunday, the same message. I contacted Yahoo! customer support but they were not helpful. I was told that their "engineers" were looking into my problem. One correspondent even suggested that if I were to reduce my remaining e-mail cache even more, well, hey, you never know.

Incredulous, I replied that every minute that my e-mail was locked up was a minute in which I could not receive correspondence from editors and readers or articles from writers; the whole reason for my forking out nearly $200 a year for their service. Yahoo! should fix this problem yesterday. They responded by sending a survey to gauge my satisfaction with their service. One guess how they scored on that one.

In subsequent e-mails, we established that, gosh, I am under the limit after all, and they don't know quite what happened or how to fix it, but they'd look into it and get back to me. Engineers are no doubt feverishly pouring themselves into it as I type on Thursday night. Perhaps one day a triumphant tech will emerge from the twisted depths of my e-mail program with the reason why it got snarled up, and a solution to make Einstein's equation look like kindergarten fare, but by then I'll have moved onto something better.

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About the Author
Jeremy Lott is an editor of rare.us.