How To Piss Off a Paying Customer?

A while ago I wrote a piece on this blog titled “Autodesk’s New Upgrade Pricing Policy” describing Autodesk’s new pricing policy to take effect in less than two weeks. According to this new policy customers not on subscription would now have to pay half the price of a new seat of AutoCAD if they wanted to upgrade to the latest version. As I explained in my post I believe this new policy has the potential of adding to Autodesk’s problems mainly due to the timing.

Today a visibly pissed off Autodesk customer left a comment to that post. You may want to read the comment to know exactly why. He sent an email to his reseller to be forwarded to Autodesk. He sent me a copy as well. Quite an interesting one, I must say. I would list it here but the language is quite flowery, even by my standards. No prizes for guessing in which bin that email ended up, if at all it did reach Autodesk.

There is one sentence in the email that I do want to list here though:

The year is 2010 and even THAT version I have is already outdated with NO tech support or file updates allowed.

This is something I brought up in my interview with Shaun Murphy at SolidWorks World 2010 when I asked him about his company’s policy of not providing non-subscription customers access to service packs. As a software developer myself I am ashamed. I believe PTC does the same. I am not sure about Siemens PLM and Dassault Systemes.

[Edit: I apologize. I was mistaken about the availability of Autodesk service packs. See the update at the bottom of this post]

This is absolutely ridiculous. How can a software vendor legally be allowed to sell a non-subscription license and then deny the licensee access to service packs? The big CAD vendors are hiding behind the excuse that they add new functionality in service packs. That’s their bloody problem. Service packs, service releases or whatever you want to call them are meant to fix bugs, not add new features. New features are added in new major or minor versions. Have a 2010.1 version for all I care.

This is like selling a product and offering a year’s warranty only if the customer pays extra for an annual maintenance contract. I am badly in need of someone to explain to me how this is even legal.

Update

Brian Sather from Autodesk (@bsather) tweeted me this link to download AutoCAD service packs. Does anyone know of a link to download SolidWorks service packs?

  • “This is absolutely ridiculous. How can a software vendor legally be allowed to sell a non-subscription license and then deny the licensee access to service packs?” etc…

    Deelip, this is very easy to understand. As you, many of your readers and just about all software users are going to find out, software products are ‘completely outside’ the application of ‘normal merchantable quality’, fair trading rules. Therefore – for the moment – software vendors can do as they please; bitch and complain a customer may but it is to no avail – your mate Bass knows this and that is why he can bin ‘looney’ complaints and Autodesk, and its dealers, can snub their collective noses toward their customers.

    This ‘new’ pricing of Autodesk’s is seen by many as a push to increase subscription patronage: and has given rise to the suggestions of price rises there as well; but I believe, subscribers are not too far away from waking up to a change ‘in the terms of ownership and access, of considerable significance, that will make payment and pricing increases a mandatory business expense.

    You may be ‘ashamed’ of what you see – but, as a vendor, you’re on your own.

  • It is very unfortunate that your post immediately followed a complaint by an Autodesk customer with a complaint about non-access to service packs unless on subscription, and also of incorporating feature upgrades in service packs.

    Whatever else Autodesk is guilty of, they are not guilty of either of these things. Access to AutoCAD service packs, updates and hotfixes has never been dependent on Subscription. The last time an AutoCAD service pack included new functionality was R13c4, about 15 years ago. I suggest you edit the body of your post to make it clear that that is the case, not just by adding an ambiguous footnote.

    By all means bash Autodesk when and where they are being anti-customer, but don't just lump them in with other companies based on a mistaken assumption that they are doing the wrong thing. Stuff like this devalues any genuine complaints we may make.

  • You are correct. I have added an edit.

    About adding new functionality in service packs, this post is not Autodesk specific. SolidWorks does add new functionality in service packs. But even if Autodesk did, it would actually be a good thing since updates are available to everyone.

  • Dave

    Deelip…

    Thanks for the update. I got my “not being able to get updates” info from “my” VAR. I was told I cannot get updates “or” call tech support once my subscription ran out. I'm glad to hear that I can at “least” update my very expensive software. I'll “man up” and apologize to Autodesk on that “one” item of my “flowery” e-mail. 😉 I just got the e-mail address to the CEO of Autodesk, so I'll probably forward off my “pissed off” e-mail to him. I just can't sit around and let Autodesk walk all over “we” the paying customers who are keeping Autodesk in business. Autodesk definitely has the wrong business model when it comes to taking care of their customers. Being “fined” a non-removable $100 late fee and then having to pay full price AGAIN once a certain date passes by is just unacceptable. I have a “zillion” software packages, and not ONE of them follows this type of punitive system. Like I mentioned in the e-mail, if Autodesk would lose the bloated VAR overhead and let WE end users and PAYING customers buy directly, then everyone would benefit. We'd get better pricing, and Autodesk would probably sell a lot more seats of its product. Currently, Autodesk is breeding extreme discontent within its paying customer user base. I don't need to deal with a VAR to purchase software. If VAR's want to provide training on their own, then great… just keep your hands out of MY pocket when it comes to paying for the software. I feel a revolution coming on. 😉 Thanks again Deelip for the update…

  • Sorry Deelip, as a general rule, SolidWorks does not add new Features in Service Packs. Why? because then customers on different Service Packs could not trade files. If this was happening, we'd be hearing about it.

    Devon Sowell

  • By features, I don't means new parametric features. That would break the file version. I mean new functionality like adding a RSS news feed to the task pane.

  • The RSS news feed, that I turn off, has been in there for many years. Also, that's not a tool that helps one design parts and assemblies, that's marketing fluff. Again, Service Packs fix Bugs and mistakes and add no other function of value.

    Devon Sowell

  • John

    SolidWorks definitely adds functionality in service packs, just as long as they don't affect the file format.

    These enhancements are documented in the release notes that are published when service packs are released. Not all are show stoppers, but some are very valuable.

  • Hi John-

    OK, can you name any?

    Thanks,
    Devon

  • John

    For 2010:
    * Support for Windows 7
    * Support for AutoCAD 2010 DXF/DWG
    * New PDF Export Options
    * Low-Memory Graphics Cards and Windows Vista or Windows 7
    * Added tutorials for Sustainability

  • OK, good points however;

    For 2010:
    * Support for Windows 7
    I figured out how to run 2009 on 7
    * Support for AutoCAD 2010 DXF/DWG
    Don't care about this
    * New PDF Export Options
    What's wrong with the old way?
    * Low-Memory Graphics Cards and Windows Vista or Windows 7
    Not an issue for me
    * Added tutorials for Sustainability
    Fluff, don't use it.

    That list would not make up for the pain of installing a Service Pack thoughout a company or the cost of the Service Pack.

    Thanks,
    Devon

  • John

    Glad you were able to get Win 7 working with 2009.

    Unfortunately, some users aren't willing, or able to find workarounds.

    As far as AutoCAD 2010 support, some users need it.

    The PDF options are pretty nice

    * High quality lines. For drawings only. Vectored lines are drawn double precision for best quality. Increases file size and time to save file.

    * Shaded/Draft geometry DPI. For drawings only. Controls dots per inch setting. An increased value improves quality while increasing file size and time to save file.

    * High quality shaded edges. For drawings only. The edges of shaded views are drawn with vectors instead of being raster-drawn. Increases time to save file.

    For graphics cards with 256 MB of memory or less, SolidWorks now suppresses some advanced display features.

    Most of our users use an admin image for installs and updates. Not painful at all.

    My real point was that service packs include functional enhancements.

    Best regards,
    John

  • Unfortunately that is not entirely true. I was on subscription to Autodesk Inventor until last fall, but was unable to renew the subscription due to being unemployed after my industry completely tanked. It is true that I can go and get service pack two of Inventor from the Autodesk website, but unfortunately that service pack cannot be applied without hosing iLogic, which was part of the subscription bonus pack. In order to apply the service pack and still have iLogic work, you need to have the service pack for that as well —and that service pack is behind a subscription only firewall.

    So — some of the bugs that have been with Inventor 2010 since the very beginning such as the bizarre MakeNurbsSurface (an error that occurs on startup –three times in a row), are destined to stay. And it is very unlikely that myself and many, many, others will be able — let alone willing — to pay a penalty for falling on hard times.

    I’ll be writing a post on this on my own website today as it is of great concern to me as I am writing tutorials for iLogic.

    Mark Randa
    http://opendesignproject.org/

  • Krautner

    I have owned AutoCAD from release 12. Due to monetary issues I could not afford to upgrade yearly. But when Autodesk started to not support products I was forced to upgrade to keep my license current. When I was forced to upgrade from 2000 to 2004 my reseller suggested Architectural Desktop 2004 as it was cheaper than straight AutoCAD. I have been a Civil Engineering Tech for over 20 years and have never worked for an Architect, but a savings is a savings. Then when 2004 was being retired my reseller suggested Revit Suite 2007 for the same reason, so I upgraded to Revit. Now 2007 has been retired I have been trying to upgrade to Civil 3D, the software I use at work. I was given the run around before 2007 was retired and the cost wouls be over $4000 which I did not have. Recently my father passed away and left me the money to do the cross over. I contacted my reseller and he said I could, through the legacy program cross over to Civil 3D. I paid for the product and subscription, almost $4500. What I received was Revit 2011, not what I ordered or wanted. I have contacted my reseller and he is baffled at what is going on and does not know what Autodesk is doing. As far as I know there is no way for me to contact Autodesk directly. Does anyone know if there is a way for software owners to contact Autodesk directly to find out what is going on? Last I talked to my reseller I was concidering to just say screw it and get my money back, as I really do not want Revit. If I go that rought I will just get AutoCAD LT, not what I really want either but what you going to do.

  • Your reseller should definitely be able to put you in touch with the appropriate person at Autodesk.

    Also, have you tried the Autodesk forums? I believe a few Autodesk employees keep an eye on that. At least they keep a watch to keep it clean. So maybe you could leave your details and request that someone appropriate from Autodesk to contact you.

  • stevejohnsonCAD

    This is definitely a reseller issue, sorting out this sort of thing is what they do for their money. Don't bother with the forums as a method of getting in touch with Autodesk.

  • Dbaird

    REFUSE TO PAY AUTODESK RESELLER LATE FEES FOR ANNUAL SUBSCRIPTIONS.

    Our reseller Hagerman tries to charge us an extra $100. per license for our Revit Subscriptions.

    They want the Subscriptions paid in April prior to the release of the new update…..which makes sense.

    However, for the last 5 years the first update is unusable because of
    bugs. The Service pack that solves some of the bugs come out in June or
    July. Then some brave firms test it out & tell the rest of us whats
    been fixed or not. Usually the SP is test & deemed usable &
    safe by August or September. SO that’s when we are ready to pay our
    yearly subscription fee again…you know- when the upgrade is usable!!

    But every year Hagerman tries to charge us a late fee without a
    viable explanation (because there is none) And every year we threaten to
    go to another reseller & we can our subscription about 2-3 weeks
    after we pay.

    Does everyone else have wait 2-3 weeks to get your renewal Subscription after you pay?