Bang On: Outsourced Xbox support is completely useless

Ever feel like a company's technical support phone line was set up in a way that it twists and bends your mind until you wind up letting them get away with shenanigans? After this weekend, not only am I convinced Microsoft's Xbox phone support is designed to drive a caller up the wall, but it's also nearly useless compared to the support offered elsewhere.

This all started when my girlfriend wanted to play a few levels of Sonic: The Hedgehog on Xbox Live Arcade. I had purchased the game two years ago, had beaten it, and then left it to sit on my hard drive untouched. In that time away, I've replaced my console numerous times due to faulty DVD drives. No red rings of death, just dead drives, but that's another story completely. Anyway, I should have known something this simple would go horribly wrong very quickly. No sooner does she start the game that I realize it's asking me to unlock the full version. Excuse me? Did I miss something here? I already started to mumble to myself as I followed the menu options to the marketplace where it clearly says that I've "already purchased this game" and that I could download it again. I downloaded it again and still received the same annoying message. I hate you, Microsoft.

I picked up the phone and figured I'd give Microsoft's Xbox phone support a try. I should have realized it was a holiday weekend and I had no chance of getting a call center in North America. I hope Microsoft saves a lot of money driving me insane as I try to communicate with people half way around the world who have no understanding of the Xbox Live system beyond what's written in their handbook. The first representative was completely lost and forwarded me to someone else almost instantly. This second woman decided that she needed to say "thank you" after everything I said. I'd say "your welcome" and she'd say "thank you", again. I had the speakerphone on and my girlfriend was hysterical laughing as quietly as she could.

With laughter in the background, my blood pressure rising, and an excessive amount of gratitude being given, the woman on the other end did everything from getting my console ID and serial number to having me clear my cache. The last step, by the way, involves losing all the game updates I ever downloaded, so every game I play now has to be updated, again. Best of all, none of this worked. I'm starting to really hate you, Microsoft.

After 30 minutes of complete failure, my case was moved up to a supervisor and she was the most useless of them all. At least the first representative admitted she knew nothing. This wonderfully useless supervisor simply asked me to fax over a copy of my receipts for when I exchanged my Xbox 360 at Best Buy. Slight problem: I don't own a fax machine and, right now, I don't have a printer to scan with. She advised me to use my "digi cam" to snap a photo of the receipts and use FaxZero.com to send the photo over. She was about to hang up when I kindly reminded her that she needed to tell me the number to fax it to. Slight oversight on her part, huh? I send the fax and decide it's time to go out with my girl and worry about this later. I hate you even more, Microsoft, and now I'm done.

Even leaving my house, though, I wasn't going to escape the grips of this horrible support case. The supervisor actually called me back four hours later to tell me the photo wasn't clear enough and I should try again and then, without much notice, she said "that's all we can do" and hung up. At that point, I was content with simply giving up and leaving the game broken. I wasn't going to let this Sonic fiasco do to me what Sega is doing the Sonic franchise these days. You must hate me as much as I hate you, Microsoft.

Today, however, in a moment of boredom and curiosity, I hopped on over to the Xbox Live forums and found the sub forums specifically designated for the Sonic arcade game. Sure enough, there was a thread about this exact problem and a solution given right there in the thread. All I had to do was use the new (at least to me) "License Transfer" tool to give my new console rights to the game. I followed the link and in three minutes I was finally up and running. All of that insanity with the so called "professionals" and I got nowhere. Five minutes online reading content from everyday gamers and all my problems are fixed. How can this be? How could the people getting paid for this not know about the license transfer tool? My mind is still lost as I search for this answer. All I know is that, for now on, I'm skipping Microsoft's help and going straight to the people with the answers: All of you. At least you won't thank me for every sentence I speak.

"Bang On" is a regularly occurring column written by Christopher Vendemio. The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Neowin.net

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Yanno I've had the exact same problem.

Sonic the Hedgehog - which I'd bought previously on another Xbox 360 - after selling it, and getting a new one over a year later, got my account back, downloaded the Full version - and it still says it's a demo.

I can't be bothered going through all this rigmarole for Sonic the Hedgehog though. But it's odd that I have the exact same issue.

Hysterical, to say the least. I know how you feel bro. I've had similar issues with other parts of support, not necessarily with XBOX though. Office Live, DreamSpark, it goes on.

Isn't it expected that support generally sucks :P

I had this brand new answering machine and it would play my recorded message garbled and wouldn't take messages so it was useless. Since I couldn't find the receipt I couldn't return it so I called the manufacturer and they said no problem and sent it to them at there expense. I was happy at this point because the I spoke to a local not someone off shore. I got it back and to my surprise it didn't work still -_-'

I would hate to get a rrod on a 360 send it in and find out on its return they didn't do anything :P

Thank you

i just wish Microsoft had released a stable console.. The xbox360 is the only video game console that i have had trouble with. I've still got a sega master system II that works yet my 360 keeps shutting down due to overheating..

Kind of sad that one would replace a product that "blew up" with a product from the same company.

I hope the next xbox is more reliable, as I've had the RROD 5 times (granted it isn't as much as some people).

I also hope the 360 has a lot of life left in it. I suspect so, especially with the economy.

Last time I called an overseas Xbox call centre, I took the time to speak to a supervisor and complement the operator. I have never done that before.

It was the BEST support I have ever had, and he was the BEST rep from any company I have EVER spoken to.

Some people have good experiences and other will have bad ones and make a big deal about it calling it "useless" because things didnt work out for them.

I did google the solution and searching for the terms I used yielded cheat codes for the Genesis version of the game. The only listed solution online was that one thread on the Xbox forums.

I hope a Microsoft employee in the xbox department is reading this. That is so angering. And to the guy who was charged, I wouldn't even give them another warning. Just go get a lawyer.

I don't understand why this guy had to call Customer Service for something as simple as that. If he had time to type all of that he could have simply googled the solution.

I had a similar situation with the Xbox Live Arcade thing. I ended up being on the phone for an HOUR with this one guy from the states (he was the third person i talked to in that hour and actually helped me).
Anyways, he explained everything to me in detail (guess he was on hourly). So he explains that the xbox communicates to the hard drive and checks if it is registered to that console (during the sign up process of your gamertag).

I ended up having to create a new gamertag, get the microsoft points redeem numbers 2 weeks later and enter tham to re-download all the content. That was about 2 years ago, and not sure if the samething applies today.

This ONLY happened when the console was disconnected from the internet, if it was connected, all content would work fine. Of cource I had to troubleshoot it myself, and no one in the tech support would tell me why it was happening, or confirm that the console being disconnected was the problem

I have had 3 xbox 360's and have had no problems with any of them

(first was a launch, sold it for one with HDMI when it came out, sold that for the one with the 60GB drive when that came out)

ive had my xbox360 for about 1 year now, and ive had to ring them three times.. the first 2 times were about my hard drive, and the third time was about my controler not working, thats when i found out that only the console has a 1 year, and all other things are 3 months!!!!

I have turned on my 360 once since February of 2008. It is the biggest POS ever built. I loved it at first. Then I had to get it replaced. Once the replacement did the same thing it has sat there gathering dust. I'm not supporting a platform that is so horrendous, ever.

If you don't want to transfer the licence and you already own the game just click unlock the full game from the in game menu, click on the download for the full game and you will be able to play it on that console until you sign out (providing you own it on the profile signed in)

This works great when im at a mates and we want to play an arcade games I own but he doesn't.

The licence transfer tool worked great for me, bear in mind you can only use it once a year.

Ah well, here I go from a different viewpoint.

Nov 19 I updated to the Xbox 360 NXE. After a reboot I got an RROD. I jumped online and looked for a solution but nothing worked. I registered on the Xbox Live support site and arranged a collection/repair. UPS turned up the next day, took away the console and returned it four days later. Pretty good.

Monday afternoon I switched on my PS3 but it wouldn't ready any disc I put into it. Again I checked online for a solution and it looked like it was going to be another repair job. I went to the Sony website to book the repair but they don't offer an online service. After spending literally *minutes* searching their website for a UK support phone number I called them up. After waiting twenty minutes to speak to a human being, the operator asked a few short questions and decided to book it for collection and repair. Despite only being a Monday afternoon I was told that my PS3 would be collection a week on Friday - nearly two weeks away! After waiting the said two weeks, the courier finally turned up and collected the PS3. A week later it was returned repaired.

The morale of the story? Support works better when humans aren't involved.

Thanks for the article. I had this problem as well but with a different game. It would allow me to play the full version as long as I was logged in, but when I was offline it went to a demo. So I tried this transfer deal and hope it will work.

Oh this is nothing compared to the disaster I encountered over the summer. When trying to get my red-ringed box replaced, they had serious issues "verifiying my address". Since I live in a rural area and was just assigned a street name, most databases don't recognize my address. Since this is the case, Microsoft refused to send me a box or label until I could verify where I lived. It took me 5 weeks to finally get to level 3 support to override the system and send me a box. Then, when they sent me the tracking number for the box, it showed delivery into Switzerland! I live in the US mind you, so I found them sending my box to a foreign country rather bizarre. Fast forward another week of arguing on the phone and I finally get my box. I send it out and the repair center receives it. The next day, the repair center in Texas is hit by a hurricane and is closed for a week. Another week later, my xbox finally arrives back (it was just replaced with a new one), almost two months after it red-ringed. I was really close to abdoning the entire brand, but they did apologize, sent me a new one with an extra power brick, and the obligitory month of Xbox Live. Plus, the game line-up for the fall almost covered my anger. Still, I was throughly disappointed with the service I received.

I'll try to keep this short but, as someone who's a senior sysadmin for a web hosting company that filters incoming tickets through an outsourcing company, Indian tech support is like any large group of people; a few winners and some losers. Sometimes they will do something that makes me want to scream but so do some of my coworkers so I can yell at them in real life. A few of them routinely do stuff that make me realize "Wow, I never would have thought of that in a million years. If he lived here I'd be going to him for help all the time."

It helps to think that the person on the other end of the phone is just a normal human being who wants to provide a better life for his or her family. I get annoyed by the thick accent as well but they speak better English then I speak Hindi or one of the dozens of languages spoken in India so I deal with it.

Several companies are outsorcing the helpdesk to India not because they want quality, but cheap laborer, reduce cost and such. So it is not strange to find a indian helpdesk without any clue about the product they are giving support, simply because the companies are not willing to spend money in training, instruction or documentation.


Blar said,
they speak better English then I speak Hindi

Well, nobody is hiring you to do Hindi customer service I hope.
If 90% of the job is speaking, they better speak well. Makes sense?

I had a similar thing with HP's customer support. my new laptop was making buzzing noises, and after doing research online, it seemed it was a hit-or-miss if the laptop made the buzzing noise - some made it, some, even the same specs didn't.

I wanted to exchange it. The first guy (american) said no problem, had another system built for me. When I would receive the new system, I would be able to mail back the original even though it was past the return date by the time the new one arrived.

Got the new system. Thankfully the buzzing didn't exist with the new one.

I called them so they could email me the return label. They had "No records" of the extension of the return. After trying to reason with someone in India for 20 minutes, she finally "found" something in my file, but wanted a tech support case number for when I called. I told her that I never gotten one as I knew what the problem was and I wanted an exchange and refused to send a brand new system in for and that the tech support agent said they did not deal with exchanges.

She was completely useless. She was saying it was my fault and that she couldn't do anything and that the buzzing was not a defect and was normal (hmmmm... then when do I have 2 machines side-by-side and one makes it, the other doesnt...)

Called back 3 more times and finally got through to someone who was willing to work with me and was able to process the exchange

This is representative of a LOT of frustration all XBox owners have come into contact with at some point. Everyone is going to post their short story on XBox support, so I'll post mine (and try to keep it short) :D. Subscribed to XBox Live Gold with my Credit Card. Credit Card expired, but Microsoft didn't automatically turn off my Gold access. I never used it, and had forgotten about it. 2 months later I'm greeted with a bill. My account becomes "locked" and I cannot get to any of my saved games (even though I've gone through the steps to downgrade my account to the free "silver" membership). I call XBox Support to try and dispute the bill (aka: see if they will just drop it). The (eventual) supervisor told me that I had to pay my bill, but since it had been overdue for 2 months now (thats all?) my account had been deleted. So....even if I paid my bill, my previous Live Account will no longer be accessible. Of course this ****ed me off, and I continued to cuss her out, royally (not a very proud moment, but it made me feel better). I later paid the bill (no use getting a collection agency after me for 18 bucks), and my XBox Live account was fully accessible. The support supervisor was clueless of this fact and probably the whole cuss-out thing could have been avoided.

Meanwhile, here is my experience with Apple support. "Hi, my keyboard does not work anymore." "Is it under warranty?" "Probably not, I bought it 2 years ago, but the keys do not work anymore." "Thats not a problem, we'll advance you a new one, and just send us back the old one in the provided shipping container." Next afternoon, I have a new keyboard.

I've also had exceptional experience with Apple's support. I accidentally broke some keys off my old laptop and it was out of warranty. I called them up, they said no problem, and next day I had a box to ship my laptop back to them. Got it back a few days later and my laptop had a brand new keyboard.

Generally speaking, higher priced hardware gets you better service. I've had two smooth and quick hardware repairs done by Dell for my laptop. Call them up, they send me a box the next business day, I ship it off, and it's back at my door two days later.

BanneD said,
and that's because you've paid a PC + 2 grand in advance for their hardware ;)

My Mac Mini only cost me $500. (Not that I'm one to defend Apple's overpriced hardware, just setting the record straight. I'm an avid PC/Windows user, however.)

[quote]This second woman decided that she needed to say "thank you" after everything I said. I'd say "your welcome" and she'd say "thank you", again.[/quote]

This reminded me of something

(Chinese woman from Dude where s my car)
And then?
And then?
And then?
(....)
And then, and then, and then, and then, and then, and then, and then, and then???[/quote]
:D

[quote=Lechio said,]This reminded me of something

(Chinese woman from Dude where s my car)
And then?
And then?
And then?
(....)
And then, and then, and then, and then, and then, and then, and then, and then???[/quote]
:D[/quote]
and theeeeeeeeeeennnnnnnnn??????

I've got a better one - i cancelled and supposedly had my xbox details removed from my live/hotmail account 18 months ago, when i notified the support centre of the change of ownership

fast forward 18 months and i see a 12 month subscription charged to my card - i check billing.microsoft.com and find that the old xbox live account is listed but with the other persons address - my card listed as expired yet still charged for this persons renewal

I spoke to the call centre and after 30 mins of trying to communicate with the person, the tell me that the account will be cancelled and details removed - i enquired about the refund and was told sorry thats not possible - at that point i suggested she spoke to her supervisor as it was only charged a week ago and that i would be refunded as it was their fault.

I have been told that i will be refunded and that the details have been removed - as of yet all i've been told is what i wanted to hear as nothing has happened and another phone call in a week will be taking place

jgreenough said,
I've got a better one - i cancelled and supposedly had my xbox details removed from my live/hotmail account 18 months ago, when i notified the support centre of the change of ownership

fast forward 18 months and i see a 12 month subscription charged to my card - i check billing.microsoft.com and find that the old xbox live account is listed but with the other persons address - my card listed as expired yet still charged for this persons renewal

I spoke to the call centre and after 30 mins of trying to communicate with the person, the tell me that the account will be cancelled and details removed - i enquired about the refund and was told sorry thats not possible - at that point i suggested she spoke to her supervisor as it was only charged a week ago and that i would be refunded as it was their fault.

I have been told that i will be refunded and that the details have been removed - as of yet all i've been told is what i wanted to hear as nothing has happened and another phone call in a week will be taking place


Tell them you have contacted your lawyer and are going to be suing them and the other party for credit card fraud. That should get them to issue the refund pretty quickly.

roadwarrior said,


Tell them you have contacted your lawyer and are going to be suing them and the other party for credit card fraud. That should get them to issue the refund pretty quickly.


Better yet call the bank and get the charge reversed. That usually cuts out the annoying calls to the merchant and get stuff done a lot faster...

Visa and the other Credit Card banks have a lot easier time taking their money out of company accounts than you ever will.

I've heard plenty of horror stories about that. The fact there is no easy way to remove your credit card, the fact MS have a habit of not doing what you ask and that they have the power to charge an expired credit card is darn right scary. How hard is it to put a "Remove Credit Card" button in either the Dashboard or at the very least the main billing website? if Sony can do it, there is no excuse MS can't. Xbox Live might be one of the best online gaming platforms but it definitely has a dark underbelly...