Too Cool for Internet Explorer

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Passing the Buck (or—Skype Is Screwing Some People)

Something is wrong here.

You may or may not have heard, but the Skype service of being able to call a regular telephone from your computer at reduced rates was recently made free for calls placed from and made to somewhere in the U.S. and Canada. This offer will be good until at least the end of the year, if not longer. Certainly you’ve heard about it because in just 22 hours, SkypeOut For Free has gotten more than 5,200 Diggs.

But I’m not benefitting from it!!

My small balance I had remaining when the announcement was made continued to tick down during a call last night, and actually cut me off when my balance reached zero. I had just chalked it up that maybe you had to use an existing balance before the free connection would kick in. Well, in order to continue my call last night (which I was definitely inclined to do), I had to drop more cash into my account.

Here’s Skype’s response to my query over the matter:

We have recently made changes to the way we detect your internet address in order to include a number of users who were initially left out. We ask that you please try and place your call again as you should now be able to place calls withing the US and Canada to regular phone numbers withing the US/Canada without being charged or asked to purchase credits.

However, there may be a small percentage of users in the US and Canada who may not be able to take part in this offer because of their Internet Service Provider (ISP).

If you are located within the US or Canada and cannot call other numbers within the US and Canada without being asked to pay, please contact your Internet Service Provider.


I do not think so. No ISP—especially Brighthouse/Roadrunner/Earthlink that I use—is going to budge on “fixing” their system (which works perfectly fine) just because a little company that can’t explain why their customer isn’t benefitting from their offer claims it’s the ISP’s fault.

Were it not for the fact that even without the free offer, 2.1¢ a minute to Canada is just too attractive than anything else for me to stop using it. But dammit, Skype, you cannot make an offer such as this and just say “sorry” when your system can’t detect internet addresses. How does that matter, anyway? The Skype client logs in with an account username and password. What the hell difference does it make what their internet address is? If I’m traveling, my internet address may be different every time I use it.

Update: I’m not forgiving those involved, yet, but in the interest of full disclosure, I used Skype to talk to someone in Canada for nearly an hour last night, and this time was not charged. Clearly, the free offer either finally kicked in, or my gripe to Skype’s customer service set a fix into motion.

But, something related is now looking a little fishy. At the time I learned of the free offer, my SkypeOut balance was $3.53. That first night, I made a call, and the balance counted down. I just chalked it up as maybe I have to let it finish, then the free offer kicks in, but when I got to $0, my call was disconnected and I had to put in more money to keep calling. I needed to keep talking, so I put another $10 of credit in there. Reluctantly, but I did it. When I finished that call (yes, it was a very long time—why do you think I’m using Skype??!!) my balance was $6 and some odd change. Bear in mind that my return reply to Skype’s response (above), not only informed them that I felt their answer and rationale was completely asinine, but that I would ask for someone in a supervisory position to examine the issue, as well as consider crediting my PayPal account for what I was forced to spend—and I don’t mean put the money back into my Skype pot because it would expire prior to the end of the free promotion. Well, here’s the new “fishy” part: my Skype account now shows my balance back to $3.53 when this all started. However, I see no credit activity on my PayPal account. I’ll give it until tomorrow to let PayPal update their records (even though I thought it happened nearly immediately) before griping again.

Update 2: Correction to the “fishiness.” I misread the PayPal line items. Skype did credit the $10 I spent back to my PayPal account, and reset my Skype balance to $3.53 (which is certainly the appropriate thing, since I had that balance prior to the free offer.

I failed to realize Skype e-mailed me again to inform me that the problem was resolved and that they were refunding me. So, I’ll say it. I officially forgive Skype! They handled the problem with complete integrity and fairness—even if I didn’t think highly of their original explanation.

So now, I’ve got to figure out what Pay Pal is doing. There’s a temporary hold on the $10 refund—something about the bank not accepting the credit. Not sure why, but if there’s a problem, I may just ask Pay Pal to leave a credit on my account. I certainly use Pay Pal often enough for other purposes.

» Posted by ALBj at 11:48 AM (ET)
Category: Idiot of the Moment, Rant


I wonder if the situation is due to some effort to not allow businesses to benefit from the free calls? Therefore, if an ISP uses a class of IP addresses for customers that is designated for or mixed use with business use, then Skype chooses not to allow the free calls.

» Posted by Queue
May 17, 2006 02:04 AM

That’s one way to look at it, but it’s stupid because I don’t think there’s any bona-fide way of determining that a particular block of IP addresses are reserved for business.

Ultimately, though, it may not be of consequence. See the update I’ve made, above, to this blog entry.

» Posted by Lee Bennett
May 17, 2006 09:30 AM

Sorry, due to comment spam abuse, new comments on this entry are closed until I find time to upgrade Movable Type and enable registration and moderation.