Monday, 1 April 2013

Bad at maths, good at customer service? Work for Microsoft!

I have recently returned to university and I am meant to use Microsoft Visio Standard 2013 for a number of of my university assignments. We have the 'option' of using it on the computers at uni, as the software is prohibitively expensive. While looking online to see how prohibitive the pricing was I came across this:

$300 doesn't seem so unreasonable to me, not that I have $300 that I could spend on anything right now. I clicked 'Buy now' with the intention of getting as much information on it as I could, and found myself presented with this:

When I called the Microsoft Store and asked what additional features warranted the 83% price difference (based on the exchange rate at the time of writing), I was told that AU$539 was US$299 due to the current exchange rate. When I informed the diligent little Microsoft monkey that he was operating on bad information, and that AU$539 was actually closer to US$560, he apologised for not being able to explain the discrepancy and then offered me some actually useful advice. He suggested that I find a way to set up a US mailing address and then order the product, and as long as the process didn't cost me US$260 or more I would be getting a discount.

This 83% koalas on keyboards tax isn't unique to the Microsoft Store. Check out the price differences over at Adobe, the Apple Store, all computer game distributors and just about anyone else who distributes software. The problem is a long standing issue, and something that I have griped about for decades. In my formative years I would often read US computer game magazines, and was shocked by the price listings for games. That was Twenty years ago, and our dollar is a mightier thing than it once was (thank you Paul). In particular I thought that perhaps things would start to change in the wake of digital distribution, but in reality there are very few digital distribution services that do direct (or nearly direct) exchange rate conversions (Steam is the only one that comes to mind). The vast majority are happy to price us like it's 1984.

Anyway. Thank you Microsoft. Thank you for hiring people who actually want to help your koalstomers, even when you don't.

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