|RegNow - A Company Beneath Contempt: A Study in Fraud, Negligence and Incompetence
For those who are not familiar with RegNow, it is a software registration company, a company that ostenstibly handles the money end for commercial software developers. When trial users of your software decide to buy, they are directed to a RegNow sponsored page that gets their name, credit card info, etc. and sends them a software key. RegNow and most other software registration companies online are now owned by the monopolistic conglomerate Digital River.
My experiences with RegNow started back in February. The way your relationship with them works as a software vendor/developer is that they get a percentage of each sale. Otherwise no other money exchanges hands between you and them, i.e. they don't charge you any other fee for their services other than the commission they make. This is significant because I believe they could be exploiting the fact that no actual money exchanges hands to possibly claim they have no contractual responsibilities to you. So if there are problems with your order page, they can send you polite e-mails saying they are looking into it, but with a tacit assumption on their end that they don't actually have to do anything (and in fact they probably won't, and rather just wait for you to leave in frustration.)
But anyway, back in February I set up my order page and product at RegNow. I chose the option to use SoftwarePassport to protect my software and generate a key for it. I did not know at the time (and had to find out for myself as they didn't tell me) that the RegNow version of SoftwarePassport will not protect DLL's. As a result, I had to ask them to delete my product on their end so I could start over from scratch. (If you have a faulty product setup at RegNow, they have to delete it, you cannot delete it yourself.)
So anyway I had them delete my product and I started over. This time I chose another option for generating a software key that is fully documented by them: using a custom key-generating algorithm. You write your own program that outputs a key and send RegNow the source code for it. This is the program that is executed and generates a key when the user orders the software on their site.
So anyway, that is what I did - I wrote my own key-generating program - no big deal. However, my order page never worked. Five months later it still doesn't work. When the user hits 'order now', either it never returns, or if it does the place where the key is supposed to be is blank. In my correspondence with RegNow, they have always been apologetic and said the problem was on their end, However, they have never done anything to fix the problem. Here is a detailed chronology of what has transpired with them.
When I wrote my key-generating program back in February, I sent RegNow two makefiles (along with a readme file). One made the static library Crypto++ (the source for which is also available off of the internet) and the other makefile built my actual program and statically linked it to the Crypto++ library. Now in the RegNow documentation for custom algorithms, they ask that you send them only one C++ source code file, and that is all. Well in my case, the cryptographic routines for generating a key were not written by me personally, I had to link to them. So that is why I sent them a makefile along with my source code. However, their people were mystified by this and didn't know what to do with a makefile. Therefore, they asked me to just send them the actual .exe, so I did.
Several days later they sent me an e-mail telling me everything was set up. However when I ran a test order it didn't return my key, but instead a SoftwarePassport key. I informed them of this, and they apologized and said they would look into it. Several days later they contacted me again, and said it was fixed. So I ran a test order but this time the order never even completed. I hit cancel and hit the order button again and this time it completed, but with a blank where my key was supposed to be. I informed RegNow of this and they apologized and said they would look into it.
Over five months later and dozens of apologies and promises to fix this by RegNow it is still not fixed (thus the title of this piece "A Study in Fraud, Negligence and Incompetence"). In February and March, every few days I would send them queries to the effect "Why isn't this fixed yet," and they would send back apologies and promises to fix it. There was never any concern that my own key-generating routine was the problem. Its just a trivial little exe that spits out a key string. They tested it from the command line and verified that it worked. So they always claimed the problem was on their end. They just never did anything to fix the problem. And the question is why - stupidity, fraud, negligence, what?
Late in March, I quit contacting them because it was a pointless exercise. Perhaps they were waiting for my product to be generating actual sales before they gave any service to me as a vendor, I don't know. But they kept on telling me they were looking into this problem. From my perspective, what was the point of heavy marketing of my software, if it wasn't even clear yet if RegNow was actually able to handle an order. But late in March I quit contacting them.
Then about six weeks ago, I reinitiated contact with them, reviewing the entire history. Once again I received apologetic e-mails and this time from a technical manager saying he would have people look into over the weekend. However, Monday came, and no response back. Tuesday, Wenesday, nothing. My e-mails to them started becoming more and more pointed. I asked if they were going out of business. I asked if their polite e-mails to me were a calculated brush-off to low priority vendors and if in fact they never intended to do anything. I eventually received technical explanations regarding the problem from this manager, but these technical explanations were in fact laughable. So do they just have untrained customer reps posing as technical people to low-priority vendors and engaging in some calculated song-and-dance? What is going on? Who knows?
Something in their process apparently doesn't work for some percentage of vendors, and rather than fix the problem, they just send polite meaningless e-mails to them promising to fix it. They did have to delete my initial product setup a couple of times in the very first week of all this back in February. Perhaps that action throws your order page into an inoperable state somehow, and they just never bothered to debug it, because maybe it only effects a small percentage of vendors, but this is speculation by me.
There is much more to be said about this, but I have to end somewhere. And obviously I have saved the entire e-mail history. I suppose I could at some point post some of those e-mails as well.
modified on Wednesday, July 22, 2009 11:26 AM