I’ll admit, this is rather a lame-ass topic for my first pit rant, but what the hell, it’s pissing me off.
I’ve used TaxCut Deluxe for the past few years and loved it. The Deluxe part came from the fact that if you lived in a state that demands its own pound of tax flesh (i.e. me in CT), you could directly download the state version of TaxCut. One Step. Simple. Easy. Convenient.
This year, I buy the program again expecting more of the same. Only, there was a slight change. Now instead of just downloading the program, I get to do the following:
BUY the fargin’ program off of the web site. Yes, BUY the copulating thing. Keep in mind I’ve already paid extra (hence the Deluxe). Once I give them my credit card number, I can then download the program.
MAIL-IN the rebate form that came with the program. Then, in 6-8 weeks I get some money back. Some, not all. I have to kick in the stamp, AND, because I live in one of a handful of states that is affected, I get to pay state sales on the program. Thank you very much.
Why? I can only think of evil incompetent reasons. First and foremost, there probably are people that buy the deluxe version and then either never d/l the state program or buy the state program and lose/can’t-be-bothered-to send-in the rebate. Second, while the rebate is processed, they get to hold onto my money for 6-8 weeks. Lastly, TaxCut used to be a Kiplinger product, now it’s part of the H&R Block family. New company, new greedy bastards.
I did visit the web site and sent e-mail to customer service. I got back a form reply that basically said “We thank you for your interest, your comments were passed on the several flatulent goats high in the Himalayas.”
As much as I hate to, next year I may have to try the product from the folks in Redmond.
Hm, a topic on which I am eminently suited to serve up the Straight Dope- or as much of it as I can.
I work for the company that handles online sales for H&R Block. This includes TaxCut. Block Financial is a huge client for us in the first quarter of the year.
To address the points in the OP- they may be very valid points, but I want to ensure the hostility of the rant is directed at the proper source. (That is to say, not the online store.):
Block updates TaxCut Deluxe (Federal and State editions) every year to account for new variations in the tax code. This is why you must buy a new copy each year. For people who did not file taxes for previous years, previous versions of TaxCut are available for sale (2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, and so on. Depends on the state, too.) You seem to have no problem with that, as you say “This year, I buy the program again expecting more of the same.”
The sales tax issue affects four states (as listed in the shopping cart) - Minnesota, California, Washington, and Connecticut. This is because the company that hosts Block’s store has a nexus in each state, and by law is forced to charge sales tax. (Sorry if I’m elaborating too much here- this has been a dicey issue for me. I know you’re aware that buying off the internet does not guarantee tax-free purchases, but I have met far too many people, especially when working in customer service, who believe that it’s a Trilateral Commission scam designed to pocket the buck and a half in sales tax.)
The rebate is handled entirely on Block’s end. I’ll offer my thoughts as to why Block is choosing to offer a rebate for the $19.95 State version, rather than allowing it to be a free download:
Last year, Block offered the free download through their servers. They were overwhelmed by the teeming millions trying to get the software, and no one could get it. This generated lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of hostility. This year, the state versions are being offered for download through the CSP (commerce service provider) who manages the online store. To prevent people from crashing the servers (whether through malicious intent or not), they’re putting a price tag on the product, which they then rebate. (Yes, less the $.34 stamp and the buck fifty in sales tax. Life sucks.) Block is one of eight thousand companies using that CSP, and if one company hogs 99% of the bandwidth, then there’s a problem.
Block is doing what every other company in the world does when they offer a rebate-- they’re giving you the product at a discount, or for free, in exchange for your name, your address, and some of your buying history. Think Epson is offering a $100 on that printer out of the goodness of their hearts? They’re milking you for market research.
All emails sent to the customer service department are read and reviewed by human customer service reps. I know this because I was one for six months. Form replies are used when necessary, but they are never auto-generated.
I can guarantee that a majority of the people in the customer service department just want to make you happy. If you call, and politely explain your situation, and ask for a refund of the sales tax, odds are you’ll get that refunded. If you yell and scream and make a stink, well, you may reach the same end, but no one will be happy about it. When I handled those calls, I know I was far more willing to make the customer happy if s/he didn’t piss me off by screaming about things I had no control over. Take a deep breath, give 'em a call, and see if you can’t get this resolved to your satisfaction.
I see your situation- the state software was a free download last year, and this year you’ve got to pony up the cash first- but there’s no evil or incompetent plot.
Disclaimer: All of that is based on personal experiences from last year’s tax season and my perception of ‘this side of the fence’.
No problems with the CSP, we all have jobs to do, and as far as online purchases go, it was smooth and professional. But the site has a TaxCut window dressing on it and thus caught some wrath schrapnel, my apologies.
Quite true. I have no problem shelling out 25 simoleons each year for the current tax years product. As I said, I love the product proper and it has done it’s job admirably. It’s also much cheaper than going to a pro.
Again, I’m with you. I understand why I was hit with sales tax for buying the product on-line, I just have heartburn that I had to buy it again at all.
Oh no, we’re popular! Anything but that. I realize that they are a seasonal product and that it probably wouldn’t make sense to have that many servers up all year, but if they can contract a CSP to handle their on-line store, they could arrange to have extra mirror sites for state downloads/program updates during the January-April timeframe.
You’re losing me now. I think it’s great Block uses Deep Thought to handle their transactions, but I do have a problem if they feel a need to charge the consumer as a means to regulate bandwidth.
Of course they are. But I also get nagged into registering the software when it’s first installed. So they already know what I like on my hot dogs (ketchup) and what my favorite sexual position is (never you mind, that’s between me and Henry).
You know, whenever I think how much I hate my job, I always think “It could be worse, I could be working in Customer Service.” I know they don’t deserve abuse, but the company puts them out there like human shields. That’s why I didn’t call and launch filth-missiles at them, I just sent them an e-mail that was heavy on sarcasm, but no worse than PG rated. I don’t want my stamp and sales tax back. I can afford those, it’s just the principle of the thing.
You’re right, that’s my one and only beef. If it had always been a rebate program I’d be happier than a pig in poop. But I really liked the no added fee download. And no, it wasn’t free. They sell two versions, TaxCut (federal only), and TaxCut Deluxe (Federal and State). By buying the Deluxe verion, I’ve already paid more to get the State version. Why not sell just one and put a coupon for a discounted state program in each box?
Again, LNO, I don’t have an issue with your response, I really do appreciate the background info. I just can’t shake the feeling that somewhere deep inside Block central, there is an evil troll cackling “Next year we start charging them for every Schedule C they use!”
Wild guess. I doubt it’s the primary reason (see evil conspiracy below) but it may be part of it. Good, bad, not my job to find out.
Even just reading that gave me a warm feeling in my heart. Every time a customer sympathized with my situation, I just felt great.
Come to think of it, I don’t know why you aren’t just given the free download, from the same site, at the same time, of the state version when you purchase the Deluxe. It probably wouldn’t be that hard to do (of course, it’s doubtful that it’d be implemented for this tax season- messing with the online store at this time is like doing surgery on the goose that lays golden eggs. One slip and you’re suddenly wondering where the cash flow went.) Hmm, hmm.
Is it bad of me to secretly hope they charge more, so we can increase our margin and make more money?
You know, since I do email support for this stuff, I could probably answer this question. But then, I threw away the bulletin they passed around explaining why they charge for it. At least you’re not getting a Form 8453 error.
Block’s new website SUCKS! I have to use it constantly, and it fucking rapes goats. It’s horrible! And they have to know what type/speed/mem computer you have before you can ask a question :rolleyes:. No fear, if you email them, you have a 25% chance of me answering your question.