I title this entry “BANS – Unsatisfied Programmer” and not Unsatisfied Customer for a reason. The last few days have been a very disturbing few days in regards to BANS customer service. It started with me wanting to explore BANS as a possible opportunity for my wife to quickly build affiliate eBay stores while I work on other projects. I current ‘roll my own’ eBay script but to roll out new stores takes some work, since I built mine without admins (since I’m the one administrating them anyway), and that’s not an ideal solution for my wife. Here is where BANS comes in, basically I wanted to be able to hand the reigns to the wife, and say have at it. And I wanted to do this without spending a lot of time (cough).
I purchased the software and began configuring it. My server environment is a ‘strict’ environment meaning that I want to know about all programming notices, warnings and errors relating to PHP. I believe that building it right and thoughtfully is incredibly important. I should never see any notices, etc. All software that I’ve bought throughout the years (vBulletin, multiple WYSIWYG editors, etc), and all open source software (OpenAds, phpBB, etc) that I’ve installed in this environment also follows my philosophy of coding it strictly. I never see notices, etc.
Immediately after pointing my browser, I began to see notice after notice of undeclared variables.. it was utterly insane. So I thought I’d take a look to see what was up (thinking I forgot a file or something), this is when things get bad to worse. I’ve notified BANS about potential issues, and do not want to disclose any details at this time, but found some unwise programming decisions at the foundation of the application. At this point, I was pissed that I spent good money for something that I didn’t feel comfortable installing on any of my servers, but after spending some time fixing I was torn on what to do.
I contacted BANS, provided my issues, provided diff files of the work I’ve already did, offered additional diff files if I continued to work on the site… and requested a refund. My mind set was torn, I felt like the time I put into my adjustments, I felt that I should get a refund AND still keep the code. From here, we went back and forth, where Kelvin said he’d give me a refund, but I would not have the right to use the code. So my back was against the wall. I already wasted almost a full day working on the code.. and if I gave up the application to get the refund, my time would have been completely wasted since I couldn’t use the code anyway, or use the code and spend $97 for code that I spent all this time to even use.
So the argument with BANS.. are my issues important? Are my issues significant or are they ‘cosmetic’ issues as they posed. First of all, bad programming is bad programming. Notice after notice by the PHP interpreter is not ‘good’. Those are the mild problems. The significant problems to me are a time bombing waiting to blow up.
So what am I? An unsatisfied customer or unsatisfied programmer? If I didn’t know programming or PHP, my head would be in the sand, and I’d be stoked with what I had.
What I didn’t like was the total disregard of customer ratification. I spent many years in the restaurant business. I liken it to this. If I was dissatisfied with the meal and complained to the manager, and the manager apologizes to me and says, he’ll give me a refund for the meal but I could never come back to the restaurant again, or I can come back, but I need to pay for the meal in full.
A good manager would apologize for the experience, take something off of the meal or refund it in full, or at least buy my drink or offer desert free. It comes down to customer service and trying to get return or referral business. So the answer to the question is ‘both’. I’m a unsatisfied programmer, but the experience with BANS customer service, has led me to a unsatisfied customer.
So in the end, I spent the $97 (vBulletin is $160.. talk about more bang for the buck!), and I corrected all the code issues that I felt was major and I’m starting to feel safe about things. But I’m still going to install it on my most untrusted server (possibly only on shared hosting environment), until I completely finish my code audit. I’ve itemized my issues, but I will not give them any more diffs or specific fixes.