When Adobe CC (aka. Adobe Creative Cloud) first came out I was intrigued. As someone in software design myself, I am not inherently opposed to a monthly/yearly licensing system, although I believe it needs to be done right and it has to be an option provided alongside the traditional “buy this software once, own it forever” style licensing. While the CC service isn’t right for my personal use (I have a commercial-use CS5 Master Suite that suits my needs), I signed up my company for the Creative Cloud for Teams version. Although there were undeniably some advantages to the CC suite (being able to use the software on any computer made it easy for me to work from home), the overall negatives are so bad that I absolutely do not recommend it.
1. One plan does NOT fit all
Despite numerous complaints about the lack of plan customizability, Adobe seems to have no interest in offering their customers options on what software and how much cloud space they want. After using CC for a few months, I realized that the price (7,000 yen–approximately 70USD–per month, per license) was extremely high given that Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign were the only software we were using. The 2GB cloud space was also not used, nor was there any need for it in the foreseeable future. Ultimately, I realized that I had set myself up to waste a lot of money I couldn’t afford to spend because of the rigid pricing plan setup.
2. An untenable contract
When I was signing up I didn’t think much about the “required one year” contract (to be absolutely clear: the one year contract was mandatory for the type of service I signed up for; there was no “month-to-month” option). I assumed at the time that I would try out the service for a year and then decide if I wanted to continue or not. It did not, but should have, occurred to me that “you’ll be billed 50% of your remaining contract obligation” was a huge red flag to stay away. I have dealt with some ridiculous cancellation policies, but this takes the cake. There is literally no valid reason to force your customers to pay 50% of a service for a product they can no longer use. I will say it again: Adobe has absolutely no justification for forcing users who quit within their first year to pay 50% for services that won’t ever be rendered. It is greedy, and it is wrong.
3. Poor handling of payment
A second red flag I ignored when signing up for CC was that they required a credit card for their service. Any good online service offers their clientele options: credit card and automatic bank pay are the two standard, with other options including services such as PayPal and (in Japan) Pay-easy. Adobe only supports credit card, and as of May 2014, they don’t allow pre-paid cards such as the one that I use for my company.
And the problems with payment don’t end there: there are no options to control when/how you pay. You give them your credit card information and they bill you each month automatically. If there is a problem, the system automatically re-tries once a week until your account becomes inactive due to non-payment. There is no option, not even going through customer service, that allows you to bill outside of the rigid and unforgiving automatic system. Again, any good online service offers their clientele options such as pay for a year, pay the balance due immediately, etc.
4. Extremely poor customer service
Adobe’s help page has been described as “labyrinthine” with good reason. Navigating their FAQ is bad enough, but actually getting to a page where you can get in touch with customer service is nigh impossible. You can’t use a search engine to get the information you want because they restrict access to the page with the customer service links to logged in users only and you can only find that page by searching through all of the links on their unhelpful “help” site. Woe to anyone who tries to navigate based on their “helpful” support form.
If that wasn’t bad enough, they charge you money (for me it was 10 yen a minute) to access their telephone help line, which has a ridiculous amount of menus and an inability to immediately go to an operator (which caused frustration when I was trying to get another callback from a staff member whose call I missed). And they charge you money to sit there and listen to all the ways that the support staff aren’t authorized to help you!
Between two days I spent about 3 hours of time on the phone trying to get my payment problem fixed and the phrase I heard most often was “I am sorry, but I can’t do that.”/”I am sorry, but I’m not authorized to help you with that.” While I do not think that the customer is always right, I do think that if I am paying 14,000 yen a month PLUS 10 yen a minute to your company that your support staff have an obligation to get my problem fixed or let me out of my contract without hassle. Adobe obviously does not feel that way.
No matter how many times I tried to explain that I wanted out of my contract because customer service was failing/refusing to fix my problem, the cancellation representative could only reply with, “There is nothing I can do about that. Unless I hear back from support that there is nothing they can do to even temporarily fix your problem, you are going to be held to the 50% repayment if you cancel.” So, not only does Adobe refuse to let their cancellation representatives offer compromises in an effort to work with their (likely soon to be ex-)customers, they also put me in the position that if my problem was fixable in the short-term but not the long-term that I would not be able to get out of my contract, even though Adobe was failing to provide me with the full extent of the services I was paying a steep monthly fee for. Which basically says to me, “You are paying us money and have to fulfill your end of the obligations, but we are a powerful company and in no way hold ourselves to providing you with the service we led you to expect. Nor will we release you from your contract unless there is absolutely no way around it, even if you run up against the same exact problem every month.”
By not authorizing their customer service staff to work with clients, Adobe is making it harder for customers to continue using their services. I flat out told the cancellation representative and I will flat out say it now: after all the shit I was put through over a payment issue that should have been a non-issue and after the way that none of the customer service representatives were able to work with me on getting a speedy resolution to my problem, even if I had to stick out the rest of the one-year contract there was no way in hell I was renewing.
Now, it turns out that my story has a bit of a happy ending. Because Adobe changed their credit card policy (with, I should add, no notice given to me) in a way that made it impossible for me to pay, the contract was terminated without any additional fees (not even the month of use that I had been trying to pay for). Ultimately this will save my company a lot of money, even though I now have to spend the time figuring out what software to use instead of CC (the first thing I am planning on trying out are the free, open source software alternatives: Gimp, Inkscape, and Scribus). Normally I would have just bought the one-time license versions of Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign–which I had been considering doing after the one-year contract was up–but Adobe’s service was so terrible that now I want to avoid buying any of their products if possible.
So, for those of you interested in checking out CC, all I can say is: Buyer beware! Adobe makes nice products, but their service is terrible and their contract sets you up to be screwed out of a lot of money.