Throw the Underdog into the Kill-Shelter, Part 3

A colleague of mine (who we will assign the moniker of Steve), much braver than I, heard about my story of attempting to create an account on the Microsoft App Store (apparently we can all legally use that now), and he decided to take up the quest to which I had yielded. After a couple of weeks, he came back to me and told me the details of his misadventure. Apparently, it was much worse than I could have imagined. Steve became intimately acquainted with the stupidity of their business plan, and it went farther than both of us could have imagined. At the very least, I am comforted to know that I’m not the only victim out there, since misery truly does love company.

So, Steve ran into some of the same problems as I had before, especially the impasse where one has to prove the existence of their company to Symantec. (I still don’t understand why Microsoft outsourced these services to an anti-virus software company, but nothing seems to make sense in this entire process.) In this case, Steve chose the last option: to fill out the forms in front of a notary. Well, let me be correct: that’s what he told them. Now, he used an interesting method to “create” his notarization, and I don’t feel comfortable divulging that level of detail without his consent…but let’s just say that it was a clever trick. In any case, he had his stamped forms, and he informed Symantec that they were complete. How would they like to receive them? By scanning them and sending them via email, they replied. Of course, the impression portion of the stamp couldn’t be detected by a scanner. So, their suggestion was to use the old “rub-the-side-of-a-pencil-against-the-impression” technique in order for it to become visibly detected and then copied by the scanner. I swear on my life that I’m not chewing on peyote right now. They actually said that.

At this point, we have to turn our attention from the stupidity of Microsoft to the stupidity of Symantec. Now, if I’m correct, Symantec is a company known for security. For security! Steve created his notarization with a method that could be employed by children; I think that I saw it once on Yo Gabba Gabba. However, for me, that’s not the most troubling aspect of their validation process. By accepting a simple scan of the stamped forms (with the classic shading technique learned from Encyclopedia Brown), it shows one important thing: that the creator of Symantec’s verification process has apparently never heard of Photoshop or of any other product made by Adobe. Since Symantec doesn’t seem to know anything about security in general, I suppose that everything does seem to fit together.

So, having been validated by the elitist bouncer behind the virtual velvet rope, Steve found himself at the stage where he needed to provide his tax information. Like me, he had created his own LLC, and he had obtained an EIN for his company through the requisite government web sites. (An EIN is the federal identity number that one can use on behalf of a business for tax purposes. Think of it as a Social Security number for your company.) With the app stores of other companies, you can simply use the EIN without any issue…but by merely accepting it here, we would interrupt Microsoft’s nearly-flawless streak of fucking up unto this point. There was no way that they weren’t going to aim for the gold.

So, after attempting to use his EIN, Microsoft informs him that it is invalid. Why? No particular reason; it’s just invalid. (And, no, that’s not infuriating or frustrating in any way.) Undeterred, Steve used his own Social Security number instead, and the subsequent dialog box reported that his tax identity had been accepted…right before he was brought to the main screen of his (now) blocked account, where he is informed that his SSN is actually an invalid tax identity. There is no contact information, no proposed way of resolving the issue…just a screen that implies you have wasted a portion of your life. Admirably, his perseverance remained stolid, and he corresponded with them through emails over a span of days (yes, actual days). Finally, the answer came to him: the EIN was not accepted for some unknown reason (no, they don’t know why), and once tax information has been submitted (even if it ends up being garbage by accident), the account can longer be edited since the tax information becomes read-only. By looking at online forums, he found his resolution: he would need to repeat the process and create a new account, using his Social Security number on the first try.

I have to give it to Microsoft…they have created a masterpiece here. I’ve read of various psychological experiments which were designed to evoke the darker aspects of the human mind and bring them to the surface, to test the limits of human sanity. The Stanford Prison Experiment, the Milgram experiment, Project MKULTRA…when we look back in the future, they will all be mere child’s play compared to the creation of a Microsoft App Store account. On a final note, Steve finally did create his account, but as a form of vengeance, he submitted his problem to their support (along with a few invented curveballs). After weeks of his slight misdirection and due to their own horrible auditing systems, they still have yet to come to any conclusion of any kind, running around in perpetual, concentric circles. Steve could not be more pleased.

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