One of the strangest online customer service experiences I’ve ever encountered

Now that I work at Automattic, I travel more frequently than I used to, and I have become aware of some rather wonderful services that allow you to watch the online television output of your mother country, while in a different country. As most people are aware, UK TV services like the BBC iPlayer are restricted when you’re overseas. However, it isn’t illegal for other services to allow you to appear to still be in the UK, while you’re in fact in a different country. And as I’m a very happy licence-fee payer, I have no qualms about taking advantage of this.

In this vein, I was recommended a service called Adfreetime that allows you to do just as I have said above. While in the US (or pretty much anywhere else where the internet is freely available), this service allows one to appear to be in the UK and thus watch anything that one would be able to watch while actually in the UK. There are a few services like this, but I was recommended Adfreetime, and at just $2 per month, it’s probably the cheapest one out there.

So, off to Adfreetime I go to get set up. I create my order, make a payment through PayPal, but then my account is almost immediately locked down. Apparently I’ve been flagged as a potentially fraudulent customer, and I need to make contact with a representative of the company. No big deal. So I duly file a support ticket, and get my first response. Sadly, the original thread is unavailable to me, so I’ll have to paraphrase. Essentially, I am told that because it appears as though I’m using a VPN, I have been flagged as high risk. As it happens, I’m not using a VPN, but a proxy server, as my employer provides this service as a necessary means of securing my connection. (Certain work-related services are only available when proxied.)

So I disable the proxy, and try again. But to no avail. The problem now appears that because I have the order attached to my account, I can’t attempt to reorder. Even though the original order is marked as declined, there is no way of reattempting payment, and I can’t add another order. So I’m stuck and I return to the support ticket.

I appreciate this is probably seeming a bit dull, but bear with me, it’s about to get good. Once again, I’m told by the same representative that the problem is that I’m using a VPN. But of course, it clearly isn’t, so I respond again, this time with a screenshot, showing what problem I’m actually facing.


What has taken place so far has occurred over the course of a few days. About a week passes, and I realise that I never had a response. I return once more to Adfreetime and see that my ticket appears to have simply been deleted, and never replied to. Hmmm. So I file a new ticket, this time a bit more irked, enquiring as to why my original ticket has been deleted and if I’ll ever be able to actually pay to use this service. I’ll accept that I’m somewhat brusque, but I’ve never had such difficulty trying to pay to use a service before:

Then a somewhat bizarre and unresolving response comes through:

So this forces a response from me:

And at this point I’m frustrated and decide to fire off a tweet in the vain hope that someone else at the company might come to my aid. It’s a petty tactic but it’s worked in the past:

Then comes this:

Woah. It’s almost slightly threatening. At this point it occurs to me that perhaps I should give up on Richard and try one final approach. One that I should have tried far earlier in the process. I’ll just set up a new account with a Gmail modifier on my email address. I do this, the payment’s accepted, we’re in. Except that within literally a couple of minutes I receive a notification that the payment has been refunded and my new account has been shut down…

So, having given up the game of trying to pay this company for the service that they provide, I decide to just prod a bit further, simply for the sake of resolving how I might have been able to become a customer of Adfreetime:

And I receive this, epic, response:

So there we are. I got told. As it happens, I’ll probably actually use Unblock-us. But at $4.99 a month (almost double, but discounted if you subscribe for a year), it’s still a shame I didn’t cut the mustard with Adfreetime.