So You Believe Gmail Is Free?

We've all heard the cliché that there's no such thing as a free lunch. But do you also know that Google's Gmail isn't free either? I'll explain. I sat down with my laptop on Sunday morning to plan for the upcoming week and voila, my entire Gmail account history from the past three years had vanished -- all business communication, sent and received was gone. At least my contact list was intact. Until 7:00 PM when Google informed me that my account had been "disabled" -- and suggested that I had violated the terms of their user agreement. No access, no contact list and all incoming mail from that point forward to this writing was bouncing back to senders.

I have since learned that Google's Gmail has a problem, i.e. I'm not alone. Interestingly, a close friend whose native language is not English attempted consolation: "How do you say? Everyone in a group can be unhappy, but they are all happy together." Aha, misery loves company -- I don't think so. If you use Gmail, take the following caveats from Google seriously:

  • "Google reserves the right to terminate your account at any time, for any reason, with or without notice." (included with the 'account disabled' notice)
  • "Google does not offer live support at this time" (from employee number 9254 in Atlanta who would not give her name)
  • "We've received your message. We'll follow up with you only if we require more info or we have additional info to share." (Google auto response to receiving my notice of account disabled)

Perhaps the most egregious aspect of all this is that from the RSS news feeds, it appears that while Google is working on the problem (27 hours and counting), they also claim that it only effects about .08% of its users -- a mere 150,000 people. So take heart: if your client base is large enough, you needn't worry about the absolute number of people whose lives you negatively impact or whose business you maim. In fact, you don't even need to communicate with them.

In attempting to find some hope of resolve over the past sleepless 27+ hours, I came across Google's Philosophy: Ten things we know to be true. The first is "Focus on the user and all else will follow." And the tenth is "Great just isn't good enough." I can't wait for the implementation phase.

If you're trying to reach me, please do it the old fashioned way at the moment: 215.508.7414. My colleagues assure me that this problem is too big for Google not to repair.

- William Busch

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