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Pat Dryburgh

It was Friday morning. I was sitting at gate 74 at SFO, hoping to get some client work wrapped up before my flight. I’ve been using the CS6 beta of Photoshop for the past month, so I was familiar with the call to action box that appeared each time it loaded. Only this time, I could no longer “Continue Trial.” The beta was up.

No worry. I knew this would eventually happen, and was actually quite happy to finally purchase this latest update. I logged into my account at, and was presented with two options:

  1. Purchase the software outright.
  2. Purchase a subscription to Adobe’s “Creative Cloud,” which would cost a mere $19.99 per month.

I decided to give the Creative Cloud option a try. I figured Photoshop is updated roughly every two years or so, so I would be saving a couple hundred dollars on what amounted to a leasing program.

I plugged in my information (twice, as the Adobe payment form would not process in Safari), and eagerly anticipated receiving my serial number.

An email confirming my order and another welcoming me to the Photoshop Subscription program later, still no serial number.

I spent some time looking through Adobe’s help section for what to do next, but came up short. So, I initiated a chat with one of their support team members.

And then, the nightmare began.

I asked the support person when I should expect my serial number. Expecting an answer somewhere in the neighbourhood of 5-10 minutes, you can imagine my surprise when I was told “in the next 24–48 hours.”

24–48 hours.

I’m no expert at payment processing, but I’ve bought a thing or two on the Internet. Some of these things have been software applications, and some of those have been from indie development shops run by a single developer. Each of these experiences has been flawless, allowing me to use the software within minutes, if not less.

And yet Adobe, a massive company with thousands of employees, can’t process an order sooner than 24 hours?

I pressed the support agent to get my order processed sooner. Without the serial number, I couldn’t work. The agent informed me he had escalated my request, and I should expect a response within “24–48 hours.”

24–48 hours.

I realized then that no matter what I did, I wouldn’t have my software until at least Saturday.

Fast forward to Sunday afternoon.

I’m back on the support chat with another Adobe support team member. By this time, the 48-hour window had passed for both the processing of my order and for the escalation of my support request. Neither had been fulfilled.

After 30 minutes of going back and forth with this support person, I finally gave up and asked him to refund my subscription. Now, 30 minutes after that request, I’m still debating whether to purchase Photoshop CS6 or not.

Thing is, I was really excited to upgrade from CS4 to CS6. The updated user interface was a welcome change. Several of the new features around group styles, pixel-fitting shapes, and layer searching were godsends.

But I’m not sure I want to financially support a company who so clearly has their heads up their Photoshopped asses.

Contrast this with another experience with another company: Panic. This past week, Panic announced the release of Coda 2, the update to their wonderful web development application. A user of Coda since 1.5, I was eager to experience some of the great new features 2.0 promised.

I loaded up the payment processing page (again, in Safari), typed in my billing information, hit “Process My Order,” and within seconds, a serial number for the update was in my inbox.

In fact, with the click of a button in my browser, the app launched with the serial number already in place, allowing me to simply hit “Ok” and find myself immersed in the beauty of Coda 2.

How is it that a small, independent Mac development shop can make this experience so incredibly pleasing, while Adobe—a company with over 9,000 employees and 30 years of experience—can’t process an order quicker than 24 hours?

Wait… Photoshop CS4 just crashed. I think I’ve got my answer.

Oh, and don’t get me started on the United Airlines flight I missed the night before…

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