Opinion: How Adobe Creative Cloud left me amused, perplexed and infuriated

Digital Arts | 13 May 13

James Nolan, founder of Stoke Ripley Creative, gives his experiences of moving to Adobe Creative Cloud – and dealing with Adobe's customer service who asked him to shut down his business for a day.

Earlier this week Adobe announced they were moving from traditional boxed software in favour of Creative Cloud, their full subscription-based equivalent. Adobe maintained that many customers had already made the transition to Creative Cloud and “had no intention of looking back”.

Well, as one of the early up-takers I’d like to poke my annoying and fuzzy fissog into the current debate and try to make them aware that – based on my recent experiences with Adobe – and specifically their customer service – I’m not feeling as excited by the prospect of CC in the same way they are. I agree, the idea of the Creative Cloud is a tremendous one, so whilst I’m certainly not looking back, it would seem, neither am I looking forward.

I’m rather a busy man these days and I’m sure you’ve got stuff to get on with, so I’ll spare you my full thoughts on the Adobe website – which I abhor – my problems with the company to date and its ridiculous need to release seemingly pointless and expensive incompatible updates every few months.

Suffice to say, I got fed up having to buy boxed software every time we grew as a studio a quite while ago. So when I found out about their original subscription service I was more than happy to buy multiple licenses on a monthly basis, which came with free upgrades. And then again on launch purchase multiple licences to the new and improved Adobe Cloud, receiving a favourable rate as an early up-taker.

Everyone I spoke to at Adobe so far has been very polite and rather delightful.

Fucking incompetent, but delightful.

James Nolan, Stoke Ripley

Trying to manage these accounts online through the Adobe site has been so intensely infuriating and dreadful that it’s a minor miracle I haven’t snapped and started to randomly slap and verbally abuse my juniors. You know, like we use to be able to. (On a side note an art director once twisted my left nipple so hard it was a deep purple for two weeks. Oh, the good old days).

Anyway, all of these purchases were completed through my own account on the Adobe website and paid on a monthly basis. Earlier this week I decided to upgrade our freelance machine to the full Creative Suite, so again with heavy heart I logged into my Adobe account and attempted to purchase a new license. Nothing doing, I eventually made the decision to call Adobe and attempt to purchase a license again on my account over the phone.

In doing this I learnt two new things:

  1. You’re not allowed to purchase multiple licenses on an individual account.
  2. The initial cheap rate I received is for access to InDesign only, and not the full Creative Suite.

In return, Adobe also learnt two new things.

  1. You can purchase multiple licenses on an individual account (I did).
  2. The initial cheap rate did, in fact, give you the full Creative Suite.

Imagine their surprise. Since I set up Stoke Ripley four years ago, we’ve tried to do everything by the book – we’ve never even had a single case of sore nipple – so I agreed to upgrade the account to a Cloud Account for Teams with multiple seats, (seats are the trendy cloud term for licenses). This was going to cost a lot more per month but would apparently mean I could manage the account properly and each seat will receive 100GB of storage in the cloud. The Adobe sales team were very happy to take my payment and advised that I should wait 24 hours before contacting customer service so that my new Cloud services would be set up and I could then cancel my current subscriptions without any disruption.

As I said, I’m a busy man, and don’t hold with such rules – so 23 hours and 30 minutes later I called Adobe customer service so they could talk me through the process required for me to be able to ‘invite the seats’ and close down the old licenses. After a rather long discussion about my circumstances they informed me of two things. I know, I said. You’re going to be surprised, I said.

Hanging on the telephone

After following their instructions to the letter, my online account still refused to show me any means of inviting seats. In fact, nothing had changed – it just looked like the cloud interface I have been using with the cheap single-user version. After divulging to Adobe exactly what machine and operating system I use – why? it’s cloud based – and after swapping between Safari, Firefox and Opera they eventually gave up on the idiot they were dealing with and decided to take matters into their own hands.

So it was with great curiosity that I remotely handed over the reigns to my machine and watched as the mouse darted between the two same options I had been clicking on their own website: Account and Actions.

The whole process took over an hour. The rapid movement of the mouse broken only by an apologetically long silence which I can only assume was used by the call centre employee to either try to get help from a colleague or fill out a CV for more meaningful employment. Eventually the sound of shoulders being shrugged emanated down the phone line and he gave me his astounding solution.

Wait for it, it’s genius.

He requested that I delete all the Creative Suite software that I currently have legitimate licenses for and then Adobe will see if they can get my Team Cloud account running – wherein we would have to download and re-install all our software. I’d worry about doing this if it was just me at home working part-time. But to stop my studio from working for what surely would be at least a day is madness. All this just so I can pay more for what I already have.

I have currently declined their offer of closing my company and making myself bankrupt and in return they have said they will get back to me with another solution. Of course, I’m sure I could just set up another account and do it that way, but then I’d have to make up and remember another password and that’s a whole other kettle of twisted nipples.

I would like to add as a footnote that everyone I spoke to at Adobe so far has been very polite and rather delightful. Fucking incompetent, but delightful.


BaltimoreDave said: Not being able to understand someone because of an accent is not racism. The fact of the mater is adobe is sacrificing customer experience for sake of saving money on cheap labor in India. Once again, acknowledging reality is also not racism

Josh R. said: It's clear this is beyond your understanding. Best wishes

Josh R. said: Turns out you were right, the original post was partially racist in regards to language. However it's immaterial as it's racist anyway, as is your post. At the very least it's ethnocentric.

W500 said: I have and it still is. When someone doesn't like the fact that Adobe wants you to relate to "Indiglish" at an international support center then he's entitled to be angry. Indians are not famous for their accurate English and I think its of some importance to manage the language verbally when your taking calls from the whole world. In this case Indians are not the optimal people and that's not being a racist. It's being honest and practical. Having said that I've called the U.S support and the Irish support as well without getting help at all, so Adobe "support" line is terrible almost anywho - just saying. But getting a slow thinking Indian that can hardly understand or talk English doesn't make it any better. On the contrary it makes it's pure terror.To conclude on the topic I really do believe CC is awful. This is the last nail and all I can say is R.I.P Adobe.

W500 said: RIP Adobe.

Josh R. said: I recommend you read the original post I replied to. It's not about language.

W500 said: Uhm, how is anyone being racist by stating their opinion on languages? If I find it somewhat hard to understand Bulgarian am I then a racist? Seems to me that you're the one that should be taking a break cause you are discriminating peoples freedom of speech. I'm from Sweden by the way, I guess you would be a tad annoyed if my reply was in Swedish right? Perhaps Adobe should move the support center to Ukraine, their English is pretty "complicated" to say the least, but I guess I'm being a terrible racist for writing that in your world.By the way, if your really interested in hunting racists then try Adobe. They are prizing their CC "service" madly expensive in some countries, in my neck of the woods the prizes has gone sky high compared to the old hard copy versions. That's evaluating some people differently from others, it's like saying "let's make these Scandinavians pay way more than the Dutch." Hey, where's your racism flag now?

polarise said: 99.99% availability translates to 4.32 minutes/month of downtime for a 30-day month. I think so, at least. PK

Comment Zilla said: Explains Adobe to a T

fanplayr said: It took me 5 minutes to simply explain that my email had a plus sign "+" in it.

fanplayr said: "Fucking incompetent, but delightful." is exactly my experience. Took me almost an hour and a half to have my CS6 running again because it was not "authorised" any more.

dougbroussard said: Greg, I spoke to two employees leaving the building for lunch today. I was carrying a camera on my daily shoot. I'll admit I meatspace-trolled them.Neither employee knew what creative cloud was. They work for some company you bought that competes with Docusign.When I explained how much more it was going to cost me to use CC, as a photographer who has worked and taught with some of the masters of fine art photography, but who does not choose to sell his work at this point - they were embarrassed.I truly believe you have all convinced yourselves that CC is a good thing. None of the current CS customers I've spoken to have the same opinion. And none of us will be shut out of our images by Adobe.

Peter Martin said: I, too, am another CC refugee. I waited a few months until the "Cloud" got some kinks out but, from the point of downloading through cancellation, it was a nightmare. The simple truth is Adobe cares more about getting on the cloud bandwagon than it does customer help. I'll never go back to those idiots. And, I wouldn't invest in their stock. It's all going to disintegrate and lose a vast part of their customer base before they admit the failure of CC and give the customers what they need . . .the actual program on disc.

Marcus Koch said: I can only agree to the statement of James Nolan. More than two months ago I signed up for the full Creative Cloud to test it out a little bit. I still wanted to be able to use the CS6 promo offer of 29.99, which was announced to be for limited time only. I was afraid that only CS6 customers that (additionally) paid for the cloud would get this offer until “CS7” was supposed to be announced at MAX. Unfortunately I signed up a few days to early, because Adobe announced at MAX the new lower promo offer for CS6 for 19.99. Again Adobe screwed existing customers. The customers got lured or better pressed into the cloud, because Adobe offered a few updates only for cloud customers and those Adobe believers were than thanked with a higher price.I called sales and complained about the lower promo code. They were friendly enough to allow me to cancel my subscription without any fine, after I have subscribed with the new promo code. They were not able to change my subscription price or give any discount. So I tried to sign up again. The website had trouble. I always ended up on the wrong page. Some pages didn’t show at all. The system tried to use an old ID of mine even I signed up with my new one, pushing me to the wrong language or sending me in circles. After half an hour, closing everything, restarting the computer and login out of the Adobe Application Manager (AAM) I finally was able to place my order. I informed sales and they cancelled my old subscription. I was told that my old subscription is still running for the already paid month. So when it will expire I just need to login again and the new subscription will take over. So far so good, but this is not what happened.A few days ago, I started to receive messages that my trail subscription is about to expire. First I thought this is the monthly check. So I chose continue, signed in, and thought it is fine now, but the error message came back every day counting down. Today I finally had time to call support. I was told that the source of the problem is that I had CS6 installed before, which I need to de-install. Then I need to download all the GBs of the software from the cloud again and install it new. I did not believe it and was laughing loud. I asked if this is a joke for candy camera. I asked the staff member if she knows how much time it takes to de-install the software, download something 15 or more GB with a slow Internet connection and then install it again. She was aware of it and still insisted that it was the only way to solve the problem. I told her that I don’t have the time to do this, because I have urgent work to do and I will be on the road for a few days when the “trail version counter” will be at 0. After being some time on the phone I asked suggested that Adobe should remove the word professional from their software descriptions.I remembered that I originally installed the Adobe Application Manager (AAM), deactivated my CS6 installation and then signed in with the AAM. All the applications were shown as installed and I was able to download and install the available updates. Now all the applications are shown as not installed. I was told that this is not possible. She was sure that I didn’t install any updates and that after I deactivated my CS6 I was running on a 30 days trial version. I ensured her that I had downloaded and installed the updates and the AAM showed that everything was up-to-date until a few days ago when I installed an update to the AAM. Strangely the Adobe cloud website still showed that I should install the new version of the AAM even after I already installed it. I also said from previous experience with Adobe activation that normally a 30 day trial period is not possible after the software was already activated. (I once was in a train without internet connection when Photoshop crashed and after reopening wanted to be re-activated. Since I had no Internet connection I was not able to work with Photoshop for the whole day until I was in the hotel.)When I realized that I deactivated my CS6 already about 50 days ago I said it is not possible that I’m running on a 30 days trail that runs out in 2 days. After arguing for almost one hour where I didn’t buy the explanations and refused to download and re-install everything she double checked my account. After waiting in line the result was that my old subscription hadn’t been cancelled, but I was charged any money for this month. I still don’t understand this. The new subscription that I ordered and got a confirmation for was not active. Apparently I wasn’t charged for it either. I was told that probably the sales rep who handled my case didn’t place the order correctly. I told her that I ordered it via the Adobe website, but she didn’t believe me. I insisted that I ordered via the website. Anyhow the non-active subscription was apparently the reason why I got the error messages. I was told the only solution was to cancel both the old and the supposed to be new subscription and order another new one. Arggh!So she cancelled the subscriptions for me. In order not to have a problem with the website again I chose to be transferred to sales rep and did the order over the phone. I had to explain everything again, but after almost 2 hours on the phone I had an active subscription. This was still much better than wasting a whole day to re-install everything. Still AAM and the cloud website don’t recognize that I have the all the apps installed. They continue to be reported as to install, but so far I can start the apps without getting the trail error message. A few minutes ago I opened AAM again. Strangely I had to sign-in and accept the terms again. Suddenly AAM showed my apps as installed. While being in AAM I checked the default setting and I saw that the language was Czech for whatever reason. After I changed the language all my apps were displayed as not installed again. What the f… !!!By the way many customers reported in various forums and blogs problems that their cloud subscriptions unexpectedly reverted to trail versions. See also http://helpx.adobe.com/creativ....I further wanted to make sure that my subscription won’t be extended automatically, because for sure I won’t continue with the cloud after that one year is over. I was shocked when I was told that this is not possible! I was told that I will get an email at the beginning of the last month of my subscription period and then, not before, I have to call customer service to cancel my subscription. This is awful and makes me really angry—not to use the f-word! The Adobe cloud is so bad that Adobe needs to press and bind its customers, because they would not stay voluntarily when they realize what they got.We have multiple CS6 Master Suites. Normally I would have upgraded all of them immediately to the next version, but Adobe won’t see any extra money from me anymore. This is not just because of my bad experience with Creative Cloud, but also because of the general problems that come with a subscription only model. Additionally it counts big how Adobe treats its long-time loyal customers. Adobe doesn’t offer the value anymore that I want to pay for and also doesn’t stand anymore for the a company I want to do business with. They should change their slogan into: Yes, you can pay us, but we still only care for us and not for you.

Trevor W said: I've experienced much of the same. Customer service, while very polite, was incompetent. And after two hard drive crashes and a stolen computer, I was told each time to uninstall all the software and re-download and install from scratch, even though the software was there as restored from my time machine. I wasted SO many hours with support and with their "solution." Though their software is good, their licensing management is absolutely terrible. As soon as the millions of users upgrade to the cloud, there will be HUGE problems and Adobe will wish they hadn't have done this.

Robert Behnke said: Fucking incompetent, but delightful. Completely. FYI people, CS6 will be no longer... if you want new software, you will have to go CC. At least, that is what they said at Adobe Max.

giant said: I once spent 2 hours on the phone with their Indian support center. Nothing was resolved other than to say that they wouldn't support the version I was working on. It was 3 releases back. Just horrible, horrible support.

Scott Marlow said: What a mess. Such a shame as I'm a huge Adobe fan.

Guest said: The CLOUD is DOWN for TWO weeks. They just announced it in the user forum yesterday. People are losing files on the cloud and on their hard drives. I certainly think this CLOUD is the future. LOL

Nolsjames said: Hi Txoxy, Adobe contacted me immediately and have helped sort the original issues. I however have been dragging my heals on uploading the seats. As I said in the article, I'm rather busy. And it's not that I don't trust our designers to handle the install themselves... yes, yes it's exactly that.The final seat will go live today. So far so good, however there are a few glitches which I've contacted adobe about. Hopefully I'll get the chance to review it fully next week.I completely agree about your supplier QoS point but as the software apparently runs without adobe connection, once installed, there shouldn't be a problem... And I don't have to imagine the horror of downtime our electrics blew recently which cost us half a day. QoS arguments don't really do much good in the real world.

FB said: I am Dutch, no offence! I live in the UK now.I only purchased photoshop and Lightroom a few years ago. The support is really poor. It is this dreadful indian call centre. Impossible to understand for me as a flying dutchman and none of the "assistance" was of any help. It were only scripts that they can read it seems. A friend helped and i was up and running within minutes. Lets have more chiefs and less indians or is the saying the other way around?

txoxy said: James I just don't understand how a real business could sign up for a mission critical service that has only a single supplier without negotiating a QoS agreement. Imagine the horror of having 10 designers who bill at 60 quid/hour sitting around doing nothing (for those in the USA that's a loss of $900/hour). The supplier has to agree to at least 99.99% availability (which sounds great, but that still allows 45 minutes/month of downtime). After that they should be paying you by the minute to compensate for your considerable losses. You simply can not have a real business and not hold your suppliers liable.Did Adobe ever resolve this problem? The world wants to know!

Glen said: I'm very happy with the creative cloud, but seriously won't be if they screw up like this, so Adobe, the world is watching!

Greg Wilson said: I didn't give my adobe address (gwilson at adobe) because I didn't want to risk the email getting caught in the corporate spam filter. I needed to know that the email would indeed make it to me.Evangelism is not sales (whew!) - we are advocates for the users and a highly technical group. We work with product management, engineering and upper management. I have the means to escalate this to whatever level is required.Other contact points -- @gregsramblings -- http://gregsramblings.com -- http://www.linkedin.com/in/gre...

ebinrock said: Here here. Just this morning on CNET's survey about this I put in the comments section that instead of a subscription model, you should simply offer a pay-per-download model. Not all of us need to upgrade every single year (I for one work for a government agency that doesn't need the very latest and greatest to compete, but would like to upgrade once in a while to have certain capabilities). With a simple pay-per-download, the download simply isn't accessible unless you pay first (and it would have to be handled a little differently for government agencies, since we can only purchase with a P.O. - maybe get a code to access the download page when we submit the P.O.). But in any case, in light of what this article writer is saying, your web team really needs to get things to work right so business owners can continue operating without any interruption.

ebinrock said: And why should the Director of "Evangelism" - cough, cough, that's basically sales - be the appropriate party for what's obviously a tech support issue? Give this guy the Lead Web Engineer or whoever you call the person. I know it's really none of my business, I'm not facing a tech issue myself, but this is just my observation.

ebinrock said: Gee, that's really professional of you to give your presumably personal email address, and not your formal Adobe email. How is one to know if you're really from Adobe or not?

Guest said: I would probably have trouble understanding Dutch also. Can't we have support in our own country of origin? This is part of your bigger point about adobe customer service being awful. It has nothing to do with the fact that most of the company is Indian now. I could care less. Ever since Shantanu has taken over, Adobe has gone awry. It's not because he's Indian, it's because he's stupid. He's a bad manager and a bad businessman. Like putting USA call support centers in India so he can have more money in HIS pocket.

Guest said: Spent 15 minutes once with a fellow that could not get the spelling of my name. Meanwhile I have clients work due. argh

Imagepoint said: Dearest Greg, Do you think I have two days to wait for you to figure this out! I have dump all my adobe cloud and reloaded CS6. Works fine.

TomB said: Um, . . . How long until businesses turn to open source alternatives to the "Creative Suite"?

TomB said: I have to say that I had an experience with Adobe's Indian 'Help" center. The first guy put me on hold to check for an answer to my problem (after I had been on the line for well over an hour trying to get that far). Then he went home and left me hanging for another half hour, where upon I finally hung up, called back, and eventually learned that the center had closed down for the night - or day, or whatever. The next day I got the same guy, but he did transfer me to a second person who took three hours to research the problem (in installing my new version of Photoshop under unusual conditions at my end), engaged me with constant conversation about our families all the time, and finally found that the problem was that the button on the install page I was supposed to press was really there, the page programmer had just forgotten to paste the clip art for the button on the page so I could see it. I clicked where I was told to, and from there the install went well. In my book that guy gets an A+ for persistence and courtesy. If I ever take a trip to India (unlikely) I'm going to look him up.

Nolsjames said: Hi Scott. The first call centre I spoke to was based in Holland. I'm not sure it's possible to be racist about the Dutch? ...I'm sure we'll find out.

Nolsjames said: Hi Greg, I've been contacted by Adobe Customer care today and they have asked me to try the process again. Which I'm more than happy to do and shall eventually report back. Everyone's being so delightful!

Josh R. said: "am I being racist?" - Yes. If you to ask then the answer is yes. As I said before, however much we may all disagree with Adobe's money grab and terrible customer service being a blatant racist isn't helpful.

The James said: How about you guys show some respect to your customers and start admiting it was a mistake to offer creatibe cloud only. You guys dont seem to understand that treating your CLIENTS (you know, the people who pay you) like idiots isnt really good for business. Ever heared of the expression "dont bite the hand that feeds you".Have an nice day and good luck with your career.

The James said: I love how we've gotten so far as when we name a nationality in criticism about someone its emediatly labeled as racism.At least try to read what he's saying... Almost all the adobe support guys are of Indian nationality. Am i being racist by saying that? And i can barely understand them. Oh, im being such a big racist now...

Josh R. said: As much of a mess as this whole thing is I'm not sure being a blatant racist is particularly helpful.

Greg Wilson said: James - please contact me at greg.wilson at gmail dot com so I can help escalate this quickly. This is not acceptable. Send me any info that will help me get it escalated internally. Thank you -- Greg Wilson, Director of Evangelism, Adobe - @gregsramblings

Greg Wilson said: This is not acceptable to any of us in Adobe. It's being escalated as I type. Please send your contact info to me at greg.wilson at gmail dot com and we will make sure this is fixed. Sorry for the problems.... Greg Wilson, Director of Evangelism - Adobe @gregsramblings

Kazzy said: Love it.

sum said: I am booking-marking this... hopefully adobe will come in and say something :)

Mark Persaud said: maybe the cloud will make it rain!!!!

Sharon said: Um, no thanks .. I'll stick with my installed and highly functional, headache free CS6

JonC said: Haha.

Imagepoint said: When I read this, I could not believe that what was happening me was happening to some one else. I AM NOT CRAZY. They have also promised to get back to me within 24 hours, That was Friday, today is Monday.

Guest said: Everyone at Adobe is Indian, and it is now and Indian company, and I'm not impressed with this new superior service. I couldn't even understand the customer support dude I was trying to talk to the other day. Also, because it's all in India now, shouldn't we be paying less?

Guest said: The cloud sounds like so much fun!

Chris said: It's good to hear feedback of business owner's interactions with Adobe and the Creative Cloud. It has certainly made me think twice about signing up for it any-time soon. Regardless though, this article was worth reading for the closing paragraph alone. Definitely gave me a much needed laugh on a Monday.