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How H&R Block Frittered Away Big Bucks & Irritated Potential Customers...

 
Dr. Mac: Rants & Raves - How H&R Block Frittered Away Big Bucks & Irritated Potential Customers...

by
March 23rd, 2007

Episode #75

It's been a while since I offered a genuine rant in this space, but I couldn't resist sharing this incredible tale of what is perhaps the most inept promotion I've ever seen in my life (and I've seen a lot).

It all began last month when the February issue of Macworld Magazine landed on my desk. In it I found a full-page, 4-color ad from H&R Block offering a free download of its TaxCut Basic software.


Figure 1: The ad.

So, though I have paid my trusted friend and accountant John Henderson to prepare my tax return for as long as I can recall, I can never resist a freebie and thought I'd give this TaxCut software a shot before sending the shoeboxes over to John.

At this point I was quite impressed with H&R Block's marketing savvy. I'd never considered TaxCut before, but they offered it to me for free and I got very interested very quickly. That's smart. And, because it was a "download-only" deal, the cost of goods to H&R Block had to be extremely low. That's even smarter. Finally, I noticed in the fine print that, "fees apply for your tax consultation and e-filing," which meant that H&R Block stood to make a few bucks off the software they were giving away for free. That's brilliant.

But while the marketing concept and strategy were brilliant, the execution was anything but.

The Story

First, I went to the designated Web page and filled out the short form.


Figure 2: The form.

Alas, when I clicked the Continue Checkout button, a blank page with no buttons or links appeared.


Figure 3: The result.

Puzzled, I tried the whole procedure again from the beginning, but the outcome was the same. I thought it might be a browser thing so I switched from Safari to FireFox and tried it again. No luck. I tried another browser, OmniWeb, but that didn't work either. I even tried it on the old family iMac. It didn't work there either.

I used the on-site form to send an e-mail message to a support specialist. I composed a rather polite one explaining the situation in excruciating detail and making it clear that I was using a Mac.

Here's the reply I received the next morning:

Thank you for contacting H&R Block TaxCut Software Support.

I do apologize that you cannot download TaxCut. Are you getting an error message? What exactly is happening? You may want to try to turn off your popup blocker, your anti-virus and any firewall, and then attempt the download again.

If you have further questions or concerns, please reply to this e-mail. H&R Block values you as a TaxCut customer and we look forward to serving as your tax and financial partner in the future.

Sincerely,

H&R Block TaxCut Software Support Team

I replied:

Dear TaxCut,

No popup blocker, anti-virus, or firewall. Tried again and the same thing happened. When I fill out the form at:

https://store.taxcut.com/ dr/sat3/ec_MAIN.Entry10?xid=1478&sp=10035&PN=1&V1=1

...and click the Continue Checkout button, I am taken to a blank page and no download occurs. I'm enclosing a screen shot of the page I see after clicking the Continue Checkout button.

Regards,

Bob "Dr. Mac" LeVitus

Raconteur, wordsmith, consultant, and author of nearly 50 books

Note: The screen shot was Figure 3, above.

Eight days later I hadn't heard a peep so I e-mailed them again:

Dear TaxCut,

It's been a week and I've heard nothing from you. The free download advertised in Macworld magazine still doesn't work. Our original e-mail exchange appears below.

Regards,

Bob "Dr. Mac" LeVitus

Raconteur, wordsmith, consultant, and author of nearly 50 books

They responded:

Thank you for contacting H&R Block TaxCut Software Support.

I apologize for the wait. Please try to turn off your proxy settings and reboot your computer. Are you receiving an error message?

If you have further questions or concerns, please reply to this e-mail. H&R Block values you as a TaxCut customer and we look forward to serving as your tax and financial partner in the future.

Sincerely,

H&R Block TaxCut Software Support Team

I wrote back:

Dear H&R Block,

There are no proxy settings to turn off. There are no error messages, no firewall, no anti-virus, and no popup blockers, either. It's a Macintosh, for gosh sakes!

In fact, I've now tried it with two other Macs and two browsers and it still fails every time on all three computers. As soon as I complete the form at:

https://store.taxcut.com/dr/sat3/ec_MAIN.Entry10?xid=1478&sp=10035&PN=1&V1=1

...and click the Continue Checkout button, I see a blank page and no download occurs. I'm again enclosing a screen shot of the page I see after clicking the Continue Checkout button.

Regards,

Bob "Dr. Mac" LeVitus

Raconteur, wordsmith, consultant, and author of nearly 50 books

To which they replied:

Thank you for contacting H&R Block TaxCut Software Support.

We sincerely apologize for the misunderstanding. However if the download isn't working at the website, what you can do is call the online store directly at 1-866-509-7629. They will be able to further assist you.

If you have further questions or concerns, please reply to this e-mail. H&R Block values you as a TaxCut customer and we look forward to serving as your tax and financial partner in the future.

Sincerely,

H&R Block TaxCut Software Support Team

That was when I gave up and sent the shoe boxes over to my buddy John the accountant. Yes, it's going to cost me more, but I'll sleep better at night knowing that my tax return is being prepared by a licensed professional who cares about his clients.

Summary & Conclusion

H&R Block spent around $40,000 for the ad in Macworld. I spent several frustrating hours attempting to download its software, writing polite and potentially helpful e-mails, and creating screen shots to illustrate the issue. After all that I was unable to download the free software.

Furthermore, although I explained the issue clearly several times, H&R Block didn't appear to make any attempt to fix it. (For what it's worth, I just tried it again, a month later, and it still doesn't work.)

I have no way of knowing whether other Mac users had issues such as mine, but I suspect many did. If so, H&R Block blew a lot more than just $40,000 on this debacle. It'll be a cold day in hell before I do business with such inept bozos. And I doubt I'm the only Mac user in the world who feels this way today.

And that's all he wrote...

Bob "Dr. Mac" LeVitus has been a Macintosh user for a long, long time and has written 49 computer books including Mac OS X Tiger For Dummies and GarageBand for Dummies. He also offers expert technical help and training to Mac users, in real time and at reasonable prices, via telephone, e-mail, and/or unique Internet-enabled remote control software. For more information on Bob and his services, visit www.boblevitus.com.

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