Wednesday, April 18, 2007

TurboTax failure

For four hours last night I tried to file my taxes electronically using Intuit's TurboTax online service. The service was down and it was impossible to submit. Their error message actually told us they were experiencing too much traffic, and that we should try coming back on April 17 and try again between 4am and 4pm. Being that it was already 8pm that might have been a tad difficult. I haven't quite mastered my time travel.

I've filed electronically through TurboTax for several years, and being an IT person perhaps I place more faith in these systems being properly engineered than I should. Actually, I should know better. BUT, you don't expect a service the size of Intuit to have underestimated the potential load on their servers. Actually, they should know exactly the load to expect. It's not like they are a start-up trying to refine their software and experiencing unexpected surges in traffic. So, this is not the sort of massive failure that should be tolerated.

The company's spokeperson had this to say about their problem:
The Mountain View-based company contacted the IRS to alert the agency to the backlog, Pforzheimer said. While stopping short of promising that filers whose returns fail to reach the government before the deadline would not be penalized, he said, "it's fair to say the IRS understands what the situation is" and would have a statement about the situation Wednesday.

"Don't wait until the last minute is the moral of the story," he said.

You have got to me kidding me! Let me speculate that Mr Pforzheimer will not survive in his current position for much longer. I would suggest that perhaps he should have taken Yehuda Berlinger's advice on how to issue a proper apology, and in this instance he should be talking specifically about what they will be doing to make amends to affected customers. Here's some free advice for Mr. Pforzheimer, WHEN YOU SCREW UP DO NOT TRY TO PLACE THE BLAME ON THE PEOPLE YOU HAVE HARMED!

If you want to see a corporate marketing problem of unbelievable proportions check out Intuit's customer forums. I'm sure they never imagined their forums being used to bash the company in this way. So much for radical transparency. Here's a taste:



1. Dispute the charge
2. Tell everyone you know and blog online
3. Sell Intuit stock short tomorrow, I suspect it will go down
4. Talk to a lawyer about a class action lawsuit
5. Use other software next year
6. Don't upgrade Quicken (it rarely adds anything) or goto Microsoft Money (does the same exact stuff)

Have to love it!

I ended up giving up on Intuit and paid my taxes using Offical Payments. It worked nicely, but cost me an additional $104. Did I mention that Intuit charged me twice for filing even though it never actually worked? I'll be looking for my refund check from Intuit, and for another service to use next year.

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