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Bait And Switch?!?!?

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mbrunson

Sophomore Member
Joined
Jan 29, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Nevada
Let me state up front that I am pleased with WinTotal as a whole. I however am concerned by what appear to be a growing trend.
I ended my association with "untied" systems because every time I turned around I had to send them more money for services I had become used to using but were no longer offered for "free".

These are the things that once were offered by Alamode but are no more...

1. "Free" web design for platinum support members.
2. "Free" use of the sure-receipts technology.
3. "Free" licensing for my appraisers to work from home.

I mentioned this concern to the last sales person I spoke to and was promptly told, "(in effect) none of these features were ever advertised as part of the package. We just let you use them for a while."

Thank you for allowing my clients and I to get used to the convenience and technology and then informing me that to continue enjoying the convenience and technology it will cost me $$$. I think drug dealers use a similar marketing strategy. Get 'em hooked and then they're yours.

I resent being told that it was never represented as part of my software package. How about I sell you a car and let you "use"
automatic windows and air conditioning. I'll wait until July in Las Vegas and then throw the "kill switch". When you discover that the car no longer has air conditioning or automatic windows, I'll explain that it was never represented as part of the deal. I was just being nice and letting you use them for a while. But then I'll offer to let you keep 'em for a small fee. Sound fair????

Mike
 

Richard Carlsen

Elite Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Professional Status
Licensed Appraiser
State
Michigan
What you are saying is that you only charge your clients for the first appraisal they order from you and all of the other ones they want done for the year are free. Correct?

You know, Dave talked about this extensively at the Cleveland session last month. Basically, he said what we all know: If it were left up to us, we would never buy anything. And a good return on contacting is less that 1/2 of 1%. It is part of his job to contact us time and time again and offer us his products. Selling us his products is how he makes his money. Keeping us supplied with new and useful products is how he keeps us in the fold and spending our money at his store.

There is a name for this. It is called "Business".
 

mbrunson

Sophomore Member
Joined
Jan 29, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Nevada
Richard,

I'm not sure if you are responding to my post or not...???

I am not complaining about people calling me. Nor am I upset about paying a yearly support fee. I am upset (less than I was the other day, but still upset) about having features of the software that I and my clients have become accustomed to taken away unless I pony up additional cash.

It may be business, but in my book it is bad business.

SDG

Mike
 

dbiggers

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 1, 2002
Professional Status
IT Professional-Appraisal Related
State
Florida
Evolution of a product line over several years and bait and switch are two completely different things. I understand that "Bait And Switch?!?!?" makes a much catchier and inflamed subject line, but that doesn't mean it's accurate.

"Bait and switch" is when someone advertises something which isn't actually available and then tells you that you have to actually buy something more expensive instead. That's hardly the case here. Free websites were available for years, free SureReceipts was available for years -- and free licensing for extra staff appraisers was NEVER available at all. (You've mistaken our previous free network seats policy for free extra users at other sites, which we've never condoned.)

Let's flip it around a moment:

If you told your clients that you'd do free construction inspections in exchange for their continued patronage, and did so for four years, and then announced that you'd have to start charging for it because you've rolled out a whole new construction draw management service (far more advanced than the simple inspections), I bet you'd be less than enthused if your clients told you that you had somehow been ripping them off for the past four years and that you were engaged in bait and switch tactics. All you would have been guilty of is improving your products and services and giving your clients several years of cost-free service, and giving them the option later of continuing with you as a paid service or moving on. That's normal, acceptable, and good business, not bad business.

As for the free websites specifically being dropped, that's part of an overhaul of Platinum as a whole. Many of you complained that the price was too high and that you were paying for things you didn't use. That's understandable. For example, only about 15% of our Platinum users attend seminars, yet everyone's Platinum fees underwrite our seminar expense. Likewise on the free websites. If you want us to unbundle -- and you said you do, loud and clear -- then that's what we'll do. Soon you'll see an announcement about the overall Platinum revamping, with a lower price but minus the free seminars and the free websites. Seminars will be available for a lower fee than in the past, so the price for those who choose to attend will be about the same as it is now for a Plat with a free seminar seat. And the unbundling of free sites and the release of XSites is like comparing a Ferrari with a Model T. The new XSites are light years ahead of the old eDomina free websites. There's no comparison, so that's a huge improvement -- but not one I can offer for free to all Platinum users. We have millions invested in XSites, and it shows.

We stated from the beginning of SureReceipts that it would not always be free. The way we had it, on a public website, it was accessible to anyone and everyone, including non-a la mode users. And we found that people were using it to send huge non-appraisal files for purely personal use. Making it part of Mercury still keeps it available to non-WinTOTAL users, and avoids per-use charges.

As for free staff appraiser copies of software for at home, that's never, ever, ever been legal. Our license agreement and advertising has been crystal clear on this forever. Network user seats were free, and a single extra copy at home (for the licensed user) was free -- since it could not be used at the same time as an office copy -- but extra copies at different locations for all staff appraisers has NEVER been legal. Think what that does to our support costs, and how unfair that is to others. You get to make 10 copies of our software and give it to 10 staff appraisers, who run it on 10 PC's from 10 different locations, all with different issues, and yet you pay us the same single support fee as a one-man shop. That's completely unfair to those one-man shops, since your 10 people require 10 different technicians to help them since they can all be in use simultaneously. (That's why network seats have been free to date, since it's one location, one server, and generally one installation to support.)

All we've clarified lately is that extra copies purchased for staff appraisers for use on their own systems at their own locations will no longer be available at ridiculous discounts. Let me ask you -- where else do you get an 80% discount on the second copy of software that you buy? If you go to Best Buy, do you get 80% off if you buy two copies of Windows? Or two copies of Norton?

Or if a lender tells you they need to order two appraisals, do they get 80% off the second one? Nope. All we did was the same as you do -- we still offer discounts on quantity purchases (over 10 copies at a time), but not on "onesies twosies".

As Richard pointed out, we are in business and we aren't ashamed at all about charging for our products. They're well worth it. Yet, we do often offer many free services which competitors charge for -- such as street maps in WinTOTAL, and EDI. That doesn't mean we're bound forever to offer those services for free as we improve them, just as you wouldn't be.

Dave
 

mbrunson

Sophomore Member
Joined
Jan 29, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Nevada
Dave,

Forgive my late response to your thorough reply. Let me say again that I do find your product to be superior to your competition. I have read your entire reply and feel that I owe you an apology.

I would suggest that you allow your support techs to read your reply. Had I received a similar explanation to the one you have provided rather than being handed the "we never advertised that feature, we just let you use them for a while" line <_< . You would not have spent a portion of your day calming me down.

Very truly yours,

Mike Brunson (once again a satisfied customer)
 

Michael Elliott

Sophomore Member
Joined
Apr 13, 2003
Dave,

First, I've very glad to hear about the Platinum revamping. I would love to stay a Platinum member, but the cost and loss of features was making me reconsider. I will be up till 3am tonight working on appraisals, and I love the security in the back of my mind that if something stops working, I can pick up the phone and get help.

However, that being said - I'm very sorry to see the Platinum websites go. Not because they were great websites - XSites blow them out of the water. But, because the order form would create a ZAP file and send to my Inbox - without having to setup an "account". I used this to have my assistant setup my new files so I had a tempate setup for PocketTotal. I work off of a laptop (non-networked) and work between 2 different branches of our company in two offices 50 miles apart because we cover a wide geographic area, therefore it's not practical to have my assistant's machine "networked" to mine. Second, it doesn't work to have her use our XSite for these orders as she'd have to setup an "account" for these lenders. Third, the solution from tech support was to spend $1,000 on another copy of WinTotal for my assistant - lots of wasted cost, but still doesn't solve the problem because if she creates reports on her machine, MercDesktop on mine won't let me send it out via SureReceipts (there's a licensing block of some sort if the file was created on another copy of WinTotal).

Basically - could there ever be a small program/utility used just to enter orders and transmit them to various appraisers via the Internet - designed for an office assistant, etc? Or a way for my assistant to enter the orders via Mercury without having to setup various accounts and "pretend" to be ABC Bank.

Otherwise, I've now lost a huge peg in my daily workflow that would be hard to replace.

Is it possible for me to program a solution to this using the Mercury SDK? Would my assistant need a copy of MercDesktop to use it? If I could - I'd love a copy of the SDK. I've returned the license agreement twice and called and left messages to the appropriate department but never heard back.

Thanks,
Michael Elliott
[email protected]
 

Richard Carlsen

Elite Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Professional Status
Licensed Appraiser
State
Michigan
Sounds like what you were doing with the remote sites can now be done with the Vault.
 

Real3992004

Sophomore Member
Joined
Mar 24, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Colorado
We have an Xsite and our clients love it! What's missing is the ability for our staff to assign, manage and track reports for several appraisers.

We're contemplating using E-Trac http://www.myetrac.com because it will allow us to track and communicate with our "satellite" appraisers over the internet. The only thing missing from E-Trac is the ability to import orders from the web site directly into Wintotal.

Hopefully in the near future, online ordering, order importing, tracking, assignment, report delivery will all be integrated for shops with multiple users.
 

Michael Elliott

Sophomore Member
Joined
Apr 13, 2003
Originally posted by Richard Carlsen@Jun 13 2003, 05:09 AM
Sounds like what you were doing with the remote sites can now be done with the Vault.
No, not really. I use Vault as well. Vault only allows you to store appraisal files that have already been created and access them via the web or vault software. What I need is a way for my assistant to create WinTotal orders (ZAP files) and send them to me. My only choice right now is to buy an extra copy of Wintotal ($1000) for my assistant, just to enter orders, and even then, it's a jerry-rigged solution, because if she creates the order on her copy of Wintotal and sends it to me, I cannot use the Mercury on my machine to send out the report to SureReceipts, ValueIT, etc because Mercury won't let you send a report that wasn't created on your copy of WinTotal.

I just need a simple way for my assistant to create a Wintotal file and send it to me over the Internet- looks like alamode has abandoned all other methods of other entry except Mercury/Xsites.

-Michael Elliott
[email protected]
 

Carnivore

Elite Member
Supporting Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
North Carolina
Michael,

You have brought up a great point. I am going to sign up a trainee in the very near term. I work from my home and I want the trainee to work from her home. There in lies the problem. I need a seperate license,which I dont have a problemn with, except for the outrageous multiple license fee, but I need it in my name exclusively, not the trainees. I want My name on the bottom of the forms, not the trainees and I want to send reports via mercury with the trainees digital signature and my digital signature.

I suppose I need to call there sales department and try and work something out.

Dave's issue of increase tech calls could be solved by having a per call charge on multiple licenses.

Maybe he is reading this.
 
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