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Have you tried restarting? Reinstalling? Upgrading? Moving house and changing your identity?

Or maybe we could take a quick look at our servers

Something for the Weekend? Go away. I've had enough of you. We no longer connect like we used to. After all this time together, it's as you don't even know who I am.


Right, that's got rid of that annoying pop-up. On with the… oh, FFS, here it is again.

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It's a "fremium" paywall message. They draw you in with some free stuff then start poking you with a stick marked "Pay me! Pay me!" if you want more.

Savvy content publishers know that customers will be prepared to pay for access to their content if given a compelling reason, and those reasons will vary from one customer to the next. Many people will pay up to hide the adverts; others will do it to unlock special features; some may even do it out of the good of their own hearts.

I am, of course, already a paid-up subscriber. Adverts do not bother me in the slightest. Special features I am not bothered about. The real reason I pay is so that I do not have to see a pop-up that tells me "This content is for subscribers only" every two shitting seconds. And what do I get for my monthly direct debit?

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There is no way to dismiss the pop-up other than to go back a step or leave the app altogether. Tentatively, I tap on the message to see what it does. It kicks me out of the app and into a web browser where it immediately loads my personal user page indicating that I am already a paid-up subscriber. Hmm.

I return to the app and navigate clumsily backwards to its home screen and tap on the cog icon. This confirms that I have signed in with my user account. A further tap reveals that I have a current subscription. Good, sorted. That means I can carry on and...

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OK, now what? I tap on a hamburger and scroll downwards for roughly 500 miles until I find the link to customer support. This turfs me out of the app and into my web browser again, loading up an earnestly worded page that says they want me to contact them so very much that they have designed this page especially to make it as difficult as possible for me do so.

How may we help you? Choose one of the following:

  • How to use our app
  • FAQ about our app
  • Ask other users in our forums

One wonders why they bother with the pretense. We all know what these choices really mean:

  • Fuck off and work it out yourself
  • We said fuck off
  • Off you fuck

I trudge down the documentation rabbit hole, knowing that I will eventually stumble upon a feedback form that one of the developers will have added in a fit of goodwill one day and then forgot to remove later after coming to their senses. Found it. Tappity-tap-tap, I jot in a friendly little message to say I am a subscriber but am getting repeated pop-up prompts to subscribe; can they help me, please? I include my subscription number, and OS and app version details.

Two days after the immediate auto-response email from them saying they would contact me within 24 hours, a human on customer support sends me a response. They suggest I refresh the content by swiping downwards, and tell me "do not hesitate" to reply to the email if I need more help.

Obviously that's the first thing I tried. It didn't work then and doesn't work now. I do not hesitate to reply to the email asking for more help.

To their credit, they come back to me quite quickly. Quit the app, they suggest, and relaunch it. Oh and "do not hesitate" blah blah blah.

I certainly do not hesitate. Quitting and relaunching doesn't work either, I inform them.

The next suggestion comes back by return. Uninstall the app and reinstall it, they propose.

Me (unhesitatingly): OK let's see… Nope.

Them: Please uninstall the app again, restart your smartphone, THEN reinstall.

Me: Nope.

Them: Please reset your smartphone to its factory settings.

Me: Wait, what? Are you nuts? (Resignedly) All right, let me take a backup first. (Five minutes later) … Nope.

Them: Please use another handset.

Me: How tiresome, but if you insist… Nope.

Them: Please use a computer instead.

Me: Well, yes, but it's the smartphone app I am having trouble with.

Them: Please reinstall your operating system.

Me: Hang on, I think this is getting out of hand.

Them: Please take all your electric equipment out of your office, shut the door, open the door and put it all back in again.

Me: Hello?

Them: Please put all your belongings on eBay and acquire new ones.

Me: Seems a little drastic, no?

Them: Please set fire to your house, say goodbye to your loved ones and change your name.

Me: Is this really necess…

Them: Then reinstall the app.

Well, I guess they are the experts. So here I am, standing on the street, watching the burning embers of my now-former abode and considering which new moniker to adopt. Sorry about all the choking fumes. That's my carbon neutrality score stuffed, to be sure. Up in smoke, in fact.

Later, ingeniously disguised in carefully selected fresh garb (I have eBayed the old stuff) to make me appear incongruous – raincoat, deerstalker, snorkel and flippers – I find a table to myself in a cafe on the other side of town. I unwrap my brand new smartphone, slot in my brand new SIM, start it up for the very first time and download a few apps.

What a relief all that's over! My life is reset. Now, let's relax with a little…

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Alistair Dabbs
Alistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling tech journalism, training and digital publishing. Oddly enough, he says, the very next day those annoying pop-ups stopped appearing. It was almost as if there had been an error at the authentication server which subsequently got fixed rather than anything at all being wrong at the user end. But of course that would be utterly ridiculous and no customer service agent should ever countenance such a scenario. More at Autosave is for Wimps and @alidabbs.

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