Jul 192011

“Adobe, get your S*** together!” UPDATED

Yesterday, I had to call Adobe for technical support.

There was something awry with my back ups folder.

It seems logical that Adobe technical support

could help me out.  WRONG.  I was lied to, hung up

on, and told my requests were impossible to satisfy.

Turns out, my simple request can be summed up

by six lines of text.

All I wanted to do was change to location of my back ups to free up my hard drive. Its one simple command.

Saving you the headache

If you have had a bad interaction with their customer or technical support I want to hear it.

Big companies need to answer responsibly to individual customers.  This does not mean they need to bend over backwards to appease us, but if something goes wrong, they should offer their best assistance.  One of the advantages of running a website, is that companies start to listen to your input in a completely new way.  Most of the time this is because your positive feedback equals sales.  But on the flip side, the band of photographers running websites and blogs have some influence when it comes to how companies interact with their customers, design programs, and develop new products.  Remember, without a buying audience, no company exists.  No one wants a terrible steam of negative feed back, because we could just as easily switch to another software company, if Adobe fails to perform.

What Happened Yesterday

While I was getting my laptop ready for its trans-Pacific trip, I noticed something wrong with my files.  There was a huge amount of space inside of my “Pictures” folder on my MAC.  Considering all of my files are kept on portable drives, I thought something was wrong.  When I opened the files, I realized that Lightroom 3 (which was downloaded with my M9) was backing up on my hard drive.  Now, I will be the first to admit, I am not a computer genius.  Most of photography was analog until the M9.  Sheets of negatives are easy to understand.  They are filed in the last place I left them.  Its simple.  And my previous versions of Lightroom were all backed up on the portable drives.  What is the logical thing to do in this situation?  Call Adobe.

The Call Back

Phones are no longer answered by humans.  Robotic voices, trained to understand the human voice attend to out needs.  Considering most companies have trouble training actual humans to to a good job, I would say they still need to work on their robots.  Adobe has a feature, similar to Apple, where you can schedule a call back.  You leave your name and number and they call you back at a certain time.  I use this feature with Apple all the time.  It works.

Adobe’s call back feature would call me back and then disconnect.  After three attempts I gave up and waited on hold.

POINT 1 to Adobe: Get your call back feature fixed.  Its f***ing broken.  And don’t tell me it works fine, there must be a problem on my end.  I know how to answer a ringing phone.

The Long Wait

After waiting for 15 minutes I finally had a woman on the line.  She mumbled her name, but it did not matter to me because I figured this would be a quick fix.  When we were disconnected a few minutes later, I wished I had it.  But Adobe has no employee ID numbers and does not allow agents to use their last names.  In recent months, I have actually encountered companies that prefer agents to use their last names (Chase Banks & Orbitz.com)  It seems insane to me, but whatever works for them.  The point is there should be some way to identify an agent through a number or name.

Serial Number

The first thing Adobe will ask for is your serial number.  I downloaded my recent version from Lightroom, so there was no box or disc to reference.  She said, “Sure, no problem. Go to the Help tab at the top of the screen.  In the drop down look for System Info. Click on that and you will see the serial number.”  I was thinking, ok, easy enough.

What’s the Problem

Now that the program was identified, she asked what was the problem I was experiencing.  I told her the following:

  • The backup files for Lightroom are appearing in my “Pictures” folder.
  • I wanted to change the location of the back up files to a portable drive.
  • And I wanted to transfer the old backups to the drive also.

Her response:

When you exit Lightroom the next time and it prompts the “Do you want to back up now, click NEVER.”

Here is where, my patience slowly backs out of the room.  What photographer would NEVER want to back up their files?!

POINT 2: Adobe, your agents need to understand the requirements of the customers.  Backing up NEVER is not a real option for a photographer working in the digital medium.  It would be like a camera company saying “Well if you are having trouble with the advance on your film camera, try leaving the film out next time.”

A few minutes were needed to explain to her that backing up files is mandatory.  She said as an alternative she could walk me through a manual transfer of the files and how to manually back them up in the future.  I told her it seemed very bizarre that a software designed for photographers only allows for back ups in a default location dictated by the company.  She assured me, it was the only option.  For the time being, it seemed better to get the back ups done manually because I will eating up my hard drive with all of these files.  She asked if I could hold for a minute…click.  Disconnected.  She had my phone number to call back and said she would email directions to me.  Can you guess what happened next? No phone call, no email.  I have dropped calls on the phone with Apple and they call back every time.  Love or hate Apple, their customer service to date has been expensive, but helpful and responsive.

Next Agent, Welcome to the Twilight Zone

Let me introduce you to Jeff.  Jeff has no last name, no employee ID and refused to give me any information to identify himself.  Within a few minutes I was starting to think Jeff was actually the janitor, who picked up the phone on a dare.  They guy knew less than nothing.

We started with the serial number request again.  Sure I said, but I forgot which tab the last woman asked me to open up.  He said, you have to go to your Adobe account.  I said, I don’t have one.  His response, “Well then I cant help you.  The serial number is only available on the website through your account.”  This is impossible.  I just read it a minute ago and while I am no computer whiz, I am sure every program has accessible systems info.  Again, he said without the serial number I cant help you.

Patience, Exits Stage Right

Scanning the drop down tabs, while listening to Jeff, I found the serial number.  Its a 24 digit number (see above for location).  He told me at this point, its impossible to find the number inside of the program.  I said, “Let me try this one.”  I read him the number and he said it was wrong.  Considering the short comings of our good friend Jeff, I asked him to read the number back to me.  He did and he missed a number.  Now, we had the serial number.  We had determined that Jeff was wrong, relatively incompetent, and a general pain in the ass to deal with.  I wanted to talk to a supervisor.  When I said this he said,”Why?”  At this point, this is a stupid question.  I said there was an issue with the service he was providing me.  His classic response was, ” I have not provided you with any service.”  EXACTLY, this was my point.  He said he would transfer me to a supervisor.  Can you guess what happened next?  Yup, disconnected.  He hung up on me.  My guess is the training manual does not read:

If you make a mistake and mislead a customer, pull the emergency cord.  Tell them a fake name, refuse to give additional information, and then hang up.  We are a big company, chances are they will never find you again.

Final Call

In a last ditch effort to have the technical issues attended to and let a supervisor know his-her agents were giving out inaccurate information, I thought a supervisor might help.  WRONG.

Welcome my not-so-dear friend Rahul.  This conversation was 54 minutes of telecommunication pain.  I will save you the endless back and forth, along with the circular logic from Rahul.

Here is the short version:

In response to two technical agents giving false information he said:

“I am sorry for your inconvenience”

Translation: This is standard customer service jargon for I don’t give a s*** about your problem, do you really think I am going to lose any sleep over this?  Essentially, you are not my problem.

“Thank you for point out these issues so we can have the remedied as soon as possible.”

Translation: You just gave us valuable survey feedback for free.  In addition to our alpha and beta testing we just won 4 hours of free work from you at no charge.  Thanks Adam!

“As far as technical items are concerned, Mr. Marelli you are mistaken.  There is no way to find a serial number inside of the program.”

Translation: I am lying through my teeth because anyone can see that if you go to the HELP tab and Systems Info in Photoshop or Lightroom the serial number is right there.  But just so Rahul is consistent with his awful customer service, he is denying this is possible.  don’t believe me, check your HELP tab and Systems Info.  The number is right there.  He went on to say, we need to change this so you need to log on to Adobe to get support.  Again, a totally idiotic idea.  Finding a serial number should not be Web dependent. Because you might need tech support in a area where you do not have internet.  What do you do then?  Nothing, by Adobe’s logic you would be screwed.  Good thinking Rahul.

“It will not be possible to have Jeff call you back and apologize.  He cannot make an out going call.

Translation: We are not willing to do anything more for you, Mr. Marelli.  Even though we are entirely at fault, I would prefer to erect a bureaucratic roadblock at your expense.  Considering all of our customer agents as for your number, in case the call is dropped, its obvious they can call you back.  But in this case, where we screwed up, I would rather have someone unrelated to the situation give you a call.

“If you want to buy professional technical support that is $2,400 annually and I don’t think you want to do that.”

Translation: I am going to scare you away with a price tag.  Nice try Rahul.  When I asked him to give me the number for the service, he gave me the general number.  I reminded him, if I was going to pay $2,400 for personalized care, I would like to speak with them in advance.  He said this is not possible.  Sound like someone is lying again?  I think so…Rahul.  Who offers private services which are inaccessible for questions up front?  NO ONE.  High end service means that you always deal with a human directly.  See American Express.

“If you would like to speak to someone in New York, I recommend you walk down to the office and file a complaint in person.”

Translation: “Go F*** yourself.  I am on the other side of the world and could careless about our screw ups, our lies, and our short comings .  I know for certain that you will not be received at the corporate office.  I will not give you any names or direct numbers (he said he had them but could not release them).  If Adobe knew he told me to visit their office in NYC to lodge a complaint, he would probably be fired.


I finally got a name of someone in the New York office and should be speaking with him later today.  Lightroom is good as a product, but not irreplaceable.  One of my measures for a successful relationship is, “how well do things run when there is a problem?”  When everything works perfectly, we all get along.  But its when things are difficult, someone is at fault, or an unforeseen problem arrises that people’s true colors emerge.  As far as I am concerned Adobe has some explaining to do.  My hope is that I caught a glitch of a few bad eggs in the batch.  Hopefully I can report to you on how wonderful the NYC office handled the situation and report that everything is resolved.  But its all up to Adobe.

For your help I learned to two following functions for Lightroom:

Serial Number

  • Go To Help then Systems Info, the serial number is near the bottom of the list.

Change the bottom drop down to back up the next time you exit Lightroom.  When you quit the program the box below with pop up. 

Back up location can be changed the next time you exit Lightroom.

To Change the back up location from the default location which is your hard drive

  • Go to Lightroom Tab > Catalog Settings  > General > click the tab SHOW
  • Then ask Lightroom to “back up” the next time it exits.
  • When you Quit Lightroom the Back Up box appears and you can Choose a new back up location.

Its that simple.  Was is so hard for Adobe to explain six lines worth of text?  I hope this saves you the headache I have incurred in the two days of handling this non-sense problem.  If you had a similar interaction please post it below.  Its important to know that you are not the only one who has been a victim of terrible service and the mass of complaints will bang on Adobe’s door.

I want to give a special thanks to Adobe Technical Agent Jeff and supervisor Rahul for their gross negligence, incompetence, and overall deficiencies as useful members of the greater photographic community.


After a few additional phone calls, I finally got a call back from Tina, located in the US.  The difference was night and day.  After confirming that everything stated by the agents previously was entirely false, she gave me a huge run down on how to make all the changes I needed, plus a few extras.  She apologized profusely for their terrible information and advice.  She has been at Adobe for years and I believe her, when she said it breaks her heart to hear stories like this.  Why do I believe her?  Because after explaining all of the problems I encountered, which she listened to like an attentive therapist, she walked me through every step, until we were complete. We went through switching, backing up and set up new Catalogs.  There were certainly a few layers to getting all the operations right, but she was there for it all.

The situation with outsourced technical support is tough.  Now I completely understand that trying to service a technical photographer in your second or third language would be a challenge.  But what Tina and I both agreed upon was the need to say “I don’t know,” instead of insisting on incorrect actions.  The mistakes could have been very costly.  It was very fortunate that I was eventually able to speak to Tina.  The 6 hours of nonsense phone calls was vindicated with her knowledgeable advice.

She even went a step further and explained additional organizational options that she uses with “Collections” and some scenarios posed to her by other photographers.  The only question that remains unsolved is how to bridge the gap between “Out Sourced” and “Domestic” service.  As we can all imagine the outsourced work has financial benefits to Adobe, but furthermore it opens up job opportunities in developing sections in India.  Conceptually, this is a good thing.  But the discrepancy in service to too great and needs improvement.

One option she presented was Adobe’s “Feedback, Photoshop Family.”  It takes the forum style Q&A one step further by allowing internal Adobe experts the ability to interface directly with customers.  She said they are developing this program because the level of sophistication coming from the Lightroom demographic needs a higher level of service.  We will see how it goes.

Overall I can say that Tina came through for Adobe.  Without her, the experience was hellish.  But the thoughtful, knowledgeable consideration of one person can turn the problem around.  THANK YOU TINA! Someone over there should give you a raise! And I am incredibly grateful for your time and effort.



  10 Responses to “Lightroom 3 Problems”

  1. Horrid that you had that experience!! I reckon Tina is the norm; and Jeff and Rahul were bad eggs! Have always had fab support from Adobe when I have needed it.

    • Hey Vicki,

      Its good to hear that your experiences have been good. Tina was amazing, though not accessible to someone calling Tech Support, which is a shame. Hopefully Adobe can do a little house keeping.


  2. Horrible ‘service’ experience aside, I want to make sure that you are aware that LR’s backup is NOT backing up your photos, it is just backing up the it’s catalog. I got the impression from your post that you were referring to the pictures themselves being backed up.
    LR doesn’t back up your photos at all.

    • Hey Joe,

      Nice to meet you. I think this is the first time I am seeing your name here. : )

      Thanks for clarifying the catalog versus the overall images. Yes, the images (DNG files) are backed up on a separate drive. While I had Tina on the phone, we went over a few other questions that I had about her workflow and backing up with multiple catalogs. Most of my confusion is gone, but you raised an interesting point. People should know that the Lightroom back ups are only good, if the original file is in tact. But backups to the DNG should be made on an external drive in case of emergency.


      • Just wanted to make sure that was put out there, I’ve seen quite a few people think that images are actually being backed up in LR, when they are not.
        That kind of disaster is one that no one needs. :)

        • Totally understandable Joe, I am sure someone out there read your comment and thought “Really?! I did not know that.” It definitely saved someones day. : )

  3. I never call customer support for computer hardware or software problems. They either don’t speak English well, speak clearly or know what they’re talking about (or all of the above.) Most help desks work from a script or a flow chart. There is no real trouble shooting ability or technical expertise on most help desks. (I know this because I worked at two help desks early in my career. One where I used a flow chart and one where I actually had to know what the hell I was supporting.)

    I usually just go online to look for help. There are enough power-users out there where you can usually find the answer yourself.

    • Thanks for the inside track on tech support. They are often a nightmare, I used to have T Mobile.
      But surprisingly I have found some that are really good, Canon and Apple have been good to me in the past. I think Canon’s tech support was based in Maryland. Either way they were great. While we are on Canon, I like how they offer a “professional service” for photographers. This way you camera makes it back within a few days. hint, hint Leica.

      But back to the tech support, there is a huge wealth of information from photographers on line. L Camera Forum has some fantastic members.

  4. Hi Adam,

    I just recently found your blog and now subscribe to your rss feed. Thanks for producing a great blog and amazing images.

    Unfortunately, your solution is incorrect. The “Location” shown in the category information is the actual location of the catalog itself. For you to make that screenshot, you actually opened up your backup catalog. Please check and make sure that you aren’t working in your backup catalog. I would hate for you to ingest images into your backup catalog on your external drive and then wonder why things slowed down so much.

    To change the location of the backup, under “backup catalog” pick “back up next time Lightroom exits” and then when you quit Lightroom, it will ask you where to backup to. Then you can pick a new location.

    If you’re on a Mac, your catalog gets backed up when your hard drive is backed up, so I actually have mine set to “never” and still have 3 copies in separate locations (one on my laptop, one on the clone drive of my laptop, and one on my time machine volume).

    In cases like these, it’s a much better investment of your time to search the internet for an answer rather than haggle with phone support.

    • Hey Aaron,

      Thanks for the correction. I was wrong in the way I explained it. The corrected version has been dropped in above.

      I had actually changed the Catalog location and the Back Up location, but did not explain it properly. Most likely due to the steam still coming off of my head. But after a few days, its much clearer.

      I must say that I am surprised to hear that the general consensus is to troll the net for answers. Its a sign of a great community of seemingly disconnected individuals working together. Thanks everyone for all of your feedback, corrections, and input.

  5. I currently use CS3 and wanted to upgrade to CS5. I downloaded the trial and loved it – except that every time I used some of the more intense features (content aware, subject extraction) I would completely lose any of the functionality of my normal tools – like the BRUSH and ERASER. Closing program and rebooting didn’t help. It would magically work again a few days later, but always stop after using one of those other extensive tools. I called Adobe, waited on hold for 45 min, spoke with Rahul (HAD to be him LOL) and was told they do not give support on trial versions. SERIOUSLY? I told him that I was using the trial version so I could consider upgrading and that I would NOT upgrade a product that was not working properly. He just kept repeating the same thing – we do not offer support for trial versions. I was pissed. Needless to say, I still use CS3 and it’s over a year later. I have NO desire to upgrade, either. Adobe has got to get rid of the overseas outsourcing. Their products are way too technical to entrust to outsourcing. Now Amazon can get away with it, but Adobe? Forget it.

    • Robbie,
      It sounds like we spoke to the same Rahul. He is a nightmare. I completely sympathize with your experience and agree that the customer support should not be overseas. Its too technical and the material is not properly taught to the customer service agents. Its unfair to them and to us as customers. While there is plenty of good information on line, a company should provide adequate customer service for their products. If Adobe is at Photo East in NYC, I would definitely like to speak to someone there. And visit the adobe blog that I mentioned in the article. They do listen to the feedback. Customers have the power in this situation, so if they get enough requests to move the support back to the states, it could happen.
      From the American based Adobe people I spoke to, they would probably like that too.

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