Tuesday, December 14, 2010

QuickBooks 2011 Sucks: The Intuit Response

Regular readers here know that I have not been singing the praises of Intuit's QuickBooks software for some time. Recently, I wrote a blog about what I think sucks in the newest version. And I gave Intuit the chance to respond before I posted it. They didn't get back to me quickly and the blog posted. But they did get back to me, forwarding a number of responses from Shane Hamby, product manager for QuickBooks for Windows.

AZ:  I got a message saying that the QB Sync Manager was syncing with another computer, even though it was not.  Which raises the question, why is the Sync Manager loading if I'm not trying to sync anything?

SH:  Sync manager will only start syncing once a user sets it up. Could it have been that another computer in your office was syncing the file already? Or, were you a beta user in which case you may have already set it up? If your answers to both questions are no, we can look into it more.

AZ:  In my Startup folder, I have two items from QB now.  One is the Update Agent, which I recognize.  The other is QuickBooks_Standard_21.  When I called Tech Support to ask what this was, I was informed it was a "standard user that QuickBooks creates to access my computer."  Interesting.  I have tons of programs, including Quicken 2011, but none of those needs to put such an item in my Startup folder.  So what is the programming weakness in QuickBooks that requires it?

Can a user QuickBooks_Standard_21 file from the Startup folder?  What potential negative consequences might that have?

SH:  This is not a user on your computer but rather a process that is running related to the QuickBooks fast startup.  It can be safely removed or even turned off in preferences so it won’t run the next time the computer restarts.  The preference is under the General Preferences called "Keep QB running for quick startups."  Turning off this prefernce will cause QB to not start as fast.

AZ:  When installing Payroll 2011 (purchased, not provided), I was never asked if I was renewing a subscription or starting a new one.  Why not?  Wouldn’t it be more efficient and a better user experience to have two paths for the user:  new or renewal?

SH:  I hear you. This has come up before. We like the idea and have been considering it. 

AZ:  Why does QB continually try to sell me Online storage for my backup if I have checked the box to disable promotional and marketing messages?  Also, why are there constantly links for payroll and merchant-processing services even though that box is checked?

SH:  We're currently addressing this issue. You should see the promo messages go away soon.  

AZ:  Please respond to the following comments:

I note the addition of Intuit PaymentNetwork as a potential payment method.  The latter is essentially to compete with PayPal as a payment method, but does not allow payment by credit card, only bank transfer.  This, clearly, is so that it does not compete with Intuit's credit-card processing business, which is more expensive than PayPal's credit-card processing.  For those who have plenty of customers willing to allow Intuit to transfer funds directly from their bank account, this could be a great option, but I think customer acceptance of such transfers will be low.  It's one thing to go to your bank's website and initiate a payment.  It's quite another to click a link on an email you receive and then allow access to your accounts by a vendor.

Interestingly enough, you cannot use the Intuit PaymentNetwork from within QuickBooks to make a payment.  Because, of course, that's just a Direct Deposit and Intuit charges you $1.25 to make a Direct Deposit to a vendor, but if you log into the Intuit PaymentNetwork, Intuit charges you nothing and charges the recipient only fifty cents to receive the payment.  Seems to me that the pricing for the two services should be the same, lower fee, and there should be an option check box for "charge fee to sender" or "charge fee to recipient."  The recipient, it should be noted, must sign up with Intuit PaymentNetwork and agree to the fee before the funds can be received.  I do wonder how many folks, upon receiving email notification that the payment is waiting for them will simply call the sender to demand they get them the funds another way.

      SH:  Our overarching goal with the Intuit PaymentNetwork is to make the painful process of getting paid as fast and easy as possible for small businesses. We know from talking to small businesses what a huge pain point getting paid can be. In our testing, we found that transactions of $5,000 or less were funded the next business day with the inclusion of Intuit PaymentNetwork (IPN) in invoices. Rather than think of IPN as a PayPal competitor, we think of it as a way for small businesses, specifically, to receive payment on invoices that seamlessly integrates with their QuickBooks files, which is a unique capability we have.

      You share an interesting vision on how we can extend the power of IPN to pay vendors from within QuickBooks. It’s a brand new service so we’re listening to customer feedback like yours to shape how we further develop it.  So far, feedback about IPN has been very positive. Small businesses and their customers seem to like the convenience of the new payment option where the small business only pays 50 cents for every payment received.


Monday, December 06, 2010

Free eBook from International Thriller Writers

Just got an email from the International Thriller Writers. Can't say I've checked out this site, but figured it was worth posting for any who might be interested...

_____________________________________________________________

Here’s an ITW holiday gift – a free ebook!

Download a free copy of ITW’s latest thriller Watchlist – a killer collaboration between 22 authors including Jeffery Deaver, Lee Child, Joe Finder, Lisa Scottoline, David Hewson, David Liss and more.

USA Today said: “Entertaining and intriguing....the action is full-boil.”

PW gave it a starred review and said: “A suspenseful, action-packed international thriller filled with plenty of twists and turns.”


To get your free ebook sign up at Peroozal.com – where recommendations from authors guide readers to great books.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

GIVE ME TOMORROW Receives Starred Review from KIRKUS







They call it "the Forgotten War."  Korea.  For most Americans the Korean War was nothing more than the setting for the movie and TV show, M*A*S*H, but the troops who fought there, the Korean War was as brutal and horrific as any war fought.  And in GIVE ME TOMORROW, acclaimed combat historian Patrick K. O'Donnell portrays one of the most dramatic and moving stories of that war, the story the US Marine unit, George Company.  Or, as it came to be known, Bloody George.

“What would you want if you could have any wish?” asked the photojournalist of the haggard, bloodied US Marine before him. The marine gaped at his interviewer. The photographer snapped his picture, which became the iconic Korean War image featured on this book’s jacket. “Give me tomorrow,” he said at last.
After nearly four months of continuous and agonizing combat on the battlefields of Korea, such a simple request seemed impossible. For many men of George Company, or “Bloody George” as they were known—one of the Forgotten War’s most decorated yet unrecognized companies—it was a wish that would not come true.

This is the untold story of “Bloody George,” a marine company formed quickly to answer its nation’s call to duty in 1950. This small band of men—a colorful cast of characters, including a Native American fighting to earn his honor as a warrior, a Southern boy from Tennessee at odds with a Northern blue-blood reporter-turned-Marine, and a pair of twins who exemplified to the group the true meaning of brotherhood—were mostly green troops who had been rushed through training to fill America’s urgent need on the Korean front. They would find themselves at the tip of the spear in some of the Korean War’s bloodiest battles.

After storming ashore at Inchon and fighting house-to-house in Seoul, George Company, one of America’s last units in reserve, found itself on the frozen tundra of the Chosin Reservoir facing elements of an entire division of Chinese troops. They didn’t realize it then, but they were soon to become crucial to the battle—modern-day Spartans called upon to hold off ten times their number. Give Me Tomorrow is their unforgettable story of bravery and courage.

Thoroughly researched and vividly told, Give Me Tomorrow is fitting testament to the heroic deeds of George Company. They will never again be forgotten.

And KIRKUS REVIEWS, the toughest of all the trade review publications, agrees, giving it a starred review and saying the following:

“Drawing on interviews with the surviving members of George Company, O’Donnell graphically details the rigors of battle in the brutal Korean winter…While he does not underplay the horrors of the war, and does justice to the lighter moments that men remember years later, the author shines when he captures such catch-in-the-throat moments as when the Fifth and Seventh Marines, coming into base after a harried withdrawal under intense Chinese pressure, marched in singing the Marine Hymn…George Company’s performance at Chosin Reservoir practically defines heroism. O’Donnell brings it to vivid life.”

Published by Da Capo Books, the book is also available as an audio title from Blackstone Audio.  Give Me Tomorrow: The Korean War's Greatest Untold Story - The Epic Stand of the Marines of George Company

Z

Friday, November 12, 2010

QuickBooks 2011: How Badly Does It Suck?

As much as I would have preferred not to, I recently upgraded from QuickBooks Premiere 2010 to the 2011 version.  And the fun has already begun!

First attempt to use the program resulted in a crash.

Next, I got a message saying that the QB Sync Manager was syncing with another computer, even though it was not.  Which raises the question, why is the  Sync Manager loading if I'm not trying to sync anything?

In my Startup folder, I have two items from QB now.  One is the Update Agent, which I recognize and endure.  The other is QuickBooks_Standard_21.  When I called Tech Support to ask what this was, I was informed it was a "standard user that QuickBooks creates to access my computer."  Interesting.  I have tons of programs, including Quicken 2011, but none of those needs to put such an item in my Startup folder.  So what is the programming weakness in QuickBooks that requires it?

When I inquired if I could delete the QuickBooks_Standard_21 file from the Startup folder, the rep in Manila was clearly lacking confidence in her answer.  I asked to be escalated to a Tier 2 representative.  Roy, the Tier 2 representative, wasn't much help.  He asked to put me on hold while he checked resources.  After a total hold time of thirty minutes, I gave up and hung up.

My next call was to the Office of the President of Intuit, where I spoke with Sonya.  Now, I have spoken to many folks in this office and, unfortunately, Sonya is not one of the best.  At first she refused to help me because I didn't have a case number.  I informed her that I had not been given one and perhaps she could look it up.  She did and found there was an actual case, but it only covered one question.  I asked if I could give her the other questions.  She asked me if I had a technical support plan.  I said I did not, but did not think these questions warranted one.  She insisted they were "How do I..." questions.  I pointed out they were installation issues and bugs and that I had received my copy of QuickBooks because I am a blogger and I needed to be able to report accurately on my experience.  She said she would look into whether or not there was technical support for bloggers and get back to me.  That was a full day ago and I've yet to hear back.

Since then, I've already discovered two more bugs and other issues.  While installing a new payroll subscription (which I paid $185 for via Amazon; almost $100 less than Intuit wanted), the program seems to never consider that you may already have a subscription and walks you through as though you are new user.  You have to input a lot of your info all over again, which is a waste of time, and the program says it will make two small withdrawals from your account, which it should not, because your account is already verified.  Sloppy and lazy programming not to ask the question, "Are you renewing your subscription or is this a new subscription?" and having two paths to follow.

In attempting to back up my file, the system repeatedly defaults to "Online" and tries to sell me Intuit's online storage feature, despite the fact that I have the preference box on marketing/promotion messages checked to turn them off.

Next, when I ran my first payroll, I got an error saying that my payroll was before 11/20/2075 (yes, sixty-four years from now) and that I was therefore sending a "late" payroll.

A chat session with Justin at Payroll Support indicated that both bugs are known issues but there is no ETA on when they will be resolved.

As for new features, I can't say I've discovered a lot, though I did notice the new Collections Center, which might be genuinely helpful) and the addition of Intuit PaymentNetwork as a potential payment method.  The latter is essentially to compete with PayPal as a payment method, but does not allow payment by credit card, only bank transfer.  This, clearly, is so that it does not compete with Intuit's credit-card processing business, which is more expensive than PayPal's credit-card processing.  For those who have plenty of customers willing to allow Intuit to transfer funds directly from their bank account, this could be a great option, but I think customer acceptance of such transfers will be low.  It's one thing to go to your bank's website and initiate a payment.  It's quite another to click a link on an email you receive and then allow access to your accounts by a vendor.


Interestingly enough, you cannot use the Intuit PaymentNetwork from within QuickBooks to make a payment.  Because, of course, that's just a Direct Deposit and Intuit charges you $1.25 to make a Direct Deposit to a vendor, but if you log into the Intuit PaymentNetwork, Intuit charges you nothing and charges the recipient only fifty cents to receive the payment.  Seems to me that the pricing for the two services should be the same, lower fee, and there should be an option check box for "charge fee to sender" or "charge fee to recipient."  The recipient, it should be noted, must sign up with Intuit PaymentNetwork and agree to the fee before the funds can be received.  I do wonder how many folks, upon receiving email notification that the payment is waiting for them will simply say "F-that!" and call the sender to demand they get them the funds another way.  A word to the wise, clear it with your recipient before sending funds via the Intuit PaymentNetwork.

Z

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The October Monthly Round-up

Well, October was a heck of a month.  No, not for reading or for business, but because my wife and I had a new baby boy!  His name is Sam and he's quite the cute kid and a pretty good sleeper.  Alas, the pediatrician says we can't let him sleep longer than four hours at night and so I'm pretty much a zombie.  So, the numbers really didn't move in October.  Here they are:

Received:
  • 58 Queries; declined 9
  • 0 Sample Chapters; declined 3
  • 1 Full Manuscript

We have on-hand:
  • 4 Sample Chapters
  • 2 Proposals
  • 12 Full Manuscripts

We're waiting for:
  • 1 Sample Chapter
  • 2 Proposals

We also have 52 eQueries™ we've received but have not yet read.

Z

QuickBooks Direct Deposit for Vendors: The Next Chapter

I had a long chat with Stacy from Intuit's Risk Management Department yesterday.  Apparently this department makes the decisions on what the limits should be on companies using QuickBooks Direct Deposit for Vendors.  It was somewhat enlightening, but still frustrating.

I have been granted the limits I requested, but this was only possible, I was told, by lowering the Direct Deposit for Payroll limits.  So if I hire someone or want to give myself a raise or bonus, I will have to revisit the entire nightmare of trying to get my limits raised.

I was informed that the limits were based on the average balances of my accounts over the last six months.  However, as I pointed out to Stacy, as a literary agent and fiduciary, I am contractually required to pay out my client's funds within ten business days of clearance of funds.  And generally I do it within five business days.  So those funds barely have an impact on the "average daily balance" that Intuit is basing its decisions on.

I was then told that Intuit needs the bank-rating form my bank declined to complete because it needs to know what funds are in my accounts when I apply for the increase.  I pointed out that Intuit now owns Mint.com and if you use that site you know that Mint aggregates your balances from multiple financial sites such as your bank and credit card companies and therefore Intuit certainly has the technology to add to QuickBooks a real-time check on a company's balances in order to eliminate the bank-rating form from the process.  Stacy told me I making "all good suggestions" and she was taking notes.

Now, if I could just get Intuit to pay me for what I estimate to be $2,500 worth of my time wasted trying to implement their screwed-up product, I might actually feel better!

Z

Monday, November 01, 2010

More on QuickBooks Direct Deposit for Vendors

When we last left our intrepid hero—I mean me, of course—he was still waiting for anyone with actual problem-solving abilities to get back to him from QuickBooks or Intuit.  I did, in fact, get a call back regarding my application for higher limits on Direct Deposit for Vendors from Intuit and it was quite enlightening.

The woman who called me back confirmed that I was never made aware of the limits on my accounts and that not making users aware is part of their security policy.  I trust that I am not alone in feeling that this is, perhaps, one of the stupidest approaches to security and customer service out there.

Let's see, there are limits, but the people using the services do not know about the limits.  The limits, if you hit them, are difficult to get raised and require the cooperation of your bank.  So if you are hoping to use the Direct Deposit for Vendors or Direct Deposit for Payroll services from QuickBooks but hit your limits, you'd better have a back-up plan fast, because you aren't going to be able to use those services until you wade through a pile of paperwork and bullshit to get to a place where you can use them.

To me, this is a bit like buying a car that has a speedometer that goes up to 190, but the one day you need to go faster than, say 65, you find out the car won't do it.  It will crap out on you and leave you in the passing lane, trying to get past a line of trucks, with on-coming traffic in your lane, unable to actually get past the trucks, perhaps leading to an accident but certainly slowing you waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay down and unable to do with that car what you'd hoped to do.

Further, without ever discussing my need for higher limits with me, Intuit approved a lower limit than I had requested, thus ensuring that this service will continue to not work for me and forcing me to use wires or overnight checks to meet the needs of my clients.  Ironically, my ability to provide good "customer service" to my clients is being hampered by bad customer support from QuickBooks and Intuit.

Thus, if you are interested in either Direct Deposit for Payroll or Direct Deposit for Payroll from QuickBooks, I think it's important that you dig in deep at the start with them and insist on knowing the limits that have been set and, if those limits are unacceptable, pick the fight now, before you change your ways, because you'll find yourself quite frustrated and losing days and days of productivity when you are unable to accomplish what you hope to accomplish with these services.  So much for improving the way you do business!

Z

P.S.  To whomever left the anonymous comment on the prior post (perhaps someone from Intuit?), please note that I do not permit anonymous posts.  You must at least provide your full name, city and state.

Friday, October 29, 2010

QuickBooks Direct Deposit for Vendors...Sucks!

There are days I wonder if Intuit and QuickBooks can get it any more wrong, and then I run into the situation I ran into this week and discover the answer is a resounding Yes!

As I've written about before on this blog, QuickBooks and Intuit now offer Direct Deposit for Vendors, a service I actually requested from Intuit in an email some time ago.  After all, QuickBooks offers Direct Deposit for payroll, so it shouldn't be a big leap to let users make payments to vendors via Direct Deposit.  As a literary agent, I receive payments on behalf of my clients.  Clients are often generally paid by check, but sometimes they request a wire.  Wires are quite expensive to send, but the cost of Direct Deposit isn't much more than the cost of the printed check, envelope, and stamp.  However, as I have been trying to use Direct Deposit in its release form (I turned down the chance to be a beta tester), I have found numerous headaches, glitches, and hurdles that demonstrate that this product was not ready for release.  Additionally, when attempting to get customer service, I have run into a gross lack of response and cooperation, even though I have been calling the Office of the President of Intuit every day for most of the week.  Thus, I can confidently say that Direct Deposit for Vendors from QuickBooks and Intuit sucks.

Before I get into this week's nightmares, let me direct you to the prior nightmare, at
http://zackcompany.blogspot.com/2010/09/quickbooks-direct-deposit-for.html.  Here I covered issues I had with DDfV allowing you to use only one account to make Direct Deposits.

This week, I ran into new issues, issues you must be aware of before using Direct Deposit for Vendors or even Direct Deposit for Payroll.

I have used Direct Deposit for Payroll for quite a while now, but only this week did I discover that both the Payroll and Vendor Direct Deposit programs have limits on them.  These limits are per payment and per two-week pay period.  Hence, let's say your company had a hiring boom, you might not be able to pay all of your staff because of these limits.  Or let's say you decided to switch to Direct Deposit for Vendors and you went through the headache of getting all of your vendors to send you the information needed to implement it.  Then you pulled the trigger of switching from checks to Direct Deposit but—wait!—your payments won't go through because there are limits on how much you can pay out per vendor or per period to all vendors.  And you never knew about these limits!

I will state without hesitation that I was never informed about and never agreed to any limits on either Direct Deposit for Payroll or Direct Deposit for Vendors.  Nowhere in the sign-up process for either service did it ask me to set limits or agree to limits that I can recall.

As a literary agent receiving funds on behalf of my clients, I may receive payments for less than a dollar (really!) or for six figures.  Heck, if I get lucky, I could get payments for seven figures.  And I need to be able to move that money to my clients.  Direct Deposit seems like a no-brainer for such transactions.  Except for the limits.

When I got the error message declaring that the payment I wanted to make was over the limit, I went to the QuickBooks website and started a chat session with a representative.  She was helpful enough and said I needed to call the 800 number and request a limit increase.  So I called the 800 number and was informed that I needed to be sent forms to fill out:  1.  a request for a limit increase and; 2.  a bank rating form.  The first is likely self-explanatory.  You fill out the form and state what you want your limits to be.  The second, though, is more complicated.  It's a form you fill in and then you must take it to your bank and ask them to complete it and fax it to Intuit.

Having a newborn at home and a toddler who is demonstrating everything there is to demonstrate about the "terrible twos," I have plenty of time to fill out forms like this and drive on down to the bank...not.  So my next call was to the Office of the President of Intuit [(520) 901-3280].  This office used to have some actual ability to get things done, but now it mostly seems to forward things to Manila or India and you get a call back that is garbled by distance, hard to understand because of the rep's accent, and limited to whatever assistance the rep is allowed to offer according to the script.  There is no autonomy, creativity, or genuine problem-solving ability demonstrated by any of the overseas representatives.

I also took some other steps in this process:  I called and left a message for Jen Mingo, Director of Service Delivery - Desktop Payroll, who tried to assist me with a prior headache involving Intuit Direct Deposit for Vendors.  She didn't call me back.  I also emailed Gina Han, Product Management, Employee Management Solutions, who runs the Direct Deposit for Vendors Program.  She didn't email me back.

I did ultimately speak with a guy named Adrian who I believe is in India, despite an email address that says Tucson.  He informed me that I needed to complete the two forms.  I informed him that getting those forms completed and approved would take three to ten business days and I needed to pay my client immediately.  I asked to speak to his supervisor repeatedly and he failed to put me through.  I spent nearly an hour on the phone with him, mostly on hold.

In the end, I never got the supervisor, but Adrian called back after I hung up and told me he had gotten a temporary increase in my limit so I could put through the Direct Deposit for my client.

So I went to put through the payment and QuickBooks came up with an error message informing me that the balances in my account were too low to make the payment and that I should confirm I had enough money to do so.  Why did I get this error?  Because QuickBooks is looking at the balance after the entry for the payment I was making, rather than the balance before.  So, for example, let's say your balance is $10,000, then you add $20,000, then you want to send a Direct Deposit to a vendor for that $20,000.  QuickBooks will report that your balance is $10,000 and insufficient for sending the payment through.  Brilliant!  Great programming job!

The next day, Adrian called me back, confirmed the payment went through, and then said my limit was again being dropped back to the original limit.  A limit—let me say it again—I never agreed to, requested, or was informed of previously.

Yesterday I completed the paperwork I was sent, including driving down to the local branch of my large, international bank, where a rep looked at it and said, basically, he wasn't going to fill it out.  He printed out some paperwork about my accounts and gave it to me to fax to Intuit, which I did last night.  All told, it was at least half of a business day for me to complete the paperwork, go to the bank, and get it all scanned and sent back to Intuit.  As of 2:40 PM today, I have not gotten an email confirmation of receipt, a phone call, or any other indication they got it, never mind an indication that my requested limits are being granted.

Not yet discussed is why are there limits?  The paperwork states it's to protect you from embezzlement, but isn't that why we password-protect our QuickBooks file and then have a different password for payroll and Direct Deposit transactions.  Intuit debits your account prior to making the Direct Deposit.  In my case, it was debiting on October 29th to make a payment on November 1.  One way payroll companies make money is on the float between when they debit and when they make payment.  So Intuit knows you have the funds, because it debited the funds.  So why are there limits?  If there are no funds, then no payment can be made.  I could understand why a large corporation or even one with a bookkeeper might want limits, but certainly not a firm where the owner handles the books.  And shouldn't those limits be voluntary and set by the user and not by Intuit?  And if not voluntary and set by the user, shouldn't Intuit be required to discuss, disclose, and get your agreement to then in advance?
 
All told, I'd say I've killed a full three business days of my time trying to jump through hoops and get this payment made.  My error, I guess, was in thinking I'd actually be able to get customer service in a timely manner and resolve the problem I was running into quickly.  In the end, it was, like most problems with QuickBooks, a freaking nightmare of a timesuck.  If I get approval over the new limits I've requested, I may continue to use Direct Deposit for Vendors selectively, but I have my doubts.  There are advantages to using plain old paper checks and right now they outweigh everything about Intuit's and QuickBooks' Direct Deposit for Vendors.