Sunday, August 30, 2009

Earth Class Mail Re: Their Price Hike

Not to me and not officially to readers of this blog, but finally there is at least some on-the-record word from Earth Class Mail about sending their prices into the stratosphere.

I've heard from yet another disgruntled Earth Class Mail customer who is being forced to stop using the service due to the price hike. When news of the price hike came through in the initial spin filled e-mail, said loyal customer wrote to Earth Class Mail support and received this response:
Thank you for contacting us and voicing your concerns. We take customer feedback very seriously and do listen to your input. With our new products and pricing, some customers are finding that their cost may higher. However, many customers are finding that with lower shipping rates and the new scan pricing, they are spending less, being charged more fairly, and enjoying more features. [Note: all typos in the ECM mail are ECMs.]
Above we see typical PR spin, trying to make the price hike sound like it's actually a good thing for loyal customers. This of course is laughable. All one needs to do is compare the old prices with the new ones to see how truly ludicrous the above paragraph is. Any of the "many customers" who are finding that they are "spending less" and being "charged more fairly" should please write to us here at the blog and explain yourselves and defend the price hike you love so much. I've been hearing from plenty of people who dislike the price hike and not even one who finds that they are "spending less" and are being "charged more fairly." Pure corporate PR baloney. The e-mail from Earth Class Mail continues:
In the past, we had many customers voice concerns that they were paying for a plan that included scans, but not getting their monies worth. Other customers were worried about having to count pages to make sure they did not go over their monthly allotment.
Oh really? Funny, I don't recall seeing anyone start a blog or tweeting about any of those issues. I bet those "many customers" are just thrilled now that they have to pay a lot more for the service overall and in addition, pay for every single mail piece that they want scanned! Yup, I'm sure those customers are real happy!
With our new pay-as-you go scan pricing, there is no more guesswork and you know you are getting what you pay for.
I can't speak for everyone, but I for one didn't mind guessing. And if the guesswork was such a terrible burden for some customers, couldn't Earth Class Mail have their programmers (competent people like Mr. Kelly White) put a little counter on the user interface to keep track of how many "free" scans each customer has left each month? Earth Class Mail could obviously keep track of that number, why didn't they just pass that info on to the users instead of raising prices into orbit and charging loyal customers for every single mail piece they want scanned? A little counter on the inbox I think would have been much easier and much more customer friendly.
We are going to featuring shredding as an add-on service to your account. We decided to separate out the shredding costs so that those customers who didn’t require the additional security of shredding the mail wouldn’t have to pay for it. Shredding does involve an additional charge, but recycling continues to be free and is much better for the environment. We also provide the recycled mail in locked dumpsters to the recycling facility so your security is less compromised than if your recycling were sitting at your curb for anyone to read.
Once again, this makes no sense at all. Customers were charged less, and had both shredding and recycling included. Now, customers are being charged much more and on top of that, have to pay extra to have their items shredded? Massive gaps in your logic, ECM! And I love it how they make it seem like even if it's just getting recycled, it's almost just as good as shredding because it's in locked dumpsters. And yes, it's all just so great for the environment! You people who are running Earth Class Mail are all just wonderful, wonderful, concientious, people!
We appreciate that you have been our customer since before the conversion. This is the first price increase in the history of Earth Class Mail and this is not something we take lightly.
Clearly you do! For me, and plenty of other loyal customers who were around before the conversion, this means an increase of well over 100%! Clearly you do take it very lightly and have complete disregard for your customers. We watched the company start in "StartUp Junkies" and were thrilled to be a part of it! Per a suggested list in your FAQ, we changed all of our postal addresses to our Earth Class Mail addresses. Now, you more than double the price of the service, and we have to change all our addresses again to something else, in order to leave you? One of your whole original selling points was that we could have one permanent address that we would never have to change. I think you take it extremely lightly and are very cavalier about how you've affected loyal customers.
Our product has new features and has reached a new level of excellence. We are continually committed to adding new features and continuing to offer you the best mail service there is.
It was fine the way it was. If new features translates to increasing the price of your most basic service to over 100% of what it was, we don't want it. Ron Wiener built a great company that provided a fine service. You're making the gross mistake of alienating the customers who trusted you, believed in you, and helped the company get started. You're not going to get a second chance.
We understand that this is a big change and you have something to think about, but we hope that you will continue to be a valued customer of Earth Class Mail.
"Valued customer?"You have treated us with complete disloyalty, and uncaring disregard. Don't add insult to injury by pretending that you "value" us. I still have my Earth Class Mail account, but only because I've paid for it at the original price. When my current term expires, I'll be gone. Not because of the service you've provided during my time with you - that has been excellent. But because of your outrageous price increase and treacherous treatment that you've given to loyal customers such as myself.

Who are the VCs who invested in Earth Class Mail and condoned President and COO Sarah Carr to treat people like this?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Jeff Wenker - PR for Earth Class Mail

Thanks for another great tip from another disgruntled Earth Class Mail customer:

The person who does PR for Sarah Carr at Earth Class Mail (no doubt a REAL challange!) was/is a guy named Jeff Wenker.

Jeff has a site of his own up at and plenty of blogs listed there. Some of his writing isn't half bad and it's great to see what a PR guy has to say about the PR industry.

Question for Jeff: Being a PR guy, how can you defend/spin what Sarah Carr has done at Earth Class Mail? Clients signed up for Earth Class Mail at one price, changed their addresses to ECM, and now have been informed that prices are over 100% more than they've been paying? This ruthless customer mistreatment must be a real challenge for a PR man. Where is Don Draper when you need him?

And where is Sarah Carr? She's the one who's done this to the loyal customers yet she cowardly never goes on the record about it. All the wounded ECM customers have received is one very generic spin filled email about the price highjacking - I hope you weren't the one who wrote that one Jeff...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Feeling Nostalgic for Days Gone By

As the Earth Class Mail Price Hike Scandal continues, I look back in retrospect and long for better days.

"StartUp Junkies" painted the picture of an excellent new company. One with a team of people who had come up with a wonderful innovation for processing postal mail, and they brought it to the masses.

If you are an Earth Class Mail customer, or even if you aren't, I urge you to check out "StartUp Junkies." Unfortunately, it will only play if you are in the United States, but if you can see it, it paints a wonderful picture of a fine organization.

Sadly, those days are long gone. Ron Wiener who comes off so well in the series, has been replaced by Sarah Carr. The changes that Carr has made to the company in regards to the massive price increase on loyal customers are abhorrent.

Still, thankfully "StartUp Junkies" is still around for a fond memory of what the spirit of Earth Class Mail was all about once upon a time...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sarah Carr - A Portrait of Customer Mistreatment

The personification of the Price Hike Scandal which currently surrounds Earth Class Mail is one Sarah Carr, current Chief Operating Officer of Earth Class Mail:

Let's disect what little we know about this masterful mistreater of customers, based mostly on info from the Earth Class Mail site.

Prior to gracing Earth Class Mail with her presence and attacking loyal customers with a price hike of over 100%, Sarah Carr worked for:
  • Citibank
  • Shearson Lehman Hutton
  • Deloitte and Touche
  • Browne Global Solutions
  • Thomson Financial
  • Simon & Schuster
  • Print, Inc.
That's a bit of a speckled resumé. The only details we really have is that she was COO of Print, Inc. "...where her leadership increased the company’s performance and value, ultimately leading to an advantageous sale of the company to Pitney Bowes." OK, fine. That's a nice spin. Carr made some kind of mark there. But what about any of the other places on that list? Surely she didn't leave ALL of them on her own accord? She left a career at Citibank and Shearson Lehman to go to.... Print, Inc.?? I don't buy it. One wonders what dark skeletons are in Sarah Carr's past.

And what about her education?
  • Lehigh University - Bachelor's Degree in Accounting - anyone have her GPA?
  • MIT and New York University - "Executive Course Work" - what does that mean? She took classes, but no degree?
What sort of business school would teach people to make obtrusive attacks on loyal customers of a good company? To put no stock in customer care or respect? MIT & NYU? Or is is that part of the Citibank training program? One certainly has to wonder....
“Sarah’s impressive background and sharp intellect will open doors and drive opportunities as we capitalize on the opportunities before us,”- Ron Wiener
Ron, Ron, RON! Little did you know when you said that, that Sarah Carr would apply her intellect in unabashed attacks on loyal and good standing Earth Class Mail customers by sending prices into the stratosphere. That the disrespectful "opportunities" she would drive, would be against the very customers who were most loyal, and who helped launch Earth Class Mail.

Precious little else is known about Sarah Carr. Clearly, she's an entirely different type of hominid altogether from the dignified Ron Wiener who has a different business philosophy - one which fosters customer relations rather than isolates them in impertinence.

As COO, it is Sarah Carr who is the face to blame for the price hike on loyal Earth Class Mail customers. Customers flocked to Earth Class Mail in good faith. We signed up, and excitedly changed our addresses to our new Earth Class Mail address. After doing so - our new address distributed to all - Sarah Carr and her chohorts chose to raise prices over 100% on us. The fact that we signed up early and helped launch the company means nothing. The personal care that Ron Wiener brought to Earth Class Mail is gone. In it's place, the frigid Sarah Carr who treats customers with total disregard.

Since not all that much is known about Sarah Carr, I'm eagerly open to other information about her. Has she hurt customers in any of her previous positions held? Any customer mistreatment horror stories from Print, Inc.? Why didn't she get degreed at MIT or NYU? Is she a pleasant person to work for? Somehow, I doubt it. Those of you who know her - or who know about her - please share!

And why doesn't Sarah Carr show herself? We've had some brief but valid tweets from company founder Ron Wiener who had nothing to do with the price hike. Carr did it. Doesn't she have anything to say to the loyal customers whom she has victimized? Thus far, the price hike has been addressed in exactly one generic spin filled email from Earth Class Mail "support" to loyal customers.

Having done this to us, the Cowardly Carr should show herself.

The "meldrum" Mystery...

Last week, I was tweeting with former Earth Class Mail employee, Kelly White. As I've said before, he's a bit of an Earth Class Mail Apologist, but generally, he does seem nice enough.

At one point during the course of our exchange, Mr. White seemed to think I was someone called simply "meldrum." meldrum is a complete mystery to me. I don't recall seeeing any "meldrum" on the "StartUp Junkies" show, nor is it a name I'm familiar with from perusing the Earth Class Mail website. Who or what is meldrum? A Google search turns up this metal band...

Here are the few clues on meldrum from Mr. White's Tweets:
  • Mr. White said that he had "heard stories" about meldrum and that he (Mr. White) had replaced meldrum - presumably in a job at Earth Class Mail?
  • Thinking I was meldrum, Mr. White wanted to "go out for a drink some time, catch up, and share war stories" - from working at Earth Class Mail or jobs in general?
  • Mr. White then explained that he has "got connections here in portland if you're still around and looking for work, let me know" - that's a generous offer! Although I don't think he has met meldrum, in extending himself in that way, Mr. White shows that meldrum is someone he respects.
  • Mr. White then shows concern for meldrum's reputation: "although you might want to remain anonymous, this conversation getting out in the public could hurt your reputation" - again, Mr. White seems to have respect, and even worry for meldrum.
  • Mr. White then tries to bond with meldurm by talking sports: "they told me you were from boston, i went and saw the redsox back in sept 07, ortiz homered in the 9th to win"
Mr. White then goes on to accuse meldrum of working for Earth Class Mail's competition (and who knows - maybe meldrum IS working for Earth Class Mail's competition). Then, last but not least, Mr. White says:
  • "meldrum, i read your blog before you took it down, no wonder you had to move away and now only post anonymously" - that one may be the most intriguing of all!
So, let's go over all the facts that we can discern: it seems that meldrum, originally from Boston, may have been a one time employee of Earth Class Mail who left (under possibly trying circumstances) and apparently had a blog? What I wouldn't give to read that!!

But this I know for sure: I am not meldrum, nor do I work for Earth Class Mail's competition. I'm just an Earth Class Mail customer, extremely disgruntled over the massive price hike imposed upon me and other loyal, original customers by one Sarah Carr et al. I feel used, cheated, and suckered by Earth Class Mail. It no longer is the company that we saw Ron Wiener build with such care and consideration in "StartUp Junkies."

meldrum, if you're out there, I would love to hear from you and hear about your blog and Earth Class Mail experience - do share! And if anyone else can enlighten me to more details of the mysterious meldrum saga (Mr. White? Ron?), openly or anonymously, I eagerly look forward to it.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Ron Wiener - Former CEO and Class Act

I recently heard from Ron Wiener on Twitter. He assured me that he had nothing to do with the massive price increase and had no input.

He has also changed his Twitter bio from:
"CEO and Postmaster General of Earth Class Mail. Bonanza B36TC pilot. Bona fide Startup Junkie."
"Chief Mechanic at Venture Mechanics, LLC. "
Good luck to you Ron! You formed a great company with Earth Class Mail! Too bad Sarah Carr and the new gang don't know how to treat loyal customers.

So, Ron Wiener deserves to be vindicated, and I wish him all the best. May he someday soon once again be able to pilot(!) the friendly skies in a NEW Bonanza B36TC.

However, I do wish that Ron would go on the record about his thoughts on the price increase, and specifically how it impacts loyal customers who are now being charged over a 100% more than they were before. Aren't you ashamed Ron, that the company you founded is now doing this to people? That Earth Class Mail has become No Class Mail?

A Look at Earth Class Mail's Pricing History

I promised a posting about "meldrum" and I will get to that, but this one (thanks to a tip from another shafted, loyal Earth Class Mail customer!) takes a priority.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, there is a great little search engine at which attempts to catalog historic versions of websites called the Wayback Machine. This is a wonderful invention, almost as cool as Earth Class Mail itself. Using it, you can see historical versions of the Earth Class Mail site from March 2007 (when it was still parked at GoDaddy) to February 2008, including (surprise, surprise!).....their original prices!!

The prices from February 12, 2008 reflect the prices that most loyal customers were accustomed to paying, right up until July of 2009! You can see the Personal Pricing Plans page here on the Wayback Machine. But given that it takes some time to load, and that when it does it isn't formatted properly, I've made them easier to view in this image here (click on it to see the full image):

Now, imagine that you read those prices, signed up for the "Essential" plan, changed all your addresses, and then are greeted with an email announcing the prices listed here in July 2009. You would feel suckered, wouldn't you? No grandfather clause, nothing! Earth Class Mail lets you change your addresses and then raises prices over 100%! Is that loyalty towards customers? Is this a company we can trust? Clearly, no!

Ron Wiener should be ashamed that the company he founded is doing this to the loyal customers who helped get the company started.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Enter Kelly White

Today on Twitter, I heard from Kelly White. Seems like a nice enough guy, though perhaps a bit of a blind Earth Class Mail / Ron Wiener Apologist.

Many things came up when tweeting with Mr. White, so I'd just like to clarify a few points:

First of all, I really do like Earth Class Mail. It's a great company that provides an excellent and valuable service. Their security (with one exception, see below) is top noch, the new Web UI is a vast improvement over the original (though it is a bit bloated: it should load as quickly as Gmail. Take a queue from Google's use of Ajax people!), and other than their disregard for the company's original loyal customers, they are to be commended.

I am now looking into competing services, though I don't want to. Mr. White seemed sure that I was working for one of Earth Class Mail's competitors, which I promise I am not. I've been looking into two of them, as I really do need an alternative, but won't mention their names here. (If anyone really wants to know, they aren't too hard to find. I did mention them in some pre-Kelly White Tweets.) Again, other than two issues (one major, one minor) I really am a fan of Earth Class Mail.

The big issue obviously is Earth Class Mail's 100+% price hike on long standing customers which is their greatest fault. Ron Wiener and ECM asked us to trust them, and we did. How are we rewarded? By a massive price hike after we have changed all our addresses to our Earth Class Mail accounts. This is No Class Mail indeed.

The far more minor issue is that for a company that touts security, Earth Class Mail runs everything on Microsoft severs! The only pathetic scenes in the otherwise great "StartUp Junkies" series are those in which they are moving from Linux Servers to Microsoft. People! Anyone who knows anything about security knows that Open Source Linux is far superior to Microsoft. You are secure in every other way - why compromise on your servers?

But this blog is not about that one bad security decision. It is about the massive price hike and the disloyalty and betrayal it shows to long time Earth Class Mail customers. We feel used!!

Next up: who or what is the mysterious Boston "meldrum" - ?