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Appcelerator: extortion is just part of the job...
Kudos

September 22, 2012

Appcelerator was recently caught extorting one of its free users, and then that users client for £5000, and then others spoke up to say it'd happened to them too.

Initially it looked like it could have either been a bullshit company policy, or just a salesperson lacking in morals. In the end, it turns out to be both, but the response by the CEO is why I would strongly encourage you to never use an Appcelerator product (free or otherwise) for your project.

He starts out with a kind of hand-wavey apology that doesn't really address what happened, and mentions "confusion over licensing" when the user's real confusion was why they were being extorted. But, eventually he added a comment that did address what happened ... kindof:

Let me first say that you are right, this should not have happened and it is totally unacceptable to have contacted your customer if that is what you say has happened. We should NEVER do that EVER without your permission or without your assistance. This is WRONG and if this happened, it's not appropriate. I don't know how to be more clear than that.

At first read, this part sounds good, but then you notice one very subtle, but important, thing that's left out. He mentions that it's "unacceptable" for them to have contacted the user's customer... but there is *no mention of it being unacceptable to attempt to extort money from the user themselves. *

And then there's the "if that is what you say has happened" clause. This is after they spent time looking into the problem, and then proceeded to apologize for it. The apology implicitly states that this incident occurred, otherwise why would you apologize? To essentially say "I'm truly sorry for our actions but really you could just be a lying schmuck" That's bullshit. You should either have the balls to accept that the bad thing happened or to call the user a liar. But that's not the truly egregious part...

However, not everything is done to be malicious and we certainly NEVER intend to extort money from anyone. I simply don't see how you can draw a straight line from spending literally tens of MILLIONS of dollars this year alone on Titanium and providing it for FREE to well over 98% of the users -- and then say that we're "extorting people". Let's get some perspective.

Was the sales rep over eager and trying to hussle to get a deal? Probably. In my opinion, that's the job of the rep and we work with hundreds of new paying customers each quarter and we've only had a few complaints about it.

"...we certainly never INTEND to extort money from anyone..." (emphasis mine). You don't intend it but... but what? This is just "one of those things" that happens from time to time?

"...we've only had a few complaints about it."

Wait... what?! You've had multiple complaints about your salespeople attempting to extort money from users in the past... and they're still doing it?!

Notice, that in none of the CEOs responses is any mention of having reprimanded, or better yet, fired the salesperson in question. There is no mention of talking to the whole sales team to make sure they understand that they are not allowed to attempt to extort people. Obviously, since this has happened multiple times in the past this is either not something the salespeople understand, or something the company is actively encouraging.

If the former it speaks of a hiring process so broken that it repeatedly hires individuals with moral compasses so broken that they don't understand that it's wrong to extort people, and so stupid as to not realize that it's illegal. If the latter, then you've got a company with a broken moral compass that is spreading that disease to its employees.

There is one other logical explanation. They've had one particular salesperson who has been repeatedly extorting people for money, received multiple complaints, and for some inexplicable reason is still employed there.

So, which is it Appcelerator? Are you morally bankrupt and encouraging your employees to follow your lead? Are you repeatedly hiring morally bankrupt individuals? Or, are you so lacking in concern for your community that you refuse to fire a salesperson who keeps extorting its members?

I hope you'll give us the same respect and professionalism as well.

You know, I think I'll do just that: "Fuck you Appcelerator."

Oh, was that not respectful, or professional? NEITHER IS REPEATEDLY EXTORTING YOUR USERS YOU FUCKTARD!

The iPad app we've been working on is currently using a very useful plugin that can only be found in the Appcelerator ecosystem. I shall be ripping that out and finding some other solution to the problem. There are plenty of competitors in this space. I think it likely that none of them consider extortion an unpleasant but acceptable consequence of having salespeople.

Disclaimer:

This is an opinion piece. The logical conclusions are ones I have come to from reading the public comments by their CEO. It is entirely possible that I am 100% wrong.

But, if it were my company (and I've had a few small ones), everyone who was caught attempting to extort money from my customers would be handed a box and fired on the spot, along with anyone else who was found to be aware of the activity. If it turned out to be a persistent problem I would fire whoever had been hiring these broken excuses for humanity. I would call everyone together after each incident and make it clear that this type of behavior was 100% unacceptable. I would tell them exactly why person X had been fired, and I would make sure that nothing like that ever happened again.

I would call up the user who had been extorted and personally apologize, on the phone (not via a forum), let them know the salesperson had been fired and give them an free unlimited lifetime subscription to whatever the most valuable plan on offer was. Morals are not trainable. Simply saying you're sorry, but noting that this stuff doesn't happen very often is so fucking wrong it isn't funny.

Do not work with this company. Please.

You're better than that. 99.99999% of humanity is better than that, and if you've got clients you definitely don't want to risk your reputation with them by working with a company this morally bankrupt. If you're a one person operation you don't want to end up having to rewrite your entire app, or hire lawyers when they start demanding payment for their free service, or additional payment for one of their paid ones.

Update:

It should be noted that my quotes were taken from the CEOs comments to his "accepted answer". You may need to click to expand the comments to see them.

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