Zip.ca Clueless About Security, Customer Service, and Fast Servers

I’ve been a member of DVD-rental service Zip.ca for a few years now, and generally like their service – with a few exceptions, mostly around their deeply skewed ship-ranking system (I have six months worth of data to process and eventually write up into an article) and their horrendously Web site (which usually comes from slow servers). Going to Zip.ca, finding a movie, and adding it to my account should be a fast process, right? Since day one as a Zip.ca customer, I’ve found their servers to be slow – it wouldn’t be uncommon for me to wait 10 to 20 seconds for a search result to come back, then another 10 to 20 seconds for the movie page to be displayed – thank goodness they use an AJAX-type solution for adding movies to the cart so that part of the process was quick. The server slowness was consistent: it didn’t matter if I visited at 9am or 11pm, a week-day or a weekend, from home or from a different country. It was always slow. I did the usual things a geek would do: tracerts, pings, etc. It always came back to the same thing: the Zip.ca servers were sluggish. I stared at this message frequently:

Every couple of months I’d send an email to Zip.ca customer service, complaining about the issue and asking them to invest in a better server infrastructure to make using their site more pleasant. I’d get the usual service drone responses promoting their “continued improvement” but nothing ever changed. I decided to kick things up a notch: I wrote separate letters to Rick Anderson, President & CEO of Zip.ca, and Kelvin Osborn, Director of Product Design. In these letters I detailed my complaints with Zip.ca related to their slow servers, informing them both that after several years of putting up with their poor level of service I was placing my account on hold as my way of protesting their lack of improvements in this specific area. I’m just one of thousands of Zip.ca customers, but my hope was that if I made my voice heard they’d realize that I likely wasn’t the only one unhappy with their Web site speed. I also submitted my complaint to Zip.ca customer service.

Guess what happened? Almost nothing. Kelvin Osborn sent me an email informing me that he agreed the Web site experience wasn’t as good as it could be, and they had resources dedicated to addressing this issue – and that I should see the work go live in “the next couple of weeks”. That was the first week of June. Amazingly (and, yes, this really surprised me), I received no response from Rick Anderson’s office, or from Zip.ca customer service. The few occasions when I’ve gone the extra mile to write a letter to the head of an organization, I’ve always heard back from their office – even if it’s just a letter filled with empty platitudes. The fact that neither the President & CEO, nor the customer service department, replied to my concerns in any way is extremely telling in terms of how Zip.ca perceives their relationship with their customs. Mr. Osborn seems to be the only one of the three that I contacted that felt I was worth responding to.

I was planning on re-upping my service sometime in the fall, because I really do like the service they provide even if I’m not happy with how fast they provide it, but something happened this week that made me re-think that. Check out the email I received this week:

Yes, that’s right, they sent my account password over an unsecured email – a completely idiotic thing to do. The only time a company should send a password over email to a customer is when the customer has forgotten their password and they need it sent over email so they can log into their account and change it. I’m not surprised when Joe Average computer user sends passwords, and even credit card numbers, over email, but for a business to do that is another story. I’d say that Zip.ca should know better, but given my experience with them over the past few months, they just don’t seem to care about what they do to their customers.

  • Zip.ca emailed me today about the password issue:

    “Thank you for contacting Zip.ca, we’re pleased to assist you with your inquiry. We apologize for the frustration sending your password has caused. As a common online business practice, we sent your password to make it as easy as possible for you to take advantage of our reactivation offer. If you feel the security of your account is in jeopardy, we recommend you LoginMy Account” (top right hand corner), by selecting the “Edit My Email and Password” link.” and change your password in ”

    Common online business practice? Yeah, right.

  • And my response:

    “There’s nothing “common” about a business sending an account password over an inherently un-secure form of communication. I didn’t request my password be sent to me, so why would Zip send it to me? What’s next, are you going to send my credit card number out over email? A customer should only be sent private information via email if they *request* it – period. Zip is the first company I’ve seen to ever violate this common-sense rule.”

    😀