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Andy Brice
Successful Software

Doug Nebeker ("Doug")

Jonathan Matthews
Creator of DeepTrawl, CloudTrawl, and LeapDoc

Nicholas Hebb
BreezeTree Software

Bob Walsh
host, Startup Success Podcast author of The Web Startup Success Guide and Micro-ISV: From Vision To Reality

Patrick McKenzie
Bingo Card Creator

How to respond to negative opinion?

A user has posted some comments about my app where they state users can download free alternatives and do the same thing for free, and that companies like mine just extort people who don't know.

What's the best way to respond to this?  I want to say something -- I can't just ignore it because silence implies guilt and that he's right.

What p*sses me off is that he's assuming he knows what's best for my trial users, as far as their knowledge and budget goes.  It's his way or the highway.  How can I politely point that out, that others may be perfectly happy to pay for my turn-key solution and that he is happy to avoid the product while allowing others to make their own educated decisions?
PSB136 Send private email
Friday, July 10, 2015
His basic argument is: why pay for Microsoft Office when you can get OpenOffice for free?  So I need a way to respond to that.  Thanks.
PSB136 Send private email
Friday, July 10, 2015
Dear pesky user, if you so much prefer to "download free alternatives and do the same thing for free", why do you use Windows and not Linux?

After all it's a free alternative and does everything that Windows does for free.
Mangler Send private email
Friday, July 10, 2015
He has since posted this quote to me: "Avarice hoards itself poor; charity gives itself rich."  I'd never heard of "avarice" before, so I looked it up and it means "extreme greed for wealth or material gain."

What the hell?  He's saying I'm greedy for charging $19 for my app?  I fully understand why the other thread in these forums asks how to monetize without selling... it's stressful being abused like this.  Yes, grow a thicker skin, blah blah blah... that'll come with time.  Right now, as a startup, my skin is still very thin.  :(

The only thing that encourages me, is that I've had 15 x $19 sales versus his single "greed" rant... so obviously $19 is not too bad to charge or I'd have zero sales.

I've really got to learn to ignore these single bozos.  It just p*sses me off that they publish workarounds and free alternatives in some noble attempt to save other people wasting their money.  Let them decide!  Is he some sort of internet sales superhero?  Damn!
PSB136 Send private email
Saturday, July 11, 2015
>I've really got to learn to ignore these single bozos.

Andy Brice Send private email
Saturday, July 11, 2015
I had a user ask for a refund. He said he found a $2 app for his phone that did the same thing he wanted to do with my (desktop) software. I asked him which app, thanked him and gave him the refund. I looked up the app just to see if it had any killer features - it looked very poor quality.

He re-bought my application a month later.
koan Send private email
Saturday, July 11, 2015
It usually turns into a big mistake to have the design guy responding to critics. This is one of the good things about having PR and customer support staff, they retain emotional detachment. The designer generally can't do that and won't have the confidence to handle without a meltdown or incident until he has a few million in the bank and can just shrug and laugh.

"why pay for Microsoft Office when you can get OpenOffice for free?"

The cost of trying OpenOffice for the person asking this is zero. Why don't they try for themselves rather than go on boards and post this over and over. The answer to this question is all people asking this should get OpenOffice and use that. If it works for them, that's great and it's the answer. What of course happens though is most of them then complain "Why OpenOffice is so slow", "Why OpenOffice don't look right when I open this Word file?", "Why spreadsheet in OpenOffice don't have same features as Excel?", "Where is VBA?", "When is VBA coming?", "Why lazy OpenOffice developers don't have VBA and Access working yet?", "What taking so long?" The fact is that these people should be on OpenOffice because that spares Microsoft the cost of supporting the most absurd, silly, timewasting and lazy bellyaching customers.
Scott Send private email
Saturday, July 11, 2015
And whatever you do don't say a word of that to these guys. That will just start a big mess.
Scott Send private email
Saturday, July 11, 2015
I once had some guy say he would never pay for software because it wasn't something he could hold. I replied asking if that's what he told his power and internet providers.

Yeah, it will piss you off when one of these idiots reaches you with their garbage. As your app gets more popular, this is bound to happen.

But unless they have useful/valid criticism, there's no point replying. If they are irrational, nothing you can say to them will make them change your mind (like with politics or religion).

If they are just uneducated about how the world works, well that's their problem, not yours. If they don't see the value of your work, why should you waste your time on them? Delete the email/ignore the forum post, and get back to work! :)

Also, keep a file of your nicest user feedback.
Every now and then, read through that file again.
Calvert Send private email
Saturday, July 11, 2015
It's very old but get hold of a copy of The Magic of Thinking Big.

Read it again at least once every 5 years.

Reluctantlyregistered Send private email
Saturday, July 11, 2015
Silence isn't guilt. You have no obligation to respond and you've lost no honour or credibility by not doing so.

On the flip side, most of these posters are trolls who are simply trying to illicit a response. Try to resist the urge to play into their hands.

If you really can't resist (I know it's hard) then remember this guy has lit a flame. Don't throw fuel on it!
Be courteous. Be professional. Be detached.  This is not personal.

If you must respond, write it somewhere else (not on the blog/post it appeared) so you don't have the temptation to hit submit with anything other than a calm mind.

It's also worth making a template reply just like you'd have standard responses to other customer enquiries. Perhaps something like:

Hi [Name],

Thanks for your perspective. I appreciate that for some people, 'product X' may be all they need and that's fine.

However in my experience I've found that many of my customers really value 'feature Y' which 'product X' lacks and they're happy to pay a modest fee for the benefits it provides such as 'major benefit'.

[sign off professionally]

Finally, AC's advice is worth considering. Most of these trolls are very small minded [your favourite expletive here]. You need to rise above that. And that only happens in your mind.

All the best
Marcus from London Send private email
Monday, July 13, 2015
We receive all sorts of negative responses: rude uninstall feedback, various threats (including death threats), badmouth on 3rd party forums (sometimes even accompanied by a crack!). I don't care. I have other things to worry about. Those guys are not customers anyway, and they will likely never be. If possible, try extract some useful information from them, like what they don't like in your product and use it to make improvements.

If someone doesn't like the fact your software is paid and not free, it's their own problem. You're not obligated to respond. Your "response" could be different: make your product better, improve the web site (your current one looks empty and grey to me), and so on.
Kuzmitskiy Dmitry Send private email
Monday, July 13, 2015
> If someone doesn't like the fact your software is paid and not free, it's their own problem

I know, but it angers me that they link to other free apps and explain how to do it with batch files and so on instead.  If he was just complaining about price alone, then fine -- I can live with that.

BTW, he did say 99 cents would be okay, but not $19.  So I guess it does come down to him just sooking about not wanting to pony up $19.  I was *so* tempted to reply with "I'm sorry to hear that you can't afford $19 in this day and age", but I didn't.  I know it would ruin my reputation for doing so.  The last thing you want it to be known for being rude and/or sarcastic to your users.
PSB136 Send private email
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
About my website: I like the grey look, but I'll be putting more screenshots in the near future, which will add color to it for more contrast.
PSB136 Send private email
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
"I know, but it angers me that they link to other free apps and explain how to do it with batch files and so on instead."

Most software products can be substituted by manual work, shell scripts, free apps etc. People pay for the software because they want their task to be done, fast and easy. You may notice that most free apps are slow, badly documented, have non-native UI and so on - so you jsut need to make your product better.
Kuzmitskiy Dmitry Send private email
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
It is frustrating to have negative things said about your software but if its about it be free or paid its not even a fight worth getting in too. Someone will ALWAYS feel something should be given away for free. If you're getting sales ignore them and move on.

Now with the alternatives being posted, use this as a learning experience. If someone is able to replicate what your app does it just proves you have something that can be scripted. Most windows utility programs can be replicated with scripts. It's exactly what gives your program value. You don't have to be a script writer to use it.

I some of the software I write automates CAD software. The majority of these functions can be scripted in the CAD software itself. In fact I occasionally even will supply or post sample scripts with perform certain functionality that my apps provide. But they also have the caveat of no error/security checking, manually entry etc... People who wouldn't buy the app use the scripts and I can get known as someone who can come up with quick solutions. Eventually some take a look at the app version which is more robust and a smoother user experience.
TrippinOnIT Send private email
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
I once made the mistake of defending my product on a crack forum. I explained my situation reasonably without fighting anyone, and offered discounts to anyone who needed them.

Some people actually defended me, and they were all declared to be my "army of shills" (like I would ask any of my users to risk their security and sanity by visiting those forums lol).

Forget it. You just can't reason with insanity.
I know it's hard, but you have to ignore them, or they will just make you angry and depressed.
Just listen to (valid) user feedback, and keep making your product better.
Calvert Send private email
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
"he did say 99 cents would be okay, but not $19"

This is clearly the result of App stores. Only a few years ago no one was saying that useful software one will use for years to solve problems should cost 44% of the price of one plain coffee at Starbucks.

There's no response to this thinking because it's not reasonable. However one can see why they say that. They paid 0.99 for a fart app, and .99 for a "flashlight" app that makes the screen white, why shouldn't your valuable productivity app you worked on for years cost the same? It shouldn't in their mind.

Scott Send private email
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
>including death threats

I've not had any of those. But I did get a (tongue in cheek) marriage proposal once. ;0)
Andy Brice Send private email
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
For your reference, below is a link to a screenshot of part of the conversation.  Please do NOT post my app name or domain name etc here; I want it to stay anonymous.  Just view the text for how it stands.


His text is the top; my reply at the bottom.  I hope I handled it well?
PSB136 Send private email
Thursday, July 16, 2015
People don't have a clue what it costs to develop software, or what the returns are like - the default assumption seems to be that it is free to develop and market and that you are selling millions of copies a month. They don't seem to understand that even simple apps take 100's of man hours, at a cost on a par with any other top professional - at least for someone hard decent (just think what you could be earning per hour doing contract work instead).

I also find it hard to understand people like the user in your conversation - I mean, why does he even care? He doesn't consider it good value - we get that - so just don't buy it. It sounds like he actually does value it but just thinks it should be cheaper, which somewhat undermines his argument. If I emailed every product provider I could find who was selling something I didn't see the value in then I wouldn't have time for much else. Bizarre. And unless you are somehow coercing people to buy, then "Extort" is rather a strong (or the wrong) word.

Try not to worry about it and move on - and don't give these idiots so much of your time.
Anon123 Send private email
Thursday, July 16, 2015
@PSB136, I'm not sure why you bother replying to him. He thinks that the price should be $.99? It's his right. You can say that on his job he should be paid $10/month and not a penny more.

We've had such a user in the past. The topic is in Russian, so here's the Google-translated link, so you get the idea:

It was in 2011, since then I don't see any reason to debate with them, except that it may be funny sometimes.
Kuzmitskiy Dmitry Send private email
Thursday, July 16, 2015
A lot of people will have something they need to do and can't be *rsed doing it themselves so spend X hours looking for something that will do it for them. They find something that will do it for them, but it costs (I wonder why).

They then spend Y hours looking for a crack. And Y+ complaining that it isn't free.

Z hours later, assuming they are in business, the 'simple' task has cost them:

(X + Y + Z) * Hourly Rate

= Waste of time for you basically.

The whole point of them looking for a solution is that they need one. The fact that you charge for the solution is neither here nor there. If they want it, they pay.

Or have I missed something?
Ewan McNab Send private email
Thursday, July 16, 2015
"my reply at the bottom"

Your response is extremely well handled and diplomatic. I am very impressed.

Please leave it at that and do not get involved in any back and forth should they wish to continue their "debate".
Scott Send private email
Thursday, July 16, 2015

I agree with Scott that your response is just right. Well done. Do try not to worry about the not-so-wonderful customers, though perhaps that will take time. Steady as she goes...
Racky Send private email
Thursday, July 16, 2015
Thanks for all the encouragement!  :)

BTW, today I had a headache at my day job.  I asked a co-worker if they had any aspirin and they said, "Here, but don't rely too much on that: you just need rest and quiet."

Then it hit me: BINGO!  This is going to be my new standard reply to anyone who complains my apps aren't free.  Observe:

Troll:  Why pay when there's free alternatives?
Myself:  Well, headaches can be treated for free with rest, but some people prefer to buy aspirin.

PSB136 Send private email
Friday, July 17, 2015
"There's no response to this thinking because it's not reasonable. However one can see why they say that. "

To be fair to the AppStore, and I'm sure this doesn't apply to the OP, but:

There are thousands of apps on the AppStore that look like reasonable and useful apps, that turn out to be no better than fart apps.

The one (most days I would say, the only) fundamental failure of the AppStore is the lack of a "I want my money back" feature for its many horribly dysfunctional apps.
GregT Send private email
Monday, July 20, 2015
To get a refund from the App Store, you just have to "Report a problem" with the purchase and select "Other" for the reason.  Then, explain why it's warranted.  I've done this many times when apps were not as described or simply didn't work; from 99c apps to $18 ones.  It's our right as customers to be refunded in those situations.

I'm in Australia and our consumer law states that refunds must be given by the seller, which is Apple.  They know this too, and that's why I never have problems with refunds for legit reasons.  I believe in England they have a similar law where you can get a refund from Apple but only within 24 hours?

I've never sought a refund just because I didn't like an app, mind you.
PSB136 Send private email
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
BTW, I came up with another answer to people who question why they should pay when there are free alternatives or methods: "Rain is free too, so you can either catch and bottle it yourself, or pay to have it on tap."  :)
PSB136 Send private email
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Like I always say, people pay for bottled water.  Now I'll have to add  "and rain is free".
Dora Send private email
Wednesday, July 22, 2015

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