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Dear Skype,

Congratulations on being a huge global entity. I mean, everyone everywhere skypes. Your company name has entered the language and even become a verb! You‘ve made it!

I’m just a wee bit curious about one thing though: your payment structure. I mean, it seems that really big, global, company-name-turned-verb companies have figured that out before they get so huge. Take amazon for instance. Or eBay. Or, a fine example, Etsy shops, which while they are not as big as you are, still have made it possible for a women in the Midwest to sell home-made aprons from her kitchen on the internet.

Which makes it seem odd, at least to me, that I can’t simply buy credit from you in Morocco. I could buy a surfboard from California on the internet, I could buy jewellery from Paris, I could buy books (but I won’t, Donn, relax) but I can’t buy $6 worth of credit so I can call my mother, who doesn’t have a computer.

Not to be rude or anything, but what is up with that? I mean, how hard could it be? Oh it would be hard for me to set it up from scratch, I admit, but then I couldn’t have come up with the whole skype concept on my own either. You’re the techie genius in this relationship; I think we can both agree on that.

[For the rest of you listening in here, let me explain. Skype is free for computer-to-computer calls; they are famous for this and they rock at it. They also offer cheap computer-to-phone calls. You sign up and they send you to this site called “moneybookers,” located in the UK, and boy do they take themselves seriously.
First you pick a password and get an account. No problem. You enter a little hidden number. Easy-peasy. Then they try to talk you into doing a bank transfer, but I’m smarter than that. Bank transfers are complicated, involve time and fees and the sharing of much information over their oh-so-secure little weblink. No, instead I enter all my credit card information.

Then I enter a cell phone number. There is not even an inkling of suspicion in money bookers’ minds that you won’t have a cell phone. We are all techie now, apparently. And it’s valid, but there are people who don’t have cell phones. Me for instance, although I hope to have one soon. I enter Donn’s number.

They tell me they have ALREADY SENT me an SMS with a code. But  they are being less than accurate here. The SMS does not come.

We do this over and over and over again. It is even more boring to do than to read about it. Finally, I file a formal complaint. That’s their idea. You can’t just drop them an email to be read by a real-life person. No, first they try to scare you with their formality. They promise to take it seriously. Oh good.

And after all that? Guess what? I needed to enter a US cell phone number, not the one we got here in Morocco.

Oooookay. And that is global how? And what if I don’t have a US cell phone number, which I don‘t? And couldn’t they have mentioned that earlier on? And doesn‘t that seem a teensy bit racist? We‘re not all Americans, I don‘t know if you‘ve noticed.]

So Skype, with best regards and all that, I don’t think I’ll be purchasing credit from you after all. I will continue to use your free service, I admit, because it is really fun to chat with Heather in Portland (Happy Birthday btw!) or Karen in Nouakchott, and the kids are thrilled to be able to talk with their friends, although all they seem to do is send each other emoticons and talk about you tube videos they like. But that’s all we’ll be doing together, me and you.

I’m just a little surprised, what with you being all trendy and modern and all, that you haven’t figured out how to let people purchase credit with a credit card online. I don’t know if you have ever tried to buy something off, but I recommend you try it. You might pick up some good ideas.

Good luck figuring it all out!

October 2008

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