Update: VMware followed up with me this morning, and has done a great job getting me help and outlining how they’re planning to address a lot of the complaints I’ve had. We’ll have to see what happens over the next few months, but so far, VMware has convinced me that they get they have a problem and are going to try to fix it. Kudos, VMware.

So about a week ago I decide to buy VMware Fusion.

I really like VMware. They make awesome products, they have good support. They’re not perfect—the VMware Workstation updater and the Adobe updaters can go neck-in-neck for absolute single most horrible upgrade experience, for example—but in general, the products are stellar. So when I decided to ditch Bootcamp and go the virtualization route for running Windows 7, VMware Fusion just made sense to me. I know Parallels Desktop might be slightly faster, but my friends assured me VMware’s plenty fast, it has Unity, it has 3D support, and I trust it due to using Workstation so heavily at Fog Creek. I’ll stick with a solution I trust over one that’s fast. So I head on over to vmware.com to make magic happen.

I then go through what I can only describe as the single worst purchasing experience I have had, ever.

  1. I begin by purchasing VMware Fusion. This part goes well, and I’m out $65.
  2. I get an email confirming my order with a download link, so I start downloading. So far, so good.
  3. While I’m downloading, I click the link to register Fusion. I’m taken to a page (with broken images) asking me for my license key, so I start to…wait. License key? The email I got has a customer number, which, now that I look at it, doesn’t match my actual VMware customer number. And it has an order number. But I don’t see any license key. Uh oh.
  4. I check the “Manage Licenses” part of the vmware.com site, since I know that’s where I find licenses for the copies of VMware Workstation we have at work. But it’s empty. After about 23958 clicks, I find that this is a common problem that’s usually resolved in “several hours.” I grit my teeth and hope that this does not mean what I think it means.
  5. I try to install Fusion. It installs fine. So far, so good. But then Fusion launches…and wants a license key. D’oh!
  6. About half an hour passes, most of which is filled with me getting absolutely livid as I try to figure out how the holy hell to get a license key and debating preemptively challenging the purchase out of spite.
  7. Just before I do in fact challenge the purchase, I get an email from VMware telling me that my license key is ready. Why the badingo it took half an hour, I have no idea, but at least it’s there!
  8. But wait! It’s telling me that to get my license code, I need to go to…findmyorder.com? The hey?
  9. I know better than to do this, but I go to findmyorder.com, and am greeted by something that looks like it was cobbled together by the best that ColdFusion and MS Paint have to offer.
  10. There are two ways to get my order: my order number, or the last five digits of my credit card, which, if you know anything about how credit cards work, are probably the five most valuable digits on the card (you can frequently guess most of the rest based on just the picture on the card). Needless to say, entering my order number fails, meaning my credit card is the only option. On top of everything else, this probably means that VMware kept my card on file somewhere. Not impressive.
  11. I google around to learn about findmyorder.com, read some stuff in a French forum, take a look at their SSL cert chain, and a few other things, and conclude that, while web design may not be their strong suit, they might actually be legitimate.
  12. Breath held, I enter the last five digits of my credit card and my email address…and amazingly, am in fact, really and truly, actually given my VMware Fusion license key, on a fully VMware-branded page! Most amazingly of all, I enter the license key into Fusion, and amazingly, it works! This seems so unlikely an outcome at this point that I have a beer in celebration.
  13. I click the “Contact Us” link on the bottom of the VMware-branded page…and am given a good indication how much they want to be contacted.
  14. After looking around, I realize that it’s not that the contact page is down; it’s that the VMware lookalike page was made by copying the actual VMware home page and redoing all the content area, so all the links go to places that would be valid on vmware.com, but are invalid on findmyorder.com. I give up telling VMware how much they suck at this point and decide to just focus on using Fusion, if that’s even possible.
  15. Now that I have a registration key, I try to go register it on vmware.com…and am told it’s invalid. I now find myself drifting back to the “it’s a scam” hypothesis. The license key is unsurprisingly rejected by the license manager, too. Oh well. At least Fusion took it. Maybe that’s good enough for me.
  16. A week later, in a fit of pique, I try to register VMware Fusion again. This time, it works! Not only that; the license manager decides to accept the key, too! Huzzah!
  17. Armed with this new knowledge that the license key is, in fact, really truly kosher, I decide to attempt to recover the $30 rebate that VMware Fusion has going right now that I was promised, why not. So I start that process, and…they want the email that has the license key in it. There is no such email you farking morans. Are you guys even reading this blog post, do you—er, right, I hadn’t written this yet. My bad.
  18. But by now, I’ve figured out how to handle this problem: I go back to my trusty findmyorder.co.hk, enter in various random personal identifying numbers, and, sure enough, the faux VMware page has the license key on it, so I print that to PDF and send it off to VMware.

So, to recap:

  1. I bought a product that I couldn’t use out-of-the-box;
  2. in order to use it, I was sent to a site I had never dealt with before;
  3. the site requires me to enter part of my credit card to use it;
  4. it then takes me to a totally broken page, which, thankfully, has a license key;
  5. that license key is rejected for some indeterminate amount of time by vmware.com;
  6. once it’s finally not rejected, vmware.com still merrily asks me to give it an email that it knows damn well it didn’t give me.

VMware: if you were trying to convince me that you have absolutely no clue whatsoever how to interact with consumers, you win.