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My woes with Skype

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Another example of twitter being followed by companies and being used it as a source for customer service. A few nights ago I twittered, in my usual genteel manner, about my problems with Skype.


This morning I got a nice enough email from Skype looking into my account, of course, which wasn’t the problem this time.

We are sorry to hear that you are having problems with our payment system. My name is Marilyn and I will be looking into this issue for you.

From your blog entry at I understand that you are having trouble to redeem a voucher to top up your Skype credit.

As I meant to follow up my twitter with a blog post describing the Skype credit saga and I responded to Marylin with details, I will post my reply here.


Dear Marilyn,

My twitter message is only a tip of the iceberg. I have long been underwhelmed with Skype’s controlling ways when it comes to managing my account. I don’t expect to be understood though – I have been using Skype since few months it was founded and it has changed beyond recognition in a way it treats its users… and not in a good way.

Regarding the voucher issue, you are looking at the wrong account – it’s not my account that I am worried about.

A few years back I have set up both my brother and my father with Skype. They both live abroad and it was great to be able to communicate with them and give them option to make cheap Skype calls. The usual story. My brother is a student and travels a lot and Skype credit enables him to make calls without breaking the bank. I also top up their credit regularly. Gift certificates/credit vouchers used to be the only way for me to refill their skype credit. My dad not only cannot buy stuff online, he wouldn’t necessarily know how to redeem a voucher in his account.

So I used to buy Skype credit vouchers for my acount, distribute the as me, then log on as my father and my brother and redeem those vouchers on their behalf logged on as them. And that’s all because I couldn’t use my credit card to pay for credit on their account – it used to be that only one card per account and I didn’t want to tie one of my cards to other account in case I will have to use another card for my Skype account in the future. A girl can only have so many credit cards…

As I was going to go through the tedious process a few nights ago I discovered that the vouchers were suspended and I had to go to Sainsbury’s(!) to buy them over the counter. So the Skype that I have known and loved as a tool that empowered people online is forcing me buy one of the ‘products’ offline! Go figure.

Buying the voucher was an adventure in itself, the checkout staff has no idea what I wanted and sent me rummaging through a pile of retail vouchers that have nothing to do with Skype vouchers, which are now issued at the till. Fortunately, the manager was around and I managed to get two £10 vouchers, one for each of my creditless family members.

I redeemed one under my father’s account, then found out that my brother is still ok for credit and so decided to top up my dad’s account again with the second voucher to save me all this trouble and give him plenty of money to spend on his calls. Alas, this message appeared:


“We are sorry, you are currently not allowed to redeem skype credit voucher or prepaid cards because your account balance is over allowable limit. You have to spend some of Skype Credits before you can redeem more.”

This is what prompted my twitter.

My father’s account credit was 15 Euroes before I tried to redeem the second £10 voucher. Is that amount the allowable limit? Also, does this mean that if I had purchased one £20 voucher I wouldn’t have been able to redeem it for my dad’s account as it would put him over the ‘generous’ 15 euro allowable limit? And if yes, why on earth limit anyone to such a low amount? Frankly, why on earth limit anyone at all?! Whatever is going on here is definitely not convenient for me as a user.

I expect to be told that there are now many new and exciting payment options, from paypal to ukcash, or that I can automatically recharge an account or some such. I have tried to investigate the options (another inconvience as it’s hard to follow the various restrictions and conditions) but they either don’t suit my financial arrangements or I can’t actually do them on behalf of my father as my payment details are set up under my own accounts. And if there is a way and/or my credit card might be accepted for my dad’s account – I wasn’t going to find out the hard way and risk my card being rejected.

If I didn’t want to tax my father with getting used to another VoIP service, I’d definitely be switching. As it is, he’s captive to Skype. But I am not and will be investigating options out there that I so far ignored as a loyal Skype user. Perhaps my twitter network will provide some good suggestions…

So, in the great scheme of things is this a big deal or should it be for Skype? On one level, definitely not. Why? They have many a payment options, I am doing something that wasn’t intended by Skype – i.e. maintaining credit in two other accounts that don’t belong to me – and I am probably using a product and service they obviously don’t see as part of their model (see the suspended online purchase and the rarity of buying Skype vouchers). And I bet that lot of the constraints on users come from onslaught of fraud and people trying to milk the system. Finally, I am one grumpy user who doesn’t count when Skype is going for media world domination – phone is conquered and broadcast media is next!

But on the other hand, you have someone who joined Skype when it was a couple of months old, evangelised it for all those years, introduced hundreds of people to it, especially in the early days and spent a fair amount of money on their services, without bothering to research any alternatives. Stupid me, right?

And I am not even going to talk about Skype in China and other unsavoury places with surveillance even more intrustive than UK. At least not yet and not here. I’ll save that for Samizdata.

The bottom line as they say is I wanted to do Skype well. But since their acquisition by eBay, something has changed. They are trying to be all things to all people and for this person it ain’t working.

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2 Responses to “My woes with Skype”

  1. Shefaly
    on Oct 10th, 2008
    @ 16:47 pm


    This is a fabulous story. Aside of illustrating how (at least some) organisations are using Web 2.0 efficiently, it also lays bare how enthusiastic CRM and KYC enforcement can create problems for the consumer.

    I read your blog off and on, but this one truly encouraged me to de-lurk and comment.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Roland Turner
    on Oct 12th, 2008
    @ 0:20 am

    I’ve hit problems like this before when paying in a hurry on behalf of my partner when her credit card was cancelled (used by fraudsters while she was travelling). The workaround that I discovered, and which would probably work for your situation is to sign up for the “Business Control Panel”; you can still pay with by your credit card, but the credit can flow to as many accounts as you are willing to attach as “employees”.

    (I have no affiliation with Skype; happen to love the service; also dislike their messy payment arrangements.)

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