No sooner had I finished whining yesterday about how much I had to do than I sat down to work on payroll. I use Quickbooks Pro, and I pay Intuit $200 a year to keep withholding tax tables up to date.
Of course, there was a problem. I have the 2004 version of Quickbooks, and I had been notified that it would no longer have access to payroll updates after May 31. It's Quickbooks' way of guaranteeing that it can sell enough new software to recoup the cost of creating useless updates every year.
I wasn't happy about that because I had absolutely no desire to change my version of Quickbooks. I didn't care if they dropped tech support for old versions because I never use tech support. I didn't care about having the latest version because the version I had worked just fine. And I didn't care much about losing access to payroll updates, even though I would still be paying for the updates for a couple of more months. It would be a problem eventually, I supposed, but not between May 31, the last day I had access, and June 1, the day I did payroll.
What I didn't realize was that not only would I lose access to new updates, but I also lost access to all of the updates I have been paying $16.58 a month for all these years. That information, which my money apparently only rented but did not purchase, simply disappeared. My withholding levels went to zero for every employee. My Quickbooks program, which I had carefully maintained, learned and updated for three years, had suddenly become worthless.
So I spent a half-hour wrangling with two different service reps, an hour and a half downloading a new Quickbooks version and at least an hour updating file formats to be compatible with the new version -- the old files weren't compatible with the new version, which makes the guarantee for the new version worthless. So like it or not, I'm out $170 to own an expensive new piece of software that I neither needed nor wanted and that, so far as I can tell, runs slower and is less convenient than the version it replaced. And I got payroll done three hours late, in part because I couldn't see the computer screen because of all the steam pouring out of my ears.
Somebody please explain to me why I am wrong to be unhappy about this. To me it is no different than if automobile manufacturers, in order to pay for ongoing R&D, simply placed a small incendiary device inside every vehicle so that it would blow into pieces every three years. In fact, that's sort of what the big American manufacturers used to do until the Japanese proved that there is money to be made in building cars that last.
The Quickbooks people apparently haven't learned that lesson. I used to praise Quickbooks as the only piece of software I owned that was both understandable and useful. I will never praise it again. Quickbooks turned a loyal customer into an enemy. Nice going, guys.
SIDEBAR: One alternative is to simply get the tax table information and enter it into an Excel spreadsheet, then compute each employee's payroll taxes manually each pay period. Then my money goes to Bill Gates instead of the geeks at Intuit, which doesn't make me a heck of a lot happier. Early one Wednesday a few weeks ago, I was struggling desperately on deadline to get the paper out -- I had been working about 16 hours and had eight pages to go with about five hours to get them done. Suddenly my computer flashed me a message: Windows had downloaded an important new update and needed to restart the computer. Would I like to restart now or wait until later? Naturally, I clicked later. About five minutes later, I got the message again. Then again. And again. For a couple of hours, the message popped up every few minutes with no way to make it go away.
Finally, I had to go to the other computer to print out some pages. While I was gone, of course, the message popped up again. When I didn't answer, it restarted my computer and closed all my programs, wasting whatever hadn't been saved.
What the heck? Bill Gates, you may own the world, but you don't own my computer. Keep your grimy hands off.