Webkinz Frustration


Have your children been bitten by the Webkinz "virus" yet? If not, here is the gist. You buy a stuffed animal and get to play with it online. It is a really neat concept and I love it overall. I have just found the dark side of this addiction however.

This morning, I had two different WebKinz to set up. One for Emily and one for Annabelle. I had the two tags in front of me and started signing up Emily. No problem until the tags got mixed up and I signed Emily up for the Arabian Horse rather than the Penguin. I then spent over an hour trying to straighten out the mess. I figured I had two options.

  1. Adjust the user information and change the account to Annabelle. Unfortunatley, you cannot change the user name after signup. Dead end.
  2. Reset the account. There is an online form to do this, but it will not accept the information I am typing in and does not inform me what might be wrong (probably for "security reasons")

Now, I do not blame WebKinz World for the tag mixup. That is 100% my fault.  What I blame them for is making it nearly impossible to contact them about problems they have not forseen. I am writing this hoping they will see it and use it constructively (as I am going to send the permalink to them). Here are my suggestions for improvement.

  1. Let the use change the information. I can undestand the pet, the username, but let me adjust the actual person behind the fake identity. Yes, I realize I am a fringe case, but I am going to have to wait two or three days until you contact me to get this straightened out. If I could simply adjust the child name on the account (and then use the change accuont name feature) I would be fine.
  2. Give me an ability to contact you about something other than your world. When I hit the contact us form, I have to choose something. What about people who fall outside of the normal cases? Do you really think you have figured out all of the ways someone can make a mistake.
  3. Let me know why I am unable to delete an account or tell me you have forwarded my problem to someone who can help me. As it stands, I entered all of the information correctly, except perhaps email address (which you never asked for), so I am not sure if your form is not working or I typoed something initially. As such, I cannot help you troubleshoot and I cannot straighten out my problem.

In our ignorance, or perhaps arrogance, we developers often box our customers in. Rather than think like customers, we think we can figure out all ways that software can go wrong. And, inevitably, we are WRONG.

In this case, I am trying to help myself rather than engage Webkinz, but they have not left me that option. I then try to contact them to have them help me and they have both a) not left me enough spaces to give them a proper diagnosis of the problem (300 characters) and b) given me an option of reporting a fringe case.

At this point, I want to delete the account ebeamer and start over. But, I am now waiting for someone to contact me back (up to 4 days from now) so I can resolve this issue. I realize this is not an emergency, but my daughter sure thinks so.

Perhaps I should blog on how to improve UIs when things go wrong. Wink

Now, here is my problem, in case the Webkinz guys come here (the rest of you can ignore this, except maybe to have a laugh).

1, Have treid to remove the account (Customer Support >> Account Issues >> Can I Reset My Account?): Fill in form with information for the ebeamer account and get

YOUR ACCOUNT VERIFICATION INFORMATION DOES NOT MATCH OUR RECORDS

I assume one of two things here. I typoed something in the many things you use to verify the account. Personally, I think you have asked too much here. To reset an account, why do you need more than username, password and the tag number. Why do you need animal name, child name and birthdate. If someone has the account information, along with the tag number (aka, secret code), why should they not be able to reset? As it stands, there are three pieces of information, completely useless to the transaction, that increase the likelihood of failure and a need to contact you.

Or, why can’t the child change information for the account (or a parent?). Why cement information that need not, from an application standpoint, be cemented. I feel tis way about animal name, personally, but can understand it more.

2. Attempt to change child name and birthdate: There is absolutely no option. As I am a fringe case, this is okay, although I am sure there are other parents with more than one child who may have this same issue. I can even log into webkinz world and there is no option to change my information in the world. I can understand, somewhat, not changing the animal’s name (not really, as it seems like a simple thing to do in a database, but it is your world), but not being able to correct name or birthdate is a strong oversight, IMO.

3. Tried to move the animal to a new account. Unfortunately, I cannot create an account if the child has never signed up, so I cannot move the animal to an account that does not exist and cannot create a new account. Admitedly, also a fringe case.

Here is the optimal solution: Delete the ebeamer account so I can recreate it with the correct animal and also create a new acount with this animal. When you contact me, I can give you the secret code and we can set up both accounts.

I do have two questions, however, that bugs me. Did you never forsee a case where a parent would have multiple children with WebKinz and accidentally mixing up tags? If not, I would assume you will see more of this in the future. Second, did you imagine a scenario when one child would sign up anothers Webkinz and the parent might have to try to get it on a new account? The second one is a realistic condition, considering children. And, the only solution a parent has is to buy a second Webkinz for their child so they can create an account ot switch the "stolen" Webkinz to, as there is no way to create an account without a code to switch a Webkiz to.

One more thing. As a parent, it is very easy for me to create a parent’s account over a single child. It is harder for me to create a parent account that monitors multiple children. This is a bit shortsided, IMO, as I am sure there are other parents of multiple children who love WebKinz. Do I really have to create multiple accounts? And, why, as a parent, can I not change my child’s information. The only option you give me is to block or Unblock Clubhouse chat. Are parents really this powerless in your world? Come on, guys, give me some ability to truly do something or get rid of the parent’s account altogether. This is insulting.

As one who works with Web UIs on a regular basis, I understand that this is more the norm than an anamoly. I often get paid well to make UIs more user friendly, both in flow and in offering solutions for situations like mine. As such, I do not blame you for the lack of tools to solve my problem. I am, however, very frustrated that there is no means of contacting you without adding a tag that means nothig to my communication.

Please note that I am most interested in solving my problem, but hope this feedback helps you improve. You have a great UI, from the child’s standpoint. You also have interesting games, a good social network, etc. There is room for improvement, however, in handling fringe cases. Please contact me back as I feel like a number at this point in time rather than a customer.

Peace and Grace,
Greg

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One Response to Webkinz Frustration

  1. Mick says:

    Did you ever find a resolution for this? I have the same exact thing going on, though I didn’t do the entering of the account, it was my oldest daughter. I have 4 kids, and each of them got a webkinz for Christmas (early gift exchange with gramma). The 2 older kids got a webkinz last year, and this year all 4 got one. The oldest set her new pet up into her account, and all went well. Then, she went to add her younger brother up, and accidentaly added the code from her sister’s tag instead of his. Since she already had an account from before, she wanted to add her new pet to her existing account – otherwise the new account would be fine, though annoying even if that were the case since it would have the wrong name, etc. But in this case, her pet got adopted into her brother’s brand new one. And I get the same exact error message, no matter what I try. She’s old enough to have entered the information properly, and I re-confirmed it with her many times. She’s a smart cookie, and so I’m sure she entered it properly.One thing that would help, is if they would simply put a small picture of the pet next to the code on the tag – or at least print in BIG BOLD LETTERS the kind of pet right next to the code, instead of on the back flap in teeny tiny letters. That would have likely caught her eye, and she would have known she was about to use the wrong code. But, even aside from these options, it should not be so stinking difficult to update/change the information. They should ALSO have a confirmation screen before you submit the pet. There they could have a picture of the pet etc, and ask you to confirm everything.*Sigh* – Well, let me know if you have had any luck here. I’ve emailed customer support, but since it is now going to be Christmas eve and then christmas, I doubt my kids will be able to play with their new accounts until after the Holiday. *grr*–Mick Casper

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