When I got an error message logging in saying the account was deleted, I figured there must be some mistake. I checked the FAQs, and knowing I had done nothing to violate the community guidelines I requested help by email. The first couple of emails were the standard "Have you read the FAQs? What's your login name/email address? Did you violate the community guidelines?" to make sure I'm not an idiot. No problem, I expect that in any dealings with customer service, especially a team that deals with millions of people across all levels of technical aptitude. I was a little annoyed that the same questions were asked several times over in several different emails, but I'm usually very understanding. Until the conversation goes completely sideways.
The following is the (sorry, lengthy) email exchange I had with their incompetent customer service team. The circularity is (unintentionally) hilarious. I like the part towards the end where they delete my deleted account, right after I say don't delete my account. No, seriously - that happened! Read on:
ME on July 30: Thank you for your assistance. As I signed up for my account many years ago (2005 or 2006), there are several options for the answers to some of the questions posed below. I will include all of the possibilities in my response: <WHOLE BUNCH OF REQUESTED INFO TO IDENTIFY ME AS THE ACCOUNT OWNER> Once again, thank you in advance for your assistance. Sincerely, <ME>
Flickr reply on July 31: Thank you for contacting Flickr Customer Care. We appreciate your writing back and responding to our request. Based on your email, I understand that you want to reactivate your deleted "<MY FLICKR ACCOUNT>" Flickr account. I apologize for the inconvenience that this issue has caused you. I am glad to assist you with your concern.
<MY NAME>, please be informed that when an account is deleted, the content including the photos, metadata, comments, and everything else will stay on the servers for 90 days, but is no longer publicly accessible. After that period, we erase it from our servers, ensuring a clean wipe of your information. If an account is reactivated within 90 days of deletion, the content will still be in the account when it is restored.
If you deleted your account yourself, you can write us with the following details: * Your Flickr account Web address * The Yahoo! ID associated to your Flickr account (for confirmation since there are no Flickr account that is associated with the Yahoo! ID you have provided) * The following details associated to your account in order to verify your ownership: - Date of birth - Secret question and answer - Postal code and country - Alternate email address
However, if your account is deleted/inactive but you didn't delete it, it's likely that it was deleted for violating the Flickr Community Guidelines and/or Yahoo! Terms of Service. Accounts in violation of the Community Guidelines will not be reactivated. However, if you believe that your account was deleted in error you can write to us via the link below: http://www.flickr.com/help/with/accountdel/To learn more about this, please visit our FAQ at this link: http://www.flickr.com/help/account/#82
I hope I've been a good help today. If you have any other questions, please feel free to reply to this email.Thank you again for contacting us. Regards, <FLICKR>
Flickr reply on Aug 1 (after I followed up requesting a status update): Hello <MYNAME>, Thank you for contacting Flickr Customer Care. Before I go into addressing your concern, I'd like to apologize for the delay in my responding to your inquiry. We are committed to answering your questions as quickly and accurately as possible. However, we are currently receiving unusually high volumes which caused the delayed response.
Moving to your concern, I understand that you would like to restore your"<MY ACCOUNT NAME>" Flickr account. I apologize for the inconvenience this has been causing you. I am pleased to be of help. <MYNAME>, I have reviewed the information you included; unfortunately, I am unable to pull up any account matching what you provided. In order to search your account and assist you with your concern, please provide us the following information: * The email addresses you may have associated with your Flickr account (you can provide as many as you can) *The Web address of your Flickr account is possible. Once we have this information, we'll be more than happy to help you in whatever way we can. We appreciate your patience in the meantime, and look forward to your reply. Thank you again for contacting us. Regards, <FLICKR>
ME on Aug 1: As requested, the email addresses which could have been associated with my account are <LIST OF 5 EMAIL ADDRESSES>: the URL that was associated with the account is: <REQUESTED URL> As you will see upon visiting that URL, you will note it says "This member is no longer active on Flickr"
Here is a link to one of my photosets, which gives the same error message: <ANOTHER URL> As this has been ongoing for quite some time now, anything you can do to provide a speedy resolution will be greatly appreciated. Sincerely, <ME>
Flickr reply on Aug 3 (after I followed up requesting a status update): Hello <MY NAME>, Thank you for contacting Flickr. I can see you have requested assistance in restoring your deleted Flickr account. I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Our records show the Yahoo! Account affiliated with your Flickr account has been deleted. You will no longer be able to access, edit or delete the associated Flickr account.
We can delete the account for you, however please be aware that the photos and metadata will be permanently deleted as well. If you intend on creating a new Flickr account, you will not be able to re-use the deleted Flickr account screenname. Please reply noting whether you'd like us to delete the Flickr account. Thank you again for contacting Flickr. Regards, <FLICKR>Now, you'll note that until this point, I had been pretty polite. I did not use the words "Fuck" or "Moron" even once. I believe I showed remarkable restraint. You see how this email states the problem is that I want my deleted account restored, and would I like them to go ahead and delete my account? If you're thinking "What the actual fuck is going on here?" you're not alone.
ME on Aug3: No, I ABSOLUTELY DO NOT want the account and associated photos deleted. My request all along, for a week and over the course of some TWENTY emails has been to have it restored. What do I need to do to make that happen? Do I need to set up a new Yahoo account and arrange assistance to transfer the files?
Flickr reply on Aug 3: Hello <MYNAME>, Thank you for contacting Flickr.I apologize for the prior miscommunication, as your initial messagerequested login assistance, not deletion. Nevertheless, I've gone ahead and deleted your Flickr account. If you intend on creating a new Flickr account, please note you will not be able to re-use your old Flickr screenname. If you should have any further questions or concerns, please let us know. Regards, <FLICKR>.I'd like to pause for a moment and and ask you to picture the look of HULK SMASH RAGE that came over me as I read that on the way home from the subway. There may have been actual steam coming from my ears, or maybe that was just the whoosh of skyrocketing blood pressure. Who knows?
ME on Aug 3: My initial email said nothing of the sort. In fact, the subject line reads "deleted account." I do not understand how "No, I ABSOLUTELY DO NOT want the account and associated photos deleted." could possibly be interpreted to mean that deleting my account altogether would be the desired course of action. Are my irreplaceable pictures and files now irretrievably lost?
Flickr reply on Aug 3: Hello <MY NAME>, Thank you for contacting Flickr. At this time, your issue has been escalated to a Yahoo! Account Services specialist. Unfortunately, we are only able to provide support via email at this time. We appreciate your patience and understanding. I can see there was some miscommunication regarding the action you would like taken with your Flickr account. I see that actually did not want the account deleted as it contains priceless photos. I'm very sorry for the trouble this situation has caused.
As previously noted, it appears the Yahoo! ID associated with this Flickr account has been deleted. Because of this, we will be unable to restore access to the Flickr account. As such, we deleted the account for you for security and privacy reasons, because that is the only action we can take. Please be aware that the photos and metadata will be permanently deleted as well. However, if you intend on creating a new Flickr account, you will not be able to re-use the deleted Flickr account screenname.
I hope this helps clarify and apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.If we can address any other issues for you, please let us know. Thank you again for contacting Flickr. Regards, <FLICKR>.Ohhhhhh, it's for my own good! Well, thanks and fuck you very much!
ME on Aug 3: Please do not attempt to spin this as something done for my benefit. Deleting the account altogether in the midst of a discourse about RESTORING it is the worst possible course of action. How is deleting an account that cannot be accessed anyway a protection of my security and/or privacy? I would like a reasonable explanation for this, and not a canned one, please. Are my pictures now irretrievably lost? Please provide a direct answer to that direct question.And there you have it... The most staggering incompetence in customer service I have ever seen. Will I get my pictures back? Will the canned responses ever end? Only time will tell!
UPDATE ON AUGUST 6th: My account has been restored!
Reply from Flickr: Hello <MYNAME>, Thank you for writing to Flickr. I apologize for the continued difficulties you are experiencing with accessing your Flickr account, and I hope this hasn't impacted you too much. I appreciate the importance of maintaining family photos. I have good news. Your photos are not lost. The email address you wrote from (THE SAME EMAIL ADDRESS I USED ALL ALONG, FFS!) matches the "<MY FLICKR NAME>" Flickr account. At your request, I have reactivated your Flickr account.