The Den of Slack

It’s okay Sierra, I still love you

The infamous City Hall showdown. Yes, this is what I was so upset about.

Oops. Yesterday when I posted that customer service letter I wrote to Sierra, I misremembered the outcome. Today I managed to view the rest of my old Mac floppy disks using the free trial of Macdrive. (My clunker PC is old enough to have a floppy drive on it!) And on one of those disks, I came across this second letter…

January 6, 1996
Dear Sierra,

I am writing to express my disappointment with your Technical Support department. For two months, I have been trying to solve a problem I am having with Police Quest 4, and you have not been helpful at all. Initially I wrote a letter, detailing the problem, which I followed up with a fax. Even though I was very specific in what the problem was, the responses to both of my correspondences were general and ineffective.

On Wednesday of the game, when Detective Carey is in City Hall, my game locks up. Dennis Walker stands to hit Carey. I draw my gun on Walker, and attempt to talk to him. No matter how quickly I click the speak icon on Dennis, he hits me. I know the game locks up at this point, because once I tried shooting Dennis instead of speaking to him. The gunshot went off, and even as I was waiting for the “game over” box to show up on the screen, Dennis started to swing his stick at Carey. No matter what I do after drawing my gun, Dennis hits Carey.

First, I went on-line to the Compuserve Sierra bulletin board. There was no evidence that anyone had experience a similar problem, so I decided to write to Technical Support. I explained the problem and included information about my computer and hardware. In response to my letter, you sent me a packet of useless suggestions, such as restarting the computer without INITS (I have a Mac LCII and am playing a CD-ROM version of PQ4, which I mentioned in my letter). Obviously, I can’t run a CD game without INITS, because the CD-ROM isn’t activated. You suggested I load the entire CD onto the hard drive, but with a 150 MB hard drive, that is impossible. You also included a form I could fax to the Technical Support department, detailing the problem. I filled the form out and sent it, expecting more specific advice.

Not only was my fax answered with virtually the same information as my letter, you included a “Macintosh Compatibility Reference Table” that didn’t even include PQ4. My specific problem was never addressed. I feel like no one even looked at my letter and fax, and I was sent a form letter in return.

I want my game to work. I have been playing it since May and have gotten very involved. I have also invested a lot of money in this: $50 for the game and $12 for a hint book. I have barely even had a chance to use the hint book, since the game locked up the same afternoon I received the hint book in the mail. If you don’t know how to solve my problem, I want a new copy of the game. If there is no way to fix this (which would be very disappointing), I would like the money I paid for the game and for the hint book refunded.

I have been a Sierra customer for eight years. In the past, I have been satisfied with the quality of your games and your technical support. A few years ago, when my games suffered from the MCDATE lock-up, you were prompt and helpful by replying immediately to my letter with a copy of the patch program. I expected the same type of service for this lock-up, and I am very disappointed by the way my problem has been handled.

I am playing Police Quest 4 (CD-ROM). The number on the face of the CD (below the Sierra address) is 132544330/S254480. My computer is a Macintosh LCII, system 7.1. I am using an Apple 300 CD-ROM drive. I ordered the game directly from Sierra last March, and was told by the operator that it would be supported by my machine. I installed Sound Manager 3.0 before starting the game.

Please get back to me on this issue. I have been unable to play my game since October and am becoming very impatient.

This is amusing to me on many levels.* First, because I’m such a big fan of the Sierra-that-used-to-be and I somehow erased the two months of poor service from my brain. Second, because until recently I was working at Telltale—arguably the “new Sierra”—where I regularly had to deal with customers as pissed off as I was back in January 1996. It’s like I was writing a letter to myself in the future. And third, because it’s just plain funny to see how worked up I got. Police Quest 4 wasn’t even a very good game. (Added bonuses – I had a 150MB hard drive! I spent $12 on a hint book! My technical support options were Compuserve and a fax machine! I knew what something called INITS was, or at least did a good job of faking it!)

I know Sierra eventually went on to send me a floppy disk with a saved game on it. Probably soon after they received this letter. (Yet I didn’t actually finish playing the game until two years later. Ha! I showed them!) I also know that sometime in 1999 I had a very nice email exchange with a member of their technical support staff regarding a Gabriel Knight 2 issue. And as I said in my letter, there was another situation where they responded right away with a patch. Really, all of my memories of dealing with that company are positive, in spite of this evidence to the contrary.

In other customer service news, about two weeks ago I plugged my website into Google Analytics out of morbid curiosity, and since then, I’ve noticed at least three or four people showing up here each day after searching for “Kelly Hanick” or “Chase late fee complaint” or “Chase stole my money, those bastards.” (Okay, not that last one, but they will now!) I was going to forget about the stupid late fee experience but since a fair number of people seem to be getting the same runaround I did, and since this letter reminded me that I used to get all fired up about these things, I’m going to write to the Better Business Bureau about it. That way, thirteen years from now, maybe I can look back on that customer service fiasco and misremember it with a happy ending.

*I realize I’m possibly the only person out there who finds it amusing, but I’m also one of the few people out there reading this blog at the moment, so humor me.


  1. I think it’s HIGH-larious :)

    Maybe I should post it on the Telltale fridge

  2. INITS = the old System 6-and-earlier name for Extensions, if you remember those from the System 7 –> MacOS 9 days. I’d forgotten that until reading this letter, though.

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