One of the first things I did when I bought my plane was to install a then state-of-the-art GPS navigator, a Garmin GNS530. This complemented the smaller GNS430 which was already there, albeit lacking some necessary approvals. The data for these comes on little data cartridges, slightly bigger than an SD card and completely proprietary to Garmin. I signed up with Jeppesen, the universal and only provider of aviation navigation service, to send me updated cartridges every month. Until about a year ago, this worked perfectly. I would take the new cards to my plane, swapping them for the old ones which I then sent back to Jepp. Once a year I sent them a check for quite a lot of money, and everything was flawless.
A couple of years ago, Jepp was acquired by Boeing. I presume that the new owner sent in the usual bean-counters who proceeded to look for "economies", of course at the expense of the customer, whose only role after all is to pay the bills.
The first sign that things weren't right came with last year's bill. I've always had a substantial discount for having two GPSs in the plane, which makes it only about 25% more than a single one. This had been forgotten, and the bill was for twice the single-unit price. I called, listening to hold music for about half-an-hour, interrupted occasionally by the usual pathetic excuse about "increased call volume" - the latter caused, of course, by the fact that they had messed up their complete order management system. Finally I spoke to someone who apologised, took my credit card number, and told me it was fixed.
I got various bills and reminders, which I ignored, until eventually the supply of new data cartridges dried up. I called again. This time I got someone very unhelpful who accused me of not paying my bill. Luckily I'd kept notes of the previous conversation, and eventually all was restored.
That was last year. This year they had a new trick, aimed no doubt at saving a few more dimes. They have suspended the data cartridge service altogether, replacing it with an online service where you update your own cartridges. They sent me a USB thingy to plug the cartridges into, and told me to call them for more information. It actually took several calls to get the service set up. Tonight, I finally tried to download into my cartridges. One worked fine. But then, I only had the right to a single cartridge! So we're back to where we were before.
I'm sure that all the calls to try and straighten things out have already wiped out the savings from not sending me the data cards. So I have to spend more time, not to mention hours on the phone to Jeppesen, and it costs them more money. If there was an alternative, I'd already be there - the disadvantage of monopolies.
But I'm sure that somewhere there's an accountant who's jolly pleased with himself.