Why Won’t You Let Me Give the Gift of Smugmug?

Ok, so here is the story. I have some friends that are having a baby soon so I thought a good Christmas gift to give them would be a subscription to a photo sharing web site so they could share all their photos of them and their new child. Since I have a Flickr pro account and love it, I figured I would get them a Flickr account. But then I read about Robert Scoble raving about how much he loves Smugmug and that he is possibly moving from Flickr to Smugmug. So I decided to give Smugmug a try.

On Trial

So I signed up for a trial account with Smugmug and just browsed around to get a general feel for the site. I really like the site and they have a done a wonderful job of making it easy to perform most of the common tasks that a photo sharing site should enable you to do.

I talked it over with my wife and we both agreed that Flickr is more techy while Smugmug is more family friendly. Since we wanted a site which would allow our friends to share baby photos with their family, Smugmug seemed like a really good choice.

A Snafu

So I searched around the Smugmug site and finally found a page where you can “give the gift of Smugmug” so I decided I would go ahead with that. One problem though, when I reached the gifting page, I was greeted with a blank page. Hmmm. That’s strange. Maybe it is my browser. So I tried it in Firefox. Same thing. Try it for yourself, here is the Url:


Then, I remembered that Smugmug is a family owned business and they boast that they have really personal and friendly support. So I wrote those wonderful humans at help@smugmug.com.

Warm, but not very helpful

I wrote support and explained that I was getting a blank page in both browsers when trying to give the gift of Smugmug. I received a response a couple of days* later that basically consisted of the usual support response: Clear your browser cache, delete all of your cookies, and restart your computer. Ok, that is to be expected. It seems that in technical support you have to start with the most basic things first. I knew it wouldn’t help but I decided to try it anyway. Well, it didn’t help. I was still getting a blank page.

*Update: After going back and checking the timestamps on the emails with Smugmug support, the response actually came the next day and from then on out they responded to all of my emails within a couple of hours except for my very last message to them which was never responded to.

Next, I tried it at a different computer (from work) and again, in both browsers. Same results. So I replied to support and told them this and asked if they had any other ideas. The response I received really puzzled me:

Thanks for contacting SmugMug. To give the ‘Gift of SmugMug’ you must
have a current / active account with us and have credit card information
in the control panel of your account. Check to make sure you have
updates your account billing information.

Well, I guess I don’t mind giving them my credit card information since I will need to be paying for this gift. So I went to my user settings on Smugmug and went to update my credit card information. Well, in order to enter credit card information, I must sign up for my own Smugmug account and pay for it. Ok, so let me get this straight. To give somebody else a gift, I must fist purchase an account for myself? But I am perfectly happy with my Flickr account and I don’t need to pay another fee for a site I may or may not use.

In A Tight Spot

So now here I am, three days after Christmas and I still have not been able to purchase a Christmas gift for my friends. My first reaction was to just back out and give them a Flickr account. But my wife insisted we get them a Smugmug account – it is prettier. So what do I do? At this point I don’t feel like I am getting much help from Smugmug. I am trying to give them money and they won’t take it.

Why Blank?

Ok, so maybe they haven’t really set up a way for non-members to give others gifts. Maybe this is even a business rule they decided to enforce on their web site. But why not explain this on the page rather than just giving me nothing? Here is what the code for that page must look like:


Makes no sense to me. I must be missing something.


4 Responses to Why Won’t You Let Me Give the Gift of Smugmug?

  1. Hi there,

    I’m the founder, CEO and Chief Geek at SmugMug, and just came across your post. I’m so sorry you’ve been having trouble, and I’m so glad you spoke up about it rather than just shrugging and going somewhere else.

    I just checked out the Gift page in question, and we actually show something semi-reasonable to non-customers – we just totally break if you’re a customer but haven’t yet paid. How stupid of us – that’s totally backwards. I imagine we just never thought to test this use-case, which is also dumb.

    I noticed you contacted our Support Heroes, but did it really take *days* to get a response? Normally, even over the holidays, our response time is measured in minutes, not days, so I’d like to get to the bottom of that if you can give me a hand.

    We’ll definitely fix the Gifting thing, and we’ll see what we can do about letting non-subscribers give the give of SmugMug, too. In the meantime, I’d be happy to make things right. Please email me directly or contact the Support Heroes and they’ll get your message to me.

    Thanks again – without feedback like this, we’d never improve, so I’m glad to hear it.

  2. […] Was Given the Gift of Smugmug Customer Service In my previous post, I outlined a little trouble I ran into trying to purchase a friend a Smugmug account as a gift. […]

  3. pleb says:

    It’s March 1st, 2008, and this problem still exists.

    First, I tried to give the gift of smugmug without being a member, and I was inexplicably required to login. Then I made a trial account and tried to do it again, and I was met with the same blank screen you got. I even had the same experience with support: they were friendly and responsive, but they didn’t understand what I was saying or seem to consider the possibility that it was their site that was messed up and not me.

    It’s too bad. What should have been an easy decision in smugmug’s favor has gotten a lot harder all because they wouldn’t let me give them my credit card information! The fact that they’ve apparently known about this for over two months and not fixed it is worrying.

  4. milosz says:

    It is February 7, 2010, two years later, and this problem still exists.

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