I’m developing a health & fitness/wellness website using Joomla and I wanted individual users to have a personal calendar where they could record their training appointments etc etc. While there’s a variety of “event calendars” available, they’re all focused on providing the website owner with the ability to promote “events” and have members register their attendance. I simply wanted calendar functionality. After searching around I finally found JCal Pro. While it was still an event focused calendar it was advertised as offering private calendars. So I handed over my $29 and installed the component.

My initial impression was I liked the component and it was better looking and laid out than the competitors, I was a fan. However, when I tried adding events, there was no option for them to be “private” unless I was logged in as a site administrator. All events added by regular users were public and required approval by an administrator. I went through the instructions multiple times and still couldn’t get it working.

So on September 20 I posted a message on the JCal support forums requesting help. After a day or so I got a response from the developers, Anything Digital, that they were looking in to it and then a follow up saying they’ve confirmed it was a bug and I could expect a fix in 24-48 hrs. So far so good, bugs happen, I can accept that, I was still a fan. But then things started to go downhill …

I waited 48hrs for the fix … nothing. So I posted a “bump” reminder message on the forums to get an update.

I waited another 48hrs … still nothing. No communication at all. I posted another message on their forums asking for a response and letting them know I was starting to think about asking for a refund and that so far I’d have little option to write a not very positive review on the Joomla Extensions catalogue.

I waited another 48hrs … still nothing. So I posted again, requesting a refund. Their official policy says “no refunds”, but I pointed out that a credit card chargeback would cost them more than a refund, so they may want to reconsider, and that continuing to advertise it as offering “private calendars” was false advertising. On September 28 I also wrote a review on Joomla.org describing my experience.

Another 24hrs went by and finally a response – more than a week after I was told I could expect a fix within 24-48 hrs. I was told that the fix was with beta testers and they also issued me with a refund and closed my account with them. September 29.

This was more than a little confusing. What I wanted was private calendars. I only asked for a refund after it seemed apparent they couldn’t provide them anytime soon and had poor support. If they had a fix and it would soon be available, I was more than willing to wait – all they had to do was tell me what was going on!

I was annoyed, but left it at that until today. Why? Well, yesterday my review on Joomla Extensions had now been approved by the Joomla.org site admins and was posted along with a response by Anything Digital claiming the issue was resolved with a link back to the forums (update: the review has mysteriously been removed). I thought, great, I still don’t have a solution maybe I’ll buy it again! So I went to the forums and got this response –

Sorry david_steadson, you are banned from using this forum!
Gave a bad JED review even though we refunded his money

This was completely false! I gave the bad review only after I’d waited a week for a response, and a day before I was issued the refund. Furthermore, when I went to the forums without logging in, there was nothing new in the thread except the acknowledgment it had been sent to testing. After looking around the site some more I found something even more irritating … they have indeed finally publicly issued the fix!

I still need a private calendar solution. What do I do? Give them the money again despite the bad experience with their support, including being outright dishonest in the statement above? Right now I don’t know what I should do. Their software is licenced under GPL which means anyone who has it is free to share it around, so I could just wait until somebody does that, but it could be weeks or months.

I like the software. I want to use it. I would have been a fan and written positively about them, but instead because of their lack of communication they’ve turned me into a foe, with a post like this on the internet for googlers to find for years to come.

UPDATE 2010-01-01: I now have the latest version of JCalPro version and the Private Calendars functional still does not work, with users additions requiring administrator approval even for their own private activities.