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Google's botched video store starts coughing up cash

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Google has started returning money to those customers screwed by its hapless video service.

Last week, we told you how billionaires Larry and Sergey had taken 99 cents from us and others as a result of their handicapped Google Video store. Thankfully, the Google founders have escaped the confines of their plush 747 and ego massaging long enough to refund money to those folks who never received their videos.

Many people bought Charlie Rose segments, for example, only to receive an e-mail saying that Google would eventually tell them how to download the video. Such an e-mail never arrived, but the payment for it went to Google.

Now, we get this.

"You may have noticed some problems with some of the video(s) that you downloaded and we have issued you a full refund for these purchases," Google wrote in a customer service e-mail. "Rest assured, the affected video files have been replaced and are now available on Google Video.  In addition to the refund, the episode that you purchased are available for re-download at no charge."

And, in fact, our refund has arrived, although without interest.

The Google Video service is so bad that even the NY Times columnist David Pogue noticed. Pogue, who struggles not to glorify all that he sees, had a revelation in the second half of his recent piece on the video store.

"According to Google, the current Google Video is a beta test, a dry run intended to solicit feedback and suggestions for improvement," Pogue writes. "That's fortunate, because at the moment, the site is appallingly half-baked. Quarter-baked, in fact."

How nasty does Pogue get?

"Google is surely aware of these limitations and has plans to address them. One aspect of Google Video, however, will not be so easily changed: its copy-protection scheme, a new one that Google wrote itself. . . . This is sickening news for anyone who thought that two incompatible copy-protection schemes - Apple's and Microsoft's - were complex and sticky enough already. And compared with the ABC and NBC shows available on the iTunes store, the value of the (Google) CBS shows looks even worse."

And then.

"Even if you give Google every benefit of every doubt, this video store doesn't live up to Google's usual standards of excellence. This, after all, is the company whose unofficial motto is 'Don't be evil.' In the case of Google Video, the company's fans might have settled for 'Don't be mediocre.'"

If a company that can do no wrong has offended the Pogue person, then the Google love-fest may be souring. No matter how hard Sarah Lacy tries. ®

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