Corner Cases


June 11, 2013 by Brian Ghidinelli

Before I started 5 years ago, I ran a professional services agency that did fairly high-end consulting work for companies like Macromedia, Autodesk, Epson and Yahoo! I started the company with a co-founder in 1996 and with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, I learned about business the hard way.

Especially as many of our customers were exploding dot-coms, I learned that your best customer will stop returning phone calls and start dodging your invoices when $5,000 is on the table. You can imagine what happened when the mutual fund company from New York owed us $30,000 (although in a search just now, it looks like this behavior caught up with them).

I must credit my parents with instilling in me a good moral compass. Although as a youth I had questionable motives and listened to punk rock music, you can hardly call that a permanent belief system or unusual. No, when push came to shove, I'm glad to report that we made the tough decisions and did right by people. When it was easier to slink away and pocket a few bucks, we took the extra effort to correct a mistake or initiate contact to do unto others as I sure wish those companies were doing to us.

That desire, for a better experience, is what has fueled the fantastic growth of We have added staff, expanded our features, become better at many things and continued to support our customers as though our lives depend on it (and it does!) We've even bought a set or two of race tires.

But that desire doesn't mean mistakes don't happen. And it definitely doesn't mean a world where software doesn't have bugs.

In the last month we discovered two separate issues in our payment processing system. In both cases, we had withheld more money than we were supposed to due to "corner cases" in our system: situations that occur under such unusual conditions that testing doesn't catch them. In both cases, only one customer was even vaguely aware of the situation despite the fact that the bug had been present for 12 months. In both cases, we could have easily swept it under the rug and held onto the cash.

Instead, we found all of the missing monies and initiated separate direct deposits and contacted each customer to explain what happened. Each phone call started with a "gulp" and sweaty palms. Who wants to deliver bad news? Admit they made a mistake? Say they're sorry... and mean it?

We will never be able to prevent every corner case, but customers and users have our promise that we'll always be honest and fix it immediately.

To the customers who urged us to keep their monies because they value so much, we love you too. :)

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