The Google Drain

Words by Sloane Citron

Photos by Scott R. Kline

Friends often ask me, “How’s it going at PUNCH?” I tell them that I’m proud of what we have accomplished, that the response to the magazine has been great and that we have a terrific staff.

What I don’t share with them is the dirty underbelly of running a small business: technology, or rather, the failure of technology. Even though I have a quantitative mind and can generally fix things, I find that I spend approximately 20% of my time dealing with the failure of technology. Some days, it’s all I do.

From our CRM to our copy machine to our cloud-based software to my always sensitive iMac, every day is a new adventure on what will not work and what will go wrong. The iMac I first bought was so filled with unfixable nonsense that Apple gave me a brand-new upgraded model as they wanted mine to study.

But of all the technology failures, a recent one was the most tormenting. When we first started the company, we couldn’t buy the domain so we settled on, which was descriptive and close enough. On the occasion of building our spectacular new website, we were finally able to buy

In order to be consistent, we decided that our email should bear our names at, replacing our use of

I went onto Google to G Suite (where you can set up mail with your own domain) and registered and set up an account so that all our email could be under that domain. Simple enough. We bought our staff boxes and boxes of new business cards with the change to

Shortly thereafter, the disaster started. Few people were receiving our emails! We discovered through some investigation that any email sent from our new accounts that went to recipients using either Gmail or G Suite was landing in their junk or spam folders. Conversely, any recipient who was not using a Google product (say, found their email from us where it should be, in their “in” box.

I started then what would be a three-month process of trying to fix this problem. After all, we had all those lovely boxes of new business cards just sitting there, ready to be cracked open.

My first session with G Suite help chat, with someone named Ernesto, lasted about three hours, and he gave me several tasks to complete: putting code into our email system; setting up an authentication system; and so on. I excitedly did this, thinking that this would solve our little problem and on we would go.

But I was mistaken and a bit crestfallen when we tested our email, and our sent messages continued to go to spam. The next Colombian I spoke with (I learned that’s where my team was located) could not fix the problem but promised to have a supervisor call me. I never received that call.

I was determined to fix this problem. Week after week, in Sisyphean fashion, I would find two or three hours when I could brace myself for the arduous process of working with one of my Colombian friends. Each one bravely said that he would fix the problem, and each would offer something new to try. But then I would test it and we would find our poor lonely test emails stuck in spam hell. More experts were promised to call me, and again I never received a call or an email back.

I kept telling myself to give up, to admit defeat, but I would not have it. I would see those boxes of business cards and decide to give it one more shot. I would find a clear afternoon, take a deep breath and push the “chat” button. Each time we would try new ideas, but nothing worked. I kept asking myself, “Why can’t Google fix this issue?”

Finally, after dozens of attempts and an incredible amount of practiced patience, I decided to give it one last shot: I went back onto chat with Norberto who, of course, could find nothing new to try but promised to put me on with a specialist right away, which, to my surprise, he did. After an hour with the bigshot specialist, he told me that he could not fix the problem. Unfixable.

I was beaten and quietly ended the chat. Technology failure had won. You would think that Google could fix this, but apparently, they are too busy building flying cars to make sure that G Suite works.

Yesterday was a day of catharsis. The burial, if you will. I cancelled our G Suite account (after Mr. Bigshot told me there was absolutely no way to get our money back) and, finally, I gathered up all the boxes of freshly printed business cards and, slowly, like placing earth on the top of a just-lowered casket, tossed them—one by one—into the recycling bin.