Daniel Read
Dan Dan Da Developer Man

Dan Dan Da Developer Man

Nothing has ever angered me more than The Google Play Team

Nothing has ever angered me more than The Google Play Team

2 weeks of dealing with Google as a developer

Daniel Read's photo
Daniel Read
ยทNov 16, 2022ยท

15 min read

Table of contents

Introduction

My name is Daniel Read. I've been coding for more than 20 years. I am a cofounder & lead developer of a SaaS company that provides management software for boutique fitness studios, such as yoga studios.

We have our primary app that hosts all the studios in one place, but for a premium price, we develop, manage & publish a "branded app" which is essentially a white-labeled version of our primary app but locked down to that one studio.

Recently Google Play told us that we needed to update our target SDK version or our apps would no longer be able to be found on the Google Play Store.

No problem! These apps have already been put through review multiple times and approved, so all we had to do was up the target SDK & run our script to submit the new apps.... or so I thought.

In this blog post I will walk you through the following 2 weeks, as a small developer, dealing with the Google Play Team.

11/2/22

Day 0 | Anger Level ๐Ÿคจ

With the ~100 apps we updated, 93 went through without a hitch. Then I started getting rejection notices for 7 of them. So 93 were approved and 7 rejected even though they're the same code.

They claimed that because our app includes User Generated Content (UGC) that we need to provide the ability to block & report the content. They also provided us with an image of our app showing that we already have that exact functionality.

Screenshot 2022-11-15 at 4.28.03 PM.png

After looking it over, my naive, optimistic self thought: Oh they must be referring to the content that is the core part of the app (not User Generated Content (UGC) ). No big deal, I'll just submit an appeal and explain to them that they misunderstood what parts were UGC. So that's what I did.

11/4/22

Day 2 | Anger Level ๐Ÿง

I get a response from The Google Play Team from someone named Anthony, who said they've reviewed my appeal and confirmed that it's not compliant with their policy.

Weโ€™ve reviewed your appeal request and confirmed that your app is not compliant with Google Play Policy. If you submitted an update to an existing app, the version published prior to the update is still available on Google Play.

He then went on to paste everything from the original rejection notice.

I thought to myself, "He must be busy and didn't actually read my previous email and this is his first line of defense, to repeat himself"

So I cheerfully reply back explaining, for the third time, that we already have these features and explained how to find them.

Hello,

Thank you for taking the time to reply. I want us to be compliant with the guidelines, but I'm still confused on what we need to do after reading through all of the information you sent over.

The content you showed in the screenshot is content provided by us (the creator of the app). It is not user generated content. Do we need to provide the ability to block & report content provided by us (information on our instructors & announcements by us)?

The only user generated content on the app is

1.) Comments (which you can report or block by tapping on the comment)

2.) User Profiles (which you can report or block by tapping "More" in their profile

The content you are referencing is hosted by us (the creator of the app)....

Thank you for taking the time to clarify this for me.

11/7/22

Day 5 | Anger Level ๐Ÿ˜ 

I get a response back repeating themselves, that our app is not in compliance with no new information on how to fix it. They followed this by copying & pasting a chunk from a previous email again.

He avoided my question asking him to clarify what we need to do. ๐Ÿ˜‘

Now I'm starting to get irate. Every other morning I'm waking up to see a repeated message in my inbox. I'm running a software company! I'm sure Anthony is a great guy, but I don't have time to make him my pen pal....

"Is this a robot?", I think to myself. Google has been doing a lot of work in the AI department in the last few years. Maybe they're replacing their staff with AI?

I decide to keep my response super concise and to the point. I explain for the fourth time that our app already has these features.

Our app already has an in-app system to report, remove and block all UGC and users. The content you mentioned comes from us, the creator of the app, and is not UGC.

Please explain how we can proceed?

11/9/22

Day 7 | Anger Level ๐Ÿ˜ก๐Ÿค–โ“

I get another very helpful response {{+sarcasm}} from Anthony saying more of the same stuff from all of his previous emails.

Hi developers,

Thank you for your reply.

As mentioned earlier, we found that your app is still not compliant with the User Generated Content (UGC) policy. Note that user-generated content is content that users contribute to an app, and which is visible to or accessible by at least a subset of the app's users.

We confirm that your app has options to report and block abusive users but your app does not contain functionality to report objectionable content.

You can read through the User Generated Content policy page for more details and examples of common violations.

For more information or a refresher, we strongly recommend that you review our e-learning course on UGC before resubmission.

Thank you for your understanding and patience.

At this point, I'm split 50/50 on whether or not I'm speaking to a robot. All of the responses are clearly copied & pasted & there is no helpful information in the messages. He's not answering my questions and clearly stuck on a loop.

Frustrated at spending a week of my life going back and forth with a more advanced version of Siri, I reply asking them if they're a human and if they cannot help me, to please put me in contact with someone that can.

Are you a human? If not, please put me in contact with one.

These responses are repetitive and not providing any answers to my questions.

I've read through the "User Generated Content" policy page multiple times. I've taken the "e-learning course on UGC".

Please tell me exactly what to do to be in compliance. If you cannot provide me with an answer, please connect me with someone who can.

I do not want to waste any more of our time any longer.

11/11/22

Day 9 | Anger Level ๐Ÿ˜ก๐Ÿคฌ

11/11 Make a wish! I woke up wishing my previous message would wake this person(?) up out of their day to day zombie-like motion of copying & pasting. If this is a robot, maybe I've tripped it up and I'll get a response from a human at this point. I've learned from automated phone systems that you can quickly get to a human by saying something absurd like "My waffle didn't swim in the park yesterday and I don't know how to stop it." ... Wishful thinking...

Anthony replied back with another copy & pasted email with one new line in the email.

As much as I'd like to help, Iโ€™m not able to provide any more details or a better answer to your question. In our previous email, I made sure to include all the information available to me.

So, he has the authority to reject our apps for non-sensical reasons, but is not able to provide any more information on what exactly the problem is?! Coo coo coool.

I reply asking him to put me in contact with a manager. I know, I know, very Karen of me. I promise I'm not one to start problems with people doing their jobs. However, this has been going on for over a week at this point and I really don't know what else I can do at this point.

As mentioned earlier: Our app already has an in-app system to report, remove and block all UGC and users. The content you mentioned comes from us, the creator of the app, and is not UGC.

I don't know how else to explain this to you.

I have been publishing apps on Google Play for over 5 years now and have never had a problem like this before.

I understand you are unable to provide a better answer or even an answer if you're a robot or human...

Can you please put me in contact with your manager so I can get a better answer on what we have to do > before I invest and allocate development resources that cost time and money to fixing an issue that I do >not believe exists?

Assuming I'm never going to get anywhere with him, I also went into the Google Play Developer console & submitted a support ticket explaining that I need help and that this person is not being helpful.

First, I attempted to select the option to "Request a phone call" and got a "Sorry something went wrong" error message. Convenient.

Next, I tried to use the "Live Chat" option but it was disabled despite it being within the hours it's "available".

Finally, defeated, I chose the email option to send yet another email in hopes that a different person would get it and be helpful. Surely there couldn't be 2 people working at Google that are this useless?

11/15/22

Day 13 | Anger Level ๐Ÿคฏ๐Ÿ˜ฑ๐Ÿ˜‚

4 days later and I still have not yet heard back from Anthony. I'm starting to get notices in my Google Play Developer console that my apps are going to be taken off of Google Play Store because they are not adhering to the guidelines.

Screenshot 2022-11-15 at 6.17.19 PM.png

I get a reply back from the support ticket with the email signed "Demz". They essentially told me that they are with a different team and cannot help.

We apologize for the inconvenience, but our team cannot respond with issues related to policy sent at this time, so please contact our policy support team through your Play Console.

Then they explained that I can contact the Google Play Review Team. AKA - Go talk to your pen pal, Anthony.

They also made mention at the bottom of the email that I can always start a live chat if needed.

Excited at a new way to possibly get access to someone that can help, I click on the link to find a message saying "We're too busy try again later".

Clearly I sat on that refresh button like it was a couch on a Saturday morning in the 1990s and the cartoons were about to start.

After attempting multiple times with "We're too busy" I finally get a live chat started....

(Exact transcript is at the bottom of this post)

A live chat started with my buddy from the support ticket that already said they couldn't help me, Demz. They once again said they're with a different team & can't help me. I asked them if I could speak to a manager or anyone else that could help me and they refused to acknowledge that request. Once they realized I was not going to end the conversation until they helped me they proceeded to end the conversation with a cheerful "Bye!" and closed the live chat session on me.

Remember the last time someone hung up on you passive aggressively in the middle of a conversation? You know how I felt in this moment.

I was so defeated at this point that I literally began laughing out loud at the absurdity of the situation.

Next Steps ... or lack thereof?

Later that night, the reality set in....I'm left with three options:

  1. Wait for Anthony to reply back to me ( will he ever? ).
  2. Add a feature that already exists to our app. How the hell am I suppose to do that... I don't know.
  3. Tell our customers they can no longer have an Android app because Anthony was mean.

I have never written a blog post before, but these last few years dealing with both of the major App Stores (Google & Apple), have made me so insanely angry about being a developer that it forced me to write this.

The fact that one stubborn person in the Google Play Review team can cause this much stress and pain to my company with no recourse possible is insane. It's equally as insane that their culture is to respond to a support ticket by saying "NOT MY DEPARTMENT, SORRY BYE!" or just avoiding questions altogether with absolutely no accountability.

But this is what we have to deal with as small devs in the year 2022.

Thank you

I know that was a long read, but I've written this out in hopes that someone going through a similar situation stumbles upon this & doesn't feel alone.

I must make mention that in 6 years of publishing on the Google Play Store they've only done this one other time. Typically Apple is the one causing me all of my headaches!

If anyone knows of anyone that works over at Google that is allowed to respond to messages with more than copy & pasting or saying "Not my department" please put them in contact with me at

For those that read through this, thank you. It was therapeutic to get this out in writing regardless of wether or not it makes any difference.

Maybe if people like this post, next time, I'll post about the App Store & the nightmares they put us through over the years.

Exact transcript from the Live Chat

How can we help you?

A few of my apps were rejected, I'm guessing by the same person (Anthony).

He says our app does not have "the ability to block/report UGC in the app", however our app does in fact have this ability.

I've explained this to him many times over the last 2+ weeks and he just keeps copy & pasting the same information over and over without telling me what exactly is wrong with our apps.

I'm infuriated at this point and feel helpless because there's no problem with our apps and he refuses to tell me what I'm missing.

Can someone please tell me what's wrong with our apps before they get taken off the Play Store!?

8:23:46 AM Demz: Demz joined the conversation

8:23:46 AM Dan Read: Dan Read joined the conversation

8:23:57 AM Demz: Hi there, thanks for contacting Google Play Developer Support! There will be a short survey at the end of our chat so you can provide feedback on the service I'm providing.

8:23:59 AM Demz: Please give me a moment while I review your issue.

8:26:16 AM Demz: Thanks for your patience.

8:26:18 AM Demz: It sounds like you have a question regarding Google Play Policy. Unfortunately, as I'm not on the Policy Team, I can't help you in this matter.

8:26:26 AM Demz: Please submit an appeal request here to contact our policy support team: support.google.com/googleplay/android-devel..

8:26:27 AM Dan Read: No, i do not have a question about the policy.

8:26:32 AM Dan Read: I read the policy through many times.

8:26:41 AM Dan Read: I took the course on UGC

8:26:52 AM Dan Read: He is saying we do not have a feature that we do in fact have.

8:27:34 AM Dan Read: There's literally no way to proceed and everyone keeps saying submit an appeal which I've done

8:29:57 AM Demz: Unfortunately, our team is not able to provide information with regards to policy. If you already have an existing appeal request, you may continue to communicate with the policy team.

8:30:10 AM Demz: We apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused you.

8:30:26 AM Dan Read: So I just have to close my business because one person in the review team is having a bad day?

8:30:34 AM Dan Read: Like is this serious?

8:30:40 AM Dan Read: Do you have a manager?

8:31:15 AM Dan Read: I am not asking for information on policy. I am asking for Anthony's manager

8:31:51 AM Demz: As I have mentioned, our team is not able to provide information with regards to the rejection or any policy related issues for your app. Please note that contacting the Policy Support team is the best and only way to resolve the rejection issue.

8:32:13 AM Demz: Our team only supports questions regarding on the issues and concerns encountered using the Google Play Console.

8:32:24 AM Dan Read: Who do I contact if Anthony is not doing his job correctly?

8:33:26 AM Demz: You can reply directly to the existing appeal ticket to discuss the issue further.

8:33:29 AM Demz: Apart from this issue, is there anything else I can help you with today?

8:33:32 AM Dan Read: Which goes back to Anthony.

8:33:40 AM Dan Read: This is becoming a joke at this point.

8:34:14 AM Demz: We apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused you. As much as I'd like to help, Iโ€™m not able to provide any more information or a better answer to your question. I have been sure to include all the information available to me.

8:34:25 AM Dan Read: Can you escalate this?

8:36:28 AM Demz: Unfortunately, we do not handle this kind of concern. You may continue to communicate with the appropriate team for further assistance in resolving your issue. Please understand that I am not part of the review team so I'm not able to give further information about your concern. I again apologize for the inconvenience.

8:36:56 AM Dan Read: But you have a manager, correct? Can you put me in contact with your manager. I understand you can't do anything.

8:38:40 AM Demz: As much as I'd like to help, I'm not able to assist you further. If you don't have any other concerns, I will now have to end our chat to assist other developers. I apologize and thank you for understanding. Have a great day. Bye!

8:38:45 AM Demz: Demz left the conversation

8:38:45 AM Demz: Thanks for chatting with Google Play Developer Support today! Your chat session is now complete.

8:38:45 AM Demz: Demz ended the conversation

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