Educational Discount

My copy of Mathematica arrived yesterday. Yay.

Today, I sent it back. Boo.

Here’s what happened.

I ordered it on May 28th from the Apple store. 2-day shipping. Yay.
Then, I got the bad news — they couldn’t ship it on the original estimated date. It would ship on or before the 16th of June. Boo.
On the 16th, I got an e-mail saying that my order had shipped, with the Fedex tracking number. Delivery on the 20th. (That’s two business days.) Yay.
On the 20th, no Mathematica. Boo.
I called Fedex. They advised me that no package was ever sent — I should call Apple. I called Apple. Hmmm. There did seem to be some kind of problem, but they would take care of it right away, and send me another copy. Being the language purist that I am, I did suggest that if they hadn’t sent me the first copy, then they weren’t sending me another copy, they were sending me a copy, but that was just me being exasperating. Because it had been their mistake, they would send it overnight delivery. Yay.
The next day, no Mathematica. Boo.
The following day, I receive an e-mail that “my order can’t be shipped when promised, but will ship on or before June 30th”. Yay?
It actually arrives on June 30th. Yay!
So as I’m installing it, I’m reading the elegant enclosed license certificate — and I notice the sentence which says:

Use Class:Academic
This product was purchased at an educational discount.

Wait a minute. I check the Wolfram Research website — and indeed, the educational discount version of Mathematica is a mere US$895, whereas the standard version (which I, alas, not affiliated with an accredited educational institution, must needs purchase — home-schooling doesn’t count), the standard version is US$1880. Which, in addition to taxes and shipping, was the amount charged to my credit card. Boo.
I call Wolfram Research. Unfortunately, since I didn’t purchase this copy from them, they can’t help me. I need to call Apple. Luckily, by now, I have that number on speed dial.

Now, as far as I know (and I checked with the Wolfram rep I spoke with), the academic and standard versions of Mathematica are identical. The same manual (well, book), the same CD, the same bits on the CD, the same elegant license certificate. The only difference between the two (aside from the US$1000 pricing difference) is the appearance on said license certificate of the phrase

This product was purchased at an educational discount.

And whatever bundle of use rights the existence of that sentence might entail — and I’m not exactly clear on what those might be. In any event, if I’m going to give people a hard time about whether they’re sending me a copy or another copy , I’m certainly not going to pass up the implications of this phraseology.

I’ll spare you the details of the discussions. You would think that the easiest solution to this problem would be to mail me (or e-mail me — and I could print it out) a new certificate with the offending sentence removed. Same license number and password. One presumes a database might need to be updated to indicate that this particular license number had, in fact, paid full price — difficult, but not outside the ken of modern computer science.

Sadly, however, this cannot be an option. Apparently, the “educational essence” of that copy cannot be altered by such a casual restatement. The US$1000 pricing differential requires that there be some kind of ceremony, some form of ritual to exorcise that essence — to create the emotional bonding with the true copy, and to preserve the illusion that some important yet ethereal difference warrants such a pricing gap.

And so, I had to trudge down to Kinko’s with my return authorization and send back my “educationally discounted” copy, and return home to await the identical “standard professional” copy for which I paid. Which will ship as soon as they receive the return.

Overnight express, of course.

Yay.

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