Tobold's Blog
Sunday, December 26, 2010
How to miss a Steam Christmas sale

Christmas, a family holiday, where many people spend time away from home and at some sort of family gathering. So do I. But of course I took my laptop, so I would have full connection to wonderful world of the internet. Or wouldn't I? It turns out that the internet isn't all that "inter" these days, and there are a lot of invisible walls causing you trouble if you dare to move from home.

Every year Steam is doing a Christmas sale. Great offers, many very good games at seriously reduced prices. So I wanted to pick up this or that game, only to be blocked every time by some error message: "There seems to have been an error initializing or updating your transaction. Please wait a minute and try again or contact support for assistance." The message told me nothing, and trying again sure didn't help. So after a few days I contacted support, which replied to me another day later with this gem:
Thank you for contacting Steam Support. Our records indicate that your purchase was declined due to your current IP address differing from what is on file with your billing information. We have removed the lock on your account - you will now be able to purchase additional subscriptions.
Apparently traveling is illegal in Steam land, and leads to your account being locked and unable to purchase additional games. You need to contact customer support and beg them to let you buy games from Steam if you dare to use a laptop from a different location with a different IP. And they can't even tell you that straight in the error message on the site, leaving you only with some nonsense message of "an error initializing or updating your transaction" which tells you absolutely nothing about the real problem.

Well, since all this took several days, many of the games I wanted to buy weren't on sale any more. I'm so not buying them at full price, angry as I am at Steam right now. If they want to make their service unusable to anyone traveling, and confound them with stupid error messages, they are going to lose sales over it.
That's a terrible policy.

Besides that, I love Steam and will purchase a game on Steam over any other form any day of the week. You never need a hard copy, can install it on any computer once you log in with your account...and Steam sales are brilliant.

Sorry to hear that Steam has such a bad policy in place, but ultimately, they aren't going to lose enough sales to make a difference. Not that I'm denigrating your experience, but how many people are going to have problems buying games over Steam because they are in the process of travelling? Kinda sounds like a "wrong place, wrong time" type of situation.

But yes, you're absolutely right - its a terrible policy and should be changed.
Only terrorists buy steam games while on the go!
@hound lol so true.

I'm sure they didn't take this possibility into account though it's hard to imagine that traveling isn't something common these days.

I would have bought a couple of games from Steam but unfortunately I haven't found anything that trumps WoW so I'm not gonna waste my money this time around.
Same thing happened to me last Christmas Tobold. I don't really mind them incorporating extra security but I wish they were better at telling you what is going on.

Sadly swearing not to buy from Steam again may be cutting off your nose to spite your face. At least this year there are some really good bargains outside of the daily offers plus they may do what they did last year and repeat the mosIt popular offers at the very end.

On the other hand if your anger really won't allow you to buy from Steam again then I reccommend Gamersgate. A wide selection, good prices and no intrusive client to install.
Sounds like completely reasonable anti-fraud protection.

I absolutely want a block on my account if my billing information is being used from a foreign IP.
What Alastair said; this is completely standard for just about every major online service out there. Google is about the only online service out there that doesn't track your location for a 'Hey.. you're in a funny place. Are you cool with that?' message of sorts.

As for Steam, it's an easier fix than you'd think, especially if you're in a different country. Just update your country to where you're currently at, and I found that transactions go through fine. I've since had the lock lifted as well, but it was hardly necessary.
There's nothing wrong with the policy, it's meant to protect the users anyway. But its implementation is a bit questionable if they can't even mention the IP issue on the error message.

Though tiny chance of happening, you might want to try emailing them and ask if you can still buy with the old price considering that it was their fault that prevented you from purchasing the game on sale. Never hurt to ask.
I agree. I'm traveling for the holidays and couldn't do any of the Steam sale either, because of their stupid policy. It should be an opt-in-out choice.
Sad to hear that, hopefully some of the game that you want come on sale again sometime in the future.

That's very interesting, since I'm doing some traveling right now, and have been able to purchase some stuff from the Steam sale. It may stem from the fact that I am traveling only within the state of California, where I live, and used the web browser interface at instead of the Steam client.

I mean, it sort of defeats the point of having a web store which should be accessible wherever you go if it automatically locks you out if you travel to far away from your home network without giving you an easy option to remove the lock.
If you haven't noticed--today is their 'best of' where they're redoing some of the better sale items from the last few days. Hope you get what you want!
It's clearly an anti-fraud measure, but still irritating. It happens to me with my WoW account any time I travel-- they reset my password every time I login from somewhere new. It's annoying.
oh damn, so sorry :( I hope they figure out a better way of dealing with this..I wonder if you can call them in advance and let them know you're traveling and put a flag on your account?

their Christmas sale is fantastic though, and such a money sink :P I now have enough games to last me a year at a minimum (I'm a slow gamer :P) and the sale is not even over O_O.
Well, as another person already stated, Steam is having a massive sale on games.

If you are still travelling, set your Steam location to the locale you are now, and see if that works. Or buy the game from their website instead of from the Steam app itself.

No reason to avoid the great sales.
You could just send another message to customer service. Steam has always had great customer service when I've needed it. Just explain what happened and ask if you can purchase the games at the discounted price.

It might not work, but it's probably worth a try.
Nothing wrong at all with Steam's IP policy. It's standard practice among a lot of online retailers. A good friend of mine who plays WoW recently got moved to Japan as part of his job and his account got locked/flagged/temporarily frozen when he tried to log into the US servers he normally played on, from japan. A simple phonecall to a CSR rep resolved the issue within a few hours.

I'm glad online retailers take these and other hidden measures to help prevent fraud and or account/identity theft.
Yeah, Valve seems to put a lock on the account for several different reasons.

I often use an e-card service tied to my credit card which creates a virtual card with a limit which I specify each time. That means that I use a different card almost each time I buy something from Steam, and that triggers the lock pretty often. So it's pretty much routine for me now to contact their support.
I took my laptop elsewhere with a different IP address and had no problems whatsoever. I purchased two games on Christmas Day and gifted one to a friend. All I cay say is Go Steam!
I traveled over the holiday weekend, and I was able to buy a couple games over my Ipod touch without any sort of IP lock; when normally I use my desktop computer to make purchases. I don't know if it's a EU vs. USA issue.
Steam is a steaming pile of ....
Steam is one of those nessecary evils. I'm really surprised that they didn't permit you to buy those game at their sale prices since it was their fault it didn't go through. Seems like shitty customer service.
I didn't spend probably close to $100 with Steam over the holiday sale because of this policy. My account was frozen near the beginning of the sale because I decided to buy a game from my office computer (while I remembered), and after that I was just put off the whole thing.

I appreciate the account security efforts, but this is totally overzealous. It's one thing if I'm suddenly popping up in China buying hundreds of dollars in games, but spending $4.99 on a limited time sale from within my own city should not freeze your account.

I love the social aspects of Steam and I have encouraged my friends to use it, but I have been completely put off buying anything through them for the foreseeable future.
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