In January 2009, Google Apps for Work was free.1 One of the first things I did when I acquired was register it with Google Apps.

The way it works, GA prompts the user to create an account whose role is super admin. Any subsequently created accounts can have an identical super admin role, or they can have a subservient role. I created a super admin account and then a subservient account, and this latter was the account I used for the next 7 years. Over time I completely forgot the login credentials for the super admin account, and also forgot that the account I was using was not the super admin account.

Wind the clocks forward to a week ago, and I wanted to create a new GA user for this domain. When I went to the Google Admin interface and realized my account didn’t have permissions and no longer had access to the account that did have permissions, I decided it was time to begin a dialog with GA support.

In order to open a support ticket, users must be paying customers. I was still on the free grandfathered plan, which means my account wasn’t eligible.2 To fix this I upgraded to premium using GA’s 30-day trial, and then opened a ticket.

The next day, I got a call. Not recognizing the number, I let it resolve to voicemail. The person identified himself as Danilo from Google for Work Support. He sent me an email afterwards, summarizing the voicemail. I returned his email, and the next day he called again. This time I picked up, and we were on the phone together for 37 minutes. Our quest was seemingly simple: how could we find out what the email address of the super admin account was, if all we had was login access to a subservient account? Google had redesigned some things since Danilo had last handled this scenario, and after exploring many options we came up dry. Danilo said that at the worst, we could open a domain contestation case, since I had access to the domain’s registrar. This would reset the domain from GA’s viewpoint, allowing me to start over. The downsides were that I’d have to manually save and restore my preexisting email, and I’d probably lose my grandfathered status.

It took two more phone calls — a total of 52 minutes — to get it figured out and closed. The solution, the one I’d spent hours to figure out, was to go to Gmail -> Mail -> Contacts -> Directory. That revealed all the contacts associated with the account, including the super admin account. I now had the account username but I still didn’t have the password. Luckily I had access to the recovery email address on file for the super admin account, and I used that to reset the password.3

As soon as I had access to the super admin account, I immediately elevated my subservient account to have a super admin role, and then deleted the original super admin account. I’d spent too many hours the past few days getting this resolved, and I wasn’t going to let it ever happen again.

I’m walking away with the impression that Google Apps Support is good. Not only is it easy to get in touch with a human, but their preferred method of communication is seemingly phone, which I find interesting and certainly helpful in my situation, since we had a lot of back-and-forth.4

  1. Back then it was called Google Apps for Business. They changed the name to Google Apps for Work on September 2, 2014. ↩︎
  2. Google started charging $50 per user per year on December 6, 2012. ↩︎
  3. If I hadn’t had access to this recovery address, since I had access to the domain’s registrar, I could have done a domain confirmation through a DNS change. But using the recovery address to reset the password was a lot simpler. ↩︎
  4. With a text support ticket, supporters can create macros for standard replies to common questions. With a phone, there’s no such time savings. Perhaps if my question had been more straight forward, GA would have replied with a macro. ↩︎