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AOL = Hotel California?

By July 3, 2006web-tech

We all remember the famous line from the Eagles’ big hit: "you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave."   Apparently, that should be the slogan for AOL:

When Vincent Ferrari, 30, of the Bronx, called AOL to cancel his membership last month, it took him a total of 21 minutes, including the time spent on an automated sequence at the beginning and some initial waiting in a queue. He recorded the five minutes of interaction with the AOL customer service representative and, a week later, posted the audio file on his blog, Insignificant Thoughts .  Shortly thereafter, those five minutes became the online equivalent of a top-of-the-charts single. [N.Y. Times story]

In the Seventies the hit singles were all produced in recording studios, but not quickly and not inexpensively; today you see some being made on the fly by bloggers frustrated by corporate cluelessness.   Note to corporations: you’re not the only one who might be recording calls for "quality assurance purposes."

Interestingly, the N.Y.Times article quoted above provides a link to the blogger’s post.  Maybe, just maybe, the times they are a changin’.

P.S. having the N.Y. Times link to the post has apparently caused the poor Vincent’s server to meltdown so you might not be able to hear the audio file if you click on that link.  Never fear, the Internet will eventually find a way to route around this problem.  Now, let’s see how long it takes AOL to solve their problem, which is a huge public relations issue.  How huge?  Well, Vincent Ferrari appeared on NBC’s Today show and was interviewed by Matt Lauer.  Yikes!


P.S. If you appreciate my observations, you might want to join my inner circle.

3 Comments

  • Peter W. Douglas Fung says:

    My frustration with AOL is absolutely reaching my tolerence limit. I had AOL back in 1995-98 and was very pleased with their service. Currently I have DSL as it became available and actually lower cost tha dial-up (AT&T/yahoo is only $12.99/mo).

    A couple of years ago I had a computer crash and cannot get on-line access. So I installed the “6-month free” AOL CD which you get in your mail all the time. But in activating that dial-up, AOL requires the credit card information etc. I got on-line and downloaded Anti-virus program and got my DSL going again.

    I send an email to cancel the service. But I got charged for the subsciption every year for the last 3 years. I don’t even remember what is my user name or password. But AOL staff insisted that I must have my user name in order to cancel me. They cannot find my account by using my name or SS#. That is so ridiculous.

    I asked them what if I never remember what is my user name, does that mean I will get charged for the rest of my life for a dial-up service which I never used? Customer rep. so affirmed.

    I plan to file a suit in local Small-Claim Court to recover my last 3 years of their billing. My credit card service won’t suspend the charges and say that there is no evident the charge is fraudulant. I suppose my only option is to cancel my credit card with I have for over 20 years.

    My conclusion: AOL has become the Privates of Carribean. I hope AOL realizes their wonderful policy of driving away customers.

  • Suz says:

    What an inept CSR, I know they have to work from a script but he goofed that one SO bad. Of course AOL’s corporate policy drove his behavior. They obviously figure that keeping those accounts open by any means is better than alienating their customers. Their corporate philosphy is that the money counts and goodwill does not.

    Those closing-account scenarios happen all the time everywhere. I still remember more than 16 years ago, when I cancelled my Gold American Express card. (Remember those? You paid a fee for the privilege of carrying it, etc.) I just didn’t need or want it anymore. But I got cross-examined by the guy who took my cancellation call, kept having to say “I don’t have to explain myself or answer all those questions, I just want to cancel this card.” I’m sure the CSR had a script he had to work from, but still. . .

    And I remember that at least twice after cancelling the card I got mail (this was the late 80’s, the snail mail days) from AmEx about it, I think they actually wanted me to fill out survey forms and mail them back about why I cancelled the card. No thanks.

  • My getting out of AOL experience was quite similar. The guy kept trying to get me to keep it free for a month (hoping I’d forget and then they’d charge again). I kept saying “no”. He wasn’t taking no for an answer until I got quite testy with him, telling him I know exactly what I’m doing and I want to cancel the subscription today! Subscription got cancelled, but I had a feeling they did this with all of their customers.

    When I first signed on to AOL in 1992, I thought it was so great. They were very customer friendly and innovative. My, how the mighty have fallen.

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