AOL Said, ‘If You Leave Me I’ll Do Something Crazy’

From the New York Times:

“You’re going to listen to me.”

This was the taunting command of an AOL customer service representative who sounded like a jailer twirling his keychain. The customer on the phone wanted to complete his business, but the person on the other end of the phone did not share a sense of urgency.

It is fitting that the customer service representative’s wish to be heard has been fulfilled on a scale he never anticipated.

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 (insignificantthoughts.com/2006/06/13/cancelling-aol/).

Shortly thereafter, those five minutes became the online equivalent of a top-of-the-charts single.

Comments 1

  • This is SO familiar, and I hope that this case causes AOL more trouble than it can handle, becase there is something deeply dishonest about the way it does business.

    A couple of years ago I discovered that AOL had been billing my credit-card for an account I had never opened. Careless of me, but I didn’t notice it until the fifth month.
    Issue 1 is how this could happened. No details of who and when the account was opened were given to me.

    Issue 2 is how it was handled.
    The first thing I did was try to cancel the account by mail, asking also for an explanation and a refund.
    Well, I mailed and I mailed and I mailed, and either I got no response at all, or the response was evasive, insisting that in order to cancel the account I had to supply information about how the account had been opened, including the chose user-id, confirmation codes etc., which of course I couldn’t supply because I hadn’t opened the account. Although I repeatedly explained this, the requests for the information continued, and it was quite obvious that this was strategy. Threats of legal action, and requests to telephone me were simply ignored.
    So i tried telephoning, and got the ‘all our agents are currently busy, please hold’ torture. After a couple of days of this I eventually got through, and a reasonably polite fellow (at AOL Customer Care in Ireland, if I remember correctly) did his best – although not as extreme as in the Ferrari case – to talk me out of cancelling the account.
    In the end I got my way, and he arranged to cancel the account. Unfortunately he could not divulge who had opened the account or when. Nor could he arrange a refund, these were matters for my credit-card company. In addition, one more payment would have to be billed because I was cancelling after the beginning of a month.
    To my intense relief (and surprise) only one more payment was deducted. Although I had made up my mind to pursue the matter legally if billing continued, I was dreading ths and glad not to have to do it.

    I have asked myself why I accepted all this, and the truth is that although I was so, so angry, I was also so relieved that I had ‘escaped’ that I just wanted to put the whole shocking experience behind me.

    At the time I found out very quickly that my case was not unique, and it amazed me that AOL could get away with it, becase it’s c r i m i n a l. A couple of years later, it’s still happening, and only public shaming has made something happen!
    People within the AOL organisation KNOW about all this, and I just don’t believe Nicholas J. Graham when he says he doesn’t.

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