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AOL Tries New Tactic to Keep Customers 799

Posted by samzenpus
from the it's-like-the-hotel-california dept.
Jhon writes "AOL customer Vincent Ferrari tried to cancel his account, but a phone rep wouldn't let him do it. What he got when he tried to cancel his account was a lot of frustration. Now that's customer support!"
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AOL Tries New Tactic to Keep Customers

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  • by Loconut1389 (455297) * on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @08:37PM (#15579846)
    Just for his trouble they probably signed him up again for 6 free months!
    • by dsginter (104154) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @08:54PM (#15579937)
      Try to uninstall the "free trial" of McAfee on any new Dell PC.

      You can't - it conveniently gives you an error message. I've confirmed this on a variety of Dell PCs.

      This isn't an accident. Sure, you can reboot in safe mode and uninstall it but they know that the average user isn't a geek (trust me, it takes an average user weeks/months to follow simple step-by-step instructions to uninstall Dell's McAfee and install Avast). So they prey on them.

      It is about time that someone sued the pants off of them. Where are the ambulance chasers of the tech world?
      • by DarkMantle (784415) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @09:20PM (#15580064) Homepage
        Actually, the McAfee issue is on all PC's. With McAfee 2005/2006 if the firewall is installed you HAVE to uninstall from safe mode because it won't unload the firewall. This is true with Dell, eMachines, Gateway, and clones. I've seen this on alot of systems, not just Dell PC's.

        Much like most of the time when you try to uninstall Norton to reisntall/upgrade it the next install fails because it doesn't uninstall properly. It's strictly because of bad programing. And why are you having them install Avast? I thought the point of antivirus software was to prevent viruses. Avast let 3 Viruses on a system in 1.5 hours, and meanwhile thought that windows was a virus.

        Anyway, more homework before ranting next time please.
      • by NotQuiteReal (608241) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @09:52PM (#15580172) Journal
        Every new computer I have ever purchased - Dells included (Inspiron laptop was the last Dell) -- The FIRST thing I do is reformat the drive.

        a) This usually saves lots of space and you can partition the way you like.
        b) You know what you have, and only load what you want.
        c) You can then image the minimal "clean" install for later recovery, cleanup, etc.

        This method works wonders - my last el-cheapo HP Pavilion laptop went from 63 second boot time to under 30 seconds when it wasn't burdened with stuff I didn't want/need.

        Just make sure you have any special drivers you'll need "on hand" before you do this.

        • by loraksus (171574) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @10:06PM (#15580225) Homepage
          My variation on that is to boot it, toss a copy \winnt\system and system32 to another box on the network and then reformat.
          Not having to go to a shitty website to download 30 drivers (clicking "I agree" to a 26 page license agreement for each file) saves me tons of time (especially for laptops, dear god, the freaking scroll wheel needs a driver?). Just keep on pointing windows to one of those 2 folders and you'll have a fully working system in far less time than running the installs, etc.
  • Post megapack (Score:5, Informative)

    by linvir (970218) * on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @08:37PM (#15579850)

    Link to mp3 recording [63.209.191.205]. Putfile's proper site for this [putfile.com] requires a proprietary download just to run the file, so have this link instead. They'll probably move it though to make us look at their annoying page.

    Rep: I don't know what anybody's done to you...
    VF: You're annoying the shit out of me
    Rep: Well that goes both ways

    Here's link to Vincent's blog [insignific...oughts.com]. He's been dugg and farked and all the other usuals by now (which is why the file is now on putfile), so be gentle with the poor bastard's bandwidth. He's just come out of a very rough breakup, after all!

    Also, this isn't a new tactic at all. That spin isn't in the linked article or anywhere else, so I guess 'Jhon' is to blame.

    Opinions on this practice aren't as one-way as you might expect [consumerist.com]. It's kind of surprising to see a site called 'consumerist.com' reply to

    Someone once said "Please cancel my account." I took that at face value and cancelled the account... three weeks later I was fired!
    with
    Good. You should have been fired.
    Pricks.
    • Re:Post megapack (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jhon (241832) * on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @08:43PM (#15579876) Homepage Journal
      so be gentle with the poor bastard's bandwidth.
      There was a reason I didn't include a link to his site when I submitted the article. Oh well.
    • Re:Post megapack (Score:5, Informative)

      by humphrm (18130) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @08:46PM (#15579892) Homepage
      A little context here. No sense in including the rest of that quote when it doesn't suit your needs, eh?

      Good. You should have been fired. When a customer calls to cancel, it is the company's duty to find out why. Perhaps there does exist a solution the customer was not aware of. Perhaps its just frustration that can be mitigated with some service discounts. However, if these don't work, the customer shouldn't have to argue with the Sphinx to get the service stopped.
      • Re:Post megapack (Score:5, Insightful)

        by linvir (970218) * on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @08:50PM (#15579920)
        I might say the same to you.
        the service stopped.

        It's not just niceness, its economics. Chargebacks are more expensive than fairly and reasonably handling cancellation requests.

        Economics? Chargebacks? What the fuck does any of that have to do with customers? What happened to the customer being right?
        • Re:Post megapack (Score:5, Informative)

          by Karth (14680) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @09:01PM (#15579971)
          Well, here's how it works:

          The CEO doesn't care, cause he's got enough money that he doesn't have to, so he sets policy to be, hey, screw you, no refunds.
          The vp says, ok, I wanna keep making enough that eventually I won't care, so I need to enforce the policy.
          The manager says, ok, well, I need this job, cause I'm not a vp or a ceo, so I need to keep the policy ball rolling.
          The employee says, I'm a wage slave who works hand to mouth, paycheck to paycheck, so I'll follow the policy.

          The ball rolls the other way when the customer says,
          "I'll charge it back." The employee says, well, that's 50$ per chargeback and how much ever for the service we'll lose, so I need to take this to the manager to get it approved. The manager approves it, cause losing that other money is much worse than losing a customer. The vp justifies this to the ceo based on bottom line, and the whole thing works out. Is it good customer service? no. Does it work in the end if you know to tell them you're going to do that? yep. Drop that bomb right off the bat and you'll be suprised how many places apologize and refund you up front.

          Note to those who actually get to read this: Most credit card companies only chargeback up to 90 days! If you're getting screwed by a company like, say, aol, make sure to call them and tell them you're going to chargeback within 40 days of the bad charge, cause it sucks to get screwed out of that money.
        • Re:Post megapack (Score:5, Insightful)

          by humphrm (18130) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @09:27PM (#15580087) Homepage
          Umm, I'm sorry but there is some level of customer retention attempt that is appropriate. Certainly not to the extent that Vincent Ferrari got, but a lot more than what the AOL CSR who got fired for cancelling an account gave. (and by the way, I do not in any way shape or form believe that that is the only reason he got fired).

          A valid CSR retention attempt might go something like this:

          Customer: I want to cancel my account

          CSR: OK, can I ask why>

          Customer: Because I never use it anymore

          CSR: Oh, do you have DSL or Cable?

          Customer: No, my phone charges are too high

          CSR:: Ok, well before I cancel it, would you allow me to try to find you a better dial-up access number to try, which should reduce or eliminate your local phone charges?

          ...

          Then from here, either the customer says "No, I've had it" and the CSR complies, or maybe the customer says "You can do that? Sure..."

          Not every CSR conversation has to go like this:

          Customer: I want to cancel

          CSR: Done. Thanks. bye.

          • Re:Post megapack (Score:5, Insightful)

            by A Nun Must Cow Herd (963630) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @10:12PM (#15580249)
            That's all well and good, as long as this can still happen:

            Customer: I want to cancel my account

            CSR: OK, can I ask why

            Customer: No, I just want to cancel my account. I know what I'm doing, and I'm certain I don't want it.

            CSR: No problem, it's done. Thanks. Bye.
    • by Arker (91948) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @09:18PM (#15580054) Homepage
      It's not new at all. They were doing that back... '97 I think, is when I was first exposed to it. They made it just about impossible for someone to cancel. The information on how to do it is kept as far from sight as possible, when you finally find it your told you *must* do it over the telephone, when you call the phone line you get to sit on hold for literally *hours* in some cases, when you finally get someone, it's a kid who has been trained for one thing and one thing only - to outstubborn you. They are *required* to spend about half an hour reading speech after speech to you, ask you questions and get your responses and read more speeches based on them, all designed to get you to throw your hands up in frustration and give up. Cancelling your account without going through every question and every speech and exhausting the flow chart will get the kid fired. If (as many people do) you tell him to cancel your account and hang up to avoid the next ten minute scripted reply, he's trained to pretend he didn't hear that. Even if he does everything as trained, if he cancels more than a tiny percentage of the callers he gets, he'll be fired. It's absolutely absurd, and I don't see how these bastards continue to get away with it.

      My advice - don't use AOL. If for any reason you *must* use AOL, use a one-time credit card solely for that purpose. When you're ready to cancel, send them a registered letter telling them you are hereby cancelling your account, and cancel the card. It may sound like a lot of trouble, but it's NOTHING compared to trying to the living hell of trying to get it cancelled by calling their cancellation department.
      • An easy solution (Score:5, Interesting)

        by RKBA (622932) * on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @11:38PM (#15580569)
        I always use an MBNA ShopSafe generated credit card number for all Internet purchases, and some telephone purchases. After installing a small unobtrusive program on your computer (Windows only, alas), you then have the capability of generating a perfectly valid and unique credit card number with an expiration date and maximum credit limit chosen by you for that particular transaction. If I want to cancel an MBNA ShopSafe credit card number (which I can do at any time), all it takes is a couple of mouse clicks.

        Does anyone know of any other banks with a similar service? I'm sure there must be some, and I'd like to have a backup handy in case MBNA is merged or goes belly up, etc.
  • by senatorpjt (709879) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @08:39PM (#15579859)
    I remember hearing a similar complaint about AOL years ago, where people who had gotten the "1000 free hours for a month" thing signed up, and tried to cancel. This time, they were told they were cancelled, but weren't... and started getting charged automatically.

  • by WebHostingGuy (825421) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @08:39PM (#15579860) Homepage Journal
    It got him fired when publicity came out. AOL has had a long history of this. I ran into this years and years ago when trying to cancel a free 100 hours account before broadband. The victim is probably Vincent who was just doing what his supervisor told him to do. But, atlas, that's what you get to be when the bottom falls out; the scapegoat at the bottom.
    • by radarjd (931774) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @08:45PM (#15579887)
      The victim is probably Vincent who was just doing what his supervisor told him to do. But, atlas, that's what you get to be when the bottom falls out; the scapegoat at the bottom.

      I got the same treatment a while back when I was cancelling an account from AOL -- not quite as bad, but close. The rep kept offering me free months in exchange for not cancelling. I didn't know how I got signed up for AOL in the first place, but that's a different story.

      In any case, it seems more like an established business practice than a rogue representative. The AOL rep was pushy, but he was probably doing nothing different than he was trained to do, and had done before. Perhaps he should file a wrongful termination lawsuit, and see if AOL wants their training practices scrutinized on the record...

      • by loraksus (171574) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @10:30PM (#15580328) Homepage
        I got the same treatment a while back when I was cancelling an account from AOL -- not quite as bad, but close. The rep kept offering me free months in exchange for not cancelling.

        Ditto, but when I tried to cancel (years ago), I talked them into giving me 6 months free, threw a reminder into my pda to call them in 5 months and 3 weeks and did the same thing over and over for just under 2 years. It was actually kind of crazy and was a running joke in the family for a while.
        Free dialup access sometimes is nice, even in this day and age where pretty much every hotel has wifi.
        The way I see it, this way everyone wins - the CSRs got their brownie points for retention and "Hey, umm... you do realize that I've had your service for free for 2 years" is a great way to kick the CSR into reality and letting you cancel without too much trouble.
        Mooching free stuff off retention CSRs can be fun and profitable too. Hold times are usually the shortest out of all the branches too.
    • by Jhon (241832) * on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @09:04PM (#15579986) Homepage Journal
      You haven't listened to the entire audio. "John" was over the line as a CSR. Vincent expressed he wasn't interested in any offers or anything and just wanted a quick resolution to the call and to cancel the account to which "John" said: "If you want me to cancel this account, you going to let me speak ... but you are going to listen to me if you want this turned off". He was more than a bit sarcastic.
      • by NormalVisual (565491) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @11:30PM (#15580540)
        When John started pulling the BS about "you are going to listen to me if you want this turned off", I'd have immediately told him four things:
        • This call has outlived its usefulness, and is effectively over. You have failed to respond to my needs as a valued (?) customer, so please listen to what I have to say regarding the current status of our business relationship.
        • I am sending a letter (return receipt) to AOL's corporate address indicating that I am cancelling the service and my dissatisfaction with the customer service I've received. I will be naming you specifically. AOL will have a difficult time at best trying to justify further charges when given written notice of cancellation, regardless of what their policy says is the "proper" way to cancel.
        • Any further attempts to charge my card will be at the very least disputed. Welcome to the Wonderful World of Chargebacks.
        • Both of us have been aware during the entire time of this call that it was being recorded - I was explicitly told at the beginning of the call, and you are already aware that you're always being recorded. What *you* were not aware of is that it was not just the call center that was making a recording. When we're done, this call and a narrative of my experience are going up onto the Internet and into the court of public opinion, as well as in my file for later use if needed. (This should perk up some ears right away if a supervisor is monitoring the call.) Oh, you're no longer giving your permission for the call to be recorded? Okay, I'll end the call right now, but everything said previously was still recorded legally as per the laws of my state, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it.
        I just have no patience for companies that do business like this, and I really could not care less if it causes problems for the CSRs. It's not my job to be understanding and to make life easier for them. If I ask for an account to be cancelled, I neither expect nor want to be argued with. I understand the CSR will ask for a reason for the cancellation. I may give one, or I may not. I'm under no obligation to do so, and the CSR really needs to understand that - I personally look at such information as valuable business data that I'm not being paid to provide. His retention stats are not my problem. I will be polite until such time as the CSR begins to get uncooperative to my needs as a customer. Once that happens, I have no further obligation to be a decent human being and my generally cheery disposition will begin to degrade very quickly and not in a very graceful manner.
  • by Nadsat (652200) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @08:41PM (#15579866) Homepage
    When I used to subscribe to AOL 1.0 they made you call to cancel. There was never a way to do it online. The waiting time was very long on the phone. I listened to a lot of bad elevator music then.
  • stop paying? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LSanchez (928788) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @08:41PM (#15579867)
    Couldn't he just stop paying the bill? Wouldn't that cancel the account? Or is there something that I'm not aware of?
  • standard procedure (Score:5, Interesting)

    by acvh (120205) <geek.mscigars@com> on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @08:42PM (#15579874) Homepage
    it seems that "customer service" reps are trained now to intentionally make a caller angry in order to give them justification to cut off the caller for "verbal abuse". it's happened to me more than once.
  • by swschrad (312009) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @08:43PM (#15579877) Homepage Journal
    AOhell got its name somehow, right? these tales go all the way back to Quantum Online running on the non-windows DOS graphical OS.

    and they're all true.

    It took me 10 minutes to get them to finally realize that with DSL, five years ago, I didn't want them any more. and I was lucky to be immediately dropped, perhaps because I used Quantum Online back in the v1.1 era.
  • IMO (Score:5, Funny)

    by Drakin020 (980931) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @08:43PM (#15579879)
    AOL is an internet for people who dont know any better. With all the fancy advertising on TV with the people compeating in Professional sports and what not, that kind of stuff looks flashy to this idiot society.

    Personally what I would like to do is take these commercials for instance the guy running the track....Yeah let AOL make you high speed with everyone else, but lets make this more realistic....Lets put this oversize hurdles in the guys way and call it SPAM or Spyware.

    Or the kid doing the swim race, I would love to see him go at it then this huge shark come up out of the water and take him out in one gulp...I'd lable him Virus.

    This is just a more realistic AOL.
  • by rayde (738949) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @08:43PM (#15579880) Homepage
    i recommend you watch the video (with it's audio) that is included on the page... wow that CSR was a complete and total douchebag. recording calls to businesses might be good practice.. is that legal?
  • not a new tactic (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @08:44PM (#15579884) Homepage
    Comcast has usedthat for years.

    Hell I used to be an employee and when I cancelled my service (Comcast is horribly overpriced compared to DSL+Dish, and yes kids DSL is better than Cable at least when VoIP is involved) It took 2 weeks to get it cancelled and the endless calls to offer me a "better deal" if I keep my service and upgrade to the uber digital HD PVR package, etc..

    I finally had to go to a local office stand in line and refuse to leave until they gave me a final bill and a written service cancellation recipt.

    The phone people get a kickback spiff for every customer they keep from leaving and will do anything to get that kickback.

    AOL simply is using the same tactic.
  • Easy solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Iphtashu Fitz (263795) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @08:45PM (#15579885)
    Hang up.

    Call your credit card company.

    Tell the credit card company to no longer accept charges from AOL because they refuse to cancel your account.

    If you really want to play it safe then write a letter to your credit card company after the call that reiterates the request and the reason for it.

    • Re:Easy solution (Score:5, Informative)

      by Darth Liberus (874275) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @08:57PM (#15579951)
      When I used to do on-site technical support for home users and small businesses, this is the procedure I ALWAYS used to cancel AOL:

      1. Call the credit card company. Tell them you are cancelling AOL and will no longer accept any charges from them. The credit card companies are all too familiar with AOL's billing practices and will thank you for calling ahead.

      2. Call AOL and tell them you'd like to cancel your account. DO NOT ANSWER ANY OF THEIR QUESTIONS, just keep saying "I am cancelling my account. The credit card company has already been informed of this and will not accept any more charges from you. May I have the confirmation number please?"

      3. Repeat #2 until AOL rep. gives in and gives you a confirmation number.

      4. Verify that the confirmation number is, indeed, for cancelling your account.

      5. Call the credit card company back with the confirmation number.

      It was a serious pain in the ass and took from 45 minutes to an hour, but it worked.
    • Re:Easy solution (Score:5, Interesting)

      by slaker (53818) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @08:58PM (#15579958)
      I just helped a 60-year-old man deal with this.
      His bank couldn't refuse the transaction because it wasn't billed from AOL.com but as a point-of-sale transaction. In other words, instead of being a recurring monthly charge from a known entity, it was just like the poor guy had walked up and handed AOL his credit card once a month.
      Which somehow meant that it was a different category of transaction that could not be blocked by the bank in question.

      Even more humorous, the guy's son (now a 24 year old off playing GI Joe in Iraq) had set him up with the account around four years previous. He's been a DSL subscriber essentially the whole time, didn't even know he had AOL service. And AOL told him that his son would have to cancel the account. The one on the old man's credit card. In his name, not his son's.

      After more than 40 minutes of arguing and another 20 talking to his bank, I think he's cancelling the card AOL was billing. I can't wait to hear that AOL forced the account back open, 'cause I'm sure that's what will happen next.
    • by patio11 (857072) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @08:58PM (#15579959)
      Don't get me started on trying to get away from the AOL behemoth. You can get to a fraud hotline at your credit card company of choice in mere minutes. "Hiya, this is Patio11: does it count as fraud if I'm getting billed without my consent? Because I've had this recurring charge from AOL for *state length of time greater than zero* after I called them to cancel..." BAM watch your problem go away.
  • Unacceptable (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dmomo (256005) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @08:49PM (#15579906) Homepage
    He was a scapegoat. AOL is responsible. They put unreasonable pressure on the employee to keep customers on the phone. They don't tell them 'how', they just tell them to make sure they do it.

    This is the same way big companies get their retail outlet managers to stiff workers out of overtime/benefits. By giving them unreasonable goals and incentives that are only achived by doing things that a corporation doesn't want to own up to doing themselves. So, they pass they buck, the blame, but not the profit.

    I would urge this employee to take action. I for one am witness to AOL doing this very thing. Remember, those calls are monitored. They can't pretend not to condone this activity. I am sure that there are ex AOL employees that were rewarded for doing the same thing.
  • by KarMax (720996) <KarMax@TEAgmail.com minus caffeine> on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @08:49PM (#15579909) Homepage
    FTA:
    Ferrari then posted the call online, and the response was tremendous.
    AOL sent him an apology and said the customer service rep was no longer with the company.
    At this "sensitive" moment will be interesting to test the customer service by cancelling someone else's account...

    John Doe - "Hello I'm Mr. Green i want to cancel my account.
    Customer Service Rep - "Done. Good bye Mr. Green"

  • Fax 'em (Score:5, Informative)

    by MrP- (45616) <rob@e[ ]emrp.net ['lit' in gap]> on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @08:49PM (#15579913) Homepage
    If you want to cancel AOL, just fax them (do a google search for the number)

    I had to join AOL twice over the last 3 years to get my free iPod and mac Mini. A few days before the 30 day trial ended I faxed over my cancellation request with my SN, pw, last 4 digits of CC, name, address and in big writing "PLEASE CANCEL THIS ACCOUNT!".. It was cancelled within a day, no questions asked.
  • by Hamster Lover (558288) * on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @08:51PM (#15579923) Journal
    Either the retention specialist/customer service agent/phone troll was lying about the usage (huge surprise) or the account was hijacked. I have nothing against a company clarifying why you want to cancel -- they may make you a special offer or fix what is causing the issue -- but this is beyond ridiculous and bordering on criminal.

    The problem is I am sure this has been standard operating procedure at AOL every single day for the last decade. Everyone that has experienced this level of customer "service" needs to complain to the FTC and hopefully they will investigate. If memory serves, wasn't AOL already investigated for this by the FTC in years past?
  • by Billly Gates (198444) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @08:53PM (#15579931) Journal
    It is their job to prevent you from leaving at all costs. I dont remember the stats (I worked in the tech department) but I believe they wanted no more than 3 or 4 cancellations an hour. If you have more than 6 its time for you to clean out your desk and work elsewhere.

    Or as they like to put it "Your keybadge wont work" as a polite way of saying your fired.

    Its a very bad place to work and the bean counters call teh shots and make senior decisions on how its run everytime. I am surely not surprised it lost 30 million customers. They are very short sighted indeed and dont give a crap about anyone including their own customers. Just how they look to senior management at AOL corporate.

    Also the call center I worked did some borderline illegal practices and they always change the name of the subsidaries they do some call center work because they keep getting sued for firing people for unjust causes. But I consider this outright fraud.

    So if you know anyone who uses AOL and wants to quit, here is how to do it? Call the credit company and tell them not to pay AOL anymore. Problem solved and you get to save someone's job.
    • by uncleroot (735321) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @11:41PM (#15580576)
      I used to do "retention" at an AOL call center and posted about it on Slashdot once last year. Go ahead, hate me. I deserve it. It's a crappy call center job that pays extremely well (50k a year for ordinary schmucks like the one in the recording and 70k+ if you're good) because it's so ugly what you have to do.

      Let me tell you about AOL "retention". They have a mantra there "Saves attempts on every call". You will get written up and eventually fired if you don't try to run every single caller through their process they call "Member Connect". So the AOL employee in the recording, admittedly a really shitty example of a retention agent, had no choice but to make his 3 saves attempts no matter how adamant the caller is about "JUST CANCEL IT". People should make more of these recordings and shine some light on the shameful stuff they do there. It doesn't matter what your reason for canceling is, they have an answer and will attempt to close you with crude, but effective high pressure sales tactics.

      "My computer's broke, I can't afford to buy another one and my phone was turned off. I need to cancel" - "No problem. You can actually use AOL from any computer work, school, library...

      "The account holder was my father and he passed away so I need to cancel." - "I'm very sorry to hear about your dad that but since your name is not on the account you can't cancel it"

      But mostly it's:

      "I upgraded to broadband so I don't need AOL any more." - "Congratulations on your broadband! However, with your new high speed connection, your computer will be more vulnerable to viruses, hackers and identity thieves. AOL gives you the protection you need..."

      Now here's where it really gets ugly: AOL makes a ton of money from people who accidentally create multiple accounts by running the disc over and over while trying to get online. So they call billing to complain about the multiple charges on their credit card a few months down the road. Billing and "Saves" are the same department now and if you tell them the truth about that they have multiple accounts you're going to have to cancel some accounts. So you deceive them by searching for the account by screen name only instead of payment method or telephone number in order to purposely not discover the additional accounts. Then you tell them that it must be their bank - "call your bank" - to get them off the phone without canceling anything.

      You gotta understand that if you do the right thing and cancel the poor schmucks second and third accounts you're going to drag down your saves rate and your coach is going to be in your face telling you he's concerned about your saves rate. It's kind of sickening when the people your screwing over are little old ladies and inner city mothers with crying babies at their breasts.

      Here's some lies I used to hear a lot on the floor:

      "AOL was really slow." - "No problem! Just go to keyword: Top Speed and you can make it go five times faster!" Top Speed is the compression and caching that speeds up dial up a little and it's built into AOL. Going to that keyword just gives you a advertisement for something that is already present in the client. The reason it's so damn slow is all the ads that AOL pumps into everything they do. There's so many ads in AOL that they should give it away for free instead of $25.90 a month for crappy dialup ($30.90 if you don't have a credit card.)

      "I'm having computer problems and have had bad experiences with your Indian tech support." - No problem! I'll transfer you to the "good" tech support located here in the US." There is no special tech support que that's only in the US, it's a lie. You just dump them back into the ordinary tech support que. And now days you have to sit through a long, painful session of talking to the IVR system before you even get to talk to the Indian tech support.

      I good tell more but I'm getting sick thinking about it.

      Also, telling your credit card company not to pay them will result in paper bills for the charges and if you don't pay those you'll get turned over for collection.

  • by Who235 (959706) <{secretagentx9} {at} {cia.com}> on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @08:53PM (#15579933)
    . . .but someday you'll realize that guy was just trying to help Vincent.

    He obviously needed someone to step in and grab him by the collar and say, "Vincent! This is a bad move, man! AOL is here for you! Don't you get it??"

    But Vincent wouldn't listen and now look at him.

    Not only is he AOL-less, but now he's been ./ed

  • by antdude (79039) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @09:33PM (#15580105) Homepage Journal
    Digg [digg.com] mentioned a story [consumerist.com] about a dead woman and AOL refuses to cancel!
  • by chromozone (847904) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @09:39PM (#15580124)
    I got the same treatment from AOL. I was going to contact the Attorney Generals Office and found out Eliot Spitzer's Office had already settled with AOL - obviously to no good effect. The AE gets to make a buck and AOL figures the fine as a cost of business. The release from 2005:

    AOL TO REFORM CUSTOMER SERVICE PROCEDURES

    Settlement Requires Company to Remove Obstacles
    Consumers Face When Seeking to Switch or Cancel Service

    Attorney General Eliot Spitzer today announced an agreement that requires the nation's leading internet service provider to reform its customer service procedures.

    Under the agreement, America Online (AOL) will alter the incentives it offers to customer representatives who seek to persuade subscribers not to cancel their service.

    "This agreement helps ensure that AOL will strive to keep its customers through quality service, not stealth retention programs," Spitzer said.

    In response to approximately 300 consumer complaints, Spitzer's office began an inquiry of AOL's customer service policies. The investigation revealed that the company had an elaborate system for rewarding employees who purported to retain or "save" subscribers who had called to cancel their internet service. In many instances, such retention was done against subscribers' wishes, or without their consent.

    Under the system, consumer service personnel received bonuses worth tens of thousands of dollars if they could successfully dissuade or "save" half of the people who called to cancel service. For several years, AOL had instituted minimum retention or "save" percentages, which consumer representatives were expected to meet. These bonuses, and the minimum "save" rates accompanying them, had the effect of employees not honoring cancellations, or otherwise making cancellation unduly difficult for consumers.

    Many consumers complained that AOL personnel ignored their demands to cancel service and stop billing.

    The agreement requires AOL to:

      Eliminate any requirements that its customer service representatives maintain a minimum number of "saves" in order to earn a bonus;

      Record all service cancellation requests and verify action on the request through a third-party monitor;

      Provide refunds to all New York consumers who claim harm based on improper cancellation procedures, up to four months worth of service;

      Pay $1.25 million to the state in penalties and costs.

    (New York State Attorney Generals Office) http://www.oag.state.ny.us/press/2005/aug/aug24a_0 5.html [state.ny.us]

  • by NeuroManson (214835) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @09:44PM (#15580139) Homepage
    Back in 1992, my AOHell acct. was closed instantly because I dared to tell an obnoxious chat room user to "get a life".

    Maybe the easiest method would be to simply be annoying online?
  • by The MAZZTer (911996) <.megazzt. .at. .gmail.com.> on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @10:00PM (#15580204) Homepage

    At college there are some serious limitations on p2p. I have managed to work around these since then (just gotta be careful not to generate any noticable traffic, and to encrypt everything) but before then I seriously considered using a free AOL trial. NetZero's free 10 hours per month just wasn't cutting it.

    So, I go to the sign up page. I fill out some of the stuff (it's a multi page form so I'm submitting as I go) but then I see they need a CC number. I'm not about to give them that (what if I forget to cancel? etc, not to mention my parents handle my accounting and they would want to know why I signed up for AOL when I had internet at college). So I cancel out of the form.

    THEY SAVED THE ENTERED INFORMATION EVEN THOUGH I CANCELLED THE SIGN UP. I wasn't even aware of this until a few days later when a rep called me and tried to get me to reconsider and sign up anyways. Luckily it was a one time call and I made it clear I was no longer interested.

  • by globring (192519) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @10:19PM (#15580281)
    I typed "cancel" into the AOL Help Search box, and it had a link to the following:

    We value your membership with the AOL® community. However, we are really sorry that you're considering canceling your AOL® account. It's our mission to build a service that lives up to the high standards of the online community. We hope you've enjoyed being an AOL member and that we can help you again in the future. For security reasons, AOL accounts cannot be cancelled either online or through e-mail. You can get your AOL account cancelled either through phone, US mail or fax.
    To Cancel Your AOL® Membership Over the Phone

    To cancel your AOL account over the phone, all you need to do is call up AOL® Member Services at 1-888-265-8008. You can speak to our representatives to get your account cancelled. This service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    To Cancel Your AOL Membership Though U.S. Mail

    You can request the cancellation of your AOL account through the U.S. mail. Just send your request to:

    AOL
    PO BOX 17100
    Jacksonville, FL 32245-7100

    To Cancel Your AOL Membership Though Fax

    If you prefer sending in your request through fax, please send it to us at 1-703-433-7283.

    Notes:

            * If you choose to write or fax us, please include a brief note stating the nature of your request, the primary billing contact's full name, phone number, address and handwritten signature.
            * In addition to that, for account security purpose please provide any one of the following:
                        o The master screen name of the AOL account
                        o The last four digits of the current method of payment (for your security, please include only the last four digits)
                        o The answer to the account security question of the master screen name.
            * Cancellation will take effect within 72 hours of receipt of your request and AOL will send you a written confirmation. Please note that AOL LLC reserves the right to charge and collect fees, surcharges or costs incurred before your cancellation takes effect. Thank you for using AOL
  • by cprior (844370) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @10:48PM (#15580392)
    I don't know about the english speaking part of the world, but in my country the phone is not part of the legally enforceable mean of contracting.

    If they refuse to cancel by phone, write a letter and that's it. If in doubt, send it with registered mail. And yes, fellow Geeks, it doesn't even matter if you use a template in MS Word or KOMA-script with LaTeX!

    I find the advice to---again---call the fraud dept. of the institution that handles payment for you potentially dangerous. If I had a contrct with AOL I'd sure know how to EOL that---the correct way.

    But again, your legal system might differ... Mod me down then!
  • That's nothing (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dtfinch (661405) * on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @10:50PM (#15580406) Journal
    This link made front page on digg yesterday:
    AOL Wants to Sell "Internet" to the Dead [consumerist.com]

    They refused to cancel the account of her dead mother. Didn't make a big difference since all her credit cards were cancelled, but crazy nonetheless.
  • by clambake (37702) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @01:16AM (#15580848) Homepage
    Don't cancel, just wander around the chat rooms saying you work for AOL and are a moderator of the forums until you find a real moderator and see how fast you get cut off permanantly. I suppose you could do some spamming as well.
  • by starkravingmad (882833) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @01:34AM (#15580894)
    Told them I was leaving the country next week. Checkmate.
  • Wrong approach (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonumous Coward (126753) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @04:59AM (#15581245)
    Vincent's own terminology put him in the trap. Telling the rep "cancel my account" implies that the rep can argue. The right approach is this: "I have now informed you that I'm cancelling. That's all I have to do according to my contract. I am no longer bound by the contract no matter what you say and no matter whether you put the cancellation in your systems or not. I'm not in a mood for argument, so I'm going to hang up. Have a nice day and remember, if you charge me next month you'll be committing credit card fraud. [click]"
  • I was a CSR and TSR for a few years while in college, so let me explain.
    1. AOL probably has several call centers all over the USA and/or the world.
    2. There are probably several Vincents.
    3. Vincent might not be his real name, or might be his middle name, or he might go by the name Skippy to his peers. So nobody knows a Vincent at the call center.
    4. How do we know he got fired? By whom? Aol outsources their call centers, don't they? Can AOL force a third party company running the call center to fire someone? Chances are that Vincent got a raise and promotion by the company he really works for (not AOL). Vincent sounds like a VERY GOOD CSR. At the call center I worked at (in Heathrow, FL), Vincent would have been made a team lead, if management heard that call. I'm really not kidding. Needless to say, I quit that job as soon as could, but damn the pay was GOOD!

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