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The AOL Cancellation Battle
June 13, 2006 2:05 PM   Subscribe

In which one man sets out to cancel his AOL account: the mp3 phone call (backup link), the blog post.
posted by JPowers (79 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
I work in a call-centre for a company that's nowhere near as bad as AOL, but when I get a cancellation request I always think to myself "Good for you, customer" and get it done. It must suck to work in a place where you can't fulfill a customer's request without worrying about how it affects your own perceived job performance.
posted by chudmonkey at 2:20 PM on June 13, 2006


according to wikipedia:
"...as a former employee who worked in cancellations, the easiest way is to just hang up. After you call in, verify your account (by providing screen name, answer the ASQ - account security question - the billing validator - last four digits of your payment method - or by providing the screen name, your name, and your complete address. Then simply say "I want to cancel my account" and hang up. By the guidelines AOL has set up, the representative MUST cancel the account..."
posted by zenzizi at 2:23 PM on June 13, 2006


Incredible. I feel terrible for the people who get suckered or bullied into keeping their accounts. I imagine there are may such people if this operator's approach is standard.
posted by brain_drain at 2:28 PM on June 13, 2006


That guy had a lot more composure than this fellow. (NSFW)
posted by milquetoast at 2:29 PM on June 13, 2006


Wow, that AOL fucker was annoying. I'm betting he's a former shoe salesman. Someone who's spent hours and hours on his knees sniffing the dirty feet of strangers.
posted by pracowity at 2:34 PM on June 13, 2006


Customers should try once and once only to resolve disputes in good faith with abusive companies like this; if the company does stuff like the above, just hang up and dispute the charge with your credit card company. You'll win, and cumulatively, you'll cause more trouble for the abusive company. Once you've tried hard enough where you can honestly write in a dispute letter "I tried to cancel the account, they refused to cancel it and kept billing me", then you've tried hard enough.
posted by jellicle at 2:42 PM on June 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


I had a similar problem when I tried to cancel a 1and1 account. It was an account that was free for 3 years. After 2 days of fighting with their gawdawful CP, I wanted rid of it. It took 8 mos to cancel it (57 emails). They are the worst company on the fucking planet.

At one pt they told me that I had to come in in person to cancel. I told them I was in Canada and since they were in Europe that would be a problem--they said their were no exceptions. Fucking idiots.

I cancelled the credit card that I'd given them to charge after the 3 year freebie--that's how much I didn't trust them even after finally getting the 'your account has been cancelled' email.
posted by dobbs at 2:48 PM on June 13, 2006


Well, that nails it, I guess I won't get an AOL account after all.

I would take 4 tabs of acid, and "argue with him all day".
posted by parki at 2:48 PM on June 13, 2006


there
posted by dobbs at 2:48 PM on June 13, 2006


Wow, that AOL fucker was annoying. I'm betting he's a former shoe salesman. Someone who's spent hours and hours on his knees sniffing the dirty feet of strangers.
posted by pracowity at 2:34 PM PST on June 13


As a former shoe salesman I can tell you that we want to get rid of customers, not keep them around for hours.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:52 PM on June 13, 2006


It would be AOL who is recording this - I doubt it was him, unless he's the paranoid type, and released to the outside by some AOL employee no. No?

This was a lot like the experience I had a couple of months ago trying to cancel a Vodafone account. Except they mostly feigned ignorance and just bounced my call around, probably halfway around the world and back. And in the days and weeks afterwards, call me with sweeter and sweeter deals for a contract...
posted by Flashman at 2:58 PM on June 13, 2006


Oh, it was him ...durh.
posted by Flashman at 3:00 PM on June 13, 2006


Customers should try once and once only to resolve disputes in good faith with abusive companies like this

Everyone should always do everything in good faith.
posted by JekPorkins at 3:01 PM on June 13, 2006


milquetoast, as someone who worked at a callcenter, I found that phonecall hilarious. At our place we had a rule that said that the callee must say specifically "Please take me off your list" for them to be taken off the list. Nothing else would do.

I usually took people off the list if they sounded upset, but some other people there wouldn't. It was absurd that they were expected to utter some magic incantation in order to be taken off the list, although you would get in trouble if there were too many 'mis-codes'.

And people say working in porn is somehow degrading, try working in a phone center...
posted by delmoi at 3:07 PM on June 13, 2006


It would be AOL who is recording this - I doubt it was him, unless he's the paranoid type, and released to the outside by some AOL employee no. No?

From the article (blog post)
Recently, I decided that I could spend $14.95 a month in many better ways, and decided to cancel the AOL account. Knowing the horror stories, I decided to do the deed at work where I could record the whole thing. I knew it was going to be good, but I had no idea it would be the abusive disaster it was.
posted by delmoi at 3:11 PM on June 13, 2006


Just wait until they start charging $175 (sometimes more) "Early Termination Fees" like your wireless carriers do.

I worked for AT&T Wireless for a long time - and I would very often waive those fees. I would also fight back at management that bitched at me for waiving the ETF fees. If the customer had a very valid reason for wanting to cancel, I saw no problem waiving the fees. But if they were just being assholes and tried the "Give me a free phone NOW or I cancel" bit, I didn't waive the fees.

And I've canceled more than one AOL account too. It's very easy. Just tell them you used it for nothing more than verifying website compatibility and it's no longer needed. Bam, it's cancelled.
I think that this particular incident is mostly anti-AOL 'entertainment' faked to make AOL haters laugh.
posted by drstein at 3:13 PM on June 13, 2006


dead mp3 link.
posted by shockingbluamp at 3:14 PM on June 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


Ah, listening to the actual linked MP3, I can see the guy get into the trap. In phone calls like this, it's best to learn from the politicians. Never deviate from your "talking points" There's no reason to ever give up any more information.
posted by delmoi at 3:16 PM on June 13, 2006


dead mp3 link.

"Backup link" works.
posted by delmoi at 3:16 PM on June 13, 2006


Holy shit, that phone call was awful.

I thought I had a bad time cancelling my Earthlink account a couple of years ago. But this call makes my experience look like a walk in the park.
posted by jayder at 3:20 PM on June 13, 2006


"I've already started a 24-month contract with a new company...I'm afraid that if you want me to continue with you, you will need to pay out that contract's cancellation fee. I believe it's $250 for pulling out of the contract this early."

This has worked for ISPs, phone companies and even electricity companies in the past for me, when they've given me trouble about cancelling. I don't like the "simply hang up" method, because I like to get confirmation from them that the account has been cancelled, rather than just assume it has because I told them to.

It also has the added bonus of working when said companies call you to try to get you to switch to their plan. Most electricity companies in Australia, for instance, try to offer you a "$50 bonus" for switching to them. The standard electricity company contract is about 18 month, and costs upwards of $70 to cancel. And at one stage I was having a company ring me or even knock on my door a couple of time a month. I simply told them that if they wanted me to switch, they had no option but to pay out my contract with the other company.
posted by Jimbob at 3:26 PM on June 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


wow, nice job.
he probably recorded it because of a previous experience (say, after he got the hi-speed service) where they did talk him into keeping it with one of those "special offers".

I wish I had recorded the call I got from them when they cancelled my account, and then couldn't charge my credit card for the last 10 days. I hadn't said poo to my card, they just refused payment (was on automatic). Trying to get the guy to explain why I should pay for that non-service was awesome.

Oh, and that British Telecom call was fucking brilliant.
Do you comprehend!?!
posted by Busithoth at 3:36 PM on June 13, 2006


That BT call was great. I have no idea what he's saying half the time, and no idea why he's so damn angry, but it's absolutely brilliant.
posted by Bugbread at 3:39 PM on June 13, 2006


Has anybody tried this?

"I now work for [name of major competitor]. Besides getting the service for a significant discount/free, it would be totally unethical for me to continue buying from you."

Just occured to me.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 3:46 PM on June 13, 2006


I wish I had recorded the call I got from them when they cancelled my account, and then couldn't charge my credit card for the last 10 days. I hadn't said poo to my card, they just refused payment (was on automatic). Trying to get the guy to explain why I should pay for that non-service was awesome.

HUH!? Are you saying your credit card company rejected their last attempt to bill you, but and they called to ask for the last 10 days of service? That dosn't make very much sense...
posted by delmoi at 3:48 PM on June 13, 2006


Wow, yeah, I expected that you were all over-reacting, as I work in a retention call-center, and most people consider it pretty slimy. But jebus gahd, we have standards and AOL seriously doesn't.

We ask like, two questions so that we can point out specific benefits, and if we get interrupted, we drop it like hot slag. (I honestly don't feel that bad about it either, because anyone we do keep wasn't badgered into keeping it, they 99% of the time misunderstood the service and thought it was something else entirely.)

And for half a second at the end when the guy was interrupting during the agent's verbatim call-close scripting, I thought "what a dick", but then the agent jumped in with "you will let me finish this or we can argue all day," and the guy was completely justified. I mean, I've been interrupted during my verbatim before, and I just explain calmly that I need to read through a very quick paragraph of information to confirm the cancellation.

But then again, I never get anyone that upset, because I'm nowhere near as much of a dick as that agent was.

I mean, wow.
posted by Imperfect at 3:52 PM on June 13, 2006


There's no reason to ever give up any more information.

Last time I tried to cancel an account where I expected a fight, it went something like this (after exchange of my account info and his name):

Rep: How can I provide excellent customer service to you today?
Me: I'd like to cancel my account please.
Rep: Can I ask what is the problem with it?
Me: No. I'd like to cancel my account please.
Rep: I can give you the next two months for free.
Me: No thank you. I'd like to cancel my account please.
Rep: If you stay with us, I can send you gift cards worth more than $30 for--
Me: Excuse me, excuse me. I'd like to cancel my account please.
Rep: Please hold. *3 minute pause* OK your account is now cancelled *reads paragraph of stuff*
Me: Thank you!

I recommend this method. Always politely decline to give your reasons unless you would like to extract some sort of deal out of them. It's really none of their business. And having a speakerphone or headset.
posted by grouse at 4:00 PM on June 13, 2006


I've had the same experience trying to cancel an AMEX card a few years ago and more recently a DirecTV account. The amex required five minutes of pleading to cancel before I was shuffled to a retention specialist that sounded like the worst kind of car salesman that would not let me out the door. It took about twenty minutes to get off the phone and finally get the account canceled.

DirecTV last fall was even worse. I was moving and trying out Comcast cable in my new place, so I just wanted to shut off service at the old place. They handed me off to a retention person that proceeded to argue with me for a good 15 minutes. I explained that their HD service was inferior and lacking, saying truthfully and plainly that I would have stayed with them if they could guarantee local channels in HD without an OTA antenna. The person was insanely persistent and defensive and after a while I gave up and just said "I didn't call DirecTV today to have a 15 minute argument" over and over until the person stopped and finally let me cancel the damn account.
posted by mathowie at 4:19 PM on June 13, 2006


I have to agree with grouse - operators are people too, getting upset won't accomplish anything. I've worked tech support in a call centre before, and it's a rough gig. For every single bitter, jaded employee, there are 5 angry, unreasonable customers.

I'm not defending the operator, but frankly, the caller is a bit of a douche as well. I think that he picked up the phone expecting a fight, and a fight is what he got. He loses his cool in the first 3 minutes of the conversation. That's pretty hard to do unintentionally. And he definitely escalates the situation when he throws out that "You're annoying the shit out of me", and it wasn't necessary at all.

Asshole + Asshole = Trouble.
posted by Drunken_munky at 4:24 PM on June 13, 2006


If I had to deal with one of these people, and I knew it, I'd probably record "please cancel my account" on my computer and just play the sample back to them every time the tried to resell me on their services. It would be less exasperating and more surreal and therefore marginally amusing for me, plus it would be really unnerving to them that I would be saying "please cancel my account" in the exact same way every time.
posted by Bugbread at 4:25 PM on June 13, 2006


wow.
i couldn't believe this part:
customer: "You're really starting to annoy the shit out of me."
rep: "well, that goes both ways."

Damn, that rep REALLY REALLY tried like heck to disprove the fact that the guy "just didn't use it anymore."
posted by TechnoLustLuddite at 4:27 PM on June 13, 2006


I've been trying for 4 months, since I moved out of my last apartment, to get the power company to stop billing me for the old place. I did my transfer online initially, got their confirmation notice and all that. Every month since then, I've gotten a bill, called them up, listened to them say they'll fix it, then gotten another bill the next month.
posted by nomisxid at 4:27 PM on June 13, 2006


There is absolutely no way on earth I would ever use AOL after my recent experience trying to get them to stop bothering us after we cancelled a rarely-used account with them. AOL could be the last internet provider left in a radioactive post-apocalyptic world, and I'd sooner go outside and risk cancer than spend a moment logged on to their service. Burning bridges seems to be their company policy when it comes to cancellations. They truly do suck.
posted by MegoSteve at 4:28 PM on June 13, 2006


"Asshole + Asshole = Trouble."

oh, c'mon. the caller was a douche?
what part of "cancel my account" don't you understand?
posted by TechnoLustLuddite at 4:29 PM on June 13, 2006


Better yet bugbread, use a text-to-speech converter for the most annoying "please cancel my account" audio.
posted by dawiz at 4:35 PM on June 13, 2006


dawiz : "use a text-to-speech converter for the most annoying 'please cancel my account' audio."

Man, now I almost want to get an AOL account just to try that out.
posted by Bugbread at 4:36 PM on June 13, 2006


TLL: Yeah, for sure, the operator wasn't providing very good customer service, but the caller lost his temper way to easily. Thus his douchebaggery. He was spoiling for a fight (why else record the call?).
posted by Drunken_munky at 4:40 PM on June 13, 2006


"I have to report to prison in 24 hours, so I won't be needing this account anymore. I'm not allowed to use a computer for 6 years, anyway. You don't need a letter from my attorney or the judge, do you?"
posted by Lockjaw at 4:46 PM on June 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


Other excuses to guarantee immediate cancelation...

"I'm off to war."

"I've been transferred to another country."

"My new religion doesn't allow me to partake in this service."

"I just declared bankruptcy. I can't afford this service."

I've used all of these before, in some fashion. They work great, and one time got my cancelation fee waived.
posted by JPowers at 5:30 PM on June 13, 2006


"I no longer need an ISP, I absorb the internet directly through my skin."
posted by Bugbread at 5:33 PM on June 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


For DirectTV/Dish Network/Sky/other satellite TV providers: "I'm moving to a new property that doesn't have the proper line of sight for a dish."
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 5:39 PM on June 13, 2006


Customer service centers are blackholes of stupidity, anger and confusion in equal measures. Something I can state having worked at one where we did GPS equipment. It's not fun trying to explain why GPS equipment isn't reporting to someone who isn't versed in anything technical.

On the flip side I recently had a crappy time with Apple Customer Support. My MacBook arrived with problems, but when I called and asked for a replacement it took an hour and half (Mostly on hold) and several transfers before some tech outright refused to do so, saying that my problems weren't severe enough. At this point the battery on my cellphone is dead and I have to ask for my case number and call back on the landline. I find that I have to go through the whole process again despite giving the ticket number up front, only this time it takes fifteen minutes and a different tech agreed to replace it no problem.

The moral of the story is apparently to keep calling the support line till you get the answer you want.
posted by Vaska at 5:51 PM on June 13, 2006


Why not just send a certified letter to the company to cancel?
posted by flarbuse at 5:55 PM on June 13, 2006


I recently switched car insurance providers. When I called to cancel my old one, they tried their damnest to get me to renew. Despite the fact that I already had new insurance and had already paid the bill. "Well, you can just cancel the new one!" was the response. Crazy.
posted by smackfu at 5:55 PM on June 13, 2006


has anybody tried to cancel their metafilter account?
posted by 3.2.3 at 6:07 PM on June 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


Keep in mind, it's WAY easier to keep an existing customer than it is to gain a new one. If we stay about 23% at the center where I work, we make bonus for the month (in other words, have justified our existances).

However, we ALSO have to make 86% on our quality score. ANY outrageous part of that previous call wouldn't just lower our scores, it would get us fired on the spot.

And for what it's worth, for aggressive telemarketers or douchebag retention agents, I just like to make up wilder and wilder "felonies" that I've commited.

"I just got out of prison for wire fraud. Are these deals still available for me?"

"I currently wear a tracking anklet, as required by the judge who sentenced me. Can I still take you up on the offer?"

"They don't let me around children any more. Are you sure I can still sign up?"

And if they continue to aggressively attempt to sign me up, berate them for their complete lack of standards and ethics for allowing a scumbag like myself to participate.

"I wouldn't want to belong to any club that would accept me as a member." -- Groucho Marx
posted by Imperfect at 6:09 PM on June 13, 2006


He loses his cool in the first 3 minutes of the conversation. That's pretty hard to do unintentionally.

-Drunken_munky

It shouldn't take three minutes to cancel an account. You should just give your info, tell them to cancel and then you should be done. Most people would get pissed after three minutes or less.
posted by dukeofhurl at 6:34 PM on June 13, 2006


"said "I didn't call DirecTV today to have a 15 minute argument" over and over until the person stopped and finally let me cancel the damn account."

Damn, matt.. then why did you start an argument with them? It would have been simple to say "My new apartment has a line of redwood trees in front of it. No line of sight, so I can't use the dish. I'll miss the service, though."

I did that when I moved to the complex I'm in now. The DirecTV rep said "Oh, that's too bad. I can go ahead and cancel that for you."

When you start bashing their service, they're going to argue back.
posted by drstein at 6:34 PM on June 13, 2006


Anyone got another link on the BT mp3? That one ain't working for me.
posted by dobbs at 6:56 PM on June 13, 2006


He loses his cool in the first 3 minutes of the conversation. That's pretty hard to do unintentionally.

Actually I have no idea what the hell you are talking about. When a complete stranger tries to tell me what I really want, that I don't actually want what I'm asking for, that will make me lose my cool in way less than 3 minutes. No way I would have remained civil even as long as this guy did. Maybe as someone in the industry you consider this stuff as "friendly conversation" but I don't know anybody who calls customer service for a nice chat. You call to get done what you want, and when the twit on the other side of the line starts to tell you that you don't actually want that, it is grounds for "losing your cool".
posted by Farengast at 6:56 PM on June 13, 2006


Someday all our free time will be spent trying to make sense of the fine print, on hold for a customer service rep and attempting to cancel accounts.
posted by Skygazer at 7:00 PM on June 13, 2006


Bad customer service makes me go from happy to insane with rage in under two seconds. I control the anger, but I don't blame those who don't. The hard sell should get the hard no.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:19 PM on June 13, 2006


Ahem ...

That British Telecom link referenced above seriously needed that NSFW warning, due to the quite graphic nature of its ad content. Further to that, it therefore might be unsurprising to learn that the host site seems to have some sort of malware on it , as I just received this query from a user apparently infected by it ...

Pboy, that link you posted in message #59 added some adware to my computer and when I click on a message on any board I get a pop up. I am using the Avant browser and I have it set to block pop ups, yet I still get them. I also have spybot and spyware blaster on here and I have not had any problems in a LONG time. Just thought i'd let you know in case you want to remove the link so nobody else gets this mess. How do I get rid of it? Do you know?
I just hit send message and I get a pop up too.. any help would be most appreciated.


I know nothing about this stuff, so if anyone has any ideas to help the poster, feel free to offer suggestions. I suggested he run Ad Aware, but that's the limit of my knowledge.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 8:00 PM on June 13, 2006


For my money, this is the mecca of all spyware articles.
posted by JPowers at 8:15 PM on June 13, 2006


Oh God, this brought back some bad memories. I had almost the exact same conversation with an AOL CSR (minus the speak to my dad part - WTF?) years ago when I cancelled my account. She tried everything she could think of to get me to stay including talking to me like I was a stupid, naughty three-year old and acting like I was doing this deliberately to piss her off. I told her repeatedly (SO MANY TIMES) that all I wanted to do was cancel my account but she was having none of it. Just when I thought I was getting through to her the call was disconnected. I had to call back, go through the whole verification rigamarole and wait on hold, AGAIN, for nearly ten minutes. When I finally got through to another CSR he must have heard the frustration in my voice because he cancelled the account without giving me any shit.

He loses his cool in the first 3 minutes of the conversation. That's pretty hard to do unintentionally. And he definitely escalates the situation when he throws out that "You're annoying the shit out of me", and it wasn't necessary at all.

Oh, come on. The guy stated very clearly the moment he got on the phone that he wanted to cancel his account. He stated it calmly and clearly over and over and over and over. Of course it's the rep's job to try and retain the account but he went way too far. He talked to the customer like he was a child, called the customer a liar, demanded to speak to his father (!) and all within three minutes. I'd say the customer was perfectly within his rights to get annoyed. There is a reason the AOL cancellation process is notoriously difficult and annoying and a big part of it are call center reps like the one in the linked mp3.
posted by LeeJay at 8:20 PM on June 13, 2006


It's always such a battle trying to cancel anything. I once tried to cancel an old credit card that I had gotten when I was an impoverished student, and which I no longer needed. I think it took me half an hour, with the rep reminding me over and over and over again that if I cancelled the account I wouldn't ever be able to get it back. I was like, "Yeah, that's the point." She also tried to convince me that I should keep the card, in case of an emergency. I told her that the very last thing I would ever want to do if I were in some kind of bind would be to use a credit card with a 30% interest rate.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 8:23 PM on June 13, 2006


Haven't listened to the whole thing yet, but this is great. Very similar script to when I canceled. If you ever want to be offered a couple months free AOL, just say you want to cancel...
posted by starman at 8:43 PM on June 13, 2006


(somewhere out there the people who are browbeaten into retaining all those old accounts they don't need cower in silence, afraid to admit that they are the reason some companies can still financially justify these kinds of habits)
posted by nanojath at 8:50 PM on June 13, 2006


Yeah, some day we should all just up and cancelled every last goddamn stupid piece of shit unnecessary rip off account and then stick our heads out the window and yell:

I'M MADE AS HELL AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE!!
posted by Skygazer at 9:21 PM on June 13, 2006


Skygazer, just stop watching so much TV and you won't even hear about 80% of the unnecessary stuff to begin with.
posted by Farengast at 9:24 PM on June 13, 2006


TV's are for pussies, pal.
posted by Skygazer at 9:44 PM on June 13, 2006


I thought I had a bad time canceling my Earthlink account a couple of years ago.

Oh, yes, that was fun. Not as bad as the linked conversation, but interesting for the semantic games played.

Background: I wasn't actually canceling; my Earthlink had been shut off (I'd lost my computer and apartment, meant to call and cancel, and didn't). "Great," I thought to myself, "I don't have to worry about canceling my now-useless Internet access. I have my final bill [around $50] and will pay it after I move and am no longer teetering on the financial brink." But then Earthlink kept sending me bills, every month, for service which had been disconnected. So I called them up.

Earthlink Rep: Your service hasn't been cancelled. It's been suspended.
Me: It doesn't work, so I'm not paying more than the $50 I owed when it stopped working.
ER: No, you see, it's been suspended. Not cancelled. So you have to pay for it.
Me: I have the shut-off notice. It says my service has been cancelled.
ER: No it doesn't.
Me, to myself: WTF?
ER: Read to me what it says on your bill.
Me: "DUE TO NONPAYMENT, YOUR SERVICE HAS BEEN CANCELLED."
ER: ...
Me: It's in all-caps. And bold. At the top of the first page. And there's a big box around it.
ER: It doesn't say that. It says it's been suspended.
Me: In fact, no.

I paid the $50 due, and not the subsequent fees for non-existant service. Alas, we didn't get into the difference between "suspended" and "cancelled" service, nor the rationale for my paying for one and not the other; no doubt it would have been entertaining.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 9:57 PM on June 13, 2006


TV's are for pussies, pal.

You'll get no argument from me, pal. I get the cheapest cable they offer because I don't watch hardly any TV anyway, and also because I'm deathly afraid that one day, somehow, M-TV will find it's way to my screen. That would be horrible. The very thought of it is enough for me to ensure that it's not in my package. And even then I still worry...
posted by Farengast at 10:00 PM on June 13, 2006


I phoned AOL up and told them I was leaving the country to go world travelling. And they cancelled the account. I then signed up with a different company.
posted by Navek Rednam at 12:49 AM on June 14, 2006


PareidoliaticBoy -- holy crap, sorry about that. My system gave no indication about malware.

Googling "funny BT call" turns up other sources for the mp3. Perhaps I can get Les Admins to change the link.
posted by milquetoast at 1:53 AM on June 14, 2006


Another AOL cancellation nightmare here. I spent 30 minutes on the phone canceling the account. They tried guilt ("why don't you like us?"), bribery ("what if we give you 3 months free?") and they questioned my motivations repeatedly. Even if you DO stick to your script, you can still expect a marathon session.

And guess what? The rep. didn't even cancel it. I got a bill next month like nothing happened. When I called back with my confirmation number, they said there was no record that matched that number. They had no evidence in their system that I had ever called them to cancel. They eventually cancelled the charges and my account, but seriously, WTF AOL?
posted by Otis at 5:52 AM on June 14, 2006


I get the cheapest cable they offer because I don't watch hardly any TV anyway, and also because I'm deathly afraid that one day, somehow, M-TV will find it's way to my screen.

Agreed. I can't even stomach getting basic cable and I don't see the point. Really good shows like The Sopranos and 6 Feet Under eventually come out on DVD and there's PBS and I'd rather send them money than Comcast or whoever. Of course it means missing the Daily SHow but the really good bits end up online anyway.
posted by Skygazer at 5:56 AM on June 14, 2006


You could take the other approach to dealing with call center agents like this: try to be equally annoying. Make the person repeat what they said at least three times. Put them on hold repeatedly. Use a condescending tone and model the conversation after pop psychology talking therapy. Just remember to have fun.
posted by effwerd at 6:14 AM on June 14, 2006


[changed milquetoast's link to a non-malware one, per request]
posted by jessamyn at 6:41 AM on June 14, 2006


canceling my mom's Earthlink:

Me: Cancel this account for my mom please.
EL: Why are you canceling.
Me: I'm getting her broadband.
EL: Well you know we offer broadband.
Me: Yeah, I just want to cancel the service.
EL: OK, one minute.
...
Some account verification.
...
EL: Ok, your account is cancelled.
ME: Thanks!

So, it wasn't too bad for me.

I did get a call from a long distance company years ago asking if I wanted to save money on my long distance:

Telemarketer: Would you like to save money on long distance calls?
Me: I don't make long distance calls.
Telemarketer: Never?
Me: Nope, never.
Telemarketer: Ok, have a nice day.
Me: Bye.

For the ones that ignore you and drone on and on, I just set the phone down and hang it up about 5 minutes later.
posted by Bort at 7:03 AM on June 14, 2006


I've had some pretty shockingly bad customer service experiences (Chase Manhattan and Home Depot, I'm looking at you) but I was still surprised at the sheer offensiveness of the rep in that mp3. I'm pretty sure I would have started demanding a manager long before the rep began reading his little paragraph.
posted by emmastory at 8:24 AM on June 14, 2006


Bad customer service makes me go from happy to insane with rage in under two seconds. I control the anger, but I don't blame those who don't. The hard sell should get the hard no.

posted by Astro Zombie



Amen.

I had an almost identical AOL cancellation seven years back. It ranks as one of the worst customer service experiences on the phone I've ever encountered. Listening to that recording brought up so much bile just now, I had to go walk around outside for a few minutes.

I'm normally an extremely polite and professional person on the phone (and in person, for that matter). But in about 3-4 minutes in my cancellation call, we finally got to my irritation point, too. The guy kept weaseling and asking for more info and I finally said, "You know, I'm sorry, but it's really none of your business" and the call just got more tense from there. I asked to speak to his supervisor and he said okay, but instead passed me on to a retention agent, with whom I had another 10 minute chat, by which time I was fuming.

AOL has single-handedly soured me on call-centers, to the point that I'm always slightly on the defensive when I call one, now, realizing how jerky the worst of them can really be.

Thing is, I was cancelling because I had a free access through a roommate's service. When the roomie moved out a year later, I needed to get my own account again, but I certainly wasn't going back to AOHell.

I would walk over red-hot glass shards before I'd ever do business with them again, and have since counseled a number of people to avoid them like the plague.
posted by darkstar at 9:10 AM on June 14, 2006


Oh, and just an epilogue to the AOL fiasco:

The other service I chose to go with was CompuServe. When, a year later, I headed overseas, I called to cancel that account too. I went through some aggro there, but not as bad as with AOHell.

BUT, once I was overseas, I found the CompuServe monkey had not actually cancelled my account like he said he would. So I spent a fair amount of time and money calling long distance to correct this problem, get the charge off of my credit card and make ssure they cancelled the thing.

I was wondering what kind of evil toxin had poisoned the whole ISP industry to make two companies this heinous. Later, I found out that CompuServe had been bought out by AOHell a couple of years earlier.

Bastards.
posted by darkstar at 9:18 AM on June 14, 2006


When I discovered AOL had continued to bill me after I'd already cancelled and wouldn't refund the money, I simply borrowed my friend's mother. I gave her all my info and she summoned her "stern music-teacher" voice and told them that she was my mother, that I was a fool for lettting it come to this, and that they had better damn well refund the money.

Refunded within 5 minutes.
posted by hermitosis at 9:39 AM on June 14, 2006


Moms. Is there anything they CAN'T do?
posted by Floydd at 11:52 AM on June 14, 2006 [1 favorite]


Is anyone up for creating a transcript?
posted by etoile at 12:06 PM on June 14, 2006


has anybody tried to cancel their metafilter account?
posted by 3.2.3


Funnily enough yes.

I got put through to this electronic female voice that simply started to tell me increasingly personal details of my life - full name, SS number, names of my children.
I stayed on the line and began to get spooked when the voice got to telling me my worst childhood fear, the chest measurement of the English teacher I lusted after at age twelve.
When it began on the time, location and cause of my death I hung up.

I'm still here, as you see.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 12:29 PM on June 14, 2006


It's not customer retention, but I finally switched with Dell from calling tech support to using their online chat, which they're pushing anyway. The reason their chat rules (even though it's slow) is that the chat client automatically logs all chats to your central records so any other support person can see it and also automatically mails you a transcript. They're still obstreperous and not really interested in "support", but at least you have a written record everyone can see.

That and if you get a manipulable chat agent, you can get a lot of interesting things in writing. Like if you ask an easy "yes" answer question and then, while the agent is working on typing "yes", you ask a hard one and you can sometimes get the "yes" to follow that hard question.
posted by kalessin at 12:29 PM on June 14, 2006


Bit of an update - the AOL rep has apparently been fired.
posted by gfrobe at 2:59 PM on June 15, 2006


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