Saturday, May 07, 2011

Still horrible

Remember in the dark ages of the Internet, when most people had America Online? AOL was popular because it was big, so everyone signed up, and it had a lot of exclusive, "off-line" content which was valuable before the Internet became such a huge storehouse of information.

AOL got smacked when the rules changed on line, and all that was necessary was to get on to the World Wide Web. In addition, AOL was closely associated with busy signals for dial-up accounts, and with difficulties in trying to leave the service. There are recorded phone calls out there in which people tried to cancel their accounts, and 20 minutes later "customer service representates" were still yelling at consumers for trying to cancel.

"My grandmother died last week and I don't think she needs the account any more."

"No, wait, don't do anything rash. Are you sure you want to cancel?"

We were a little late to the party, but we cancelled AOL a few years ago. The instructions at the time said we'd maintain a free AIM mail account (same thing), but that it would go dead if it hadn't been used in six months. OK. After looking around at the AOL web site, fully cancelling service seemed difficult, so I let it go.

Fast forward to a while ago, when my wife's friends started to receive e-mails from the AOL address book, saying she was stuck in England and needed money sent to an address right away in order to fly home. Jody may have been to London, Ontario, but she hasn't been to London, England. In other words, someone hacked into the old address book. I went into the AOL accounts and found that they were still active, in spite of the six month claim. Sigh. So I took out the addresses.

But trying to figure out how to cancel the account completely is difficult. A search of the website proved rather fruitless. Then, I searched Google. Some company offered to clean it out for $10. I guess that shows you how bad AOL is if you need to hire someone to figure out how to do it. Another search engine had a fax number -- but that number had been disconnected. I finally found another fax number, in which I had to send my name, address, phone number and screen names and ask to be deleted. The fax, at least, went through. Action was promised within 10 days. We'll see.

Which leaves me with one question: Is this any way to run a business?

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