Why AOL is going down the toilet

Two days ago the June statement for my Visa card came in the mail. Because of a busy weekend, I didn’t get around to opening it until this morning, and I was very surprised by what I found: two $25.90 charges, spaced one month apart, for AOL service.

I should point out a few things:

1. This card is associated with a particular merchant, and I use it only when shopping with that merchant (so I get free shipping) or when shopping at one of the few places (e.g., my local health-food store) that does not accept my primary credit card. This card gets very little use (monthly statements often have no balance), so out-of-the-ordinary charges definitely stick out.

2. I do not use AOL. I have never used AOL.

First, I try to call the telephone number listed next to the AOL charge on my card statement and immediately got stuck in AOL’s IVR hell. Pressing zero didn’t work, saying “I want to talk to a human” didn’t work, and the tips at IVR Hacks and Gethuman didn’t work.

So I decided to take a break from trying to contact AOL. I called my credit-card company to dispute the charge–no problems there. But they said I’d need to call AOL to make sure the subscription was canceled. Sigh.

Back I went to AOL’s IVR system. After about ten minutes of mucking around and getting more and more frustrated, I restarted the call. The first question asks if you are currently an AOL subscriber. Rather than answer yes, this time I said no. The second question asked if I wanted to sign up. “Yes!” I answered jubilantly. And whammo–I was instantly directed to a real, live, customer-service rep who was able to answer my questions.*

Let me get this straight: if you want to start a new subscription to AOL, they are falling over themselves in their eagerness to talk with you. But if you’re a current AOL customer with any sort of query whatsoever, well, they’ll talk with you, too–but only if you jump through a gazillion IVR hoops (and heaven forbid you reach a point where none of the answer prompts is the one that suits your case!).

Wow, that’s great customer service, isn’t it?

*As it turns out, these AOL charges were fraudulent: someone I didn’t know was using my card to get AOL service. So I had to call the credit-card company to report this and request a new card. Ugh.

5 Responses to “Why AOL is going down the toilet”

  1. Imperatrixon 19 Jun 2007 at 9:31 am

    It’s scary when a card is hijacked. It only happened to us once, and the credit card company called us because the charges seemed out of character for our purchasing history (Big Brother ain’t all bad, I suppose!).

    Welcome to the family called Survivors of AOL Abuse. I’ve got my own AOL horror story, too.

  2. Imperatrixon 19 Jun 2007 at 9:32 am

    Hey! Your format won’t let me leave an URL. I’ll try one more time:

  3. Ginaon 19 Jun 2007 at 10:00 am

    WOW. Just…wow. BAD AOL, bad! I’m sorry to hear that your card number was phished, too :-(. Hope it’s all worked out now.

  4. Marshaon 19 Jun 2007 at 10:07 am

    Imperatrix: What is it with AOL? Almost everyone has a bad story to tell about them (yours is a particularly good one!). I’m amazed they’re still in business. (Not sure why the linking didn’t work. Did you use the [a href=”link”][/a] code (with angle brackets instead of square brackets)?

    Gina: Believe it or not, this was the second time this credit card has been compromised. The first time was maybe five years ago, when I had a bunch of charges for (get this) porn websites on my account. Whenever you call a credit-card company to report a fraudulent charge, they also grill you with “Are you sure it wasn’t someone else in your household? Or something you just forgot about? ‘Cause once we open the case, we’re going after whoever did this.” “Um, yeah, I’m totally sure it wasn’t anyone here. Look at the timestamps on the charges: those websites were accessed in the middle of the day, when I was at work in an office. If I really wanted to look at online porn, do you think I would be stupid enough to do it at work?” Good grief.

  5. nuttnbunnyon 22 Jun 2007 at 10:30 am

    Glad this all worked out. My card was hijacked by a reshipper theft ring last month (as profiled by Dateline!).

    I, too, frequently use the “I want to talk to a human” phrase when stuck in a phonemail labyrinth! :-)

    As far as the textbooks/notes/papers thing goes: I’ve kept a few Art History texts and a few papers but everything else – Adios!