Pass me my coaster…I mean, my AOL disc.

AOL 9.0 SE

I wrote this on December 13, 2005 as the follow-up to Why America Online can bite me, which I wrote on December 11, 2005, long after I canceled my last AOL account. The letter from the BBB that’s reprinted here is in response to my complaint that AOL wanted to charge me $50 for an “early cancellation.”

I got another free trial from AOL in the mail today, and an email from the BBB about AOL tonight. AOL sent so many discs they had to pack them in a box. I haven’t unwrapped this cool “Alumni Gift” yet but I’ll look at the discs soon just for fun. I wish I had a spare computer to wreck with their latest offerings just to remind myself how much AOL sucks. The “gift”-box is a monstrous 5 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ by 3/4″. Apparently it’s their Greatest Hits collection. There’s three big lies written across the front of it:

No credit card required!

(A credit card is required, unless you activate your “free” trial with your checking account’s routing number.)

Accelerate! Surf up to 5X (sic) faster!

(Surf 5 times faster than what? AOL 2.0? As I noted in my first entry, Why America Online can bite me, pages load faster on 9.0 than on 2.0, but why shouldn’t they? The technology’s over 10 years old. For dial-up, AOL’s fastest pages can’t touch Netscape’s or PeoplePC’s Accelerated versions. I should know: I use one, my friend uses the other. I can load three pages in the time it takes to load one on 9.0, without pop-ups, which load ten at a time with AOL, regardless of browser settings.)

SPECIAL OFFER FOR AOL ALUMNI: 90 DAYS RISK-FREE!

(No one’s used AOL risk-free. From the moment those thieves have your credit/debit card or checking account number, it’s over with. Think about it: by the time you’re done ‘signing up’, they have your aforementioned financial info, plus your name, phone number, street or PO Box address, email, and the name of your pet, or favorite movie, or year. Do you really want an entire corporation famous for it’s thievery to know this much about you?)

And a note to AOL: I am not ‘Alumni.’

Do you idiots ever match your free trial offers up with Better Business Bureau’s complaints? I’m one of the unhappy people who filed one…how about the fact that I canceled both AOL accounts that I had the misery of ‘trying out’ in the first place? I asked one of your call reps the same question: Do you guys know what cancel means? It means stop sending me this crap. If I get one more disc in the mail, I’m going to bend it, bite it, break it, burn it, and drive what’s left of it back to you with print-outs from 42,000 other websites that hate AOL discs as much as I do. You fools will need an 18-foot trailer just to haul it in. I promise, one more disc from you, and you can start looking for a Ryder truck from me.

03-31-2006: They’ve sent one four more discs to me since this post. Should I make good on my offer to haul them back to AOL? The trip would be–let’s see–500 miles one way, give or take, and would easily cost me a grand, including missed time at work. But it would be great publicity for my site. Anyone interested in sponsoring it, drop me a line.

The BBB’s email:

—–Original Message—–
From: Derrick Gregory
To: x@xxx.com (edit)
Sent: Tuesday, December 13, 2005 2:00 PM
 
Subject: 23433-D5985-EB43B-EB5B2-4B93B-A2DE8-D7
BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU
Complaint Notice & Verification Form
URGENT–REPLY IMMEDIATELY Within 10 working days

The company has responded to the complaint you filed with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). According to the notification provided by the company in response to your complaint the BBB was advised as follows:

The company [Author’s Note: this is America Online] notified the BBB that action has been taken concerning your complaint. Please let us know when you receive a response from the company and whether or not you are satisfied with the response. If you are not, please let us know with a brief explanation why you were not satisfied.

Derrick Gregory, Trade Practice Consultant, BBB of Metro Washington, DC
1411 K Street NW, 10th Floor Washington, DC
20005 202-393-8015

Can anyone reading imagine I’m satisfied? Oh, I’ve read the FAQ on BBB; they lay it out that they don’t try to change any company’s questionable business practices, nor do they have reach into enforcing any law that might apply to them…they merely mediate between the unhappy consumer and the con-artist making off with your hard-earned dough. No wonder.

No, Derrick, just to spell it out for you, which I will, soon, in a return email, I’m not satisfied. AOL never sent a letter to me. No, in fact, they sent it to you. They apologized to you for the rotten treatment I received but not to you or me for the scam Maurice pulled, saying he’d canceled a free trial that was ending soon, but actually canceling another that wasn’t due to expire for a while leaving me in a position where I didn’t know I was soon to be billed under contract-terms for the remaining account.

Maurice lied to me in the hope that I wouldn’t know when to cancel the remaining account, so I’d call too late and incur $50 charges. And that’s exactly what happened. Maurice had me good, until that last set of phone calls to AOL proved that he’d pulled a fast one on me. And I don’t forget stuff like that too easily, if this page is any proof.

No, Derrick, AOL hasn’t done me right. Heidi could send me a personal letter, apologizing for Maurice & Co.’s shenanigans. How about this: once my last set of call reps, Allan and Damian — even Tim, their supervisor– understood how Maurice had screwed me over hoping I’d have no idea when my remaining free trial would actually end, they still wouldn’t do anything to fix his so-called ‘mistake’?

Oh, yeah, I know: Heidi’s gone ahead and canceled the account for me, with no charges incurred. Why shouldn’t she? Looking the facts over, there was no reason to charge me a dime. How about the hour and a half I wasted on the phone with AOL for nothing, since I had to write the BBB a few days later — another 45 minutes while I gathered AOL’s so-called ‘cancellation letters’ and other documents to put this $50 charge to a stop? Is 2 hours and 15 minutes of my wasted time worth nothing to AOL? So little that Heidi can’t even throw in a personal note apologizing? The BBB doesn’t care if Heidi’s sorry, but I do: I haven’t heard a word from her yet. No wonder AOL loses customers left and right.

Update 03-2006: I never wrote Derrick back. It was too much bother after I wrote him here to write him an email. I hoped by not responding to his inquiry that my “contract dispute” with AOL would be listed in the BBB’s report as “unresolved”, but it’s listed as “company made every reasonable attempt to resolve”, according to this page, which is a complete lie. The day Heidi sends personal mail saying she’s sorry for what I went through with AOL’s call reps, she will have taken every step I can think of to “resolve” it. I’m waiting…

Further reading: I went through a lot with AOL’s Retention Specialists after I plucked AOL files off of my hard drive like fleas. Read about my computer crash to learn why AOL discs will never spin around in my CD-ROM again.