Asking why AOL screws up nearly everything they touch is like asking why the sun shines on a clear day, but I’m a sucker for tradition, and for two years running I’ve done so, so why not a third? It’s reasonable to expect this is the last Top 5 I’ll ever do on AOL since the company is dying. With no further ado, AOL’s top five blunders of 2008:
For the average person surfing the Web, AOL didn’t stand out for a lot of well-publicized blunders this year, in stark contrast to their inability to stay out of the press last year for fiascos that would embarrass any company with a moral compass, much less a company that once was the Internet. All the same, AOL’s blunders this year were surprising for how clearly they showed AOL’s lack of integrity, dignity, and direction. Unlike last year I had no problem deciding how to order this list, so no coin-flipping this time…
Say what you want about AOL’s inability to catch up to the Internet these days, they sure can blow the playing field wide open for how layoffs are handled. How about employing managers who are so burnt up over how badly AOL treats them that they willingly leak details of the who, what, when and why of October’s layoffs to Silicon Valley Insider, making a previously shamed Henry Blodget of former stock analysis fame once more well-known and well-liked among industry insiders of all stripes?
It was a stunningly bad year for the company I love to hate, but I couldn’t decide which stories should make the number one and two slots so I flipped a coin. Read on and let me know what you think.
After paying almost $27 million to satisfy four attorney generals in the Northeast and Midwest who sued AOL for their anti-cancellation policies between 2003 and 2006, you’d think they’d change their evil ways, since they were sued for the same thing by 44 states back in 1998, and their reputation was starting to dim thanks to their growing infamy, but that wasn’t the case.
It was on the down-low that they kept the same rewards system and tactics in place so people were surprised to learn that Jon, a call rep for AOL, gleefully violated every agreement AOL has struck in the United States since 1998 with Vinnie Ferrari, who got his 15 minutes of fame exposing them for the shameful greed they still succumb to. Vinnie single-handedly made the story an overnight sensation when he posted it on his website (which he claims gets over 500,000 hits a week) and simultaneously submitted it to The Consumerist, SlashDot and Digg, which caused his website to go offline for three days because his servers couldn’t handle the traffic.