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On March 31, a six-year veteran of AOL sent the following e-mail to Steve Case...

This is the absolute LAST straw!!! I have put up with the idiot hackers, the idiot members who think that is the same as, and now I have reached my limit!!!

My checking account has a charge of $8.50 for AOL long distance service - a service change I DID NOT REQUEST!!!!! How dare AOL take the liberty to change MY carrier WITHOUT MY PERMISSION!!! If I had WANTED to change long distance carriers, obviously I would have done so, but I do not. I DEMAND a refund AND THE IMMEDIATE DISCONTINUATION of AOL as my long distance carrier!!!!

I have stuck by AOL for six years and tried to defend her through all that has been happening lately, but no more, I am through. I am cancelling my account at my earliest convenience.

Extremely pissed off,

Susan Terry

Though AOL has launched an aggressive promotion of the long-distance service, late the next day, the subscriber received a reponse from
I am writing to you on behalf of Steve Case to answer your recent E-Mail.

America Online operates the same way a newspaper or magazine does, in that it does not have direct control over the vendors that offer products online. If there is a problem with a service, the member must contact that vendor to voice their complaint.

The Long Distance company that is listed on America Online does only accept credit cards as a payment method. You can contact them directly by going to Keyword LD. They can also be reached 24 hours a day at 1-888-AOL-TALK.

Senior Account Specialists

Unfortunately, the phone number returned the message. "We're sorry. Your call cannot be completed as dialed..."

But even before she realized this, the customer was furious with AOL's response...

I don't believe this! How dare AOL disclaim responsibility when AOL released my credit card information to this company!!!! I DID NOT CHANGE MY LONG DISTANCE COMPANY!!! How many ways must I say this to make this clear??? AOL gave out my credit card information to this company!! The fact that they are an outside vendor makes me all the more upset because AOL willfully passed along (more like sold) my credit card info to this company WITHOUT my consent!!! What the hell are you people thinking????

You have implied that AOL routinely passes along not only it's member listing, but it's member's supposedly secure credit card information to ANY OUTSIDE VENDOR THAT REQUESTS IT!!!! So does that mean by giving AOL our credit card info, we AUTOMATICALLY give our consent for AOL to pass it along to any vendor that requests it?? I think not, and I'm sure the majority of your members feel the same way!!! I want a list of all the vendors that purchased my confidential information, since it was given in trust to AOL, I believe I have that right. Don't you DARE send me another form letter.

AOL has betrayed my trust in the most HEINOUS way, it has obviously sold my credit card info to an outside vendor, and when caught and questioned, has LIED about it - you disgust me.

Susan Terry

In their second response, AOL gave a second phone number -- which also returned the message "We're sorry. Your call cannot be completed as dialed..."
I am writing to you in behalf of America Online to answer your recent e-mail inquiry.

If you would like further information regarding this matter please contact that department at 1-800-AOL-TALK or Keyword: AOL LD.

I hope I have been of service to you and thank you for using America Online.

Billing Representive

At the very least, the customer felt obliged to respond to the rep's hopes that they had "been of service."

No, you nor the other service rep has "been of service" to me. Both the number you gave me, and the number the other rep gave me "cannot be completed as dialed" according to the recording I keep getting when I dial it. I'm not going to the AOL area because I intend to speak to someone directly and I want a working number to this company.

Susan Terry

AOL's third form response pointed the user to "Tech Live"...
I am responding to your letter on behalf of Steve Case. Thank you for taking the time to write to us.

If you need assistance, we encourage you to look for help online first, which in many cases will save you time. America Online offers Live Technical Assistance from 7:00 AM to 2:45 AM Eastern time, seven days a week where you can get one-on-one assistance.

To contact a live Technical representative, use keyword: MEMBER SERVICES, and choose "Connecting to AOL". In the bottom left corner, click on the "Ask the Staff" button. There you will have the choice of speaking live with a representative or you can check out the message boards, where members share information about AOL-related issues.

Please let us know if we can offer any additional assistance.


Andrea N.
Office of the Chairman

And so, AOL subscriber Susan Terry composed her final message...
Once again due to the ineptness of your representative's I have had to solve my problem myself. I talked to a rep at your long distance company (by the way the CORRECT number is 1-888-talk-aol, you may want to write that down). Apparently one of YOUR (AOL's) customer svc reps made a mistake in keying in someone's screen name, which in turn caused my problem. They were kind enough to research my problem. What really annoys me is that AOL refused to help me, I'm sure your reps could have found out the same information, but all you could to was pass along stupid form letters.

This whole mess has proven to me once again, that your attitude toward customer service comes from some archaic notion that your customers are stupid. I feared the worst, that AOL had either lax security or that it was intentionally selling it's customer's private information. What was the official customer service response? Ignore, deny and to thank me for using AOL. A service company's reputation is made or broken upon the strenght of it's customer service department. Apparently that little truism has not broken through to AOL yet, and I doubt it ever will.

I am happy to report that I am leaving AOL. This last exchange has proven to me that AOL is only after money, NOT the satisfaction of it's customers.

Former AOL member 1992-1998

Susan Terry

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