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June 07, 2006

Quitting AOL

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I just closed down a stray and useless AOL account. A small chore, you'd think -- but it took me an hour to accomplish: roughly 30 minutes figuring out how to do it (AOL's webpages and Help section are of no use at all), and then 30 minutes on the horn. What a dumb waste of time. Googling around, I've found that it's hyper-common for people to experience exasperation -- AOL rage? -- trying to leave AOL. AOL makes quitting AOL very difficult. Screw 'em for that.

So in a frame of mind that's both vindictive and yet public-spirited, let me pass along the key phone number: 1-800-827-6364. That's 1-800-827-6364. 1-800-827-6364.

Prepare to spend a lot of time wrangling with automated demands, wait time, and even (once you've finally landed yourself a live human being) many pushy offers and near-threats intended to keep you on board. But I'm pleased to report that, so long as you're persistent and have some time to kill, quitting AOL can indeed be done.

Here's a funny account by Dave Taylor about his own efforts to leave AOL.

That phone number once again is: 1-800-827-6364. Set yourself free!



PS: I hear good things about this Firefox extension, which blocks Flash-powered content. All those zippy, wiggly, strobing ads that can make a computer screen so hard on the eye and the brain? They can now be things of the past.

posted by Michael at June 7, 2006


I had a similar problem, though not as bad as yours. This was back in the mid nineties when I was on a dial-up service. Anyway, as I was getting increasingly frustrated with attempting to contact them, I realized that there was a way for me to induce THEM to contact ME. I called up my credit card company and told them I had lost my card and wanted one with a different number. Sure enough, when the monthly billing cycle came round, I got an email from AOL requesting a new credit card number or they would have to drop my account. I sighed deeply and wrote them that I guessed they would just have to drop my account. Presto!

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on June 7, 2006 4:13 PM

Considering the way AOL's subscriber numbers have been dropping, an awful lot of people have somehow figured out how to accomplish the task. Though I would imagine, along the lines of what Charlton Griffin mentioned in a prior comment, that many people lose often-unwanted AOL service due to credit card issues.

Posted by: Peter on June 7, 2006 4:29 PM

AOL's dialup service is still over 20 dollars isn't it? I believe Verizon's cheapest DSL is 15/month. And there is absolutely no comparison between the two services. (Fiber, where available, starts at 35/month, I believe.) Anybody still on AOL is a chump, pure and simple.

Posted by: onetwothree on June 7, 2006 8:26 PM

I'm surprised anyone still had an AOL account, Michael, least of all a net-savvy dude like yourself.

Remember all the fear-mongering about how the Time Warner/AOL merger would mean total corporate domination of all communication? Heh. Now they've gone the way of Litton Industries, ITT, Beatrice, et. al. The only people who should be worried about corporate mergers are the corporations who are merging, and who will soon find themselves on the ash heap. Why do fools fall in love?

Posted by: Brian on June 8, 2006 3:15 AM

I've been using that Firefox extension, AdBlock, for a while and find it invaluable. I don't actually run AdBlock actively most of the time, since it may block content you actually want to see, but its ever-ready, Flash-killing Ctrl-Shift-F key combo has become second nature and is very satisfying to use.

Ironically, I was an .swp in that "Which file extension are you?" quiz you posted a few months ago.

Posted by: robert on June 8, 2006 4:07 AM

My ex-husband had that same experience trying to quit, and over the 20+ minute conversation, I could hear him getting more and more pissed with every minute -- can it be that their strategy is actually effective in getting anyone to stay with them??

Posted by: missgrundy on June 8, 2006 10:44 AM

Here is an invaluable list of the customer service phone numbers for many of the companies we all have to deal with. These numbers get you through to actual live humans. I've used it with CitiBank and Amazon and it works! No more "If yes, dial 1, if no, dial 2."

Posted by: the patriarch on June 8, 2006 11:25 AM

Just noticed AOL is not on that list. You should submit it to them.

Posted by: the patriarch on June 8, 2006 11:32 AM

Charlton -- That's really clever. End-run the bastards whenever possible!

Peter -- If AOL's having trouble, I'd think they do their best to make their service attractive instead of making it hell to deal with them. But I'd be naive, I suppose.

Onetwothree -- I'm agreeing with you there!

Brian -- Litton ... Beatrice ... I remember those names. Funny how these immortal-seeming colossi in fact come and go. The AOL account wasn't for me (heaven forfend!), it was one I'd been treating a relative to -- which only complicated the canceling-it process even further ...

Missgrundy -- It's amazing how good AOL is at raising people's annoyance levels. I wonder if that was a conscious goal of theirs -- just to get us to give up trying and let them go on fleecing us.

Patriarch -- Clip-and-save, definitely, tks.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on June 8, 2006 11:57 AM

I recently cancelled an AOL account as well. I must say that my experience was markedly different.

Sure, they tried to convince me to stay with a much-reduced price, but they made sure to remind me that my e-mail address would still work for free.

I still check that address occasionally, because I've had it for over a decade, so there are still some people that might use it.

Sorry to hear about your problems.

Posted by: Doug Sundseth on June 8, 2006 12:40 PM

Rotten customer service is one of the two largest business scandals of our times. The other being the rape of corporations and their stockholders by high-flying and underperforming CEOs. Not many decades ago, when you phoned customer service at any reputable company, a pleasant person answered promptly with the words, "How may I help you?" And the problem was usually resolved. A pox on any company that abuses or frustrates its customers. A pox on AOL, which abuses its subscribers.

Posted by: Richard S, Wheeler on June 8, 2006 12:56 PM

Patriarch -
That list is useful, but I'll caution that getting through to a real person on a customer service line is not a guaranteed cure-all. Many large companies have outsourced that function to foreign countries, and the customer service workers don't always speak understandable English.

Posted by: Peter on June 8, 2006 1:54 PM

As much as AOL is a horrible service (You can get 1MB DSL here for $20 a month, though you're locked into the plan for a year -- but still) I'd much rather deal with AOL than most other companies. Seriously. As much of a run-around as AOL may give you over trying to cancel their service, at least I found dealings with them reasonably pleasant -- more than I can say for some other companies, who seem to have forgotten how to deal with customers.

Posted by: . on June 8, 2006 5:53 PM

I surprised that a state Attorney General seeking some publicity has not gone after AOL and their cancellation practices. I had the same problem 9 years ago! It's clear that their business strategy is that they will do anything to keep you because once you're gone - you're not coming back, because you'll soon realize their service is pure drivel.

Posted by: maqroll on June 9, 2006 9:59 AM

Thank you for posting this - the guy I got on the line finally was so intent on having me continue AOL service that I had to finally stop him and say "Listen carefully. I am never going to use AOL services again. Ever. I want to cancel my account and never look back. Does this help?" It did. I hate being rude, but oh well. heh!

Posted by: Cali on June 18, 2006 12:33 PM

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