Friday, May 9, 2008

One I didn't win (for Shauna)

Many years ago when we were young and foolish, Brett and I made the mistake of trying out AOL. We'd been innundated with their FREE TRIAL OFFER CDs in the mail, at the supermarket, and in public restrooms. We had no reliable internet provider at the time so we repeatedly took full advantage of their 90-day offers, always making sure to cancel before we actually had to pay any money.

Right around the time we moved into our first house, a charge from AOL showed up on our credit card statement. We were too busy to check it out at the time but we figured we had neglected to cancel our current free account before the trial period expired. We promptly forgot about it until the next statement arrived and there was another $23.90 charge.

I called AOL to try to straighten things out. Little did I know it would be a rickety minecar ride into the bowels of hell.

I was connected with Rebecca (aka the Nefarious Troll Demon from the Planet Screwyou.) She was able to tell me that the account we were being charged for was not a current account but one that had been closed 6 months prior. I was able to give her the exact date that account had been closed and who I had talked to and a confirmation number.

She didn't like this one bit. I'm sure she was used to dealing with people who have nebulous stories about how they are sure the account was closed but can't remember any of the details. She probably was used to getting rough with those customers. But I clearly was not one of those people.

She didn't even try to hide her skepticism as she put me on hold to verify my ridiculous claim. When she returned, she said that the computer system didn't allow her to access records that far back. BUT, what she had discovered was that someone had reactivated the account since it had been closed, so clearly no refund would be forthcoming.

Hold on, Rebecca. "Someone" reactivated the account? Really? On April 9th? You don't say? Well, who was it?

She wouldn't tell me. She wouldn't tell me because I wasn't an authorized contact on the account. Well, who is an authorized contact? She can't tell me. She can't tell me because I'm not an authorized contact on the account.

The only other conceivable authorized contact is Brett. I drag him to the phone and have him add me as an authorized contact on the account. He specifically says to Rebecca, "I'm adding my wife, Andrea, as an authorized contact on this account. You are to discuss all matters relating to this account with her as freely as you would with me."

Newly empowered, I am back on the line with Rebecca, demanding the name of the scoundrel who reactivated the account.

"I can't tell you," she says coyly.

"YES, you can actually. I'm authorized now. Talking to me is like talking to Brett, remember?"

"You'll need to verify the phone number first."

"Okay, it's xxx-xxx-xxxx."

"No. That's not it."

"Yes. That's my phone number. I'm sure of it."

"Well, I need you to verify the phone number the person called from."

"??? How am I supposed to tell you what number some random person called from just so I can find out who that random person is? Look. Here's all the phone numbers we have, have had, and will have. Here's every single landline, cell phone, office phone and fax line that we might have called from." I rattled off eight or nine numbers.

"I'm sorry. None of those match. I can't give you any information. But the account was reactivated on April 9th, so the charges are valid and you will have to pay them."

The tone of her voice, which had previously been world-weary but brusque, drifted into smarmy triumph. She was getting a thrill watching me beat my head against the wall. I tried a different approach, one that might appeal to her human side.

"Alright, then. Now I'm concerned that someone is stealing my identity. Maybe you can help me track them down. When the account is being used, can you tell me where the person is logging in from? I'm in California so if they are logging in from South Dakota, I'll be able to let the police know."

"I can't tell you that."

"YES you can. I'm authorized on the account. Remember?"

*sigh* "There's no usage on the account, so there's no information."

"How odd. Are you telling me that since it was mysteriously reactivated on April 9th, no one has logged in?"


"So we've been paying for an account that we're not even using?"

"It appears so."

"Well, Rebecca, does that make sense to you? Why would we reactivate an account and then not use it? Not even for one solitary minute in the last two months?"

"I can't tell you that. What I can tell you is that this account was reactivated on April 9th..."

"By who?"

"... and that you are responsible whether or not anyone is using the account. You can't get out of paying this. There's absolutely nothing you can do to get the charges reversed."

I was soooo done with Rebecca and her attitude at this point. I asked to speak to her supervisor.

"My supervisor's not going to be able to help you. She can't do anything that I can't do. If I'm not going to reverse the charges, she won't either."

"I don't care what you say. Let me talk to her anyway."

"You can't talk to her. She's on break."

"Let me talk to any supervisor there. Your attitude and tone of voice are offending me. I want to speak to a supervisor, not only to resolve my issue, but to complain about you."

"There are no supervisors available. It's midnight on the East Coast. They've all gone home."

"I thought your supervisor was on a break."

"She was, then she went home. There's no one you can talk to."

"No supervisors? You have a whole call center full of reps and there's not ONE SINGLE SUPERVISOR on the whole floor?? I don't believe you. Let me talk to someone right now."

"No. There's no one who's going to help you."

"I don't care about that anymore. I want to let management know what a smarmy, self-centered, arrogant butt-head you are. Let me talk to someone else. ANYONE else. It doesn't have to be a supervisor. I just can't stand the sound of your voice anymore. Hand the phone to your co-worker if you have to."

"No. There's no one else here. They've all gone home. It's midnight here."


"Ma'am, there's no need to shout. I can't just transfer you to another rep. You'll have to hang up and call back to get in the queue again."


"There's no one who will help you."

This torture went on and on and on. This woman had worked me into such a foamy-mouthed craze that I was literally screaming into the phone at her. I think at one point I even repeatedly banged the receiver against the desk right in her ear. Brett had to intervene and insist that I hang up on her. It was hard because I was right and she was wrong and if I hung up, she won.

To preserve my sanity, I did finally hang up and call back. Would you believe that the next person I talked to (the other person working for AOL at midnight on the East Coast) didn't have any problem understanding or resolving the situation?

I had to write them a letter to close the account (again) and get credit. In the letter, I did my very best to get Rebecca fired.

This experience is the standard in our household of poor customer service. When I complain about inexperienced or unhelpful or stupid customer service reps, Brett will say, "But is it worse than AOL?"

No. The answer is always no.


Jesse Harris said...

... or you could have mentioned the "c" word (chargeback) and made it Visa's problem. That gets a CSR's attention rather quickly.

Shauna said...

I can really imagine that happening too. I remember Billy once getting really upset on the phone when he asked to talk to someone's manager and they said that they were the manager, etc. I remember him saying "Everyone reports to someone. Or are you telling me that you're the owner of [whatever corporation pissed him off]?"

Andrea said...

I had another serious injury (which I may post about later) involving a life insurance company. Money was taken from my bank account and... oh heck. I'm just going to have to write a whole post about it now that I'm thinking about it.

Stay tuned.

momodafoxes4 said...

my two cents are with Jesse, and yes AOL is hell to deal with! I had a similar situation with them, but was able to get them to reverse that charges using the 'dispute the charges' threat, and like you, I had the cancellation date, confirmation number and all that jazz. But they did the opposite to me, they bumped my start date up by 5 days, so that I was supposedly too late to cancel when I called in. Long story short..I told them I didn't even have a computer on the day they claimed my account was opened, and I had the bill of sale to prove such..they shut up and gave me my money....after about 6 weeks....