Earthlink’s Incompetent Email Tech Support Frustrates Felix

Felix Salmon, a stalwart NYC blogger (check ’em out here) and all-around good chap, sends in his little chat with Earthlink about how his emails gets delayed for sometimes up to two days. The succession of tech reps he talks to are equally mystified, but instead of owning up or trying to resolve the issue, dump buckets of useless red herrings on his head. One of them even quits mid-session after not being able to provide an answer cribbed from the tech support binder propped open in front of him. Full juicy transcript, interlaced with Felix’s commentary after the jump.

It takes a bit to get going but it’s worth it, a real stunner of customer support ineptitude.

Welcome to Earthlink LiveChat. Your chat session will begin shortly.
Not at home and you want to read your email? With EarthLink Web Mail you can check your email from any computer with an internet connection!
‘Sharon T.’ says: Thank you for contacting EarthLink LiveChat, how may I help you today? I’m having latency issues with my email when I send an email it can take up to 2 days before it arrives

Sharon T.: I apologize for the inconvenience caused to you. I’ll try my level best to help you.

A good start! Here are some headers:
Sharon T.: Are you facing the issue in Web Mail? Received: from ( []) by (Switch-3.1.7/Switch-3.1.7) with ESMTP id k1GA0RD2010307 for ; Thu, 16 Feb 2006 05:00:28 -0500 X-DKIM: Sendmail DKIM Filter v0.2.1 k1GA0RD2010307 X-DomainKeys: Sendmail DomainKeys Filter v0.3.2 k1GA0RD2010307 Received: from ([] helo=[]) by with esmtp (Exim 3.36 #10) id 1F935U-00037k-00 for; Tue, 14 Feb 2006 11:31:36 -0500 no, this isn’t via web mail this is via Apple’s

But it goes wrong very quickly…

Sharon T.: You are using a Macintosh computer, right? as you can see seems to sit on the message for 2 days before finally delivering it right, using a G4 desktop 10.4.5
Sharon T.: Please give a moment while I transfer you to a Macintosh Technical Support Agent who can resolve that for you.

This will be a pattern. Earthlink tech support has only one visible function: to use any excuse to turn the problem over to someone else.

Please wait while I transfer the chat to the best suited site operator.
‘Sherman T’ says: Thank you for contacting EarthLink LiveChat, how may I help you today? can you see the chat transcript thus far? basically it’s latency issues at
Sherman T: Yes. I’m not sure why I was transferred to a mac person, since this isn’t a mac problem
Sherman T: Are your emails getting delayed? yes if you look at the headers posted above, you can see that they’re delayed for up to 2 days In that case, from Tue, 14 Feb 2006 11:31:36 -0500 until Thu, 16 Feb 2006 05:00:28 -0500
Sherman T: Usually when messages are delayed it is because of a couple of different issues. The first is that time stamps are incorrect. Every time a message is passed from one machine to another a time stamp is put on it. In many cases the senders machine may have the time stamp on it but be off several hours one way or the other. If the senders time on his system is correct but the time zone is not set right, the email could appear as if it was sent several hours later than it really was. You may want to make sure that your system is set in the correct time zone for your area. Also you may want to mention to your friends to to the same. Another reason that mail is delayed is because servers may be down somewhere between us and the person sending the mail. As you know the internet is just a bunch of computers strung together. Occasionally, a machine in that string goes down. In this case mail needs to be re-routed. This re routing is automatic and should cause no more than a minute or two of delay. However, if the message is on a machine that goes down, before the message is completely passed off, then the delay can be longer. While we would like to say the internet is a solid medium for communication, it isn’t. There are still major hang ups and bugs that need to be worked out. Thank you for your understanding as we work to resolve all these little problems that arise from time to time.

Well, the good news is that Sherman understood the problem and even found a canned solution to it. The bad news is that the canned solution is no solution at all. At this point, if I was smart, I would just have given up, in the knowledge that things were unlikely to get any better from here on in. But I wasn’t smart. Sherman, that looks like a brush-off to me the time-stamps are clearly correct on those headers i showed you and they clearly show the message residing on earthlink’s own servers for 2 days before being delivered
Sherman T: Yes, I see that.

…or does he? this is a problem I have had repeatedly
Sherman T: Did you check it in the WebMail ?

…no, he doesn’t. Instead, he disappears onto a wild-goose chase involving webmail. check what?
Sherman T: WebMail
Sherman T: The EarthLink Server sorry, I don’t understand your question I sent my email through the smtp server
Sherman T: WebMail is the EarthLInk server where your emails resides that you can view. after that it made its way to and then to
Sherman T:
Sherman T: Please login in the WebMail using above link

I decided the best thing to do was to play along with Sherman, and prove to him that once one sends an email through, it can not be seen by using webmail. are you saying that if I log into webmail I can see queued emails? OK, I’ve logged in
Sherman T: As you mentioned that, if the emails are residing on the EarthLink server, you can see them on the WebMail . I can see 10 emails in my inbox and 0 emails in my Sent folder

And then Sherman disconnected himself. I tried typing stuff in, but it never appeared.

You are not currently in a chat session.
You are not currently in a chat session.
You are not currently in a chat session.

So, muggins that I am, I reconnect:

Welcome to Earthlink LiveChat. Your chat session will begin shortly.
Not at home and you want to read your email? With EarthLink Web Mail you can check your email from any computer with an internet connection!
‘Peter M’ says: Thank you for contacting EarthLink LiveChat, how may I help you today? hi, I just got disconnected from one chat session
Peter M: Hello, I see you’ve already been chatting. Please give me a moment so I can read the previous chat and pick up where you left off. OK, great
Peter M: I understand your concern regarding email latency.

This, as we shall shortly see, is an outright lie. great and I assume that Sherman’s assertion that I can see emails sitting in some smtp server queue somewhere by logging into webmail is incorrect
Peter M: Are you able to see email’s in Web Mail? yes I can see a bunch of emails from earthlink but as I say I’m worried much more about emails FROM me than about emails TO me
Peter M: Okay. Are those email’s getting emailed? well, they get sent by me through and, eventually, they arrive the problem is that there can be as much as 2 days in between the first thing happening and the second thing happening
Peter M: Okay. Let me know from which email address are your email’s getting delayed. is the return address on the emails
Peter M: Okay. I suspect that this user has set his system time incorrect. This is the reason you are getting email’s delayed. no, this user is me and the email arrives 2 days after I send it in the real world
Peter M: Okay. Is that the hosted Domain? I’m talking about email, not web hosting
Peter M: Are your email’s to getting delayed?

This is not a real question: his response would be the same no matter what I answered. reply emails sent to I get immediately probably because I host it myself and they don’t go through earthlink’s mail servers
Peter M: Okay. I suspect this issue would be with the Domain of . I suggest you to contact the technical support of to fix this issue.

Peter M has found one possible way of passing the problem on to someone else. (Quite astonishing, really, that he didn’t first attempt the I-don’t-support-Apple maneuvre.) But of course this makes no sense: no, did you see the mail headers? the email gets stuck at it never goes anywhere near
Peter M: Yes. I saw that header information. I am talking about emails sent through which earthlink then sits on for days before it delivers them I fail to see why this has anything to do with in fact, the email at seems to be the only thing which is working without any problems at all
Peter M: Okay. I suggest you to contact with the header information.

Peter gives up on “it’s” almost immediately, and immediately replaces it with something even more idiotic: the email address used to complain to Earthlink when an Earthlink customer is spamming other people. ????
Peter M: They will research in the issue and will contact you back through email. This is a latency problem, not a spam problem
Peter M: Okay. I can understand this.]
Peter M: Our earthLink team will contact about this issue to check whether this issue with your specific email address or all EarthLink email address and will take necessary action on it.

This is the point at which Peter M starts to just say anything at all which might possibly end the session. He refers to some vague “team” which almost certainly doesn’t exist, and says that they will contact a domain name (?!) without even asking for any contact information. The rest of the session then descends into farce, if it hadn’t already. I AM! And why do you seem to be so hung up on email addresses? I’m talking about individual email messages, NOT addresses
Peter M: Are all the email’s got delayed? the address is nothing but a piece of information inside the message which tells the recipient where to send the reply to not every email gets delayed only some or are you saying that if I try to send an email through with a return address which isn’t at, then I run a higher risk of running into latency problems?
Peter M: No. We need to look in to the issue.
Peter M: I suggest you to forward that Header information to above given email address. abuse@abuse? why would an email address set up for reporting spam be the best place to research latency problems?
Peter M: First we need to research had hung up at server for 2 days. correct and by “we” you mean “someone who isn’t me and the only people I can think of who deal with email are the spam people, so try them”?
Peter M: This is the reason I have specified you to forward that header to that email address.
Peter M: Is there anything else I may assist you with today? Peter, do you have any reason whatsoever to believe that the people who monitor the abuse@abuse email address either know or care about latency problems?
Peter M: Yes. I am sure they would take care of it.

The “I am sure” line is some kind of genius. It’s only when he trots it out again later apropos of something which is patently false that it becomes clear he means nothing by it. you can probably see why I might be skeptical of that claim
Peter M: Is there anything else I may assist you with today? yes please I’ve done a bit of research on that email address and it looks to me that it is used to report spam BY earthlink members in other words, if I were sending spam to people from my earthlink account, then they should go to abuse@abuse in order to complain about my behaviour

Peter M is quite unfazed by this piece of information: he just passes the buck again, this time by proxy!

Peter M: Okay. But they will forward that header to concerned department. why can’t you simply tell me yourself what the “concerned department” is? or try to find out?
Peter M: I am sorry. It has to go through Certain proceedure.

You’ve got to love the capitalisation there, even if it wasn’t deliberate. I am a customer, I have a problem, so I go to customer support. Customer support tells me that a different department, which isn’t set up to deal with customer problems, is the place to go to. Not because they can help, but because they can forward my query on to some unknown department elsewhere. A window has popped up in my browser asking me a bunch of questions. Here are some of them: “I always leave a contact with EarthLink knowing what will happen next”. “When I contacted EarthLink, my request was resolved satisfactorily”. What am I supposed to answer when I’m asked whether I agree with such statements?

A Zen moment: Earthink Tech Support refers me to… Earthlink Tech Support.

Peter M: EarthLink’s Technical Support Department can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 888-EarthLink (888-327-8454) or via the Email Support form at [] [ed.]
Peter M: Is there anything else I may assist you with today? Have I been in the wrong place? Are you not Technical Support?
Peter M: Yes. But to best resolve this issue instantly, I suggest you to contact through Call.

My flabber is quite gasted at this point, so I try to ask Peter what he thinks he’s doing: so, to upsum: I have a problem. You think that the people should be able to resolve it. I ask again, you say that the abuse@abuse people should be able to resolve it. I ask again, you say that they might not be able to, but at least they can forward the problem to someone else, who might be able to resolve it. I ask again, and you say that the telephone people at tech support (but not the Chat people at tech support) should be able to resolve it. Is that about right?
Peter M: Is there anything else I may assist you with today?

This came quite quickly, so I thought maybe we’d sent the messages at the same time. (There was non-negligible latency in the Chat box, ironically enough.) But there was no further response, until eventually:

Peter M: Are we Online? yes, Peter. Sorry.
Peter M: Is there anything else I may assist you with today? I just feel that I’ve got absolutely nowhere here, and that rather than try to look into my issue, all you’ve done is try to pass the buck to a succession of other, unknown, people. The best thing you could do would be to either point me to a specific person who can help me, or else take it upon yourself to help find me such a person.
Peter M: Let me know the reply address you have set up in your email.
Peter M: Is is Hosted domain ? Please be specific. I have a web host, yes I am quite thankful at this point that my web host is not earthlink

You can probably guess where Peter M goes next: after trying all manner of different ways to fob me off, he decides to go back to square one!

Peter M: Okay. I suggest you to contact whether your Hosted Domain company had any email latency issues.
Peter M: If it has no email latency on there end, I suggest you to get back to us. no, there is no latency at
Peter M: I am sure that EarthLink has no email latency isues.

Yes, Peter M is sure
that there is no such thing as latency at Earthlink. Wonder why he didn’t tell me that before? because I have never sent a single email via
Peter M: Okay. Send a email to your earthlink email address from email address and check whether it reaches your Inbox. Peter, EVERY company which offers email has latency issues sometimes they’re big, sometimes they’re small, sometimes they’re frequent, sometimes they’re rare
Peter M: Please refer to above statement and let me know the result. I was attempting to get support because the latency problems at earthlink were both big and frequent If I send one email to felix.salmon@earthlink, I’m sure it will arrive fine especially since I send my emails through earthlink in the first place
Peter M: I am sorry to inform you there is no latency with issue.

Peter basically tells me at this point that my whole problem is a figment of my own imagination, and refers me to a webpage saying that Earthlink doesn’t have any known email problems right now.

Peter M: For reference I suggest you to go through below given link :
Peter M:
Peter M: Is there anything else I may assist you with today? you can answer me this: Do you feel as though you have provided me with any useful technical support?
Peter M: I am sorry for inconvenience but this is the way we can fix this issue from our end.

Which is probably true, if by “fix” he means “ignore”.

Peter M: Is there anything else I may assist you with today? no. I give up.
Peter M: You’re welcome and thank you for using EarthLink LiveChat. Should you need further assistance, please feel free to contact us again.
Peter M: Bye.
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Felix is right, email the would not have helped him. The only useful piece of advice chat support may have given was for him to call the phone tech support.

Originally posted at memefirst.