The Best Thing We Have Ever Posted: Reader Tries To Cancel AOL

This is the best thing we have ever posted. It’s so good that we almost don’t want to comment on this mp3 that Consumerist reader Vincent Ferrari recording him trying to cancel his AOL account.

Here’s the summary: “Cancel the account. Cancel the account. Cancel the account. CANCEL THE ACCOUNT. CANCEL THE ACCOUNT. CANCEL THE ACCOUNT. FOR GOD’S SAKE JUST CANCEL THE FUCKING ACCOUNT.” After every period, insert a few minutes of AOL CSR John trying to ‘help’ Vincent somehow figure out a way to keep on paying… generally through the ingratiating method of straight out calling him a liar.

We’ll say it again: this is the best thing we have ever posted. If you have anything even remotely this good, mail us. As site creator Joel Johnson just said over AIM, “Fuck. We need more of that on Consumerist.”

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Canceling AOL [Insignificant Thoughts]

UPDATE: Original story has been dugg-smashed. Here’s a mirror.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Andrew W says:

    I think I’d have to agree. Mind=blown.

    Has Consumerist posted about easy, inexpensive ways to record phone conversations oneself? Could be a boon for consumers and Consumerist.

  2. Holy crap, I hope that’s real. I wonder why he decided to record the call.

  3. Hooray4Zoidberg says:

    I really wish that rep hadn’t been cut off before finishing the sentence “Turning off the account would be the worst thing that…..”

    That? That what? What will happen dammit? What was he going to say? Some theories I’ve come up with so far are:

    “you could do. They’ll find you, they’ll come after you, they don’t eat, they don’t sleep, they never stop coming for you!”

    “has ever happened to me. I never even told you I loved you and now your walking out the door and leaving me behind in this place….this god damn place we built together, we shared, we called home.”

    “…say, do you like puppies? I know a little puppy who likes you and this little puppy says you should love AOL. When you don’t love AOL puppy gets sad and when puppy gets sad he likes to saw his head off with a butter knife. That always makes puppy happy again…”

  4. Kricket says:

    holy cow – this is UNBELIEVABLE! lol

    i remember when i “cancelled” my account some 4 years ago – of course, the account was “cancelled”, but we were subsequently charged for 5 more months (at $23.95/month or whatever it was back then) – and, occassionally, we got double charged within a single month – when i called to ask what the deal was – i was told “sometimes, you get charged twice within one credit card cycle but its actually only once per aol billing cycle” – apparently, the fact that i had cancelled was of little concern to that particular rep…

    what a bunch of filthy dirty leeches – feeding on those who have little or no experience with the internet or computers in general…

  5. WMeredith says:

    Great post; ‘might want to cut down on the anal vriginity loss is the best thing ever references. Kinda creepy; were you ever a CSR?

  6. Radio_Radio says:

    Wow! That is one arrogant fuck of a CSR!!!
    May he rot in hell…

  7. ExVee says:

    Recording equipment is easily available. Go to Radio Shack’s website and do a search for phone recorders for a variety of options and prices. There’s one simple model to patch your tape recorder between the base and handset for $18. It should be just as easy to plug it into the Line-In jack on the back of your computer to directly run a WAV or MP3 of the conversation. You’d be best to find out what the law in your state on these recordings is before you start, though. The person who recorded today’s great listening may have even been breaking the law since I didn’t hear notice given that recording was taking place.

    And while it did indeed make for great entertainment, had I been in that position, I’d have allowed two or perhaps three chances for the CSR to comply and cancel the service before getting his name and going above him. (technically I’d have gotten the guy’s name before doing anything else, but that’s not really the point) It was ridiculous the way that CSR was talking to Vincent, whether there had been activity on the account or not. I’ll also be unsurprised if there’s an AOL charge on his next month’s credit card statement. But that would be true no matter how the CSR acted…

  8. mrscolex says:

    Has anyone considered that the AOL rep might have suspected that there was some kind of social engineering going on? Given the high amount of press AOL received from people being able to social engineer their way to cause misery to other AOL users, I’m certain that their reps were trained to listen for clues for people who are just trying to cause grief.

    Just playing Devils Advocate here. Judging by the way the questions were phrased I believe that the rep didn’t believe the caller was who he claimed to be– and instead just thought it was some dumb kid calling to be a prick or cause grief on an account that had, as far as he could tell, legitimate use on it (A claim that contradicted what the caller stated, an immediate red flag for someone who would have been on the lookout for a social engineering attack).

  9. Andrew W says:

    I’m guessing every cancellation is some sort of black mark on an AOL CSR record? Like, an uncommission?

  10. scingram says:

    Yikes, that is scary. I can just imagine some poor old granny trying to cancel her account and our friend John here just tearing her a new one. Yikes, what a pain. I wonder what sort of commission / incentive AOL CSRs get for talking someone into keeping their worthless AOL account. No ammout is worth it if you have to be a dick like that…

  11. Chi says:

    To Andrew W:

    I vaguely recall an inexpensive DIY hack that someone made (and posted directions to) for inline recording so that the recording could be used for podcasting.

    After a brief search I found it! Engadget has an article on how to convert an old modem into an inline recording device.

    Here’s the link:


  12. fizzer fits says:

    I record some of my customer service calls (but have never been so lucky to catch a gem like the one above).

    No need to build recording devices (unless you just want a DIY fix). Just install Skype and a recording plug-in.


  13. mrscolex, a fair question. That Vincent recorded the call is a bit of a suspicion marker. But, at the end of the day, is it any of the CSR’s damn business WHY Vincent needed to cancel the account? He rattled off all security questions instantly: that’s all AOL needs to know. Any question you answer after that is a courtesy to help them make the service better.

    You see this time and time again with AOL: they will NOT let you go. Cancellation calls go on forever, precisely because the CSRs are instructed at all costs not to let you cancel. This guy took the tact of trying to contradict Vincent, but you know what? I believe him. It’s hard to go from “No one’s used it” to “It says here you used it a thousand hours last month.”

    Even if everything you said was true, there’s still the issue that the CSR wasn’t doing his damn job. Vincent answered the questions correctly and he couldn’t have been clearer in what he expected. Yet the guy argued with him, contradicted him, called him a liar, and then when Vincent told him he didn’t want to listen to any more spiel, he pulled the self-righteous card and read the spiel in slow motion just as an extra fuck you.

    This guy should be summarily fired. End of story.

  14. Fairytale of Los Angeles says:

    I’m fairly well-informed that an AOL CSR is supposed to take eight full minutes to try to get you to keep your account on a cancel call, or it counts against their metrics.

  15. AndyfromIL says:

    If at the beginning of the call, AOL says “This call may be recorded” it may be recorded by either party to the call right?

  16. Rick Dobbs says:

    I didn’t realize that AOL could save my life! Not having an account could be the worst thing that ever happened to me! I’m signing up RIGHT NOW!

  17. ModerateSnark says:

    Why did Vincent Ferrari record the conversation? That’s easily deduced:

    1. He is a Consumerist reader (as stated above).
    2. He read on Consumerist 6 days ago how AOL even tries to retain the accounts of the dead.

    How quickly we forget.

  18. mrscolex says:


    Ultimately I agree with you. I think the way the CSR acted was so disrespectful that I was trying to rationalize a reasoning for why someone would act that way. The social engineering tact was the only thing I could think of, or, perhaps the CSR felt that the person calling was misrepresenting himself in some way (ie: punk kid trying to cancel parents account)

    I guess I’m just trying to keep an open mind. Often times these things aren’t always what they seem although it would appear to be pretty clear in this case. I’m also surprised that we haven’t heard a public rebuttal from AOL guy given that he’s undoubtedly already heard of the fiasco and may fear for his job. I have trouble willing to believe that anyone would fight for AOL that badly, even someone who works for them.

  19. Chris Gibson says:

    I know this sounds like an apocryphal story, but a good friend tried for several months working at an AOL center in Albuquerque, NM a couple of years ago (BEFORE the court cases regarding their “retention” practices). The stories I heard were jaw-dropping, and they were all centered around the individual reps doing WHATEVER THEY COULD to not get a “loss” credited to them: intentional long wait times, coercive practices, transferring customers to other (or even non-existent) queues (since a transfer out of YOUR queue did not count as a “loss”), or even outright hanging up when it seemed that there was nothing they could do to “save” the account. He didn’t last long there, but he DID give me the hard-to-find fax number for cancellations. I put it to good use somewhat later (a fax AND a registered letter), and I actually had no problems doing it that way, but it was around the same time that they were in the press for their nasty habits, so perhaps that’s why I didn’t run into mysterious billing problems.

  20. Chris Gibson says:

    Oh, yeah – the recording link is busted – no doubt swamped with feverish Consumerist readers looking to make their day. The mirror itself is up (the text part), but as of this moment you can’t actually get to the MP3. Perhaps a transcript can be made available as a post update….?

  21. I had the exact same experience 3 years ago when I bought a Gateway. I had just moved into my new house and needed some internet, the Gateway came with 1 year of free AOL, so I thought why not…

    After 2 hourse of trying to log on, which it wouldn’t without making me pay!, I tried to cancel the account and had to do the same thing as this poor chap. “Cancel the Account” repeated ad nauseum. Why doesn’t someone blow up AOL already?

  22. megan says:

    Reminds me of a call I had once with Citibank. It ended up with me yelling at the person to just CANCEL THE ACCOUNT. Of course they couldn’t understand why I was upset.

  23. SecureLocation says:

    Doesn’t matter why he recorded it, the thing is hilarious. And if you’ve ever tried cancelling AOL you know that this guy got off easy. Getting rid of herpes is easier than getting rid of AOL.

  24. Cheezwiz says:

    This is nothing try living the UK! Mobile phone companies are the worst, I’ve been on the phone 2 hours while they do their best to keep me as a customer, admittidly I accepted thier deal in the end they did pull out all the stops.

    I it very interesting what happens when youc all up companies you pay a monthly subscription too when you say I want to reamin a cusotmer but I don’t want to spend x amount each month, most will accodate a reduction or like my Cable TV company offer a 6 month period for no charge, jsut to keep me as a cusotmer. Thats how desperate they are folks!

  25. Ran Kailie says:

    Yeah I have a similar incident several years ago with Comcast. Tired of paying tons of money for cable TV I didn’t watch, and more money for a cable modem then DSL would cost I called trying to cancel after my DSL was turned on.

    Talk about nightmare, the girl argued with me, called me a liar, and flat out refused to cancel my account. It took me threatening to call my credit card company and reporting the charges as fraudulent to get her to respond and cancel it.

    And of course the next month I got a bill and had to go down to one of their store locations and very nicely tell a supervisor to cancel it, remove the charges, or I was going to make a nasty scene.

    Just cancel it, retention like that only agitates people and makes them never want to use your service again. I’ve canceled other places for various reasons and never had trouble and a few I’ve gone back to afterwards.

  26. When you’re in that all center all day, everyone becomes the enemy. When I worked at Microsoft supporting Windows NT 3.51, it became easy to forget that irate customers after irate customer might actually have a point. And NT wasn’t even a subscription product…

    As I’ve spent far more than my eight minutes cancelling AOL and fending off diversionary questions, it’s not much of a leap to believe this call is EXACTLY how it sounds.

  27. Daemonati says:

    Does anyone else here frequent something awful? Vincente sounds supiciously like Richard “Lowtax” Kyanka from SA. I could be wrong. Anyway I canceled an AOL account about six months and I went through and eerily similar ordeal. I took two months for my account to finally get canceled.

  28. Ben says:

    I’m going to save this for the next time my kid asks “if they give you all these free hours, why don’t we sign up?”

    Has CNN picked up the story yet? (*snicker*)

  29. MikeWas says:

    “If at the beginning of the call, AOL says “This call may be recorded” it may be recorded by either party to the call right?”

    Andy, you are absolutely correct – even in so-claled “two-party” states like the one I live in, where permission of both parties must be given to record – in this case, both parties are on notie that the call is being recorded.

    The way I got rid of AOL many years ago was to work for them as a chat room moderator for a few months (thereby converting me to a free account) and then quitting. They didn’t cancel my account that instant, but I never paid for it again. And I didn’t argue when they finally said I had to give them a credit card or they would cancel my account.


  30. Rodger says:

    Unbelievable. I got the same run around Vincent did several months ago. AOL gave me a couple months free service, sent me a “fifty-dollar gift certificate” (five $10 dollar certificates it turns out for five different online stores) They told me I could call back or fax a sheet in to cancel if I still did not want my account. I faxed in the sheet and still did not get it cancelled. I just called in to cancel again and it took less than five minutes. Thank you Vincent. And now they are allowing me to keep my account “free of charge.” I told them I did not want it anyway. I am sure it is still not over…

  31. mailautoreply says:

    I cancelled my AOL account, and they did the same thing.

  32. jstaut says:

    When dealing with AOL use 321-CALL-LOG!

    I’ve promoted this service before in other posts because I really believe that it’s a great service, which only will get better and stronger as more people begin to use it. If all of us recorded our calls using 321-CALL-LOG when dealing with AOL and it was clear through all of our interactions that AOL was methodically providing the same kind of response when tying to cancel an AOL service, then it would be a lot harder for AOL to absolve itself from any responsibility.

    I could continue to rant on why 321-CALL-LOG is so great but you all should check it out to convince yourselves.

  33. mansaguy2005 says:

    When you’re in that all center all day, everyone becomes the enemy. When I worked at Microsoft supporting Windows NT 3.51, it became easy to forget that irate customers after irate customer might actually have a point. And NT wasn’t even a subscription product… As I’ve spent far more than my eight minutes cancelling AOL and fending off diversionary questions, it’s not much of a leap to believe this call is EXACTLY how it sounds.

  34. Televiper says:


    If they AOL CSR expected some kind of social engineering, or someone trying to cancel an other person’s account he could of done it politely. The security questions gave AOL all the evidence and due process they would need for that. They could also easily retain the data for a month in case the person calls back and they want their account re-established. This is a very famous call, and Vincent has appeared on some radio shows and it’s written up in a few articles if you look around.

  35. dvdchris says:

    With the reputation they have it’s hard to believe that anyone uses AOL. In my opinion, there is no more reason for the company to be in business. Every town now has dialup internet access or broadband from a real ISP and any “service” they offer is found usually for free on the real internet.
    They flood the environment with all these discs…
    I try to discourage anyone I talk to at work from using AOL. Our business gives away AOL discs, even though there is not an AOL phone number for our town. People have to have long distance charges or already have internet access and still they want to pay for this “service.” It boggles the mind…

  36. GMFGMF says:

    I received a free 6 month AOL account awhile ago after purchasing a Dell notebook. Since I already had cable internet, I let my brother use this free account. When I tried to cancel, I also had a tough time canceling. Every time I tried, I got the usual annoying sales pitch and offer for cheaper service. Every time, I refused anything that would cost me anything, and I was given 1 or more additional free months to evaluate the new features that might be useful to me. Some months when I called, the service rep would tell me the computers were down at the time (after they were able to get my account information and talk to me about it) , and that it was their policy to give me a free month because of this. After a few months of trying to cancel, I gave up and decided to keep AOL for free. I ended up with over an additional year of free AOL for my brother who was actively using the account. (Every time I tried to cancel, the rep would point out that my account was being used for many hours every day). One day, when I called to “cancel” my subscription, I was surprised when the rep actually canceled my account and did not offer me additional free months. This was over a year after my free 6 month trial :)

  37. 46hillbilly says:

    I had to completely wipe the pc’s disc to get that cancer called AOL out of my systems. It invades everything in your pc and cannot be removed short of a complete reboot from a cleaned disc.
    There were over 7 Trojans that came in; over 29,000 tracking cookies, 134 malware, others of invasive and damaging types as well.
    AOL has very poor security for the average pc user. It will not allow other programs to function either in the manor designed. SpyDoctor, McAfee, AVG, others that I and Dell computers’ tech’s tried.
    Only way was to wipe out my whole system.
    Start over.
    I even had a complete shut down from AOL stopping my programs from running; even my mandatory Microsoft Windows Media Home Edition, and Windows XP Professional.
    AOL is a PC’S Vampire; a 900 pound Gorilla trying to hide in a Volkswagen.

  38. you are annoying the shit out of me! CANCEL THE ACCOUNT!

  39. Anonymous says:

    My Letter To AOL

    I have been paying for dial-up with AOL for many years and didn’t realize that you were still automatically debiting your fees while I have had cable broadband since 2000. Because the AOL fee was automatically being deducted I had to close the old bank account in order to cancel service.

    AOL you make it extremely difficult to cancel an AOL account because you ask for decade old irrelevant information to prove identity. A simple password and a cancel button should suffice.

    But AOL you ask a family account many silly irrelevant questions which could widely vary depending on which family member originally signed up like…

    “What is your pets name”
    (I never had a pet)
    “What are the last 4 digits of your credit card number/account numbers”
    (I have had many accounts & cards and who knows which one I used 12 years ago)
    “Account names, home phone AND other phone and EVERY combination MUST BE CORRECT.
    (Honestly, we have had ATLEAST 7 or 8 phones numbers & cell numbers in the last years and our area code has changed 3 TIMES.)

    I have no earthly idea or way to know exactly what personal information was filled out 12 years ago.

    The hilarious part of the cancel process is that you get 4 attempts to GUESS what combination of info was put on a signup sheet in a previous decade.

    Now AOL… I did not have to relay all of this to you.
    AOL… you know that you have made it almost impossible for anyone to cancel their account in a simple timely manner.

    Meanwhile, you have and are raking in multi-millions of dollars… literally swindling people who are either too busy to hunt down and engage a phone CSR, and research bank account info in order to iron out this deceptive business practice,

    Or who are ignorant about whether they really need your services. People like my parents, on a budget who do not understand “broadband” and “dial-up.”

    Now I have been turned into a collection agency and have to resolve a money issue thru them for services that I did not use (dial-up.) I bet you even have a way of knowing that I have not used dial up for 10 years. And of course my credit has been ruined.

    Thanks AOL. In the beginning you were great. But because you did not adjust your business model to modern technology, you chose instead to take advantage of the ignorant, busy masses…

    You are no longer relevant or necessary. And millions who have felt ripped off when they have also discovered you’ve been taking their hard earned cash unnecessarily – will not trust you enough to do business with you in the future.

    You make the internet look bad. Shame on you AOL.
    What comes around goes around.

    The MHI SaraJane was polite and professional and provided good service to the best of her ability. But you AOL… deserve your own quality control survey and you receive a mark of “poor.” In academics that is known as a big fat F.

  40. CitizenWhy says:

    From experience, here;s what to do with this type of rep.

    1. Just repeat only: “Cancel the account now” three times no matter what he/she says. Do not answer his/her questions. Remain totally calm.

    2. If the rep persists, ask, without answering his/her question:

    “What is your name, location, title and employee number? I want to lodge a formal complaint with the Better Business Bureau and the Attorney General’s Office of your state and my state about your abusive behavior. Also give me the name and address of the CEO so I can write a complaint to him.” Remain perfectly clm. Talk as if your are talking to a nervous dog.

    Repeat, never answer any of their questions.

    Keep repeating this no matter what he/she says.

    You can easily lodge a compliant with an Attorney General’s Office through the Office’s web site. Just google: Attorney General state name complaint.

    You can get the CEO’s name and contact on the web site under Corporat, found in the About section (top or bottom) or at the bottom of the main page.