Former Elite AOL Retainer Interviewed

Tricks an AOL retainer used to keep people from cancelling:

• If the husband calls up and you see the wife’s name is on the account, say the wife needs to call. When the wife calls, says the husband needs to call. Keep juggling untill the give up or both call in at the same time.
• If the customer asks, “Are you going to bill me for this?” Say no and the customer hangs up, thinking they canceled. See, the retainer himself isn not going to bill him, AOL is.
• Use rebuttal after rebuttal until the customer gets confused and thinks his account is cancelled.

Listen to the interview in full below.


Transcript after the jump…


CONSUMERIST: America Online gave him trips to Mexico and thousands of dollars in bonuses. He was in the elite, an expert at getting people to not cancel AOL. But he didn’t there by being Mr. Nice Guy. interviews a former AOL retainer.


CONSUMERIST: What would be some examples of some of the tricks you had up your sleeve?

RETAINER: “Are you gonna get billed for this?” Well, I’m not gonna bill you.


RETAINER: Well, I’m not. America Online is.


RETAINER: A lot of these tricks I came up with myself, and showed others, and my boss would ask me, “Hey, can you please show these other people here how to do that?” Member calls up and says they want to cancel, and the wife’s name is on the account, the husband’s calling, so “Oh, you need to have your wife call.” The wife calls and, “Ohp. Your husband needs to call.”


RETAINER: As long as you can get them to not cancel the account, you get a small bonus.

CONSUMERIST: Mmhm. I received an email from another person, he’s claiming people having anxiety attacks, people…

RETAINER: Yeah. When I first got into the saves department, had a little bit of anxiety myself, and went to the doctor and complained about not being able to sleep, and having problem, trouble eating. He told me it was because of the anxiety of the job. And he gave me some medicine to help take that edge off. And it helped, but I had to take medicine to actually, make it through those, probably first three or four months there until I got acclimated to the environment.


RETAINER: So yes, the stress is quite a lot. People have anxiety attacks, people have been taken away in ambulances from the call center.

CONSUMERIST: In the manual we uploaded, there’s been talk about this crazy program called, “Merlin.”

RETAINER: It’s just an interface allowing them to look at the accounts and change things in accounts. What you really want to look at is the Retention Buddy. That’s the software that was written specifically for the saves department. And had rebuttals, and questions, and basically, how to handle just about any situation from any member that called in. Like, oh, we have great Parental Controls that you can use that will help… keep your daughter from these things. And if they said no to that, they would with a second rebuttal and a third and you used as many as you could until the person got ticked off or you confused ’em enough till where they thought the account was cancelled.


CONSUMERIST: What eventually made you decide to leave?

RETAINER: They started really cutting back on the money. My calls were listened to quite a bit and one call got listened to and I didn’t do a couple of things and they took $2500 from me.

CONSUMERIST: For one call?

RETAINER: For one call being off. I just didn’t feel good about what I was doing anymore. The job I have now, it’s high pressure, I have a lot of responsibility, but it’s nowhere near the stressful levels that it was at AOL.

CONSUMERIST: Probably don’t need a prescription to get through your day.

RETAINER: Nope, not at all, no more of that.

CONSUMERIST: Right…right.

CONSUMERIST: Our anonymous interviewee told us that he was not only not surprised at John’s behavior during Vincent’s phone call, it was typical, and certainly not the worst an AOL rep could muster. Join next time when we speak with another retainer… who paints a graphic portrait of life inside an Oklahoma call center, and how far they went to deal with the pressures.

OK: There were people selling on the floor! You could get meth, you could get pot…

CONSUMERIST: All that and more, on, your number one source for the disco party over AOL’s grave.



AOL Retention Manual Revealed
NYT Notes AOL Manual Upload, Questions Raised
AOL Updates Retention “Offer Matrix”
AOL Internal Memos, After Vinny’s Call


Edit Your Comment

  1. ckilgore says:

    that was awesome.

  2. something_amazing says:

    Someone needs to think carefully about the diference between ATM hacker John Dillinger and AOL retainer. Both exploit people. Both warp their own sense of morality. Both steal from people.

    Which one is capable of more evil?

  3. AcilletaM says:

    The ATM hacker is using your money to buy things you might want…

  4. etinterrapax says:

    Much as I’m enjoying this bloodbath, it occurs to me that the publicity may be doing AOL a favor by making it so intimidating to call and cancel that people just don’t bother. $20/month isn’t bad protection money against a vicious anal raping. So instead of taking them down, we might be inadvertently propping them up. But the question is, what to do differently? Bringing the critters out into the light seems like the best choice, still. I just worry.

  5. Vinny says:

    I doubt that. Lots of commenters on my site havae told me they love the publicity this has generated because their cancellations were a breeze.

  6. Tiger says:

    Now a third party has to verify an AOL member wants to stay after an AOL rep finishes the pitch. They transfer the caller to a third party which double checks the member wants to stay a member and knows they will get billed. No games to play anymore, and no big fat bonuses for the saves reps. Lots of AOL reps losing their nice cars and houses.

  7. Ben Popken says:

    Nathan writes:

    “Thanks for your excellent work on the AOL story.

    I have seen comments (mainly on the Slashdot discussion) to the effect that, “well, if you have trouble canceling AOL by phone, they offer options to cancel via fax or US Mail.”

    I doubt if anyone who had tried to do this would mention those avenues as viable options. AOL requires various information to be included on the cancellation request (information that the customer retention people don’t collect on the phone, so its necessity is suspect), and even if you include all of it correctly, they will send you a postcard in the mail claiming that you didn’t, and asking you to call their customer retention line. Pathetic.”

  8. Ben Popken says:

    Nathan is correct, it is possible to cancel AOL by mail and by fax. However, you have to make sure that every single instruction they give you is followed and not a single digit or letter is off on your form. Otherwise they will not process your cancellation request.

  9. Vinny says:

    Honestly, the fact that people trust a company who can’t honor a direct request when you’re speaking to them to be honest with such an indirect method as a fax or a letter is laughable.

    I wouldn’t trust AOL, at this point, to mop my floors let alone let me go as a customer.

  10. Bpj says:

    I seriously considered suicide when I worked in the cancellation department at AOL, I quit after trying it out for 2 months. I felt dirty everyday when i got home and had nightmares about the job a year after I left.