The Hatchet Man of AOL Retention

Here’s a little ditty about an AOL hatchet man who took a perverse pleasure in firing retention consultants.

Back in 2003, Kurt Walker was an Associate General Manager in the Oklahoma call center. His nickname, “The Hatchet,” derived from the “gleam in his eyes and a smile on his face” when motivating the Saves Coaches to fire employees.

One saves coach, Dan Critchfield, sent around a mass email to his higherups, declaiming, “I have grown weary of Kurt telling…on an almost daily basis, in our Team huddles…About how much “fun it was” to fire certain people.” Of Kurt, Dan said:

“My true impression is that of a sociopath with no conscience.”

After an email was sent around encouraging saves coaches to up their numbers, Kurt sent his own to hammer in the message. While his took a strong tone, with lines like, “10 calls a day will keep the unemployment office at bay” and “Do these things mean anything to you?” he seemed to feel he was looking out for his worker’s best interests. “You may not agree with me right now, but I am going to force you to make money,” Kurt wrote.

After his email didn’t go over well, Kurt arranged an emergency team potluck. One that was meticulously organized

There were to be two green veggies, two side dishes, two salads and three deserts. No more, no less. Everything was micromanaged to the last asparagus.

The sender of this email, who we previously interviewed, doesn’t know what happened to Dan. “I am sure he was fired,” he says. “That is what we refer to as “Final Flame Email”. These were popular…their last way to stab at the company they had come to hate.”

Presented in its epic entirety after the jump…

Red arrows point to the juicy bits.




Edit Your Comment

  1. Jesse McBesse says:

    That is one wordy bastard.

  2. Demingite says:

    I’m afraid the AOL culture (values being set at the top) was a warm petri dish for that kind of behavior.

  3. creamsissle says:

    He lose’s major point’s with me for improper use of apostrophe’s.

  4. AcidReign says:

    …..Oh, I know. Everyone who went to Alabama public school’s doe’s this. I think it’s required on company memos.

    …..I’ll be interested in their numbers of new, free members that sign up in the wake of this change. I kinda doubt many people will care.

  5. Nougat says:

    Kurts emails don’t seem rediculous. Don’t avoid calls, don’t put people on hold and go smoke. Monitor your dudes 10 times a day. I’m sure he is different in person, with his zeal for canning people. He does’t seem like anything out of the ordinary, though.

  6. reachjer says:


    Look at the headers. The second to last email, regarding cigarette breaks, game playing, etc., was not written by Kurt. A dead giveaway is its non-stream-of-consciousness style, its direct language, and lack of punctuation errors. Also, Talion signs it at the end.

    The call monitoring is an issue because Kurt (a full management level above Dan) is basically micro-managing his subordinate’s work.

  7. etinterrapax says:

    You would think a micromanager like Kurt wouldn’t want “deserts” for dessert.

  8. Karmakin says:

    Well, as someone who works in the industry, I can tell you that this really is a petri dish for bad behavior, as Demingite mentions.

    If you call any sort of center for any support, you don’t want them so busy that they have no time to breath. And the last thing you want is any sort of strict time rules. What happens? You get decieved, mislead, anything to get you as a plus on their chart and off the phone. Why? Because that’s how people keep their job.

    So you have a situation that as a customer, the people you WANT to be speaking to are losing their jobs, and the people you don’t want to be speaking to are being promoted. This is a typical moral hazard problem.

    Although this isn’t limited to AOL, it’s not exactly widespread in the industry either, at least domestically. From what I hear, it’s common practice in Indian centers, and I do blame problems with overseas outsourcing to these practices.

    It’s called being punted people. It’s an agent deciding to get you off their phone to make themselves look better statistically. And if you’re getting bad service, it’s the most likely reason its happening.

    (Where I work, although there are metrics to meet, and to be honest they’re slightly out of date, there’s no huge pressure to meet them, most people make up for slightly high talk times with great customer satisfaction).