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  1. Anonymous says:

    How did you get the cell phone of an AOL rep?

  2. Smoking Pope says:

    “How did you get the cell phone of an AOL rep?”

    The judicious use of mind bending drugs.

  3. bambino says:

    Ben, now you’re scaring me.

  4. Tiger says:

    That rocks, too bad you scared the $!@# out of him.

  5. Smoking Pope says:

    Just curious… Why would he be lawyered up? AOL fired him, didn’t they? If so, he is probably free to talk about AOL.

    Of course, if they gave him a severance package he might have had to agree to STFU regarding AOL in order to get it…

  6. WMeredith says:

    I’d bet a year’s salary that he wasn’t allowed off AOL property without a signed non-disclosure agreement on file, considering the circumstances under which he was “not-retained”.

    Now, whether he was offered a severence pack for his Herbie Hancock, or had his head put in a vice is your call.

  7. He could be lawyered up in order to sue AOL for wrongful termination (given that he appeared to be doing nothing more than following company policy), in which case talking about AOL could hurt his case. (Total speculation of course, but there you go.)

  8. something_amazing says:

    How can you “be discreet” but publish this? Isn’t that a bit unfair to John?

  9. Smoking Pope says:

    On the subject of non-disclosure agreements signed after you’ve been layed off (usually in exchange for severance), I used an old Dilbert ploy when it happened to me once.

    I simply scanned in the agreement (I was allowed to take it home when I said I’d like to run it by my lawyer) and changed this sentence:

    _____ agrees not to publicly discuss the company in a negative or disparaging way.

    To this sentence:

    _____ agrees to publicly discuss the company in a negative or disparaging way.

    They never read the things after you sign them. I wonder how that would’ve played had they discovered it and taken me to court?

  10. Tiger says:

    By the way AOL almost always offered a severence package to anyone let go in a questionable situation with a signed agreement to not discuss AOL or sue them, they get 2 to 12 months of severence depending on how much HR says they can get sued for by the canned employee. Got lots of those stories.

    That was a great idea Smoking Pope.

  11. bambino says:

    Smoking Pope – Not very well, I don’t think. Like Fraud-not-very-well, in fact. Or something close.

  12. Tiger says:

    How is that fraud? He did not changed the document after he signed it. He simple produced his own document and signed it and gave it to them. Not sure a Judge wouldn’t see it that way. I would have put something like, He agrees to do jumping jacks naked in the parking lot. Or… Agrees to Smack CEO … Agrees to take a Crap on the CEO’s desk. :-)

  13. Shaggy says:


    Just like the onus is on you to read any contract you sign, the onus is also on the other party to read any contract THEY sign/accept. If you alter a contract, sign it, and the other party accepts it, well, it’s a contract. They’re bound by it just as much as you are.

    And, to cover my ass, I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.

  14. bambino says:

    Not if Mr. Pope received some sort of severance package due to the signing. And that disclaimer is pretty funny.

  15. Smoking Pope says:

    Well, first off, I would never had done this if I felt that it was a provision that they could ever prove I violated. I wasn’t exactly planning on going on TV and saying that company sucked. But it irked me that they felt they could mismanage me out of a job and then ask me not to say anything negative about them.

    My take on it was that there was nothing illegal in changing the contract to my liking, and the worst I could expect was them not paying my severance until I signed a contract to their liking.

  16. Smoking Pope says:

    Once they paid my severance, though, I would argue that that constituted acceptance of the contract I turned in, totally letting me off the hook.

  17. I too find the irony of printing “can be discreet” on your webpage amusing.

  18. Ishmael says:

    It sounds more like you’re asking for a love affair rather than an interview. I’ve seen some psycho chics leave messages like that. “Please…. I can keep it on the d/l! Promise!”

  19. RumorsDaily says:


    I actually would be interested in hearing his story: “I was only following orders…”

  20. Smoking Pope says:

    I too, would like to hear his story, but it’s probably fairly predictable:

    We were under a lot of pressure to “save” members, and we have to be aggressive or we lose our jobs. I was pretty much following company policy until he told me I was annoying the shit out of him, and then maybe I went too far. But like I said, we were all under a lot of pressure.

  21. Demingite says:

    John is probably traumatized and overwhelmed by what has happened. I feel badly for him. It wouldn’t shock me if AOL has threatened him in all kinds of ways to prevent him from coming forward.

  22. Demingite says:

    I think it would be appropriate to leave him completely alone. If that is the same guy, he’s now had his voice broadcast to the entire world, without his permission or consent, twice. I imagine he values his privacy, as much as any random person would. I think it’s a huge mistake to hound him in any way, and calling him, recording the phone call, and putting it on the internet is, I believe, hounding him. It impresses me as quite invasive. John would probably desperately like some privacy right now. He’s been through an enraging and humiliating experience of being a random scapegoat, a victim of extraordinarily bad luck, and he almost certainly needs time and space to recover from that. Trouble getting new work may be adding even more to the PTSD.

    If he wishes to come forward, ever, it should be at a time and place that is right for him.

    Mr. Popken, if you are truly on his side, I would remove that recording from your website. He deserves privacy and respect.

  23. Brianron says:

    Please leave this poor guy alone. He was doing his job according to the dictates of AOL in order to make a living. Maybe he went too far in terms of trying to retain Vincent as an AOL customer, but he did not commit any crimes, nor did he try to do anything that, on balance, would warrant public embarrassment and ridicule.

    Let the punishment fit the proverbial crime. That is, AOL deserves ridicule, protests, terminations, etc. But this poor guy doesn’t.

  24. Vinny says:

    Who’s ridiculing him? Everyone wants him to come out and defend himself! AOL scapegoated the damn guy and fired him when we already know from their own handbook that, aside from his attitude, he was doing EXACTLY what he was trained to do.

    I’d love for him to come out and say, “Yep. That’s what they train us to do.” Instead he’s laying low, and AOL made an example out of him.

    How fair is that?

  25. Demingite says:

    He’s not being explicitly ridiculed, at least not here, but he is certainly being publicly embarrassed (as Brianron put it) and caused significant distress, without deserving it, again. I personally feel that recording and posting another conversation with him, outside of his former work at AOL, is a major violation of his privacy, and not likely to encourage him to be helpful. It probably feels to John even worse than ridicule: He’s not safe. He was tracked down, and his private conversation was recorded without his consent and now it’s posted on the web for the world to hear. It’s 1984-ish. John is probably horrified. (Again.)

    Mr. Popken, I plead with you to ponder what it might feel like to be John. Just spend a minute or two imagining what it would be like to be in his shoes. Imagine how you would feel if these things happened to you — including this last incident with your private phone conversation being posted on the internet.

    The irony is that I suspect John would be more willing to come out if he were treated more empathically.

    As far as John’s laying low, I think it’s asking a lot for John, a total random person, to suddenly become famous (not anonymously) and become an anti-AOL crusader. Many of us would love it if he wanted to do that, but a lot of human beings would understandably have no interest in doing so — and I’m gathering John’s in that category. Fame can come at a huge cost. It can be extremely stressful. Furthermore, he may also be under legal shackles from AOL. He could well have been paid hush money and/or threatened with retaliation if he “sings.” AOL would probably pull out all the stops to defame this poor, innocent, random man. (Imagine the lawyers available to Time Warner vs. a single call center employee who just lost his job.)

    It’s just a whole lot to put on one random guy’s shoulders!!! I feel extremely sorry for him. (His situation reminds me a great deal of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery.)

    He does not owe anyone anything. I think he should be left 100% alone. AOL, on the other hand, owes plenty to a lot of people for the grief they caused.

    I believe that a reasonable way to seek recompense from AOL is to pool as many former “retention consultants” as possible together, so AOL can’t go after just one of them. Collect their testimonies. And collect the testimonies of thousands of consumers. This could be a powerful follow-up to the New York class action suit.

    Short of that, simply publicizing AOL’s tactics has been a fantastic thing. I think Vincent’s recording was a major public service, but the man who happened to be recorded (who, by the way, was less obnoxious and offensive than many other retention consultants…this guy was simply unlucky) should be completely exonerated and immediately allowed to live a free, private life. (While if he went public, it should be completely of his choosing.)