Our reader Jennifer isn’t the only former Time Warner employee whose AOL account has risen from the dead, prompting collection notices and confusion. Wall Street Journal investing columnist Jason Zweig, a former Time Warner employee, found himself in precisely the same situation, and wrote about his epic customer service adventure.
At this point, I decided to call AOL myself. After spending 10 minutes on hold, I reached a human being. She asked for the answer to the security question on the account–which we had set up nine years ago and neither my wife nor I remembered anymore. That was a dead end, so I asked her to send a printed bill to my home address. But she wasn’t authorized, either.
By the time Caller No. 5 rolled around, I was out of patience.
How can you charge me for something I didn’t order and certainly didn’t want, about which I was never informed, and for which I have received no bill of any kind?
Replied Caller No. 5: “You did agree to it, sir. You agreed to it when you opened the account.”
Really? I said incredulously. Can you document that?
“Yes, of course, sir,” he answered. I could almost hear his nose growing as he hesitated. “It was on … it was on … page C of your original account agreement.”
As if this weren’t preposterous enough, Caller No. 5 then offered me free AOL access “for the rest of your life” if I would just pay the $103.60.
If it was a free benefit when I was an employee and it’s now free forever to anyone who wants it, I asked, then why exactly do I owe $103.60?
“For the upgrade you requested, sir.”
I didn’t request any upgrade.
“Yes, you did, sir, on page D.”
Wasn’t that page C a minute ago?
“Yes, sir, quite right, page C.”
Are you confused yet? So was Zweig. He gave up on trying to kill the zombie account, and instead barricaded his property—that is to say, put a fraud alert on his credit report.