How AOL Drove My 80-Year-Old Neighbor To Gmail

Sometimes you’re better off packing it in and walking away from an account, even a free one, when things just aren’t working anymore. That’s the conclusion that Josh’s octogenarian neighbor came to regarding her AOL account. AOL, when you aren’t even holding on to the senior citizen market, that’s a bad sign.

She lost her password, and regaining access to the account requires information that she doesn’t have. The name of her school? She doesn’t remember ever telling them that, if she even remembered it in the first place. The last four digits of her payment credit card? She doesn’t pay for AOL anymore, and hardly anyone should be anymore.

I imagine at this point AOL has very few users of its e-mail service anymore. Based on my recent experience, it seems as if they’ve thrown in the towel.

I help an elderly neighbor with her computer issues on occasion. She told me she no longer had access to her AOL e-mail. When I tried resetting the password, I was instructed to call AOL customer service. I called and gained permission to speak on behalf of my elderly neighbor. To gain access to the account, the representative said I had to answer one of the following three questions:

1. What are the last 4 digits of the payment account?
2. What is the account code, located on the top right of a piece of AOL mail to the home address?
3. What is the school of the account holder? (note: not the first school or any other specific one she has attended)

– Regarding Q1, even my elderly neighbor no longer pays for AOL, so whatever payment account they have on file is from a decade earlier, and my neighbor has surely lost, thrown away, or cancelled that credit card.
– Regarding Q2, AOL has probably not sent her a piece of mail in ten years, during which time she has moved thrice.
– Regarding Q3, my neighbor is an octogenarian from Brazil. She remembers no names of any schools she attended 60+ years ago, nor could she spell them.

I tried to reason with the service rep and with the rep’s supervisor, but to no avail. I stated that they were essentially saying that without either of those three pieces of information that they were essentially saying that my neighbor had to create a new account. I hung up the phone and told my neighbor that I would call again in a few days and try speaking to another rep who might help her. Even my 80-year-old neighbor was savvy enough to say, “I think I should switch to Google.”

It’s probably an improvement over handing over unused e-mail addresses to just about anyone, but still kind of sad that someone who wants to keep using AOL can’t. You know, all three people.