opinion

The End of An Era

Stephen Yagielowicz
They say that cancelling a porn site membership can be difficult, but it ain't anything compared to some of the hoops that mainstream companies can put you through.

For example, last night I cancelled my EarthLink account — a process that was not as smooth, easy and polite as I would have liked it to be — and a process that serves as a good (or bad) example of customer service.

A relic of my early Internet days, flogging through the ether with a fancy new US Robotics Sportster 14.4k which would top out around 11k with my island connection — it might have been better to use two coconuts and a length of vine for communications, but in the day, EarthLink was my best (and often only) option.

And I've had that account, with a decidedly "obviously for porn" username, since the early 1990's — although its only use in the past decade has been to provide a backup dialup connection at home and on the road — a use that hasn't been needed in years, despite its previous status as being vital and necessary to my operations.

But it was $25 a month down the drain, and nostalgia or not, it had to go. Heck, I don't even have a landline or jack I can use it with — and I don't stay in hotels without Wi-Fi, so, adios dialup.

EarthLink, however, seemed to have other plans…

It didn't matter that I had my account number, username, password and PIN number — the Indian operator insisted that I had the incorrect answer to the security question of "What is your mother's maiden name?" and was telling me that she couldn't help me.

I repeated my mother's maiden name and spelled it out with the accuracy of someone calling in a fire mission very close to his friends. "No, that's not at all correct, sir," she responded again. "I'm sorry, I won't be able to close or access your account."

I plead with her, explaining that I know mom's name and their system must be wrong.

Then she says, "Let me email you a confirmation link that you'll need to click," and tries to end the call. "Wait a minute," says I, inquiring as to the email address she was going to use — which of course was the EarthLink user address — an account that I have never logged into and wasn't about to setup access to just for this. She wouldn't use an alternate email address (any of the dozen I do check) and once again told me she couldn't help me.

[Rage deleted to protect sensitive readers…]

A good night's sleep later, I'd like to apologize to the nice lady who did in fact end up closing my account, but was probably crying when she did so, as I got a bit too excited with her.

While I appreciate caution on the part of critical infrastructure providers seeking to protect customers from malicious account changes, etc. it shouldn't be as hard as it often is to end a business relationship that started so easily. Making it difficult only leaves a bad impression with the customer, whether you're running a paysite, ISP or any other business — and a steady, repeat customer isn't one you want to offend, especially if you want to make another sale to him or her someday.

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