Just Cancel the @#%$* Account


A PC World reporter subscribed to 32 online services, then documented the difficulty he had cancelling his accounts.

Even with its highly-publicized track record in this area, AOL is again one of the worst offenders.

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  1. Back in the day this was AOL exclusive territory. Seems others are learning from their leadership in the field?

    When they were pay-by-the-hour the system would ask you several times if you really wanted to log off. When you wanted to cancel the humans would ask you endlessly if you really wanted to cancel.

  2. I see a new profession evolving out of this: The Cancellation Counsel.

  3. Of course, it’s not just online providers, try to cancel anything and a pseudo-concerned counsellor will try to talk you out of your folly.

    I have turned the system on its head. After having so much trouble cancelling my cell phone service (and having them offer me everything short of a hand job to stay), I called my online provider, my satellite company, my phone company, etc. just to see what they would all give me to stay with them. I walked away with most of the bills cut in half for a year. Of course, they probably have some kind of tracking system to keep you from doing this every few months, but I think this will become something I do every year. Kind of like changing furnace filters or thinking about changing the batteries in my smoke detectors …

  4. I haven’t had trouble with NetZero either time I’ve cancelled — Netscape internet put me through 11,000 hoops, though.

    Although, checking my credit card statement to make sure just now, I caught a double charge on something else. Thanks, Reason!

  5. When I get this kind of hassle, I use the ‘pseudo-lawyer’ option: I cite some [non-existent] statute that they are supposedly violating by delaying/obstructing/refusing to follow instructions and advise that, if it is not corrected, I will file a complaint with some official sounding board.

    It works every time.

  6. Apparently cancelations have been a problem for some time. From the vault:

    Oct. 3, 1966
    Dear Sir:
    I’m not “physicists,” I’m just me. I don’t read your magazine so I don’t know what’s in it. Maybe it’s good. I don’t know. Just don’t send it to me. Please remove my name from the mailing list as requested. What other physicists need or don’t need, want or don’t want has nothing to do with it.

    Thank you for spending all the time to write such a long letter to me. It was not my intention to shake your confidence in your magazine-not to suggest that you stop publication-only that you stop sending one copy here. Can you do that, please?

    Sincerely yours,
    Richard P. Feynman.

  7. My father-in-law cancelled his aol subscription (with the hlep of my wife) and received a cinfirmation letter in the mail.
    They continued charging his account for 6 months AFTER HIS DEATH, until she noticed the charge on his credit card statement.

    When confronted with the evidence, they would only refund $60 explained they could not issue checks above that amount.

  8. As a former in-house counsel who got to field complaints, my recommendation is that you skip the customer service department altogether (if the first try doesn’t work, of course) and go straight to corporate. Better yet, send a letter directly to the general counsel.

    If you feel the company has an endemic predatory culture, feel free to intersperse your remarks with references to the FTC and to any other regulators that have jurisdiction over the company. State attorney generals are also worthy of mention. You can also go past threats and actually complain to the FTC, regulators, AGs, etc., which is another way of sending the message in large, blinking letters to corporate.

  9. Pro Liberate has it right.

    If they want you to call, it’s so they can hassle and annoy the piss out of you one way or the other.

    Here’s one place old-world tech has the edge. They can’t talk back when you cancel via a mailed letter.

  10. Funny, I just went thru hell with something called “”. It’s supposed to match concerts with a list of band you input. Only it sends annoying emails every day “matching” bands I’ve never heard of. And they’re all “hip” too. Oh, and I can’t log in because I don’t remember my password, they never sent it to me in an email, and the button that’s supposed to send me a new one is broken in the two browsers I tried it on. So… another domain gets added to my permanent blacklist. No money involved; just really, really annoying.

  11. If they want you to call, it’s so they can hassle and annoy the piss out of you one way or the other.

    I agree with that generally, but when I canceled Audible a few years ago, the only way to quit it was to call. I thought that seemed like a big hassle, but on the phone they were polite and not pushy, although they did ask all the questions about how they could keep me. They accepted my answer and said that they hoped they could be of service to me in the future.
    If I ever have enough time to browse for two audiobooks a month, every month, and listen to them, I will sign up again. I spent way too much time listening to samples to find good books that were well performed.

  12. The hardest time I had canceling a service was something I inexplicably signed up for back in the late 90s. Basically, they’d mail me a CD of random shareware every month, and charge me something like $15/mo. for it. I have no idea what I was thinking.

    After I got the second disk and it was all crap, too, I decided to cancel. I called their number (long distance), and they asked for an account number. I couldn’t find it, and they refused to look it up based on my name.

    A month passes. Another CD arrives. This time, I discover the account number is printed on the mailing label, which is affixed to the outside of the shrink-wrap. How very clever to get me to throw away the account number immediately.

    Call back (long distance). “Our hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Central, Monday to Thursday.” Click. It being Friday evening, I get to wait.

    Leave campus early on Monday to get home in time to call. Make phone call (long distance) at 4:30 Eastern (3:30 Central). Sit on hold for thirty minutes. “Our hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Central, Monday to Thursday.” Click.

    Skip class on Tuesday in order to call (long distance) early in the morning. Wait on hold for forty-five minutes before reaching a human. Like most telemarketing services, you have to ask three times before they take you seriously.

    Oh! I actually have another one.

    Telemarketer calls my then wife and convinces her to sign us up for some long-distance plan. It costs fifty dollars. (At the time, I worked for a long-distance provider and had a pretty sweet employee discount. We’re divorced now.)

    Every time I called to cancel, they’d take down my information. The following month, I’d be signed up for another account (at fifty dollars). Once I got to the point where I was signed up for three long-distance accounts, I gave up and called Discover to challenge the charges. Amazingly, that cleared it up.

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