By RANDALL STROSS The New York Times
"YOU'RE going to listen to me."
This was the taunting command of an AOL customer service representative who sounded like a jailer twirling his keychain. The customer on the phone wanted to complete his business, but the person on the other end of the phone did not share a sense of urgency.
It is fitting that the customer service representative's wish to be heard has been fulfilled on a scale he never anticipated.
When Vincent Ferrari, 30, of the Bronx, called AOL to cancel his membership last month, it took him a total of 21 minutes, including the time spent on an automated sequence at the beginning and some initial waiting in a queue. He recorded the five minutes of interaction with the AOL customer service representative and, a week later, posted the audio file on his blog, Insignificant ThoughtsShortly thereafter, those five minutes became the online equivalent of a top-of-the-charts single.
To listen as Mr. Ferrari tries to cancel his membership is to join him in a wild, horrifying descent into customer-service hell. The AOL representative, self-identified as John, sounds like a native English speaker; he refuses to comply when Mr. Ferrari asks, demands and finally pleads -- over and over again -- to close his account.