Letters to Redmond

Suggestions for the 'Spam King'

Readers offer their advice for Doug's father, who inadvertently ran afoul of AOL's strange spam policies.

Suggestions for the 'Spam King'
I can relate to what Doug Barney's father is going through with being labeled a spammer on AOL ("My Dad the Spam King," June 2009). I, too, was banned after e-mailing a list of people who filled out requests for information. I met the same responses as Barney's dad. AOL wouldn't tell me who made the complaint, so I couldn't remove the offended party from the list.

Should I have held back information from everyone who requested that information simply because one absent-minded subscriber thought they were being spammed? This appears to be completely counteractive to the whole point of the Internet and e-mail.

Scott Gutauckis
Holly Hill, Fla.

I know exactly how frustrating dealing with AOL can be. I work for the Superior Court of California, and we've had at least two separate instances where, due to someone reporting received e-mail as spam, AOL has blocked mail coming from one of our domains. Additionally, that domain just so happened to be the domain for an entire Court that we manage. Dealing with AOL to resolve e-mail issues is a lesson in patience and frustration, but I always start at the http://postmaster.info.aol.com page. Somewhere in there is a phone number to contact AOL mail admins directly, which really helps facilitate the process.

Name withheld by request
received by e-mail

There are numerous social-networking ways to avoid self-managing e-mail lists and being hassled by poorly trained ISP personnel. Barney's dad could set up a Yahoo! Group and invite the people on his list to join. I manage a few lists that way, and it allows for interaction between the members that can be moderated. Another way is to use one of the new social networks. I like Ning at this point. That would allow him to do blogs, have discussions, set up groups, post images and so on -- all managed neatly with a decent interface that controls membership, interaction and layout.

Jim Donaldson
Atlanta, Ga.

Get Barney's dad off AOL: The company is run by a bunch of losers. Switch him over to Gmail, Yahoo! or MSN mail, and call it a day!

Edward Bailey
Livonia, Mich.

I was a fairly satisfied AOL customer about 10 years ago, but the company moved me in the opposite direction in fairly short order. First of all, my son the social butterfly discovered AOL and, without my knowledge, ran up a $150 charge one month. I determined I'd have to disconnect from AOL and called to request disconnection.

A representative tried to prevent me from going away by offering to give three months free. When I insisted, the guy told me that I was in the middle of my billing period, and AOL policy stated I couldn't request a disconnect until a day or so before the end of the period. I hung up resolved to call back in a week and a half. Naturally, it slipped my mind.

Two months later, when I was detailing my bank statement, I saw the pesky AOL charge and called back when I expected the billing period would permit me to get out. The AOL customer "service" cretin insisted upon knowing why I wanted out for his records. I told him that I wasn't really using it, whereupon he contradicted me by citing my actual use, which was about five hours per week.

I told him that if he didn't close my account at once, I'd close my credit card account, and AOL could send me dunning letters until hell froze over. I also told him I was going to make a visit to my state's attorney general's office, consumer protection division. At this, he finally conceded.

Of course, it took another three months and additional phone calls to get AOL to stop charging my card. By that time, if I'd been a believer in voodoo, I would've invested in a Steve Case doll and lots of needles and pins.

Mike Clark
Olympia, Wash.

About the Author

This page is compiled by the editors of Redmond magazine from your letters. Write to us at letters@redmondmag.com and if your letter is printed in the magazine, you'll be entered into a drawing for a free Redmond T-shirt.

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