Maxine Gauthier doesn’t own a computer. She doesn’t know the first thing about Web browsing or sending e-mail. She’s not even sure where to find a computer’s “on” button, as she describes it.
Yet for the past nine months, she has been fighting one of the most persistent and some say irritating institutions in cyberspace: AOL, formerly known as America Online.
“They just haven’t wanted to let go,” the 55-year-old St. Louisan said. “I don’t think they’ll ever really let go.”
Her struggle has involved about a dozen phone calls often ending with an AOL customer service representative or manager hanging up on her. She even tried impersonating someone else in a couple of the calls. The giant online service provider wouldn’t budge.
The problem? An AOL account once held by Gauthier’s late father still showed billing charges accumulating against it. The account had been dormant for months; the credit card he used for it was inactive at least as long.
Nevertheless, AOL kept charging $25.90 each month for dial-up online access. Late fees for non-payment accumulated on the credit card, too.
Gauthier even offered to send a copy of her father’s obituary as proof he truly was dead. AOL was unmoved.
“An AOL service guy told me to stop complaining and learn to use a computer,” she said. “Then he hung up.”