Here's a fascinating story that demonstrates just how customer-friendly AOL-Time Warner is. One of its UK subscribers - a woman who while not technically minded does know a little bit about the Internet - rang up the AOL helpline to ask a technical query.
In the course of the call she happened to mention that she used the Internet Explorer browser over her AOL connection. And was suddenly told by the phone operator: "I'm sorry, Madam, I will have to put a note to that effect against your file; by using Explorer you have forfeited your right to technical support from us in the future."
She asked why this little fact wasn't explicitly mentioned in any of the AOL literature and was told it was because 90 per cent of AOL customers are first-time users of the Internet. Apparently using the words 'Internet' and 'Explorer' together would only serve to "confuse" them.
So, naturally, the lady in question promised that from now on she would only use the god-awful AOL browser. That didn't cut the mustard. "I'm afraid it's too late - we've only got your word for it after all," was the reply. Even the threat to move to another ISP made no difference.
So, it's good to see that AOL isn't justifying any of those control-freak, corporate tendencies that it has often been criticised for. ®
We should thank Richard Adams from The Guardian for sending this information to us. After all, he is the only national newspaper journalist that bothers to credit us when he takes a story from the site...
Yes, yes, we've had numerous people point out that the AOL browser is just a cut-down version of Internet Explorer. We should have known better and put it in the story first off.
More interestingly, apparently with the latest AOL offer, it gives you the option to install Explorer 5.5. And we've had one tech support assuring us that Explorer and even Opera are given tech support.
But the conversation happened, and that's why we find it so amusing. Another case of a company forgetting a main rule in business: made sure the people that talk first to the customers reflect the company as a whole.