Special Consumer Report by Don Browne
LABELLE, FLORIDA - I've used the AOL services almost from the beginning, when dial-up internet service was the only choice back in the 1980s. For example, I've posted all our Southwest Florida Online and Sunday Morning News pages using AOL for over ten years. But that's all I used them for. I have several other internet providers for email and browsing online.
The AOL services had been the butt of many jokes for decades, and probably deservedly so. The customer service was awful, the online interface was clunky and hard to navigate, and on and on.
But in recent months, AOL has been taking a 180 degree turn and now has their act together. AOL has become a totally free service for anyone now. And the scope of information they provide is overwhelmingly good. AOL found that they were losing customers by the millions with their previous subscription plans that were actually more expensive than all other internet providers. Now, they've reversed course and are giving away all their online service including free e-mail names, free radio and music stations online, and more than ample news and information pages, all freely accessible to all.
Their are still some glitches...
Last month, I found my monthly bill had been overcharged about $30. I didn't look forward to making that dreaded phone call to "customer service" at AOL. After what seemed like and eternity of waiting and pushing button one, button two, ad nauseum, finally got to a live person, who had that now all too familiar southeast Asian accent but an American name "Fred", who claimed I had overused my allowed minutes last month. After much argument, Fred allowed me a full credit for the extra charges. Ok, so all's well.
Well, not exactly. This month I received a letter saying I had cancelled my subscription account and now had one of the new free accounts. This was mysterious as I had not cancelled my account.
So back to the phone to figure out what was going on. After more buttom pushing, finally got to the live person (this time without any foreign accent)and they tell me that they don't exactly know how my account got cancelled and into the free account. When questioned further, they could not answer fully what I was giving up in taking on the free account. It seemed like I was to receive the same service as before but.. I could no longer call for assistance or use AOL's service to log onto the internet. That was OK since I had several other internet service providers all along anyway. Because AOL customer service has been awful, I'm not going to miss it.
A Thumbs UP
So, the bottom line....I give AOL's new free services a big thumbs up. I've only mentioned the tip of the iceberg as far as what they now offer for free. Take a look at all of their now free services by going to Free AOL and try the music service for some great choices in AOL's 200 radio stations and XM's Radio's 20 more...all for free.