Famous Last Words: Gone Phishing
It was obviously a phishing scam. I wanted to report it to AOL, lest other unsuspecting members receive this shameful thing, fill it out and have their identities stolen to the tune of many thousands of dollars, thus destroying their credit and causing them months of angst.
Alas, nowhere could I find a place to contact a person at AOL to sound the alarm. In desperation, I called the 800 number on the phishing form and got Portia, who told me my credit card was up-to-date and no billing problem existed. “But what about this questionnaire?” I asked. “That is a scam,” she said matter-of-factly. “Disregard it.”
Portia had no interest in the very real threat that hundreds—maybe thousands—of AOL subscribers who received this thing were about to have their identities stolen. I was berserk.
The next day I received an e-mail from Joe Caliro, AOL’s “Director of Member Satisfaction,” asking me to fill out a questionnaire about Portia’s handling of my inquiry. “Aha!” I thought. “Somebody at AOL cares!” I clicked the reply button and wrote an urgent e-mail about how AOL members worldwide were about to have their identities stolen. When I clicked “send,” I got a little red STOP sign and the message:
“AOL Feedback - This member is currently not accepting e-mail from your account.”
Hatch’s new rule: A company that does not make it easy to hear directly and urgently from its customers and prospects is on a collision course with failure.
What’s going on? The techie hotshots who set up Internet protocols in the 1990s somehow had it in their heads that a Web site should never have the name of a person to e-mail. God forbid a hundred disgruntled customers bother the president of a company when anonymous customer service robots or an e-mail jail system could handle the complaints. In point of fact, the president of a company should damn well know when he has a hundred unhappy customers, because that probably is the tip of an iceberg that is about to rip the organization apart.