More Busy Signals at AOL

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DULLES, VIRGINIA: Did the Keystone Kops design AOLís damage control plan? Plagued by lawsuits and investigations in 36 states into the poor quality of its service, America Online two days ago announced a refund offer to make up to all those customers who had been getting busy signals when they tried to use the online service. Trouble is, the customers have to phone in for the refunds. And guess what theyíre hearing? Busy signals. Apparently AOL did not provide enough phone lines to handle the avalanche of customer calls for refunds. After navigating through a three-minute maze of menu options, callers Friday invariably hit a dead end with a recorded message to "call again later." Customer service representatives suggested that subscribers put their refund request in writing instead -- but an AOL spokesperson said that writing in would get customers nowhere. Noting that the settlement with several state attorneys general was worked out in less than a week, AOL insists that service will get better as their hastily-contrived phone operation adds more operators. As for AOLís public promise to add no new members until phone lines and modems are improved? Customer service representatives were still happily mailing out new membership kits on Friday, saying that they had heard nothing about the company's publicly-stated pledge to freeze membership at its current level of 8 million.