All that Vincent Ferrari wanted to do was cancel the AOL account he never used anymore. It was the first thing he said when "John at AOL" answered his call, and almost 4 minutes later, after countless questions and unsolicited "advice" from John, he was still saying it.
The 30-year-old Ferrari posted his painful -- but ultimately hilarious -- verbal runaround on the Internet on June 13, and he achieved the kind of instant celebrity that only the Web can bring about. He has been interviewed by CNBC, and his story has appeared in a score of other news outlets.
The conversation began innocently enough:
John at AOL: "Hi, This is John at AOL. How may I help you today?"
Ferrari: "I wanted to cancel my account."
John at AOL: "Sorry to hear that. I'm going to pull your account up here real quick. Can I have your name please?"
But the dialogue soon degenerated into a debate about account usage:
John at AOL: "No. [Ferrari's father's] was on 71 hours since the 24th of last month."
Ferrari: "No he wasn't. He doesn't even have the AOL software installed on his computer. You are looking at AIM usage, probably."
John at AOL: "Well, what's the cause for turning this off today?"
Ferrari: "I don't use it and he doesn't use it, so we're canceling it. I'm telling you he doesn't use it, and the software is not even on his computer."
John at AOL: "Well, OK. Is there a problem with the software itself?"
Ferrari: "No, it's just I don't use it. I don't need it. I don't want it. I don't need it anymore."
John at AOL: "So when you use it, the computer, is it for business or for school?"
Ferrari: "Dude, what difference does it make? I don't want the AOL account any more. Can you please cancel it?"
Ferrari: "I don't know how to say this any clearer, so I am just going to say this one last time. Cancel... the... account... please."
John at AOL: "Well, explain to me what's... why."
Ferrari: "I am not explaining anything to you. Cancel the account."
John at AOL: "Whoa -- What's the matter, man? We're just... I'm just trying to help."
Ferrari: "You're not helping me. You're helping me..."
John at AOL: "I am trying to, OK?"
Ferrari: "Helping me... Listen, I called to cancel the account. Helping me would be would be canceling the account. Please help me and cancel my account."
John at AOL: "No it wouldn't, actually."
Ferrari: "Cancel my account!"
John at AOL: "Turning off your account would be the worst..."
Ferrari: "Cancel the account! Cancel the account!"
John at AOL: "Is your dad there?"
"I've never ever experienced anything like that," Ferrari later told CNBC. "I think I could have put up with everything, but at the point when he asked to speak to my father, I came very close to losing it."
After the tape was posted on the Web, AOL sent Ferrari an apology and issued a statement saying that "John at AOL" was now John no longer at AOL.
"At AOL, we have zero-tolerance for customer care incidents like this - which is deeply regrettable and also absolutely inexcusable. The employee in question violated our customer service guidelines and practices, and everything that AOL believes to be important in customer care - chief among them being respect for the member, and swiftly honoring their requests," the statement said.
Sources: The tape, Ferrari's blog posting, NBC10.com