My Mom Has Been Trying to Cancel EarthLink for 10 Years

And literally can't.

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Feb 13 2015, 6:00pm

Image: Emanuel Maiberg

In 2005, without much planning ahead, my parents moved from a suburb outside Tel Aviv to rural Maine. They were already in a location that's warm and humid in the same way that attracts retirees to Florida, but instead plunked down in a state known for brutal winters and icy steps practically designed to shatter hips. They also had to settle for dial-up internet, which millions of Americans still pay for.

When they first got there, my mom set up a dial-up connection with EarthLink, as they were out of range of cable, DSL, and a local wireless network that's beamed down on the nearest "town" via a large antenna atop a hill.

The email address associated with the account was also my mom's first.

A few months later, my parents put a dish on the side of their house and got satellite internet from DirectTV, which later became HughesNet. It's faster, but comes with strict data caps and is horrendously expensive. Last year, the local internet service provider expanded its service to my parents house, and since they abandoned satellite and planted an antenna on their house, things have been much better.

However, my parents kept paying EarthLink all these years. The price has shifted in that time, from a reduced introductory rate, to $21.95 a month, to $5.95 a month when they dropped the dial-up and kept the "premium mail" service, and recently back up to $7 a month.

After a short negotiation, I was able to secure an interview with my mom.

Emanuel: Why do you still pay for EarthLink?

Mom: I got EarthLink when I got here because I had no idea and I asked your aunt [who lives in Maine during the less frozen seasons] and she said try EarthLink. I think it was before there was Gmail.

Emanuel: That's not true about Gmail but okay.

Mom: She just suggested it to me because that's what she had. But she had a bunch of stuff. She has MindSpring and Gmail. I always had just one email address.

Emanuel: Gmail is a free webmail client and EarthLink is a dial-up internet service provider.

Mom: Is a what?

Emanuel: It connects you to the internet over the phone line.

[a very long pause]

Mom: I did have dial-up when we first got here. When it became $5.95 all of a sudden I called them up to cancel it. The guy talked and talked and talked and talked, and I ended up saying, okay, just keep it for a while. He said we'll give you a deal, they brought the price down, blah blah blah blah. I could not cancel it.

"I tried and tried and tried and I can't get them to cancel it"

Emanuel: He just wouldn't do it?

Mom: No, and I was a little embarrassed to talk about it because I couldn't make it happen. I talked to your aunt like two months ago when the EarthLink went up again and she said, "I tried and tried and tried and I can't get them to cancel it." I was really surprised because that's your aunt. She called them, then she called me back and said "I can't get them to do it." She's already tried twice and now she's determined. They make it so you just say okay, shut up, I'm just going to hang up now. There's something about the way they talk that you can't make it happen.

Emanuel: Do you want me to cancel it?

Mom: Sure, but then I have to go through all my contacts and notify them?

Emanuel: If I figure it out will you cancel it?

Mom: Yes. Now they want $7 a month for email! Why wouldn't he let me cancel it?! When it was just me I didn't mention it because I'm too embarassed, but it's your aunt too. I need to call them again but I keep putting it off because *ughhh*

Now let me stand up for my mom here for a second and say she's no chump. This Baby Boomer installed new RAM in her Mac last year. She edits her commissioned illustrations, terrifically, on her computer (with something called PicMonkey, for some reason, but still!). If something's wrong with her computer, she doesn't just call me, helpless. She looks it up on YouTube and fixes it herself.

She's also not one to be taken for a ride. I saw her haggle with a teenaged employee at Best Buy once and it got so intense I had to go wait outside.

So, to answer the question, my mom—and my aunt, apparently—got their dial-up when they genuinely needed it. She kept it for seven years and continue to pay EarthLink for email because, as we've seen with Comcast, internet service providers make it really hard to stop paying them.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to spend a few hours convincing an EarthLink salesperson that my mom's too good for them.