In the prior century my dial-up Internet access was provided by an ISP that was eventually assimilated into EarthLink. When I upgraded to cable broadband, a co-operative arrangement between EarthLink and the cable company let me keep my EarthLink account and email addresses. Billing is done by the cable company so I have not had any contact with EarthLink in roughly a decade.
A few days ago, they send me an email:
Dear EarthLink Subscriber,
When you recently contacted EarthLink Support, an EarthLink representative viewed or changed your password in order to assist you. If you or someone on your behalf did not contact EarthLink for [my email address], please change your password immediately ...
Since I had not been in contact with them, I checked the email headers to see if this was a phishing scam, but the message seemed to come from EarthLink. And the links were legit, they actually pointed to EarthLink.com. Assuming they were scammed somehow, I changed all my EarthLink passwords.
And that was that, until a second email arrived soon thereafter:
Dear michael horowitz,
Thank you for choosing Norton to protect your device, your information and all the stuff that matters on your computer! It's very fast and simple to set-up your Norton security solution. Step 1. Download and install software by clicking the following link ... Norton's five patented layers of security and powerful cloud features protect you from threats, no matter where you go or what you do online. Please keep this email and Activation PIN [omitted] for your records. We look forward to providing you with superior PC protection!
I had not chosen Norton. And, the email conveniently omits the fact that there is a monthly charge for using Norton 360. I log in to my account, with my new password, and disable the option for Norton 360.
But now I'm annoyed, so I call EarthLink and speak to a person for whom English is not their native language. The guy gives me a hard sell about how great the Norton software is. His script is like a time machine, it could have been written in 1998, back when everyone had only one computer and it ran Windows. The bad old days.
My question to him was simple: how did this happen? How did EarthLink, out of the blue, think that I wanted to pay every month for Norton software? He said that I didn't need to worry about it since it didn't cost me anything.
I took this to mean: go away kid don't bother me.
A few days later, I check on my account to insure that the option for Norton 360 was still disabled. It was, but the website took over well 30 seconds to display each page.
Then, another email from EarthLink.
Dear EarthLink Subscriber,
During a recent contact with EarthLink, you set up new internet service or added additional services to an existing account. As part of our commitment to continually improving our Support services, we'd appreciate your feedback on this recent sales experience. The link below will take you to a brief survey ... The link will be active for 72 hours from the time we sent you this email.
Everything in the message is wrong, including the lifespan of the link. Eager to provide feedback, I clicked on it, only to find it had already expired. The email was in my inbox for no more than two hours before I noticed it. Maybe the "7" in "72" was a typo? Or, the link is active for 72 minutes rather than hours?
Still not done with this mess, a few days later, EarthLink sends me a Norton 360 Online CD in the mail. You can't make this stuff up.
Why the hard sell out of the blue?
Perhaps this excerpt from a NASDAQ press release dated September 15, 2014 offers a hint:
ELNK's current earnings per share, an indicator of a company's profitability,
is -$3.33. Zacks Investment Research reports ELNK's forecasted earnings growth in 2014 as -194.64%, compared to an industry average of 17.6%.