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Oops! Wrong number lights up switchboard at skate company

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America In-Line president turns techie

January 21, 1997
Web posted at: 11:15 p.m. EST

From Correspondent Mary Ann McGann

RONKONKOMA, New York (CNN) -- A small New York company is finding out what happens when an irate public mistakes you for a company with a similar name.

The company in question, America In-Line, has a name uncomfortably close to that of America Online, a company that provides Internet access to millions of customers.

America In-line designs and builds roller hockey rinks. But since last Thursday, the small Long Island company -- it has five employees -- has been inundated by phone calls from disgruntled America Online subscribers.

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The telephone company, AT&T, mistakenly published America In-Line's 800 number as belonging to America Online.

Which means that the people at America In-Line these past few days have been telling callers things like, "No, this is not America Online. This is a roller-hockey facility."

And, "I wish I could help you out, sir, but I'm a roller-hockey facility."

"Some of them are having technical problems," says receptionist Donna Salzano. "They want to know why they can't get on. They've been trying to get on for hours. Some of them want to cancel their subscriptions. Some of them want information about their billing. It's just constant."

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America In-Line president turns techie

Some America Online subscribers even complained about frozen computer screens, and America In-Line's president, Peter Riccardo, talked them through the process of unlocking their systems.

"We would answer the phone 'America In-Line,'" says Riccardo. "They missed that. And they'd say 'Thank God we got a person on the phone.' And then I'd explain to them that unfortunately they reached America In-Line, and that we build hockey facilities. And then there was this desperation again."

Desperation because since America Online began offering unlimited usage for one monthly fee, many users have stayed on longer. The system is often clogged and other users are unable to log on.

"The phone was like a Christmas tree," says Riccardo.

The mix-up caused two days of chaos for America In-Line. Although AT&T has corrected its mistake, some calls are still filtering through.

America Online couldn't say whether the mix-up affected its call volume. But a spokeswoman said the company is hiring more customer service representatives and working on better online access.

 
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