The AOL List: Baltimore Bombshell

David Cassel (
Thu, 20 Mar 1997 10:35:24 -0800 (PST)

                     B a l t i m o r e   B o m b s h e l l


A Baltimore packaging business is closing--because AOL didn't pay their
floppy disk-packaging bills. 

That's what the Baltimore Sun's reporting.  The company's attorney told
the paper that hundreds of jobs have been lost because of the AOL
contract.  "The nicest word that I can use to describe them is predatory."

AOL blamed concerns about the company's invoicing.  But were they
justified?  The paper quotes a Postal Service spokesman as saying a
preliminary review of the company--PTP Industries--showed no fraud against
the post office--or misappropriation of AOL funds.  The company's attorney
said AOL even performed an audit of all 1996 mailings--and found no

PTP plans to sue AOL, according to the Sun, and Provident Bank of Maryland
also filed a lawsuit in federal court, saying that because AOL breached
their contract, the company couldn't pay its bank loans.

The local impact is even heavier.  PTP industries was the second-largest
creator of jobs in its Baltimore empowerment zone, hiring the
developmentally-disabled and bringing millions of dollars into the
community. "When they lost AOL, we knew we would lose our jobs," one
worker told the paper--as she moved onto the welfare rolls.

The company was an innovator in packaging, creating the "clam shell" and
"MultiMedia" mailers, noting its lighter weight reduced AOL's shipping and
postage fees. ( )  The
company told the Baltimore Sun they'd processed over 150 million disks for
AOL--and had just spent millions of dollars on new machinery to handle
new AOL marketing campaigns.


In September AOL outraged Baltimore residents by moving a publicity stop
from its scheduled weekday time to Rosh Hashanah--the Jewish High Holy
Day.  "No matter where or when this stop would be scheduled, someone would
find a reason to complain about it," an AOL staffer scolded complainers on
an AOL bulletin board.  "If it's on a weekday, people have to work...  If
it's on a Saturday, then people are out of town or its a high Holyday...
Could we all stop griping and just enjoy the tour stop?" 

One Baltimore journalist told me the incident was remarkable.  "I've never
seen a company which'll go to such elaborate lengths to dress themselves
up only to shoot themselves in the foot right afterward." 

        David Cassel
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