TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Payphone Surcharges (was: Unanswered Cellphones)

Re: Payphone Surcharges (was: Unanswered Cellphones)
5 Jan 2006 10:48:03 -0800

> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: I think Seth was making the unwarranted
> assumption that everyone is as sophisticated on telecom topics as he
> is. Despite all the years I have talked telecom, sadly most folks are
> only (at best) slightly more knowlegeable about telephony than they
> were pre-divestiture. PAT]

Most people have lives to live and can't be bothered with pricing
nuances. Unscruplus businesses take full advantage of that fact to
defraud people. Apparently the other poster thinks it is perfectly
reasonable for purchasers to study, understand, and memorize the fine
print so many businesses put nowadays. I think that's an insult to
people. What's particular galling is that this is a change from
traditional service.

My mother tended to prefer shopping with large, established
organizations even if they cost more. If she dealt with smaller or
newer outfits, she was very careful. She grew up in a time before
government regulation of labels when a merchant could claim anything
he wanted about a product's composition or weights and measures could
be suspect (the old "thumb on the butcher's scale" trick). She never
brought ground beef, but rather had the butcher do it for her. This
way she got less fat. (Unfortunately, her lean hamburgers, while
healthier, weren't very tasty).

Anyway, in today's mega merger world we've seen a return of sleazy
business practices once performed in my mother's day but ended by law.
That is sad.

It's bad enough they charge us $25 for a pay phone LD call, it's worse
they hide it from us. Frankly I have no use for anyone who would
defend that practice.

As to pay phones, like other divesture services the new players want
the candle lit on both ends. They want the freedom to charge whatever
they want (no regulation), yet they want forced inclusion (continue
regulation) into existing services. So, some sleazy pay phone
operator -- who otherwise would never be dealt with -- is mandated to
be included. One solution is very simple -- mandate every pay phone
have a mounted rate card for LD calls from that phone. Every other
retail business does it. (And make the LD carrier serving that phone
be the responsible party). I can hear the screaming now.

Pay phones historically didn't need long distance price lists because
all rates were strictly regulated and were modest. Even in the early
years after divesture, when AT&T began to raise operator handling
charges, they weren't too bad. The initial period cost might be high,
but subsequent time was still at a low rate. A dollar for three
minutes is not $25 for one minute.

A basic premise of technology is to make things _easier_ for humans.
A Touch Tone pad is easier than a rotary dial. A CD player is easier
than a phonograph. BUT, dialing an extra 11 digits before making a
phone call is NOT easier. It is harder. Adding to the confusion is
the original plan of labeling the long distance carrier on the phone
(this is what tripped me up). I presumed, quite naturally, that if
the LD carrier was the default on the payphone, it wouldn't be
necessary to dial a separate access number. Further, originally, LD
carrier access numbers were the 10+ code, which I used to use and
presumed was adequate. It's not. I found out the hard way that one
had to dial the 800 number as well as other considerations. I also
was misquoted rates numerous times.

I also want to note that my Bell issued calling card number remained
unchanged long after disvesture (until I disconnected the phone it was
tied to two years ago). Until things got out of hand, I would get
charged a surcharge for a calling card call -- which I expected -- but
this surcharge was modest. Frankly, I didn't know who had my calling
card -- local Bell or AT&T -- but I didn't care since it worked fine on
either type of call. I had used standard Bell payphones with AT&T LD
service only.

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