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

Re: Payphone Surcharges (was Unanswered Cellphones)
6 Jan 2006 13:41:08 -0800

Seth Breidbart wrote:

> The sign at the pump says so. Why didn't you read it?

>> In other retail services the price is on the item or the shelf. Yet
>> in pay phones the price is nowhere to be found.

> You must use a different kind of payphone than all the ones I've
> seen. Those list their prices (for local calls, and tell you how to
> get the prices for other calls).

The only charge I've seen posted on pay phones is the initial deposit
for a "local" call. I have NOT seen signage how many minutes that
charge covers, nor how far the "local" calling area covers. It's easy
to get burned on over time charges -- is it 50 cents per each minute
or for ten minutes? That can add up quickly and be a nuisance.

I have rarely seen long distance charges posted on pay phones, and
generally only for cash calls if the phone accepts such calls. For
rates of other calls one must call "customer service". Ha Ha Ha. I've
tried that numerous times and have never gotten any answer. MCI was
great on handling assistance calls -- anyone who wanted help was told to
call AT&T, which meant MCI was dumping difficult customers on its

So, to answer your question, toll charges ARE NOT POSTED on pay phones.

> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: I think Lisa may have used the word
> 'extorted' in a loose, general way.

Pat makes an excellent point.

Please allow me to elaborate.

I was in a convention center and wanted something to eat. In the
hallway they had stands with hot dogs and soda. The prices were
enormous. Now, I knew the area and knew I could get other food about a
block away by foot, but I was tired, in a rush, and chose to pay the
higher price rather than make the effort to walk around for something
cheaper. The point is that here I had a choice to pay double or not.

What I call "extortion" was when I (and many other people) were in
situations where finding another pay phone wasn't so simple, indeed,
rather difficult. I was in a building surrounded by a large parking
lot, so I'd need to get my car and drive somewhere else, park, and
hope there's a phone that is cheaper (presuming I'd even know since
there's no toll rate card). More significantly, my presence was
required in the immediate area and I could not leave it. So while
perhaps nobody was holding a gun to my head, I was effectively
detained in that location. I did not have a choice. I also note the
charge was more than double.

> Seth, people do not read; they approach certain situations in life
> pre-conditioned, to 'know what to expect'. I hope you can deal with
> that lack of perfection in many people around you. PAT]

Good point.

I emphasize the issue of "pre conditioned" because we do have constant
CHANGES in the way pay phone service is offered and price to us
members of the general public. IMHO unscruplus businesses are taking
advtg of that and our "lack of perfection" to overcharge us. Some
businesses do so deliberately knowing they'll get calls of complaint
that they'll have to adjust, but figure the downward adjustments still
will be less that the total big profits received by the high prices.
I used to remember a major long distance company always being in the
paper for FCC /FTC violations for which they'd get some fine. I think
the company was doing the above, knowing all along their practices
were wrong but figured the fine, if it came, would be less than the

Some cities, to protect the public, regulate tow truck charges knowing
the people needing a tow are in a very vulnerable situation to price
gouging. Still tow truck operators come up with schemes to fleece the
public, such as simply charging more than the ceiling price and
figuring the customer won't bother fighting it. (Some taxicabs do

When that sort of thing happens, some posters here seem to take a very
obssessive approach to the problem and stand on paperwork and
procedure, utterly ignorant of the predicament of the victim. These
posters must realize that not all of us have unlimited time nor desire
to study in detail every procedure from every business we might
possibly deal with in the far distant future. That they enjoy reading
these things is fine for them, but not for the rest of us.

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