TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: May 1966 - Customers Angry at Switch to Message Units

Re: May 1966 - Customers Angry at Switch to Message Units

Sam Spade (
Wed, 30 Aug 2006 18:46:49 -0700 wrote:

> May 1966 -- NYT -- Suffolk County Long Island telephone subscribers were
> angry at a change in billing practices. NY Telephone switched to a
> message unit system instead of itemized toll charges for calls outside
> one's calling area on Long Island.

> With "message units", the bill only shows a gross number of units
> rather than individually itemized calls. The units charged per call
> vary by distance and time.

> Business people said they needed itemization for tax purposes.

> Others complained they had large bills but no way to figure them out.

> The phone company said the switch saved customers 20% in bookkeeping
> costs. From the phone company's point of view, it is much simpler
> than listing on a bll a slew of 5c and 10c toll calls.It

The same B.S. was given by Pacific Telephone in the Los Angeles Metro
Area about the same time. (probably the San Francisco Metro area as

I recall complaining about it, and the rep told me I could have my
message units itemized for a charge of 50 cents a month (like $4.00 a
month today). I opted for this "nice service."

Within a year itemization of message units was free (after the
California PUC had to react to a bazillon complaints).

It all reminds me of an Al Capp cartoon of the era. Al Capp was the
guy who drew the Little Abner cartoon in those days and who would
occasionally draw a "commentary" strip unrelated to his Dogpatch
characters. One noteworthy strip he drew circa late 1950s or early
1960s, was at the executive offices of AT&T (the old Bell System) in
which the senior executives were jumping up and down with joy, and the
head guy says, "We made it! Our billings for this month equal the
country's gross national product!"

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