Talk Isn’t Cheap

Mike Mozart

Look at your cell phone bill. Just recently my daughter and I were forced by our conscience to cut our connection with our modern Samsung Note 4s’ which were leased. After nine weeks of being lessees, we were socked with a bill of $300 for two consecutive months. It was a bitter pill to swallow: this we couldn’t afford.

Our contract had ended and my old Samsung Replenish was dropping calls. Sprint had a promotion on a $99 phone so I went to buy the phone but the suave salesman discouraged me by saying the Samsung Note 3 was outdated and so I went home with the Galaxy Note 4.

In the store the salesperson did not care to honor the advertised sale and convinced an indecisive customer to take something other than what was intended. I was also subtly pressured into getting the phone accessories, like the flip cover and the invisible shield, to protect the phone from damage. The bottom line was to sell products and protect the carrier’s property.

What issues surround this problem?

Cell phone charges are so expensive it’s almost like leasing a car. Perhaps carriers see it as an immediate need in our daily lives in the same way we use energy. There is no more fifty dollars service from the big telephone carriers like Sprint, AT&T, or Verizon. Consumers are suckered into having the latest mobiles even if they don’t really need it and the different data packages, or bundles of expensive services which they cannot afford. A phone upgrade really isn’t worth the expense unless your phone is unusable like mine. 

Text messages cost the phone companies 1/1000 of a penny and messages take up almost nothing on the network. When bundled into the contract consumers end up paying 20 cents per text as reported by Consumerreports.org. But in order to avoid hefty fees for using data they didn’t buy, it must be included in their plan. Some companies roll over unused data but with stipulations. In any event, the customers still end up losing data and paying for a service which they could not utilize to the maximum. Others continue to pay for insurance on outdated phones which cost an additional ten dollars on average every month. Is it really needed?

My daughter and I were deceived by the Sprint salesperson, who told us our plan was covered by insurance. To our recollection we’ve always avoided paying for insurance to save a few dollars. “Oh you and your daughter have been insured all along, and you don’t know this?” he said. We felt so stupid. He instilled doubt in our minds but when we got home and looked at our bills we had none. It was a ploy he used to add insurance to the plan without having me refused outright. His job was to sell me as much products as possible regardless if I can pay or not, which is of little concern to the phone companies who charge hefty fees for early termination.

Phone companies know many consumers don’t pay much attention to their phone bills likewise many don’t know which bundles or plans they have. So they can throw in a charge here and there to the unsuspecting user. Pay more attention to your bills because you might find charges you know nothing about. Don’t wait on the phone companies to inform you about any overcharge or to advice you on discontinuing the insurance on your dated phone. 

What are people saying about it?

People are complaining in various ways but at the same time they get no relief from the high charges month after month, so eventually they are worn out haggling like at the flea market. Social media can play a role in exposing the carriers and their wicked practices, but you can also write to your political representatives. People are concerned about the prices of the phones, early termination charges, and pricing plans.

Customers trust the service representatives to give them the best advice and deal but instead they are playfully encouraged to buy the most expensive mobile devices which generate high profits for the companies. We also lose the cheaper plan because a smart phone needs a bigger data plan because of the many apps. As a result of the tier increase the old affordable plan is cancelled out for a more expensive one without informing the customer. These practices make people feel anxious and stressed every month over their phone bill.

Why is it a problem?

I never knew talk could be so expensive until I was roped into believing a leased phone was the way to go. The phone companies misrepresent the lease by claiming there is no contract yet the owner is tied to the phone for two year plus an early termination fee. They lock us in long contract and if the deal goes sour for the customer before the contract ends they are socked with hefty penalties like we incurred recently. Even though my phone was nine weeks old I lost hundreds of dollars in Sprint’s buyback program.

Phone companies are free to make their own pricing and as such overcharge customers. I bought a 4G phone but it was operating on 3G and I was also experiencing dropped calls. So what was the point of paying hundreds of dollars for monthly charges?

Although the phone companies might have discount plans it’s not obvious to all so we don’t get the benefits. Why do such plans exist in secrecy? Too many options to choose from with little benefit and a lot of confusion to the customer.

Who cares and why should we care?

The high priced cellular services affect everyone as more and more people overuse their phones and see it as a necessity but they have to be savvy bargainers as phone companies are continually finding ways to gouge consumers. Be alert: read your bills, ask for clarification, and remove all unnecessary services. Buy a simple plan and make use of all the free text apps, like WhatsApp, TextMe, Google Voice and others which will save you on your phone bills. AT&T has been charging customers 61 cents for “Mobility Administrative Fee" because it can. This brings in a whopping 775 million dollars to pay their cell sites rents and maintenance among other expenses, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.

 

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