Sunday, September 17, 2006

Techdirt: Sometimes It Sure Is Easy To Hate The Phone Company

Techdirt: Sometimes It Sure Is Easy To Hate The Phone Company

Sometimes It Sure Is Easy To Hate The Phone Company
from the kicking-puppies-and-making-babies-cry dept

There's been a fair bit of uproar about the story of the 82-year-old widow who's been paying to rent a phone from her phone company for 42 years. At first glance, it looks like another case of everybody's favorite company taking advantage of an innocent customer, while acting like it's providing a valuable service, a view that gets strengthened by the woman's family claiming she's paid over $14,000 for the use of two rotary phones for 40 years. For one thing, that math is off by quite a bit -- the woman was charged $29.10 every three months, not every month, making the actual amount based on that figure about $4900 (Lucent, which manages the rental service, says she's paid $2,000 since 1985). Less, but still pretty steep. And some might argue that when mandatory phone rental was stopped in 1985, the woman wasn't exactly old, and should have been aware she was paying for the service. But all that seems a little beside the point, really: this woman paid several thousand dollars for the use of a couple of rotary phones, certainly paying for them many times over. Neither Lucent nor the phone company would want to cut off the service, since apparently 750,000 people nationwide still rent their phones. It's not clear they should necessarily have to, either, despite the venom being slung at them from online forums. That said, they certainly could run it a little more equitably, or at the very least, at much lower prices given the cost of phones these days. What's interesting to note, though, is that nowhere does the woman herself say she wasn't aware she was paying the fee -- all the indignation seems to be coming from her granddaughters, who weren't aware of the charge, dispute how much Lucent says it was, and claim "they were taking advantage of the elderly". And for what it's worth, the old lady says she liked the rotary phones better than her new ones to boot. Still, that doesn't let the phone company or Lucent off the hook, when $10 would pretty much buy you a new phone each month.

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