Your phone calls are expensive

Pax Arcana

old_phoneThe L.A. Times has an interesting story about one of the fundamental underpinnings of consumer economics, a framework that I call the “Math is Like a Blender in My Brain” corollary.

Here’s the deal. When you choose your cell phone plan, you are likely to be all “Wow! I get 1500 minutes for $45 a month! That’s like 3 cents a minute!”

Wrong. Because the chances are you aren’t using all those minutes you’re paying for. In fact, if you divide the total amount you pay by the total amount of minutes you use, chances are you’re spending a lot more per minute than you think.

The Times reports on a study of the phone bills of 700 San Diego residents, found that dividing the amount paid by the amount used showed that residents were actually paying about $3 a minute to their cell providers:

“We knew it was a myth that wireless costs were going down,” said Michael Shames, UCAN’s executive director. “But we were blown away by the actual costs.”

That $3-per-minute figure is skewed by the relatively small percentage of people who pay for a lot of minutes but barely use any. But even when those folk are taken out of the mix, most wireless customers still pay between 50 cents and $1 per minute, the study found.

Some would argue that the disparity between what people are paying and what people think they are paying is the fault of the cell phone providers, who have engineered this situation by concocting increasingly labyrinthine contract terms that prey on our vulnerabilities. Others say fuck that it’s your fault, dummy:

“We encourage people to look at their bill, question their bill, and call us if they see anything that’s not right,” said John Britton, an AT&T spokesman.

Ken Muche, a spokesman for Verizon Wireless, echoed this sentiment. “If you’re not using the total amount of minutes in the bucket, we’ll work with you to get you on the right plan,” he said.

All I know is it’s bullshit that they charge extra for the lightsaber function on my iPhone. Oh wait, it’s free? Consider yourselves warned, Sith lords.

Talk isn’t cheap? For cellphone users, not talking is costly too [LA Times]



Filed under business

2 responses to “Your phone calls are expensive

  1. Richard Rider, Chairman, San Diego Tax Fighters

    Cell phone calls cost $3 a minute???

    This preposterous assertion from UCAN San Diego should have set off skeptical alarm bells in any reputable journalist and editor. It didn’t.

    This bogus story has been circulated around the nation. Newspapers, TV stations and blogs mindlessly published or paraphrased an LA TIMES story (which the failing paper refuses to correct) without any effort to fact check, or even to apply the giggle test (it fails miserably).

    UCAN is a far left advocacy group, masquerading as a consumer organization. They favor nationalization of the utilities, and vehemently oppose deregulation, competition and the private sector in general. The study was a classic example of junk science, or, more accurately, junk research.

    UCAN’s “scientific study” (87 pages, no less!)
    surveyed their OWN membership — a group dominated by low income senior citizens sporting tattered Che Guevara T-shirts. A third of those who responded had signed up for cell phone service and then seldom if ever used it. And this is the polling sample on which UCAN tells the nation that we are averaging $3 a minute for cell phone calls (and a ludicrous $.55 cents a minute for land line long distance, I might add).


  2. Hi Richard. Thanks for your comment.

    I took five seconds of my life and did a Google search on a section of your comment. It looks like we’re not the only blog you’ve cut and pasted this to!

    Nice job, dickhead.

    Anyway, I did a little more searching on you in particular, and guess what I found. Can you guess? Seriously — just guess.

    It’s an “article” you wrote called “Get YOUR Letters to the Editor Published.”

    It’s hilarious!!

    In it, you say that letters to the editor are an effective way to influence public opinion on a particular issue.

    “Indeed,” you write, “some studies indicate that the LTEs section is the most frequently read section of newspapers!”

    I can only assume you think highly enough of blog comments to try the same thing here.

    Well think again, fucknozzle. Because these colors don’t run.

    Oh, and congratulations on getting 16% of the vote in the 1998 election for Treasurer of San Diego. You were this close!!

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