Journal: Cellular Carriers EACH Cheating Their Customers by $600 million a year

True Cost

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Take Back the Beep’ Campaign

Tip of the hat to David Pogue, who follows technology as a public intelligence service for all of us.

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Over the past week, in The New York Times and on my blog, I’ve been ranting about one particularly blatant money-grab by American cellphone carriers: the mandatory 15-second voicemail instructions.

Suppose you call my cell to leave me a message. First you hear my own voice: “Hi, it’s David Pogue. Leave a message, and I’ll get back to you”–and THEN you hear a 15-second canned carrier message.

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These messages are outrageous for two reasons. First, they waste your time. Good heavens: it’s 2009. WE KNOW WHAT TO DO AT THE BEEP.

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Second, we’re PAYING for these messages. These little 15-second waits add up–bigtime. If Verizon’s 70 million customers leave or check messages twice a weekday, Verizon rakes in about $620 million a year. That’s your money. And your time: three hours of your time a year, just sitting there listening to the same message over and over again every year.

In 2007, I spoke at an international cellular conference in Italy. The big buzzword was ARPU–Average Revenue Per User. The seminars all had titles like, “Maximizing ARPU In a Digital Age.” And yes, several attendees (cell executives) admitted to me, point-blank, that the voicemail instructions exist primarily to make you use up airtime, thereby maximizing ARPU.

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“Hell, no, we won’t hold!”

My favorite, though, is the one that sounds like a call to action: “Take Back the Beep.”

And here’s how we’re going to do it.

We’re going to descend, en masse, on our carriers. Send them a complaint, politely but firmly. Together, we’ll send them a LOT of complaints.

If enough of us make our unhappiness known, I’ll bet they’ll change.

. . . . . . .

It’s time for this crass, time-wasting money-grab to end for good.

+++++++Phi Beta Iota Editorial Comment+++++++

This is precisely the kind of “true cost” knowledge that consumers need, combined with the kind of informed activism that David Pogue celebrates.  Corporations operate under a public charter and with the sufference of their consumers.  Public intelligence is how we pursue the public interest ethcially, openly, and effectively.

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