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What would you call somebody who would agree to:

... if the same toothbrushes were available at a nearby store for $1 each, without any of these extra charges?

Stupid? Crazy? Foolish?

In the long distance telephone industry, people who agree to pay similar sorts of charges are called loyal customers, but here at the Cagey Consumer, we call them suckers.

What sorts of charges do various long distance companies impose? Can you really avoid these charges and still get low per-minute rates? How else do long distance customers get tricked into paying higher rates than they need to?

If you listen to the "on your side" or similar feature on the local TV news, you'll probably hear what is the standard "Big 3" line:

You can only avoid monthly charges and minimums by agreeing to pay higher per-minute rates.

For instance, with MCI, your long distance rates are 12¢ a minute if you agree to a $5 minimum. Otherwise, you'll be paying 30¢ a minute.

For international calls, you will pay a much higher rate unless you agree to pay an additional monthly fee to join an international calling plan. For instance, the basic rate for calls to Germany is $1.99 a minute, but if you join the "international savings plan" for $2 a month, then those calls will cost only 9¢ a minute on weekends and 17¢ a minute weekdays.

The truth is that you don't have to make this trade-off. You can both avoid paying their monthly charges or minimums and still pay lower per-minute rates. If you remain as a customer of AT&T, MCI, or Sprint, the message you're sending them is that you don't really care about how much they charge for service. You may as well write a letter to your long distance company's CEO asking for even higher rates.

Don't be a sucker! Check these links:

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Revision r1.4 - 25 Aug 2001 - 08:41 by EliMantel web search for EliMantel
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