Ah, forget what I've been saying. I have a new focus now; consumer beat-downs. What's that? I'm glad you asked. This blog's entries will be heretofore devoted to bringing to light some of the nasty tricks played upon consumers for the purpose of getting them to part with their cash, often for little or nothing. It's part rant, part informative commentary and part opinionated tomes about why it stinks to be at he mercy of a mega-corporate world. Let's get started.
I want to start by talking about phones. Not home landline phones but mobile phones. Gotta love'em. They have more tricks now than you'd find at a school for Doug Henning wannabes. It used to be that the main purpose of a phone was to allow you to talk to someone who wasn't within earshot. Hardly so anymore. People are plopping down upwards of $400 for a phone; for a PHONE! They are then forced to admit (or at least claim) that the ability to see race cars 1/8" long zip klunkily around a jagged track, or listening to four seconds of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida every time someone wants to talk to them, are really important reasons for having wasted that much money.
I was forced to think about this when, a few weeks ago, my wife accidentally (I think) washed my tiny little Motorola V100 mobile phone with the laundry. I loved that phone, and you know why? I could call people and if they were available they would answer and they could call me and I would answer and we'd talk. That's it. Ahh, the occasional text message, but mostly I bought the phone so I could talk to people, not take pictures of them, or waste money sending them video clips of a drooling baby or an upside-down number in a gas price sign or something equally weighty.
The point is, you can't buy just a phone these days. The mobile service providers are freaking out over "churn", so to keep you hooked, they tell you (and by God, you believe it) how cool it is to have a phone that is a camera, a video recorder, an arcade game, a web browser, a global positioning system and a tire pressure gauge, all schlepped together in a neat package that is designed, not to "connect you to your world", but to disconnect you from your cash! By the time you get done paying for all these breezy extras, you don't have a dime of time left to talk to Johnny about how he is stranded on the Interstate and needs a lift. It's ludicrous!
I just want a phone, not a $500 pocket computer (I have a PDA for that), and I'm certainly not looking to make a movie with a phone, for crying out loud!
All I can say is advertising works. We have been sold a bill of goods by companies who invent these crazy capabilities and slickly fool us into believing we really, really need them, to the tune of hundreds of dollars in costs, more than that in outrageous monthly fees (come now, do you REALLY believe it costs the company that much more to let you talk for 800 minutes a month than to let you talk for 600 minutes?), service fees for web access, GPS and other useless junk, not to mention two and three year committments just so you can save $75 on the phone.
All that is really your problem, though; my problem is that because many, many people have been taken all the way in by this coolness craze, it doesn't pay for the manufacturers to make a phone that I could actually use, one that just lets me talk. They know they couldn't get more than about fifty bucks for such a phone (which is just a little less than what they all are really worth). Contrary to our pretense, we are not on Star Trek, and this isn't the 24th century. It's only 2006 and some of us just want the occasional convenience of a phone we can use when we're not at home. I replaced my landline a few years ago and went totally mobile, it saved me over $70 a month. Now, I'm going to be right back at that price point again, this time saddled with unneeded and unwanted services and capabilities.
So, I want to encourage all consumers, YOU decide for yourself what you need, and don't be dictated to by corporate maulers who only want to put your cash into their pockets. And if you come to the conclusion (mass conclusion I hope) that all 80% of you really need is just a phone, lets get together and shout it out. Maybe they'll listen...and maybe I can go ahead and replace my washed phone.