Monday, April 04, 2011

843 Opt In-Opt Out

843 Opt In-Opt Out

Your smart phone is smarter than you are. And more devious.

The phone bill comes the other day and instead of being merely too high, it’s WAY too high. We have all kinds of features. Readers, texting (relatively unlimited,) internet (entirely unlimited,) and all kinds of what they’ve come to call “apps.”

So with a carillon of bells and a Calliope full of whistles, why are we being charged for something called “premium messages?” In Verizon-speak, a premium message is a text someone sends you and that costs when you open it. Cost hardly begins to describe it. It’s just under $10 a pop. There were two on the current bill, both from the same sender, unknown to us.

One was about why crocodiles don’t need dentists (they grow new teeth throughout their lifetimes,) the other’s been forgotten. Short texts. They would fit on Twitter. While news of the crocs is interesting, it’s hardly worth ten bucks. Or any bucks.

A call to Verizon informs us we get those things because we didn’t “opt out” of premium messages. Okay. Except who knew we had them or had to opt out? It’s not in the pound and a half of instructions that comes with cell phones these days. It’s not on the endlessly long receipts. It’s not in their advertising. The salesman said nothing about it. And had we known to ask, what would he have said? Forecast: a puzzled look and “what are you talking about?”

Those generous souls at the phone company agreed to “forgive” the twenty bucks for the two short texts and allowed opting out. But they justified charging for them in the first place by proclaiming “we are doing nothing illegal.” Ahem. Lots of bad stuff is legal. Just ask one of those ex-smokers who’ve suddenly and mysteriously developed an “allergy to cigarette smoke.”

This kind of junk is something one should have to opt into, not out of. And it’s hard not to wonder what other as yet unused “services” will leap out of the next bill.

New York Tel used to advertise “If talk is cheap, blame it on the phone company.” Nifty slogan. But what about “premium messaging?”


--Mass transit pop-tops. We now have planes that lose part of their ceilings in flight to go along with the buses that lose their tops while traveling through the Bronx. “It don’t leak when it don’t rain” is not an acceptable reason for the hole in the roof of a jetliner, but at least the passengers didn’t have to pay extra for the skylight view.

--Corporate Justice. The owners of the killer-polluter oil platform that blew up in the gulf typically award “safety bonuses” to their executives and did so in their most recent pay period. They “earned” two-thirds their largest possible bonus amount and some execs got raises in the neighborhood of 30% of their base pay.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2011

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