2003/11/02
 
17:24

Save, Save, Save!

My most recent phone bill informs me that I saved a deliciously satisfying $160.39 on my long distance last month. Holy cow! Actually, the total bill was $156.24, so that means I saved even more than I spent! At this rate, I'm gonna be rich.

I just love being told how much I've saved; it makes me feel fiducially savvy and even a little bit tingly. What I can't figure out, though, is how they came up with that figure. How exactly did they arrive at $160.39? Is that how much extra I would have spent if my phone carrier was Western Romanian Telegraph and Pony Express?

Could it be that they just pulled a number out of their ... oh, let's say hats?

I won't tell you the name of the company I'm using, but it rhymes with Splint. I have no big beef with them. So far my phone hasn't exploded, and their invoice includes a cheery "Thank you" note on the last page. Nonetheless, cynic that I am I entertained the notion that maybe — just maybe — I wasn't saving as much as it was humanly possible to save.

So I visited their web site to see if the latest advances in science could deliver a rate less than $0.12 a minute from Canada to the U.S.

Oddly enough, it turns out that my current long distance plan isn't mentioned on their site. I toyed with the idea that I'd lucked into "the secret plan" and was getting truly mind-boggling savings. But upon further examination, I noticed that by paying a dollar less each month for a different plan, I could get a rate of $0.05 per minute.

Mind you, I wouldn't get 100 free minutes a month — a $12 value! Well, a $5.00 value. No, wait. Let's see ... they don't waive the plan fee if I don't spend more than $40 on long distance, and I don't get 100 free minutes, but the minutes I get are cheaper, so ...

So ...

So I'm confused.

According to my slide rule (and several phone psychics agree), I stand to save $10 a month given my average usage. There's something else in the fine print about a "system access fee", but that appears to be a one-time charge.

Yup, I'm confused all right. So I called their customer service line and navigated through seventeen levels of menus ("Press 7 if your phone is beige") until I found the alternative plan that interested me. I pressed the button to find out more and — oops! — I'd just switched long-distance plans! (I really, really thought there was gonna be an "Are you sure?" kind of message.)

Is there a moral to this story? Well, I guess this is it: your phone company may be able to save you even more than they do now — but they're not going to, like, tell you about it.

I'm not certain that my new long distance plan actually will save me money. As I said, I'm deeply confused. I won't find out for sure until I get the bill in December.

I guess you could say that I'm waiting for the other pin to drop.

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