On my first Christmas in college, my mother gave me a Sam’s Club phone card. It turned out to be one of the best presents I could have received, as it allowed me to converse with my wife (then my long-time girlfriend) on a daily basis. Even though we had to punch in a bunch of numbers to call each other, it was still an incredibly cheap alternative to a cell phone or long-distance calling plan. Over the course of the next year and a half, before we finally moved into our first apartment together, I probably spent around $36 a month to talk to her for two or three hours a night.
We still use it on occassion, since it’s a nice way of keeping in touch without driving up our friends’ and relatives’ phone bills. Unfortunately, AT&T (the provider for the phone card) has decided to aggravate us in increments over the past few years by steadily increasing the cost of recharging the phone card.
Normally, I wouldn’t have a problem with this. After all, inflation affects everyone and the cost of providing this service may legitimately increase over time. It’s an economic reality, and I would generally be happy to pay a little more for the same convenience we’ve enjoyed for so long.
Unfortunately, like so many businesses nowadays, AT&T seems more interested in tricking people out of their money. Instead of telling me all of the appropriate fees up front, I am told that the cost of adding minutes will be the same as it always has been. Then, after entering credit card numbers and going through all manner of confirmation procedures, I am told there will be an additional $5 “recharge fee” right before I complete the transaction. It’s like saying, “Please press #1 to let us overcharge you.”
This is blatantly dishonest in my book. It’s the same as a convenience store displaying one price and then charging more at the register above and beyond the sales taxes. Can anyone say false advertising? I feel the same way about this as I do fine print thievery. It is immoral, unprofessional, and infuriating.
As you might expect, I’ll no longer be using my AT&T prepaid phone card. I’d rather spend the money for minutes on our cell phone. It may be more expensive, but at least they’re up front about how much we’ll be paying. How business practices like this can be legal is beyond me. At any rate, they’ve definitely lost a customer. I can only hope they realize how much their bottom line suffers by driving people away with shady, money-grubbing tactics like this.