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Tuesday, Mar. 22, 2005
In other news, the mailman brought a disturbing letter yesterday. Actually he brought three of them, even though they were all from the same company and contained the same thing.

Seems that Cingulaaurgh has bought out Sunny-Co. for our cellular phone service.

The Outfoxed Crew uses Sunny-Co. phones for work.

The Outfoxed household uses Sunny-Co. phones for everything else. And I do mean everything. We donít even have a home phone number anymore, gave it up last year. I basically swapped the $50 a month home phone for $50 a month cable internet and called it good. Of course, everybody had to get a cheap cell phone, but thatís what we call progress around here.

Cingulaaurgh, in keeping with the fine tradition of communications folks everywhere, decided that keeping it simple was gonna be their mantra. Yesterdays flyer contained the following titillating announcement.

ďEverybody! Your Sunny-Com phones wonít work with Cingulaaurghís system after June! So just bring in your old crappy phones and weíll give you a spanky new one! You can keep your old number! Weíve got better coverage! Bring the kids!Ē

You know, old PT Barnum had it covered about suckers, he really did. Letís just see if Iíve got this straight.

My old crappy phone (although itís the same manufacturer as the spanky new one) will work on Cingulaaurghís system, for a while. Then itís gonna die an instant death. Is that right? What, thereís a tiny little gas tank in old crappy and somehow the needle is hovering near empty? Or maybe, just maybe, thereís a geek sitting in a room somewhere gnawing on a banana with his gnarly finger poised above the enter key, just waiting to mash home the KILL! command?

Cingulaaurgh, in their munificence, is going to give me (and Stu and Ally and Maggie and Ben) a new phone. One which retails for, oh letís just say a hundred bucks for the phone. Now letís just delve into the seedy downside of what ďfreeĒ really entails.

Iíll need a home battery charger, which may or may not come with the phone. A car charger, since Iím lax about using the home one. A belt clip so I donít have to go roaming around with phone in hand like some twelve year old girl in the mall. Possibly, dependant on the phone itself, some sort of cover to keep sawdust and drool from contaminating the inner workings (you laugh, but Iíve torched a couple of phones in my day. Stuís got one right now that has sawdust and dropkick issues). So letís say Iíve got $60 in reasonable accessories for ONE phone. My phone.

(And just as an aside, Iíd never get the hands free shit. The little earpiece and the little clip on microphone. Not ever. My God, I look awful much like the Borg already, Iím not going to finance further enhancements just so my wife can call to inquire if dinner is started yet.)

Problem is, Iíve got 5 phones in the hopper, and those people would expect, at minimum, the same stuff Iíve got.

Then, as the capper to all that is Barnum in the great scheme of things, the fine print shows up. Actually itís not such fine print. Cingulaaurgh makes no bones about it. Because they have no shame. They have a boatload of phones but no shame.

ďOne to two year service agreement plan required!Ē

And.

ďPhones are subject to availability!Ē

Theyíre so excited about this, is Cingulaaurgh. Their exclamation points run rampant.

Ally told me she was made aware of this when she happened by the Sunny-Co, nee Cingulaaurgh store the other day to pay her bill and the line was wrapped around the building. Seems Iím not the only one to have gotten this circus flyer.

Oh! Wait for it. The phones they want to give you? Upgraded features. Multimedia messages, speakerphone. Camera. Pass along the functional service fee on the monthly bill.

Think about it for a minute. Iím looking at giving up $60 for my ďfreeĒ phone, and undoubtedly more per month than Iím paying now, for the privilege of being annoyed at the discretion of anyone with my phone number. And letís face it. For every call you get that informs and enhances your lot in life, Iíll be willing to bet you get two that come through simply because you happen to have the damn phone with you.

If PT Barnum was alive today, I imagine he would be salaaming, in abject awe, at the degree of suckerdom foisted on the general public by the carnivorous maw that is cellular telephone Corporate thinking. Absolute and bewildered awe, the kind that puts viewing the bearded lady and the conjoined twins for two bits into the third grade while Cingulaaurgh is rolling along at Yale Business with a 4.0 and a lacrosse scholarship.

ďScrew it, Iím gonna go back to wearing a beeper and keeping a few quarters in my pocket for the pay phone,Ē I told Ally. ďWhat, Iím supposed to be all righteous and go to the competition and get their phone and their service? Think theyíll cut me a sweet deal? Itís a merry-go-round, I tell ye. Once youíre on the cellular ride youíre locked in for life!Ē

Barnum knew this. The circus, the cellular circus.

Thereís a sucker calling every minute.

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