How to save money on your phone bills

Here is another article from Bermuda’s resident complainer. Now I am not a provider of Telecoms services per say, due to the small fact that it costs millions of millions of dollars to get into. Now if Roger thinks he can do a better job, I say go right to the bank and borrow the money and put it where your mouth is.  
How to save money on your phone bills

By Roger Crombie

Before I start to slam the telephone company around like a cheap basketball, it is only fair to point out that the level of service it provides has improved hugely in the last few years. Nowadays, nothing but a hurricane knocks out the line, whereas it used to be the case that the only reliable thing about phone service in Bermuda was its routine unavailability. Hats off to the people responsible for that change. Could it have had anything to do with the introduction of competition into the telephonic equation?
Price-wise, however, Bermuda Telephone Company remains among the worst of bargains. I have two lines at home, and pay something like $70 a month for them, before I even make a call. My American friends pay that much a year, including the cost of calls. There being only one set of telephone poles on the island, competition is impossible, and the Bermuda Telephone Company takes advantage of that fact to clean out our wallets.
The cost of phone service is one of those items over which consumers have little control. With local calls at 25 cents a go, or an hour (whichever comes first), one could limit the number of calls one makes, but in a free, American-style society, using a phone has come to feel like a right. I do a lot of my work by phone, and so regard the phone bill as a cost of doing business, much as the heroin user probably regards the cost of his drugs as just one of those unavoidable day-to-day expenses. Heroin would probably be cheaper.
Again, in fairness, I should also say that the phone company is no longer the most hated company in Bermuda. That privilege now belongs to Cablevision – don’t get me started. Now, to be fair to Cablevision (although why I should escapes me), it should be pointed out that North Rock, the Internet Service Provider – don’t get me started – is probably equally hated by its customers.
It is not coincidence that all these organisations are in the communications racket. If ever an industry was prone to swinish behaviour, it is telecoms. I have solid financial advice to offer in this area, but I’m having such a good time, I might just rant on a little longer before I get to it.
Bermuda residents apparently use the phone more than any other people in the entire world. Now that cell phones have arrived, I expect that we are on the line more than ever before. If you are one of those people who is “awn de fern” all the time, good luck to you. I make about 12 long distance calls a year, and the cost – don’t get me started – is about a million dollars a week.
That’s an exaggeration, obviously, but only a small one. A couple of years, I fell in love with a woman. Nothing new there. But we spent a lot of time on the phone in the first few weeks, since she lived in the States. Imagine my surprise when my long distance bill was $3,000 for the first month. Three grand! Still, I had the consolation that we were going to get married. The fault (for the phone bill), of course, was mine. I knew that Cable & Wireless charged ridiculous rates, but years of using Bermuda telephones had led me to think that there wasn’t much you could do about it. It turns out there was.
Dang, now you got me started. I was paying 75 cents a minute. Apparently, they had a 19-cents-a-minute rate, but to qualify, you had to (a) know about it and (b) apply for it. That is what’s called sharp practice. If you went into a store and bought a candy bar, and the cashier asked you for $5, you might think that was a bit steep. If you mentioned that fact, and were told that really it was only $1, but you had to fill out a form in advance to qualify, you’d shop elsewhere wouldn’t you? Yes, but I assumed that all the other telephone service providers – don’t get me started – used the same vile practice at the time.
Again, in fairness to Cable & Wireless, their part of the service is peerless and they are not fairly recompensed by the system, but one’s sympathy is limited when the bill is $3,000 and, clearly, what goes around comes around. Everyone I know uses Skype, the Internet service, which is free. (I’m not recommending that, since the Government, there to serve its citizens – don’t get me started – has made that illegal.)
Now, here is how to save money on your phone bill.
1. Don’t date Americans or anyone else dumb enough not to live in Bermuda.
2. Especially don’t date those Americans who will promise to marry you and then dump you by e-mail just before Christmas because you’re an insensitive clod. This will however cut down on your engagement ring expenses.
3. Before making those pesky long distance calls, telephone your long distance service provider each and every time to ask if they’ve changed their rate. Your Telco bill will be astronomical, but you can’t win them all.
4. Buy a cheap phone.
For too many years, I used to rent a phone from Telco. You sort of had to, because their deal was: we will charge you an arm and a leg and an eye and half your teeth for awful service, but if you use a handset you don’t rent from us, we won’t service your line. (That kind of behaviour is from the school of customer service that says: “Bend over, we’re going to service you.”)
So one day my phone broke down, and I called Telco, and about three weeks later someone came out to the house and fixed it, even though the problem wasn’t in the house. The dude took away my nice non-electronic phone and, over my protests, replaced it with an electric one that didn’t work during power outages. So, when Belco – don’t get me started – cut the electricity, which in those days was about once a month, I couldn’t hear the phone ring, and so was effectively unable to receive incoming calls, or make a living.
Last year, I bought what a friend of mine calls “a Chinese phone”. Actually, it was an AT&T model, available at Circuit City. They may sell them in Bermuda, but not at $11.99, which is what mine cost. It has no electric circuits and works whenever the line is in service. It’s not fancy, but then I’d rather save $48 this year, and $60 a year for the rest of my life, than have a fancy phone that doesn’t work properly. Plus, I am not paying Telco as much as I could. O, sweet joy.
Of course, I didn’t have the courage to come through Customs and declare a telephone that cost $11.99, because I’d still be in the little room having my insides probed. (I said it cost $80, paid some duty, and went home.)
Sometimes, when life gets me down, I stop to think of the good things. Chief among them is that one day I shall be dead, and after someone advises Telco of that fact, they will only be able to charge the dead me for service for that short period between my expiration and their being told about it, even though, as a dead person, I probably won’t make that many calls. After that, I won’t have to pay Telco one red cent ever again. I can hardly wait.

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