Buying a phone. This was something new then. It gave the consumer some choice, but it also released the phone company — Pacific Bell in my case — from having to maintain the handset. They didn’t have to worry about repairing or replacing your handset if you slam it against the wall in a fit of rage.
I’ve bought a lot of phones since then, but it seems quite a few people are still renting theirs from their phone companies. Like hundreds of thousands of phone users.
Renting? Didn’t that go out with the rotary dial?
Well, kinda sorta. The idea of buying your own phone started to catch on for real when Ma Bell broke up in the early 80s. But some still hung on to their old equipment, four-pronged plug and all.
I’ll say this. Much of the older gear was built. One of my parents’ extension phones was an old black metal-bodied rotary-dial number, branded by Stromburg-Carlson. Like my old Canon AE-1 camera I stubbornly held onto until it became harder to find film processors, this thing was built like a brick outhouse. Like a Sherman tank. I’ll bet if you dug it out of the garage now and plugged it in (good luck with that given the old four-prong plug) it would work just fine. There were no parts in there to screw up.
If those of us who ditched the landline in favor of cell phones are the ultramoderns, those who continue to lease their house phones are the traditionalists. Provided, of course, they a) can find that rented phone and b) it’s still in use.
But according to The Consumerist, many are still paying to rent a phone that is no longer being used. Monthly phone rentals, according to the site, range from a dollar per month to more than $20, depending on the carrier.
If that’s the case, don’t expect the phone company to bring it to your attention; only a fool would shoot a cash cow.
Anyway, check your phone bill, especially if you’ve had that service for decades (not unusual if you own your home or lived in the same place for a decade or three). Decipher it, go through all the line items. If it shows you’re still paying for a phone rental, you’ve either got one of those phones that will outlast you, or you’re more than likely being hosed.