Bring Back The"Bad" Old Phone Monopoly

My year-and-a-half-old “Southwestern Bell” phone is junk.
The original battery crapped out about 4-to-6 weeks ago, and
now the keypad won’t function on numbers 4,9,and occasionally 3.

When I called customer service, I got a snotty receptionist who was obviously reading from a “complaint script”.
First off, I’m told that a year to a year and a half is all I should “reasonably expect” from the battery.
Then–I was asked where I got the new battery. When I answered “Radio Shack”, the woman told me that anything other than a genuine Southwestern Bell battery could damage the phone. My protestations that the battery has been in the phone for over a month were met with, “Sometimes it takes that long for these things to show up”. BULLSHIT!!!

I was offered the address of a service center for “off warranty” repairs. When I asked if I could have a loaner phone, the woman barely suppressed laughter.

Back in the bad old days ofthe ATT/Bell System phone monopoly, phones were provided with the monthly service.
These phones were extremely well-built and had deservedly excellent reputations, which is why purveyors of slave-labor
Chinese junk have bought the rights to the names of now-defunct Bell System affiliates to lend a little class to their meager wares. If one of the REAL Bell phones ever malfunctioned, the “big, bad, bureaucratic monopoly” would send a serviceman out with another one. This service rep WOULD NOT recite from a “blame the customer for everything” script, he’d apologize for your inconvenience and swap phones.


Heh. I still have some of the old Bell phones that I didn’t make silverboxes out of. They still work.

Neener neener neener.

Yeah, right.
Phones were provided with the monthly service all right. Dial phones (no buttons, sorry) in any color you want, as long as it’s black. And they were hardwired into the wall, no modular plugs. No cordless phones. And you had to pay a monthly rental on those Ma Bell phones, they weren’t just thrown in for free. The phone didn’t belong to the custopmer, it belonged to the phone company.
You really would prefer to wait for a tech to come to your house if your phone dial is broken? I’d rather not have to take the day off work, myself.

as for electronic stuff being cheap junk these days, well, I won’t argue with you there. These days it’s cheaper to get a new computer than to have a pro repair your basic cheap computer like I use, but you don’t hear me saying I’d prefer to have a Univac with 20,000 vacuum tubes in it.

As far as I can tell, all phones are junk. I’ve had at least four portable phones in the last seven years. Each has developed issues after about a year and a half of use. They wouldn’t always ring when someone called, they’d cut out in the middle of conversation, the speaker would become so quiet that people couldn’t hear me, etc. etc.

I never bought bargain-basement phones. I usually paid between $100 to $150 for them. I’d talk to their tech support lines and try to diagnose the problem before ultimately trashing them and buying a new phone.

Last go-round, I spent the big bucks and bought a Bang & Olufsen “BeoComm 6000” cordless phone. I’ve only had it since Thanksgiving, so no telling yet if it’ll go more than a year and a half. It has a 3 year warranty, so I’m covered if it doesn’t. Besides, I love the damn thing - it stores 200 numbers & names, the last 24 numbers dialed, and the last 24 numbers who called me. Not only that, but the user interface is so good that I actually use those features - something I’ve never done before. It looks cool, too.

I think it is a common problem, but a customer service problem. They aren’t going to give you “real” answers, just the laywer-approved ones. Ma Bell used to charge rent for those phones, though, so even with a year and a half of use on your new phone you are probably saving money.

Ma Bell wanted the break-up as much as anyone else. For the US, the system was becoming more and more artificial. Other countries have followed the US’s split-up and/or de-nationalization. I don’t think it’s coming back.

Ma Bell did provide a less frustrating world, though. I yearn for the time when the 411 people could always find the correct numbers. (Now they can’t even find my own number, even when I tell them what it is.)

Back in the bad old days, you didn’t own your phone. You leased it. Ma Bell charged you about $2 a month for it, IIRC. (If you had the same phone for 10 years, that’s $240 for a rotary dial, no features phone. Not a great deal, if you ask me.) On top of that they charged you for a monthly maintenance fee.

Now, if you wanted a SECOND line, God forbid, you were supposed to call THEM to split the line. Buying a phone and running the line yourself was a no-no–because they wanted to charge you for install and a second lease.

Yes, they’d come out if you had a complaint. But don’t kid yourself. You paid very handsomely for that good service.

No, the “new and improved” system does NOT save me money in the long run. I replace a $70 to $90 phone every 12 to 18 months. Compared with $2.50 per month for TWO phones on the old Northwestern Bell, this is not a deal. The one and only
time I had a rental phone problem, the phone company gave me the option of waiting for a repairman or driving to their office. Since my wife wasn’t working and we only had the one car that I drove to work, we chose the repairman.

Perhaps in my parents’ day it was dial phones, hard-wired,
black only; but from my first service in 1971 to the discontinuation of rental phones around 1986, there was no extra charge for touch-tone or color and ALL of my rental phones were modular plug types with the exception of the wall phone in my very first pigeon-hole efficiency.

Just prior to the discontinuation of rental phones, my phone bills ran around $18, and a lot of that was tax
(as is the case of my present $36 bill).

I go months on end without using long distance, so nickel-a-minute long distance means little to me. I’d gladly pay 50 cents a minute for the 15 minutes or so of long distance
I use to get a reliable phone again.

Why do your phones keep breaking down? I should mail you some of mine!

After the big black rotary, we upgraded to touch tone phones. Then to cordless. Now, to cordless phones with call display. And a hands free phone as well. None of my phones have broken down. I have one shoved in the back of my cupboard. Feynn had to take another one to work. I even let the kids take one apart. Plus a couple of phones are in active service. They do NOT break down here.

I did notice that my monthly bill went up for basic service, but with the amount I now save on long distance, I’m way ahead.

I’m with lola, what on earth are you people doing to your phones?!?! I’ve had the same 3 for going on 7+ years now, and believe me, they were pretty damn cheap! (Actually, I’m not sure of the cordless, I won it through a work-related promotion, but it’s the same kind as Drew Carey has in his TV home, so it must be good, eh?)

2nd Law summed up the “good old days” pretty much. Remember when you had to be rich to have more than one phone in your house? Now you can have a dozen for a fraction of the price, in any style or color you want! I remember how I campaigned for the Bell Mickey Mouse phone…or the Bicentennial Candlestick model only to be shot down by my ever-practical parents. Heh heh.