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Phone calls


I keep forgetting to mention this here:

I've more or less stopped answering my home phone. Much of the time I'm just leaving it unplugged, and checking messages now and then. If you want to reach me quickly, my cell phone is the best way to do it.

There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that I don't have caller ID on my home phone (at some point I'll get a phone that can display it), so I never know who's calling, and these days the fewer surprises I have, the better. Another is that I get too many junk phone calls for my tastes--not as many as lots of people get, but I find them distressing. (Several of them lately have been surveys rather than sales calls; those are better in some ways, but worse in others, because I have to make a spur-of-the-moment decision about whether to take the survey, based on too little data. Whereas with telemarketing, I can just tell them to remove me from their calling list and then get off the phone.)

I occasionally consider turning off my land line entirely; I know several people who only use cell phones. But I know some people prefer to talk with me on my land line (I talk too quietly on the phone, and the cell phone doesn't pick up my voice as well as the land line, and I gather the cell phone makes my voice sound harsher or flatter or something to some people), and when I have guests who don't have their own phones (a reasonably frequent occurrence), I don't want to leave them stranded without a phone.

I suppose I ought to switch to one of the minimal service plans on the land line--only a few calls per month or something. But I hate those kinds of things; I always get tense that I'm going to accidentally go over the limit and have to pay a lot extra. Somehow I would rather pay even more as a regular bill and not have to worry about it. Not very rational, but comforting.


Perfectly rational. You're just placing a premium on worrying about going over the limit and/or keeping track of your usage.

(BTW, interesting discussion of "rationality" at Crooked Timber, specifically w/reference to economics and/or game theory.)

You should talk to SBC about "Privacy Manager" for your home phone line. I have the almost identical service from Verizon, which they call "Call Intercept". It's $6 per month, plus you have to add Caller ID to your line at about $6 per month, but it has almost completely halted sales calls to my phone here. (Or you can choose it as one of the features under the [personal/enhanced] choice (plus) plans that SBC offers, which may work better for your bill depending on your other features.) Most telemarketers block their Caller ID information, which is what triggers Privacy Manager to step in before your phone rings and ask the caller to identify themselves. You only receive the call if they do identify themselves.

It has a few drawbacks, but telemarketers were taking over one of my phone lines, and the peace of mind of blocking those calls has been well worth it. I no longer use the Caller ID display, even though I have the service, because I had mostly used it to try to screen out telemarketers.

You should check the rates with SBC (if you're with SBC), but a measured rate plan almost certainly wouldn't add up to all that much more than the flat rate even if you suddenly started using your landline more. If you're only risking a bill increase of a few dollars, while the far more likely outcome is a bill decrease of a few dollars, you might discover that it's within your comfort zone. Of course, at $30 per year savings, it wasn't really worth your time to read this post, let alone worry about it.

I keep a land line, but pay for local service only ($11/month, $18 after all taxes). When I want to make a long distance call, I use a calling card.

So, i have an incoming-only home phone line. That is, i get zero (or some number which is close enough to zero that i can consider it to be zero and not have to worry about it) free outgoing calls a month, but incoming calls are always free. If you had something like that, you wouldn't have to worry about whether you could make outgoing calls from your land line for free (because you'd know you couldn't), but, if someone couldn't hear you on your cell, you could have them call you back on your land line. This probably isn't for everyone, but i figured i'd mention the idea.