Overheard last Thursday at a Cingular Wireless store:
Michael & Kim: "So, how much does it cost per month?"
The Shark: "$39.99 a month."
"But it's another $4.99 for 200 SMS's a month."
"So..... that's about $45 a month?"
"Yep, that's all."
[Michael, being a lawyer from way back, starts to read through the 10-page contract. The Shark drums his fingers in irritation while pulling faces of boredom at Kim.]
M: "So what's this $36 activation fee?"
The Shark: "That's standard. Everyone charges it."
"You didn't think to mention it?"
"I supposed I should have mentioned it, yes."
"Is there anything else we should know?"
" Just want to know how much it will cost. Are there any other charges we should know about?"
"Nope, that's it."
[Michael continues reading, and now he is the one drumming his fingers in irritation.]
"What about this $1.25 regulation charge?"
"That's standard. Everyone charges it."
"It doesn't say how often this is. Is it monthly?"
"Yeah. It's a tax."
"That's funny, it expressly says here, "This is not a tax." So this is fee you charge me for answering questions about me as required by the government?"
"Yep, that's it."
(Very slowly) "Is there anything else we should know?"
(Getting grumpy now) "Look, I just want to know how much it will cost each month. For the third time, how much will it cost?"
"I can't tell you because of the tax. I always tell people to add more because of the tax. The tax is different depending on where you live."
"But we live around the corner."
"So, you'll pay the tax from where you live."
"OK, how much is that."
"I can't tell you really. It's about 22%."
"22%! But sales tax in New York is only 8.625%"
"The tax on mobile phones is different."
"So how much is it?"
"I can't tell you, I don't know, because it depends on where you live. Look, I would have told you all this, but I didn't know you knew nothing about the industry.
"Yeah, everyone. I believe in saying all this up front, right? It's more honest to say everything up front."
[Michael & Kim decide to cut The Shark off before he coughs up a conscience.]
So - Elliot Spitzer - good job hammering the banks, and getting a ton of money for New York state (even if no-one from the financial community will fund your 2008 Presidential Campaign). Could you please go after a decent target now? In the land of the free, the home of the "consumer is king", and the birthplace of anti-trust law, why are all the mobile phone companies offering exactly the same ripoff deals? Get out there and make them pay for anti-competitive practises!
Just make sure they don't add the cost of the fines on to my monthly bill.