June 30, 2004
Cellular phone service can lead to confusion
It seems that retail sellers have come to rely increasingly
on the use of intentional customer deception as an integral
part of marketing strategy. For instance the cellular
phone business offers of numerous similar services at
varying prices under different conditions are bundled
together in complex ways then sold under multi-year contract.
Can there be any cellular users who have not gotten "surprises" on
their billings due to incomplete understanding of the
complexities of their cellular service -- and then found
the customer service to be just too time-consuming to
be practical for recovering small costs? Everything they
are doing is legal of course but smells a bit like the
docks at Monterey Bay after the fishing boats arrive.
Caveat emptor is always good advice, but do you think
it is ethical for sellers to design and sell services
with the specific intention of outsmarting their buyers?
We live in a world that makes obvious that we cannot
afford to treat one another shabbily. Mistakes are made.
Apologies are appropriate. Relationships need to be nurtured
to sustain them and healed when problems arise. The very
same process applies to business practices. You have
described shabby treatment by one industry. Even though
laws may not have been broken, trust and confidence have
Your description of the marketing of certain cellular
services should be an embarrassment to those who lead
such enterprises. Of course what they are doing is deceptive,
and it lacks integrity. Until and unless this industry
regulates itself, the pressures will build to the point
where society will have had enough. Selling techniques
such as you described are frighteningly similar to the
incessant phone calling that interrupted our early evenings
and created a groundswell of negative reactions forcing
the "Do Not Call Registry" listing that reshaped
the telemarketing industry.
Citizens will, once again, reach the point of understandable
frustration and demand actions by their elected representatives.
Committees will be formed, and investigations will likely
lead to stringent and perhaps even counterproductive
How sad for free markets and for the purchasing public.
Those business operators who have "played fairly" will
be slapped with the same controlling hand that was designed
only for those who created the problem.
A smart competitor in this cellular services industry
would see this as a positive opportunity. The integrity-centered
operator would engage in "carpe diem" and seize
this moment to promote a straightforward and honest approach.
Customers would flock to those who would say (and then
implement) a "here is what you get plan" with
no extra costs. Hopefully, the integrity message will
come through and confirm that yes, integrity matters
-- and it pays.