Hundreds Of Thousands Of People Are Still Renting Home Phones

While many of us are ditching landlines in favor of wireless, a large portion of the country still has some sort of terrestrial home phone. But what’s surprising is just how many folks out there are still paying every month to lease their phones.

Leased phones are a hold-over from the Ma Bell days of telephone service, when getting a new phone didn’t just mean going to the store and buying one for a few bucks. But some customers, mostly elderly, have never gotten around to upgrading their lines — or checking to make sure they aren’t paying for leased phones they no longer have.

Philadelphia’s KYW-TV has the story of one woman who recently glanced at her parents’ phone bill and saw they were paying $21.09/month for three leased phones, which means $253.08/year for phones they could have purchased at the store for a fraction of that cost.

The woman figures that her parents have spent more than $6,000 leasing these phones since the mid-’80s. Making it even worse, the daughter says her parents don’t even have at least one of the phones they’ve been paying for. So not only were they forking over $7/month for a nonexistent phone, they would an additional fee for not returning a device they had already paid for several times over.

We don’t know how widespread this issue is, but the company that does the leasing for this particular phone company says they have 300,000 leasing customers.

A rep for The Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly tells KYW:

Some folks never got around to buying their own personal telephone at any local store and are still just going ahead and paying that monthly rental along in their phone bill… There’s no incentive for the company to say hey by the way you could buy a equal or better product at your local store instead of paying me a monthly bill.

So if you have an elderly loved one who hasn’t updated their phone in a long time, you may want to suggest they take a look at their monthly bill to see if they’re being paying for a device whose only worth is to phone historians.

3 On Your Side: Elderly Still Renting Home Phones [KYW]

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. ReaperRob says:

    A few years back we found out my grandmother was still paying a phone rental fee, it was a nightmare trying to give it back to the phone company. They tried to convince her she could keep renting it, just in case.

    • mikedt says:

      I’m guessing 80% of the 65 and older set is still renting. It’s been a number of years now, but my parents were renting until my brother and I bought them a box full of phones to replace all their MaBell phones.

      • kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

        My mom’s 81 and I don’t ever remember having rented phones (I’m 36). Not aware of any aunts, uncles, etc renting either. Maybe it’s more prevalent in some areas of the country.

        Heck, I’ve never even had a phone compnay make an effort to rent me a phone when I signed up for service.

        • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

          35 here, and not only do i remember the avocado green rented phones in the house growing up [matched the shag carpeting, really] but when i was in high school one of my friends worked for AT&T and was the person talking people into renting phones. long after you could buy a football shaped novelty phone out of a magazine ad

        • tungstencoil says:

          You may not remember, but if you live(d) in the US you did. You just didn’t realize it. Until about the late 1970s (http://www.frillfreephones.com/frasqu1.html scroll down; not ‘referenced’ but jives with my memory) you HAD to rent.

          I remember this pretty specifically because my parents were divorced, Dad worked for AT&T. When they stopped renting, my mother wanted my father to get her a phone at a discount or take one of the demos he got from work, and it became a big deal. I remember my father explaining to me the whole “you used to have to rent, but now people can buy them”.

          • MrEvil says:

            During the era of leased telephones devices like the tele-type, Fax, and the first modems could only be connected to the Bell network with an Acoustic Coupler. There are many TTY’s still kicking around that use an Acoustic Coupler…. though they are slowly getting junked out with the advent of mobile phones and SMS.

        • Robert Nagel says:

          Kosmo,
          Until the late 70’s there were two predominate phone companies. AT&T and General Telephone (Sprint). You could not buy your own phone as you were not allowed to connect anything that the phone company didn’t bless to their system. You rented your phone. When the phone companies were deregulated the flood gates opened and all manner of phones came out of the woodwork, rates plummeted, AT&T was broken up and the phone system that you know today evolved.

      • poco says:

        About a year ago my brother and I convinced our parents to replace their landline phones with cell phones. They were paying separate fees for local, long distance, voicemail and caller ID. The phone companies prey on older customers who don’t want to/aren’t aware of the benefits of upgrading.

  2. Sarek says:

    When I took over paying my mother’s bills, I found she was paying $1/month for the rental line charge. When I called up to cancel it, the rep reminded me that I’d be responsible if something happened to the phone wires in the apartment. I told her I’d assume that risk.

    • wrjohnston91283 says:

      To be honest, depending on what is covered, I’d probably be willing to pay $12/year to have someone else deal with any problems.

      • who? says:

        I got the same spiel from the cable company when I wanted to drop the $2.95/month they charge for line maintenance insurance. Since the only reason in the last 15 years that they’ve been to my house was for gratuitous calls I made when they were forcing me to pay the $2.95/month (I was on a bundle plan that required it), I took my chances.

      • McRib wants to know if you've been saved by the Holy Clown says:

        Yeah. We paid that to our cable company at our last apartment.
        They had to come out seven times to deal with the wiring, and the last time totally re-wired the box and the apartment.
        Well worth the money for us.

    • soj4life says:

      Protection for the wires in the call could be useful depending on how old the house is and how good the wires still are. If it is an older house and the wires haven’t replaced since the original install, they will fail sometime soon. If it is a newer house and the builder wasn’t cheap, you should be fine for a atleast a decade or two.

  3. cameronl says:

    “you could buy a (sic) equal or better product at your local store instead of paying me a monthly bill.‚Äù

    Better? No. Those old phones were built like tanks.
    (Still, not worth renting…. but those old phones…. they just don’t make ‘em like they used to.)

    • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

      I wish I had some of those old phones because I have found nothing as good. Our phone guy pulled all the lights out of our phones, making them impossible to find in the dark. The poor phone company saved the electricity for powering our old princess phones. Another advantage to the old desk style model is that hanging up actually opened up contacts whereas all new phones (by law) allow the authorities to listen into your home at their whim. That may or may not be what the consumer would want.

      • sponica says:

        i love using the desk phones at work, the clarity is so much better than a cell phone…

      • tkmluv says:

        “Another advantage to the old desk style model is that hanging up actually opened up contacts whereas all new phones (by law) allow the authorities to listen into your home at their whim.”

        Citation needed.

        • donjumpsuit says:

          Do you need a citation from someone who wears a tinfoil hat? I think the funniest thing about people with conspiracy theories involving getting spied on is the fact that they are vain enough to think that anyone would spend the time or money to spy on them in the first place.

      • Rhinoguy says:

        The phone guy didn’t pull the lights out of your phone, he just removed the power source. You actually supplied the power by way of a wall mounted transformer similar to a cell phone charger. You could get that hooked up again if you call an older technician that installs phones in your area. S/he will remember what to do. Unless you have TWO lines without selective ring, then it won’t work. You may have the transformer still plugged in somewhere your house, just disconnected.
        He was doing what management wanted him to do, make you think you needed to “upgrade” your phones.

        • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

          WRONG! I watched him remove the lamps from the phones. None of these phone had the external wall-wart. You must be a youngster ;^)

    • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

      Yes. This is one aspect of the story that isn’t prominent: those old phones were designed to last forever. I have friends who hunted for them at flea markets and installed them in their homes. The new crap has to be replaced every few years and break/fail very easily.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      i remember the heft and the metal bases. it’s not the same anymore, watching a tv show or movie where someone tries to use a plastic junkphone as a defensive weapon or a murder weapon.

    • chevale says:

      I have a white Western Electric rotary phone that I picked up years ago at a bargain outlet store (if you’re in Massachusetts, think “Building 19″) for next to nothing. You’re right; those sets were built like tanks, and one of them would make a great weapon in a pinch. In addition, the sound quality is amazing. I keep the phone plugged in mainly as a conversation piece, but I make an occasional call on it just to marvel at the great sound. Those cheap phones most of us bought after the Ma Bell breakup were pathetic compared to the pre-breakup product.

  4. jeffpiatt says:

    “So if you have an elderly loved one who hasn’t updated their phone in a long time, you may want to suggest they take a look at their monthly bill to see if they’re being paying for a device whose only worth is to phone historians” or as an bludgeoning tool
    one of my grandmothers owned an old western electric desk phone with the old 4 prong connector and it was the heavyset phone i have ever scene with an cast iron base it was built like an tank and it still works. i think that most elderly people are keeping them around because they never break and some may not have had there wall plugs upgraded to modular connectors. heck my grandmothers house still had the baseboard 4 prong plugs with bell system logos as installed by bell when they owned the wires in the walls.if anything you need to convince them to get Verizon to let them buy the phone outright they are better made than the modern versions.

  5. Michael Belisle says:

    I seem to remember a previous incarnation of this story where grandma complained at the end that she missed her phone and wished her kids hadn’t forced her to get rid of it.

    • Snoofin says:

      Why are old people so stupid. They refuse to embrace any kind of change and they fall for all the scams out there.They refuse to change to anything modern and refuse to learn anything new. Hell they dont even wear modern clothing most of the time. They wear polyester pants and flowery tops to go to Mcdonalds or the mall in the middle of summer. They never wear jeans or T-shirts. They have the same hair style they had 50 years ago, They complain anytime something breaks and after being told you dont repair stuff anymore because they dont know how to use a new version and refuse to even try and learn.

      I was always told growing up that old people are wise old owls because of all of their life experiences and how we should ask them for guidance when we need it. Hell from what I can see they are all dumb as stumps and I wouldnt ask them for guidance on anything.

      • Mark says:

        And someday, you will be one, too. You’ll be wearing jeans and a t-shirt, styling in your faux hawk, while all the crazy youngsters around you are in their with their haircut, laughing at the lame old man in jeans and a t-shirt that nobody’s worn since 2025.
        It’s not about old people being stupid. It’s about changing mores and attitudes. Before mass production and cheap foreign labor, people wanted equipment that would last, because they couldn’t afford to replace it every year or two. To them, taking away their phone that could withstand a round from a .50 machine gun to replace it with one that would disintegrate if you looked at it too harshly isn’t an upgrade. Heck, I’m only in my 30’s, and there are things that I’d much prefer the old versions of to modern updates, because they last and last and last.

  6. The Brad says:

    “So not only were they forking over $7/month for a nonexistent phone, they would an additional fee for not returning a device they had already paid for several times over”

    I think you accidently a word there.

  7. mykie says:

    About 12 years ago, I was working at a call center for a local phone company, and I fondly remember one very nice lady who had a monthly charge of $6.69 for one of these phones on her bill (which was actually a bill from AT&T placed on our bill). Of course, that seemed like an opportunity to up-sell her to one of our phones for a one-time fee, instead of a monthly fee.
    But this kind, dear lady explained she was aware that she had been being ripped-off since the mid-70’s, but it didn’t bother her, because the phone she was given was the exact shade of “robin’s egg blue” that matched the decor in her kitchen, and she could never find replacement phone in the same color.
    What’s worse, is that she had volunteered several times to outright purchase the phone from the company, and they denied her request, saying she could either keep paying or return the phone. She happily kept paying.
    She opted not to purchase one of our phones that day, but I always think back and wonder if that nice lady is still paying for that phone?

    • kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

      Maybe she bought a new phone and repainted the kitchen to match it :)

      At least she had a logical reason for renting the phone, even if it might not make sense to a lot of people.

  8. momtimestwo says:

    They don’t build phones like they used to. I’d love to have a real rotary wall phone with a mile long handset cord like the old days.

    • Hoss says:

      We don’t seem to have that feature where we can listen in on party-line calls either.

      • sponica says:

        omg that was the best….you could ever so subtly pick up the phone and listen in on your sibling’s conversation.

        • redskull says:

          Well… a true party line, like we had when I was a kid, meant you could ever so subtly pick up the phone and listen in on your NEIGHBOR’S conversations, not just the other phones in your house.

          It also meant you couldn’t call someone whenever you wanted; most of the time you had to keep picking up the phone and hoping no one else in your neighborhood was on it, THEN you could make your call.

          • Hoss says:

            Those were the days. Remember giving someone your phone number, the first 2 numbers were a word, not numbers — for example, the Leave it to Beaver family had a number that started: KLONDIKE-5…

            • Big Dave says:

              You are such a baby.
              I am a geezer, and this was the telephone number evolution: first iteration, you picked up the phone and asked the local operator to connect you to Jim Jones … or whoever – no numbers. Second, you got a three or four digit number later, depending on the size of your town. And yes, full party line, where sometimes you would politely ask people to get off the line so you could make a call. THEN third, you got a prefix – ours was WY for Wyman (no idea who or what Wyman was), so your number would be WY-2066, my first phone number.
              But, yeah, those phones worked … always. And the operators were so nice – went well above and beyond their job description. You could just dial “0” and ask the time, or directions to somewhere, or a recipe. They were a cross between a phone operator and a library. Fond memories.

      • momtimestwo says:

        We had a true party line until 1983. You would pick it up and hear anyone in town talking. Every once and a while someone would say “is someone else on the line?”. I was 13 at the time and was nosey:) Also to call anyone in town you just had to dial the last 4 digits of their phone number. We only had 250 people in town.

    • tungstencoil says:

      http://www.frillfreephones.com

      ‘Nuff said – you can get one there.

  9. do-it-myself says:

    Home Phones used to be rented? Seriously? But I guess the true modern equivalent of this is being trapped into “renting” a cable modem that you CANNOT purchase and must use ONLY the brand provided by the cable company. Any other kind purchased is not compatible. I’M LOOKING AT YOU COMCAST.

    $7/mo. x (going on 48 months)…. UGH.

    • mister_roboto says:

      Yeah, pretty much.

      I think the old phones though will out last a shit Comcast cable modem any day (years).

    • PunditGuy says:

      Um, what? I own my Motorola SB6120 — it was like $70. I figured it would pay for itself in no time.

      That’s with Comcast. Here’s there list of compatible devices:

      http://mydeviceinfo.comcast.net/

    • kathygnome says:

      Uh, just go out and buy one.

    • dpeters11 says:

      Have you verified that something else is not compatible or is that just what they told you? There is a big difference. Of course they wouldn’t provide tech support on anything else, but that’s a different matter.

    • nishioka says:

      > I’M LOOKING AT YOU COMCAST.

      And Comcast is looking at you going, “dude, just go buy any Motorola cable modem you see on Newegg”. Actually they probably aren’t doing that, because getting $7/mo from you is better than telling you to do some homework and buy your own equipment.

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      No such thing as “nothing else is compatible.”

      • BarbiCat says:

        You’re right, but there IS such a thing as “We will only support X brand and anything else you’re on your own if it breaks”. I do tech support, and while I will gladly go above and beyond to troubleshoot our products, I won’t even touch third party equipment other than basic power cycling it.

        • PunditGuy says:

          That’s about the sum total of help I’d expect on a piece of Comcast-owned equipment as well.

          How much service does a cable modem need? I’ve had to power cycle it a few times in the last 2+ years, and — oddly enough — it doesn’t seem to provide service very well when there’s a Comcast outage.

    • pentium4borg says:

      I have Comcast and they definitely let you use your own modem. I bought the same model modem (used) on Amazon for $25 that they were renting me. It’s long since paid for itself.

    • Theoncomingstorm says:

      Not only did they used to be rented, it was illegal to own your own phone. And you’d better pay for all the phones used in your house because they can tell how many phones you have connected to the line.

  10. Fishnoise says:

    The old Bell-era phones were built like tanks and still sound clearer than any post-Bell wired, cordless, or cell phone I’ve ever used. I use a Western Electric Model 2500 in avocado green for my land line — no, it’s not a lease!

  11. Straspey says:

    Fast Forward to the year 2038 –

    Antiques Roadshow – Dubuque, Iowa…

    “My grandmother had this phone when she opened her account with Bell Telephone back in 1936.”

    (Expert) “And you say that she actually paid a rental fee for the entire time she owned it ?”

    “Yes. Unbelievably, she was paying to rent the phone for more than twenty years after the time she could have bought her own. We tried to convince her to do that, but she did not want to give up her old original phone.”

    (Expert) “And how did you come to own it ?”

    When my grandmother passed away, we tried to return it, but her local phone company no longer kept their own phones, so they told us to just throw it away.”

    (Expert) But thankfully you decided to keep it. These phones have become highly collectible, and are very much in demand and sought after by serious collectors. Let me ask you, did you calculate how money in rent your grandmother paid during the time she owned the phone ?”

    ‘”We did some research, and according to our rough calculations, we estimate that she paid about $6,000 just to rent this telephone from the phone company.”

    (Expert) “Well – I have good news for you. This phone is in excellent condition, with its original parts in tact and operational. A wonderful and rare specimen, I would estimate that if this phone were to to appear at my shop for auction, it would go for anywhere from between fifteen to twenty thousand dollars.”

    “Oh – oh -oh (begins crying)…I’m thinking of all the times I spoke to my grandmother and realize that she was talking to me on this phone. — Twenty thousand dollars..??” (breaks down sobbing…)

  12. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    All these elderly people were not all that elderly when leasing phones became no longer required. They saw all their friends and family with different phones, got offers of new phones free with new bank accounts and magazine subscriptions, heard about newfangled phones with answering machines built in, and saw phones for sale in stores.

    This is hardly a case of dumb old grandma getting ripped off because she didn’t understand. These people clearly chose to ignore the daily goings on around them and chose to continue their existing business relationship with the phone company.

    • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

      I can just give you the perspective I have from the interactions with my mother in law. She was born in 1917, and grew up in the era of the old Ma Bell monopoly. If they said pay this fee, she paid it – no questions. She was being billed for long distance, that she never used, by AT&T as well. When she was still lucid, I asked her why she was paying for it, and she said it was because the phone company sent the bill, and she had to pay it if she wanted long distance (this wasn’t true). It’s not just phone rentals, people are being billed for long distance services too. And probably more than once as she was being billed for long distance by ATT and Verizon at the same time.

      Bottom line, she never questioned anyone she thought was in authority. I suspect she’s not the only one.

  13. atthec44 says:

    What’s a “home phone”?

    • kathygnome says:

      Yeah, I agree. They should be getting rid of their phone along with their phone.

    • eezy-peezy says:

      It’s a phone that is connected to the lines in your home and you NEVER get a dropped call on it, and the quality is perfect. Not like most cell phones.

      Can’t tell you how many times someone calls me on a cell phone, and I have to tell them to hang up and call back on a land line because I can not understand them or every other word is missing.

  14. Major Tom Coming Home says:

    I have one of the “newer” models of rotary phones at home. It was probably one of the last models of rotary phones made and the last that was leased out to someone. It even says “property of XYZ phone company” on it. Funny thing is, while it works very well, it isn’t all that well made. I guess near the end they figured out how to cut corners on rotary phones in order to try and compete with the new touch tone models.

    • Cacao says:

      Touch Tone phone models were necessary to ‘speak’ with newfangled IVRs (Interactive Voice Response) businesses started using.

  15. kobresia says:

    While not worth the leasing fees because it’s much more affordable to purchase an old Western Electric phone off eBay or a flea market, those old phones are really high quality and worth the premium price.

    Back when I had a landline, I rewired my old Western Electric model 500 (similar to the one in the video, only in black) to ring on 2-wire, mostly because the audio quality was so awesome that I preferred to pick up that phone for my incoming customer calls. I almost never had to ask my callers to repeat themselves, even when they were obviously on speakerphones.

    The funny thing with the 4-wire systems is that they were only there so the phone company could tell how many phones were ringing at a house based on the current draw or something, so they could bill people accordingly for each and every extension on each phone line. My dad resented that foolishness, so he simply disconnected the ringers on all but the primary phone, which had the ringer as high as it would go so that it could be heard throughout the house.

    Ahh, the bad old days of great phones with shitty Bell system behemoth. While their consumer practices were terrible, Bell Labs did amazing research and Western Electric engineered & manufactured some fine hardware.

    • scoosdad says:

      I actually worked briefly for Western Electric the year I got out of college (we didn’t make the phones, though), and we had a Bell Labs research facility at our location. I remember sitting in a brown-bag lunch seminar, more than 30 years ago, listening to a person tell us all about this new technology they were working on called ‘cellular telephones’, how you’d have a phone so small you could carry it around with you and use it just about anywhere.

      That was a time when the only mobile phones were installed in rich and important folk’s cars and you had to contact the mobile radio operator to make a call and hope you weren’t moving so fast that you’d go out of range before you finished making the call. Most of these people were on first name basis with the local mobile operators. The operators had to listen to the call, so they would know when to disconnect it at the end, and people waited patiently in line to make calls over the one or two frequencies available in that area.

      • kobresia says:

        I guess the sad irony is that they engineered their own demise, in that rather few of the Baby Bells figured out how to leverage cellular service successfully and have struggled to do anything right, changing hands again and again. I don’t suppose it helped that the behemoth managed to make consumers disgruntled enough that the gubmint broke it up, either.

        • NeverLetMeDown says:

          “in that rather few of the Baby Bells figured out how to leverage cellular service successfully”

          I think that AT&T Wireless and Verizon Wireless might dispute that notion.

          • kobresia says:

            Pretty much all of the other ones are just being handed around by various holding companies who try (and fail) different things to make them profitable, or the got into manufacturing telecom equipment, some more successfully than others.

            • NeverLetMeDown says:

              Essentially all of the wireless operations of the Baby Bells are now part of AT&T Wireless or Verizon Wireless.

    • Willow16 says:

      I remember my parents disconnecting the bell on a second phone so they wouldn’t have to pay for two phones.

  16. scoosdad says:

    That’s nothing. My elderly next door neighbors have a cable and internet bundle. They don’t have a computer and never plan on getting one. But the cost of their cable TV service dropped so dramatically with the bundle that they just shrug and say, “oh well”. $10 a month of their new plan covers leasing a wireless modem. That now sits in a box once I went over and unplugged it for them. No point in paying for electricity for it, but they were afraid to touch it themselves for fear something terrible would happen.

    I have a local contact in sales at the cable company and I spoke to her (with my neighbor’s consent), to possibly see if something else could be worked out. Best she could do so they wouldn’t lose the TV deal was to swap the internet for cable-based telephone. That would even have lowered the bill by another $10 a month, and then they’d also be able to ditch the local phone company as well for even more money saved. But they said no, they don’t trust the cable company’s phone service.

    Well I tried. At least they didn’t get an HD package to go with their 25 year old TV like my mom once did. “But the quality will be much better on our TV,” reasoned my step-dad.

  17. Lyn Torden says:

    And in other news … millions of people are effectively “renting” their cell phones are part of their two year term contracts.

    Friends don’t let friends rent phones.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      Except that this is entirely different from the scenario you describe. A discounted cellphone that comes with a 2 year contract isn’t a rental, it’s paying for the phone over time. If you cancel service after the two years, you own the phone, you don’t have to return it.

      Accepting a contract means that you get a large discount on the price of the phone.

  18. Major Tom Coming Home says:

    Just a thought…it’s not that all of these people don’t know that they can now buy their own phones. Some are probably just too lazy to call and cancel their old lease and drive to the phone company and give their dinosaur back. Saving $7.00 / month or whatever isn’t worth the effort for them. The sad part is, I suspect if they just called the phone company would cancel the lease over the phone and just let them keep the 30 year old rotary.

  19. Hoss says:

    Silly idea, but how about if a caring congress-person passing legislation to stop this nonsense? Otherwise let’s get a caring class action lawyer to generate some grocery money for these people. There has been open fraud going on for literally decades.

  20. polishhillbilly says:

    I have that exact phone pictured at the video screen grab.
    it’s in the shop and has a metal ringer. You can actually hear it over the air compressor.

  21. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    My mother in law died last September at age 94. She went into the nursing home in August 2010. She had rented the same black telephone from Ma Bell, then AT&T for over 60 years. We tried to pry it from her hands, but she wouldn’t have any part of it. The minute she went in the home, that phone went and we canceled the rental.

    There’s no reason in this day and age anyone should rent a phone. You can buy a perfectly good cordless phone for less than $20, and a cheapo corded phone is less than $10 at a dollar store. It’s nothing but a racket.

  22. u1itn0w2day says:

    The break up of ma bell was hard for the cry baby bells and their employees. Some never bothered to learn things like the customer doesn’t have to rent or it’s not in their best interest to rent. Many felt the NON Western Electric/ATT phones were junk and felt they were doing their union brothers and sisters a favor by advising the customers into to keeping their rental(uh-oh;competition). It took many pre divestiture employees well over a decade to bother to learn when/how to bill a customer always reporting all customers troubles in telco plant even if in the customer equipment/wiring costing the rate payers money and the company revenue. This is part of the reason many techs and service reps wanted customers renting and loaded up with every service plan possible so they would not to have to write/figure out a bill or even explain to the customer the billing process-A customer has a bad phone just have them arrange for a new one under the rental and service plans.

    In the 1980s a rental was “ok” for some senior citizens but by the 90s the telcos, kids and consumers groups should’ve been explaining you can buy your own phone of choice to seniors. I have seniors in the family still upset at the breakup and mad that the local telco doesn’t do everything for free as well although they seem to like the cordless phones.

  23. chiieddy says:

    Some of these phones used to be tied directly into the wall, no modular plugs like “modern” phones. My great-aunt had one of these when she passed in the 90s. It was mind boggling, even then.

  24. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Go to the flea markets and look for the old phones and ditch the rental. I must have dialed five or six of those babies last weekend when I was running around at those places. (No, I cannot pass one without dialing it and thinking how ironic it is that my non-existent kids would never know what that sound is.)

    • orion70 says:

      You could always pick your non-existent kids up one of those Fisher Price rotary phones with the googly eyes.

  25. MrObvious says:

    Meanwhile, half of the smug commenters are paying $5-$10/month for a cable modem rental that could easily be purchased cheaply, saving hundreds, if not thousands of dollars over their lives.

    • gman863 says:

      Yes, it is worth buying your own cable modem. A Linksys DOCSIS 3.0 (the latest standard) is about $100 at Fry’s.

      Just be aware the typical life span of a cable modem (based on the 15 years I’ve been in IT and PC repair) is about 4-5 years. Unlike old Ma Bell phones, it will not last forever.

  26. BlueHighlighterNextToACoozie says:

    Well they probably need the phone to call AOL each month to make their montly payment.

  27. Suburban Idiot says:

    My mother-in-law had apparently been paying a monthly rental fee for almost two decades when we discovered it on her bill. She said she had returned the rented phones back in the 1980s, but GTE had apparently never stopped charging her for the rental.

    She either didn’t realize what the charge on her monthly bill was for or never looked that closely at her bill. Given all the various oddly named fees, it’s possible that she saw the charge and just assumed it was for some feature she had or some tax or whatever.

  28. carlogesualdo says:

    I have to question why it’s even legal for this to still be happening. As the story stated, the phones have all been paid for, many times over. What is that, like, 1 million percent interest? No phone company should still charge a rental fee or demand a return of equipment they can no longer use and have long since been paid far more than fair market value for. It’s a gouge. Or a scam. Whatever you want to call it. And it targets the elderly. They have laws against this sort of thing for other entities.

  29. Shorebreak says:

    I literally had to pull that leased AT&T dial phone from my dear Mom’s “cold dead hands”. When she passed away I took the phone down to nearest AT&T store and turned it in.

  30. Rhinoguy says:

    In addition to the phone company ripping people off there is the gas company that wants me to buy a “Peace of Mind Warranty” on my pipes. And the electric company wants to “warrant” my wiring! Even the city wants to sell me a water service insurance policy that covers pretty much nothing that gives trouble. Just the pipes and cutoff valves.
    Everybody wants a piece of my action.

    • gman863 says:

      there is the gas company that wants me to buy a “Peace of Mind Warranty” on my pipes…

      Does this mean if your house blows up from leaking gas they’ll rebuild it for you?

  31. ultmontra08 says:

    How about the people who have broadband, but still pay for AOL?

  32. yankinwaoz says:

    I have to ask. Since these are on lease, and if the lease is being paid, isn’t the phone company on the hook if the phone breaks. Do they even have someone on staff to deal with this, despite collecting thousands of dollars a month in venenue?

    I would love to see them testing on what the lease is paying for. I wonder if you could even sue them for failing to hold up their end of the bargin.

  33. wkm001 says:

    Back in the day the phone company in SW Virginia required you to rent their phone. The phone company controlled every aspect of the network to ensure a quality of service. You simply weren’t allowed to use your own phone.

    Thirty years later we are all use to the crappy voice quality and dropped calls of cell phones. It was nice when the phone companies were taking boat loads of money from the government to build out a network and really took pride in what they were building. Now they just take boat loads of money.

  34. nightowl85 says:

    And don’t forget to check your internet bill too. Last year I checked my bill, which I never did – so I admit it’s my fault- and I was paying 15 dollars a month for renting a modem from my company. And I had been doing so for three years!!!! So I paid $540 for renting the thing. As soon as I found out, I bought one that cost me less than $40. I was mad at myself for wasting money like that so I cancelled the cable too. I learned my lesson and now I check my bills more often. Companies often ‘inadvertently’ (yeah, right) make mistakes. Another example is T-Mobile, which was charging me a fixed fee for ‘unlimited’ phone calls to a foreign country, but if the calls were to a cell phone, they would charge me per minute. It turned out that they were charging a lot of phone calls like cell phones and their excuse was that they can’t tell when it’s a cell phone or a land line, and that they outsource the international calls to another [unnamed] company. That’s outright theft and I already ditched them. These poor 300,000 people are getting robbed and the companies know it but I am sure they won’t do anything about it. Everybody, please, if you have an elderly neighbor, friend, or relative, help them sorting these things out.

  35. Jimmy37 says:

    The phone company also wants to charge people $5 a month to protect their home telephone wiring. This is a bigger crime. When was the last time your phone wiring failed?