Dear Qwest: While watching the NFL playoffs the last couple of weekends (sadly, the only football I’ve had time for this season), I have seen several of your commercials touting your new tagline, “The Spirit of Service.”
The commercial I just saw features an older couple eating ribs when the phone rings. They look at each other, disgusted at the potential of it being telemarketers. (They haven’t heard of donotcall.gov or the other methods of reducing some calls.)
Suddenly the woman exhorts a wohoo! and runs to answer the phone because she is excited at the likelihood that Qwest may be calling. But, alas, it’s just her sister.
Can you explain this to me?
I’ve ignored the last few years’ of chirpy advertisements you dump in with my phone bill each month as messages from the Qwest Bizarro Planet — the same, mythical place where all my plumbing works, I never get flat tires, and quality babysitting is free and abundant. And I have to admit that I thought your previous tagline,
“Ride the Light” was an homage to Albert Einstein, not some kind of subtle drug reference that I didn’t pick up on. But these commercials are too much. Why would anyone look forward to a call from Qwest?
As much as this may come as a shock to you, I feel obligated as a long-time Qwest customer to tell you, before someone else does, I don’t have a the fanatical adolation for Qwest. I know, you’re saying “say it ain’t so, Jim.” It is. Let me highlight some of the reasons why I’m not about to name my kids after you.
First, you’ve changed names too many times — it’s like I don’t know what to call you. After your court-ordered divorce from AT&T in 1984, I knew you as the Pacific Northwest Bell Company. Then you had a fling with Northwestern Bell and Mountain States Telephone companies, changing your name to US West. That wasn’t good enough, and you became part of Qwest. (I have to admire the mechanics of a smaller company buying a bigger one.)
Second, I’m still a bit pissed off that you wasted so much of my time taunting me with the potential of DSL. It’s your fault, Mister too-cheap-to-upgrade-the-multiplexing-switch-serving-the-Issaquah-Plateau. While you were ignoring our pleas for DSL, @Home/AT&T Broadband/Comcast was able to deliver cable modems. Sure, cable broadband slows down when my neighbor is surfing adult sites, but I’ll never go back to modem. Never!
Third, I’m a little hurt that you dumped my long distance service. I understand that the government made you do it, but it was kind of cheesy being served by a Montana holding company with a Kentucky billing address, that coincidentally shut itself down when the government reapproved your offering long distance in Washington State. That sort of thing makes me think you’re also the folks spamming me.
Speaking of spam, you still haven’t responded to my inquiry about your customers sending unsolicited commercial email with forged addresses. Did you know that’s $500 per email? That would cover my phone service until my grandkids graduate. College.
Finally, your explanation of why my $12.50 phone line costs me over $27 is pretty lame. This is what my basic phone bill looks like:
Basic Service —— Residence line 12.50 Federal Charge – Service provider number 0.43 Federal Access Charge – access to telephone network 6.10 Caller ID 5.95 Taxes, surcharges and additional dealer markup Federal Excise tax 0.77 State 911 0.20 Local 911 0.50 Federal Universal Service Fund 0.57 TRS Excise Funds/ADA requirement 0.14 Telephone assistance program 0.13
(By the way, you need to check your math. You overcharged me $.02 for the the “3% federal excise tax.”)
As mentioned on the bill, I went to your website for an explanation. Except for pointing out that it wasn’t your fault, I found the answers lacking and had to go on a quest for knowledge at various government web sites.
- 911 This charge is imposed by local governments to help pay for emergency services such as fire and rescue.
- Federal Excise Tax This is a 3% tax mandated by the federal government (not the FCC). It is imposed on all telecommunications services, including local, long distance and wireless bills. (I think this is the same tax imposed to support the Spanish-American war. Wait, wasn’t Spain our ally in the Coalition of the Willing?!?)
- (Federal) Subscriber Line Charge This was instituted after the break-up of AT&T in 1984 to cover the costs of the local phone network. This charge may appear as “FCC Charge for Network Access,” “Federal Line Cost Charge,” “Interstate Access Charge,” “Federal Access Charge,” “Interstate Single Line Charge,” “Customer Line Charge” or “FCC-Approved Customer Line Charge.” The FCC caps the maximum price that a company may charge for this. This is not a government charge or tax, and it does not end up in the governments treasury. (It’s been 20 years, guys, how long is this going to continue to pad your earnings?)
- Local Number Portability Charge (LNP) The FCC allows local telephone companies to recover certain costs for providing “telephone number portability” to its customers. This charge provides residential and business telephone customers with the ability to retain, at the same location, their existing local telephone numbers when switching from one local telephone service provider to another. This is a fixed, monthly charge. Local telephone companies may continue to assess this charge on their customers telephone bills for five years from the date the local telephone company first began itemizing the charge on the bill. This is not a tax. (Uh, oh, guess what’s coming to my bill…)
- State & Local Municipal Tax This charge is imposed by state, local and municipal governments on goods and services. It may also appear as a “gross receipts” tax in some states.
- (State) Subscriber Line Charge This charge is mandated by some states public service or utility commissions to compensate the local phone company for part of the cost of providing local telephone lines associated with state services, i.e., intrastate long distance and local exchange services.
- Telecommunications Relay Services Charge This state charge helps to pay for the relay center which transmits and translates calls for hearing-impaired and speech-impaired people. (I’m cool with this)
- Universal Service Fund (USF) (Also called the Universal Connectivity Fee) – Because telephones provide a vital link to emergency services, to government services and to surrounding communities, it has been our nations policy to promote telephone service to all households since this service began in the 1930s. The USF helps to make phone service affordable and available to all Americans, including consumers with low incomes, those living in areas where the costs of providing telephone service is high, schools and libraries and rural health care providers. Congress has mandated that all telephone companies providing interstate service must contribute to the USF. Although not required to do so by the government, many carriers choose to pass their contribution costs on to their customers in the form of a line item, often called the “Federal Universal Service Fee” or “Universal Connectivity Fee.” (Question: doesn’t everybody have a phone now?)
So, I guess I’m saying I don’t understand your commercials, the “Spirit of Service,” or why anyone would look forward to interaction with your company. I hope the above comments give you some insight on how to not behave like a big, impersonal company. If you wanted to make a quick, big impression, you could toss in Caller ID for free and be much more responsive to thwarting spammers on your networks and maybe, just maybe, exert some of your big-gun influence on those folks at spammer-heaven, Global Crossing.