“I said, â€˜Uncle, whatâ€™s this?â€™ And he said, â€˜Thatâ€™s for my telephone.â€™ Thatâ€™s when I realized he was still leasing his phone from AT&T,” she said. “He got that phone in 1952, and heâ€™s paying $4.42 a month for it, every month.”
Right away, she said, she picked up the gold receiver and dialed the customer service number on the bill to cancel the service. The friendly operator on the other end attempted to dissuade her, offering her uncle a 20 percent discount off his monthly rental fee and reminding York of the benefits of leasing.
“She said that if something goes wrong with that phone, theyâ€™d have a new one here the next business day,” she recalled. “I was thinking to myself, â€˜If something goes wrong with that phone, Iâ€™ll go to Wal-Mart and get one the next day.â€™ But I didnâ€™t say it.” She just told the representative to cancel the lease, and then she drove to a local dollar-discount store and bought her Uncle Lloyd a new wall phone for $7. It plugged right in to the old connection and worked like a charm.
York said it troubles her that elderly people like her uncle get taken advantage of. The monthly lease doesnâ€™t seem like a lot of money, she said, but it adds up.
Attempts on Friday afternoon to reach AT&Tâ€™s corporate headquarters in San Antonio were unsuccessful. A call to the companyâ€™s leasing service headquarters in Florida resulted in several minutes of listening to a recorded on-hold message explaining the advantages of leasing a telephone. These included the next-day replacement service cited by York, as well as assurances that a leased phone will have “a real bell ringer” and be hearing aid-compatible. In addition, said the recording, “You can be assured that your lease supports jobs right here in the good old U.S. of A!” There is also a “lease rewards card” that offers discounts on prescriptions and hearing aids.