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Real-World 3G Monthly Cost With Taxes and Fees? 483

Posted by timothy
from the best-salesman-bluntly-tells-the-truth dept.
Kristl writes "I have called AT&T and walked into several AT&T stores to ask 'How much will an AT&T phone plan cost per month with taxes and fees and everything?'. No one can answer this question. They are evasive and become testy when I push them on it. Their answer is they can't tell me what the government is going to charge me as the fees can vary month to month, but I've been an AT&T customer for several years, and my taxes and fees have not varied more than a dollar in all of that time. So I question them: 'Can you just tell me what the taxes and fees will be for a 3G plan in California that has the basic calling plan, basic data plan, and the basic text plan?' I even do the math for them, that's $75. Okay AT&T, what are the taxes and fees on $75? Oh, they can't tell me that, as the taxes and fees can vary from month to month." There's more to this justified rant (below); real-world numbers in comments could help answer the questions that cell carriers seem content to sidestep as completely as possible.
"Okay ATT, can you tell me what the taxes and fees were on $75 plan last month? No.

Okay AT&T, cn you tell me what my taxes and fees were last month on my current $40 plan ... that only requires reading my bill right? Oh good! They can read! Yes they can tell me what the taxes and fees were on my $40 account last month.

Okay AT&T, we have progress ... can you now pull up a plan that has a $40 calling plan, a $30 3G data plan, and a $5 text plan? The answer? No, they can't do that, that would be an invasion of privacy.

So I ask, can they go through the motions of setting my account up for the iphone plan I described above and then tell me what the taxes and fees amount to? Oh, of course not!

This doesn't seem like it should be so hard. What is the conspiracy that ATT refuses to tell me what the my bill would cost per month were I to switch to a new plan?"
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Real-World 3G Monthly Cost With Taxes and Fees?

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  • simple solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ArchieBunker (132337) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @06:59PM (#24257509) Homepage

    Too expensive or looks shady? Don't fucking buy it. Take your money elsewhere.

    • Re:simple solution (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19, 2008 @07:16PM (#24257621)
      and where is elsewhere? Seriously, when they're all doing it where is elsewhere???
      • Re:simple solution (Score:5, Insightful)

        by owlnation (858981) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @07:24PM (#24257691)

        and where is elsewhere? Seriously, when they're all doing it where is elsewhere???

        There is no there, there.

      • Re:simple solution (Score:4, Informative)

        by cduffy (652) <charles+slashdot@dyfis.net> on Saturday July 19, 2008 @08:31PM (#24258223)

        Here in Austin, elsewhere is Cricket Wireless. In Dallas, I think it's MetroPCS. Sure, the national carriers screw everyone over... but the smaller ones tend to be a little more up-front with their customers.

      • Re:simple solution (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19, 2008 @08:49PM (#24258361)

        and where is elsewhere? Seriously, when they're all doing it where is elsewhere???

        Virgin Mobile. NO extra fees. At all. Why they say 10$, they mean 10$. Just add sales tax.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by backdoc (416006)

        I haven't found "elsewhere". So, I tend to just say, "screw the whole lot", and simply choose not to patronize any of them. Until they get a clue, I'll just use my basic phone that doesn't do anything other than make a call. And, if they piss me off, I'll turn the whole damn thing off. Seriously, I did without a phone before and I can damn sure do it again.

    • by Kohath (38547) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @07:46PM (#24257897)

      Don't fucking buy it. Take your money elsewhere.

      Can I do that with my income taxes too?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Perf (14203)

        Actually, Yes.

        If you live in another country, you can pay their taxes. The first ~$90,000 of your out-of-country income is exempt from U.S. taxes.

        Two things to be careful of:
        1. In most cases, foreign taxes might be more than U.S. taxes.
        2. Might be difficult to get a job or establish residence.

        But your cell phone costs will probably be cheaper. e.g. Mainland China - about 2 minutes/US$0.01

        • Re:simple solution (Score:5, Interesting)

          by internetcommie (945194) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @08:50PM (#24258363)
          I've got relatives in Norway. Actually, most my relatives live in Norway, except those who live in the Netherlands.
          Norway is known for it's high tax rates. Most people pay 50% or more of their income in taxes. That is, they pay 50% or more of their taxable income in taxes. Since there appears to be no end of deductions one can take in Norway, most my relatives pay less taxes than me, despite having higher incomes.

          As if that wasn't enough, they can buy an iPhone with only a one year contract. Which can't be extended foreer and ever, like the contract I would be expected to sign if I bought an iPhone in the US. As if that wasn't enough, the Norwegian cell phone plan would be cheaper than the US one. Even if I had an iPhone purchased in Norway and used it in the US.
          Even if I kept using my old Sony Erickson phone, a Norwegian cell phone plan would be cheaper. Even if I used it in the US.

          Other countries probably have even better rates. AT&T needs competition. REAL competition.
          • Re:simple solution (Score:5, Insightful)

            by jaweekes (938376) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @10:08PM (#24258859)

            I hate to say it, but I don't think competition would do it. I think regulation will be needed to fix the phone industry as a whole.

            It's taken regulation in Europe and other countries to achieve fair and honest telecommunications; it's just a petty that America is unwilling to regulate an industry with such a stranglehold on everyone.

            I remember back in the 90's the telecom companies managed to get billions from the government to upgrade their networks to speed up Internet access, but nothing happened with the money, and there has been no government checking if the money was spent on the Internet.

            This isn't a rant about what you said, but a rant at the government I guess. We shouldn't be lagging in Internet access for any reason right now.

            • Re:simple solution (Score:5, Insightful)

              by cgenman (325138) on Sunday July 20, 2008 @04:20AM (#24260573) Homepage

              Ways phone companies rip you off in the US:

              * The "guess your monthly usage" shell game. Guess high, and you're paying for services you don't use. Guess low, and you will be hit with a 100 dollar bill for overusage
              * Grossly overcharging for text / multimedia messages
              * Grossly overcharging for data on non-unlimited plans. I remember downloading a game once on an AT&T network... the game cost 5 dollars, and the data charge to transfer the game was 10.
              * Locked into contracts / locked phones
              * Disabling features of phones they don't like
              * Compared to worldwide rates, overcharging for basic minutes too.

          • Look to Norway (Score:5, Informative)

            by arth1 (260657) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @11:38PM (#24259459) Homepage Journal

            The main difference that can make a cell phone much cheaper in Norway than here in the US, is that you don't pay for incoming calls. There's no "air time". You only pay for outgoing calls, just like with a land line phone.

            Another big difference is that in Norway, you have close to 100% geographical coverage, and that's a country that's sparser populated than almost all US states, with lots of mountains and only a couple of percent arable land.

            And, as you hinted at, it's common to buy phones and plans separately, with no long term bindings where you get a "free" phone designed to lock you to just one provider.

            In all three cases, this is due to legislation. Funny thing is, the cell phone companies there still make money. There's more than 100% market penetration for cell phones in Scandinavia. "Everyone" has at least one cell phone, and some have several. So my guess is that what they make the money by selling more, not by squeezing more.

          • What you get for 50% (Score:5, Informative)

            by KingSkippus (799657) * on Saturday July 19, 2008 @11:45PM (#24259491) Homepage Journal

            ...they pay 50% or more of their taxable income in taxes.

            Because I know people are probably going to choke on a figure like that, people need to be aware that because the taxes are so high in a place like Norway, they have a lot more government-provided services, stuff that we have to pay out the wazoo for in the U.S. Heath care [meulie.net] is an obvious one. Obviously, I suppose it's ultimately up to individuals whether or not they want government paying for stuff for them. My personal opinion is that here in America, unfortunately, companies and our government are so corrupt that it couldn't possibly work.

            But the point is that even if your taxes are 50% in Norway but only 35% here, it's entirely possible that your disposable income—and by extension, your standard of living—could actually be better.

            Incidentally, the richest people here in America don't actually pay 35%. The dirty little secret that rich people don't want you to know because you'd probably vote it out of existence is that the tax rate on the wealthy is closer to 15%, which is much lower than you or I likely pay. (What's your marginal income tax rate? [invest-2win.com]) The reason is because wealthy people don't earn most of their money through income—you know, salary and wages. Income earned by the really wealthy comes from capital gains (i.e. stocks, bonds, and other investment devices), which is only taxed at 15%.

    • by Divebus (860563) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @07:47PM (#24257911)

      An invasion of privacy? Oh puleeeez. May you should ask the NSA who is tapped into your phone. They'll tell you everything about your "plan" with your own tax money.

  • Biased much? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by clang_jangle (975789) * on Saturday July 19, 2008 @07:00PM (#24257519) Journal
    You know, I don't really like the iPhone either, but this is a bit much. TFS' complaint could be used for any phone, any carrier in the U.S. I'm not saying it isn't crooked, or that the policies are particularly just, just that this was a problem well before Steve ever even thought of the iPhone.
    Anyway, direct answer to the question of "how much total for basic calling, data, and text?" is pretty much always about $100 to $120 here in the U.S. For the iPhone, Treo, Blackberry, Voyager, whatever. In case you actually didn't know...
    • Are you serious? $30 in taxes and fees on the $70 plan?

      • Re:Biased much? (Score:4, Informative)

        by geekboybt (866398) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @08:22PM (#24258165)
        My Verizon plan was $79.99 + $10 txt + $5 insurance. That's $94.99. With taxes, which varied, it would come out to ~$98 or 99. So, while the original OP exaggerated a bit (especially for the iPhone, which would cost ~$10 month less), it's not difficult to spend that much per month. I switched to the iPhone, and saved $5 month + $5 insurance (=$10). All this conversation about "OMFG THE IPHONE IS SOOOO EXPENSIVE" is really just a way to get visitors to the site - it applies to every single 3G phone out there, and (as I've shown) even more in some cases.
        • Re:Biased much? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by cgenman (325138) on Sunday July 20, 2008 @02:08AM (#24260035) Homepage

          BTW, avoid that $5 insurance fee like the plague. My ex was paying $5 insurance per month on a late-90's pre-Ericssen Sony phone. When it finally broke, the insurance said that they didn't cover phones that old. Of course, she had been paying them the entire time to cover the phone that old, but they re-assured us that such a thing was not possible. They then asked if she would like to cancel her coverage.

          See also this [consumeraffairs.com] class action suit. These frequently come with a 100 dollar deductible and send back a refurb phone that is less expensive than that deductible. Similarly, they insure the current value of the phone, not the purchase value. As the value of the phone drops, your premium does not, and the likelyhood of a functional replacement drops to zero.

    • by n dot l (1099033) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @07:14PM (#24257605)

      ...this was a problem well before Steve ever even thought of the iPhone.

      What? Did the universe even exist back then?

      • Yes, but it was a dark and formless void. Shapes moved there that were called phones, but were not true phones, since they did not come from the mind of Steve.

        And thus it came to pass that Steve brought forth the iPhone, and there was much rejoicing amongst the faithful, who gathered in long lines to receive the blessing. And it was good.

        But doubt crept into weak minds, and some questioned the benificence of Steve. The blessing was hacked and despoiled, And Steve heard of this and was wroth, and lo! He sent

    • by aztektum (170569) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @07:19PM (#24257649)

      The answer is: They honestly have no idea. They're trained to say what corporate tells them.

      Training typically focuses on trying to sell you on gizmo features and plan upgrades. They simply ARE NOT given that sort of info and, in my experience, the people that work these jobs are not the type to go the extra mile to figure it out or in some cases don't want to say the wrong thing and have an angry customer come back and throw the phone at them (seen it happen over the most marginal shit.)

      • by strabes (1075839) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @07:40PM (#24257847)
        That is definitely true for T-Mobile as well. The main difference is that whenever I call T-mobile their reps seem to be 20-something flirty females. I've asked questions about how much plans cost and when our contract expires, etc, and it seems like they'll do anything to get you to stay. One time I called to ask when my family's contract expires, and the girl immediately started telling me about how we just became eligible for free phones and such. I was sort of surprised so I asked her how long we had been eligible and she hesitated for a moment and then said "uuhh like a week." She definitely made that up.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          You don't think that T-Mobile is kicking customer retention into high gear because people are leaving for ATT+iPhone, maybe? That's what it sounds like to me. Like how you can get your APR lowered on a credit card by hinting that you're considering to cancel your card...
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Longstaff (70353)
            Not at all. I've been a T-Mobile customer for well over 5 years. They've always had great customer service and retention. A (long) while back I wanted to upgrade from my old v60 to the T610. AT&T was giving away the T610 (T616 actually, same phone though) for free with a new contract. T-Mobile was selling it for $50 to new customers and $100 for existing customers (that's after the new contract discount). I called them out on it, told them how ridiculous that was and that I wanted the T610 for free from
        • by mattwarden (699984) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @09:19PM (#24258559) Homepage

          whenever I call T-mobile their reps seem to be 20-something flirty females. ... it seems like they'll do anything to get you to stay

          Holy shit do I have the wrong carrier

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by kesuki (321456)

          sales reps can always make you eligible for new phones, the catch? your contract gets extended from the END of your existing contract. if laws get changed to the point where companies can't do that, then of course sales reps won't be able to make you eligible for new phones.

          it is a little counter intuitive though, if they didn't give you a new free phone all the time, wouldn't they make more money off you if you stayed with them without getting a new phone? although, if you're upgrading to a phone that ha

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      I'll admit my example may be pretty rare (and to be completely honest, I'm not sure if this plan is still offered) but my phone plan, with data and text is only $30 a month, with about another $4 in fees and taxes.

      So for roughly $34 a month, I get:
      -500 'anytime' minutes
      -Unlimited text/pic/video
      -Unlimited data
      -Unlimited Sprint-to-Sprint calling
      -Free nights start at 7pm
      -Free nationwide roaming (i.e., no 'Local calling area')

      As I hinted earlier, this was not an advertised plan, and did involve some
  • by TheSHAD0W (258774) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @07:02PM (#24257533) Homepage

    Figuring out the taxes on a phone line is rather complimakated, difficult enough that providers have made mistakes on it in the past and had to refund overcharges or eat the difference in undercharges. I'm not surprised that the salespeople don't know, and I'd bet nobody on phone support will know either. This is a brand new service, and once customers start receiving their typical monthly bills you'll be able to find out.

    • by NMerriam (15122) <NMerriam@artboy.org> on Saturday July 19, 2008 @07:56PM (#24257977) Homepage

      Figuring out the taxes on a phone line is rather complimakated

      And yet they manage to send out hundreds of thousands of bills every month that calculate it down to the penny. Sure, they might make mistakes and have to offer refunds or disclaimers, but there's no excuse for them to not be able to tell you exactly what a $79.99 plan in a given ZIP code would have been billed after all taxes/fees were added last month.

      This is basic customer service, not some advanced alien technology beyond the reach of AT&T.

      • by Solandri (704621) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @09:00PM (#24258425)
        The reason is a bit more insidious. Many of those surcharges and fees are imposed by the phone company. They just tack it on at the end with the taxes and government levies to make you think they're all imposed by the government and thus outside the phone company's control. Sprint's customer service may suck, but this is something they've started being truthful about. At the end of my bill, they break up the surcharges into "Sprint surcharges" and "government surcharges". On my latest bill, 75% of the surcharges were Sprint surcharges.
  • Every state has a different way of taxing communications service. Florida is the worst of them all from what I've read. Take your current cell phone bill and estimate off the taxes currently on it. Some of the taxes and fees will be a fixed amount per line, others will be based on a percentage of the total bill (sales tax typically).

    Also the way cell companies figure out how to tax you differs. Some (such as Sprint) base your taxes on the billing address, others (like Verizon Wireless) base your taxes on th

  • by Rob Kaper (5960)

    What kind of taxes are we talking about here? I can't think of any other than VAT/sales tax and those are pretty straight-forward. Are there any other taxes for cell phones in the US which are directly charged to the consumer?

    • US Wireless Taxes (Score:5, Informative)

      by sjbe (173966) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @07:23PM (#24257685)

      Are there any other taxes for cell phones in the US which are directly charged to the consumer?

      Yes there are various excise taxes [wikipedia.org] levied on cell phone bills. The federal government as well as state and local government each levy their own taxes on wireless communications. This [taxfoundation.org] is a slightly outdated listing of taxes by state. For the most part it is a "because we can" sort of tax courtesy of our elected officials.

    • by Khaed (544779) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @07:30PM (#24257751)

      On my (ATT but not iphone) bill, I pay:

      Federal Universal Service Charge
      Regulatory Cost Recovery Charge
      911 Training Fee
      State Sales Tax
      911 Service Fee

      The biggest one is state sales tax, followed by the FUSC, then 911 Service Fee. The Regulatory Cost and 911 Training are $0.25 -- the 911 bit is $0.05. I pay about $6 a month in fees, overall.

    • by cdrudge (68377) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @07:32PM (#24257771) Homepage

      I don't know about other carriers, but here's how my T-mobile plan breaks down:
      1000 Minute myFaves Family Plan
      59.99 - Monthly plan price
      1.32 - Federal Universal Service Fund
      0.84 - State Gross Receipts Tax
      4.20 - State Sales Tax
      0.27 - State Universal Service Fund

      Line 1
      5.99 - Internet
      5.00 - 400 Text Messages Plan .08 - State Gross Receipts Tax .06 - State Sales Tax .03 - Relay Service Device Fund .50 - State 911 .86 - Regulatory Programs Fee*

      Line 2
      5.99 - Internet
      0.45 - 2 text messages (no txt plan)
      0.01 - Federal Universal Service Fund
      0.01 - State Gross Receipts Tax
      0.09 - State Sales Tax
      0.03 - Relay Service Device Fund
      0.50 - State 911
      0.86 - Regulatory Programs Fee*

      87.08 - Total

      *Fee we (T-mobile) collect and retain to help cover our (T-mobile's) costs related to funding and complying with government mandates, programs and obligations.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Dachannien (617929)

      My phone bill last month included the following:

      Taxes:
      Virginia 911 tax: 0.75
      Virginia sales tax: 1.70

      Surcharges (the phone company is permitted by the government to assess these charges due to specific regulations and requirements that the government places upon them):
      Federal Universal Service Fund [wikipedia.org]: 0.77
      Virginia Gross Receipts: 0.16
      Virginia Special Revenue: 0.03

      Other charges:
      Administrative Charge: 0.75
      Regulatory Charge: 0.20

      That's on a normally $35 bill.

  • wow (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rastoboy29 (807168) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @07:07PM (#24257561) Homepage
    ..yet another way they fuck you.  They SET the "taxes" and "fees", either through the locally bribed PUC or just arbitrarily on their own.

    Like the "franchise fee".  That's my favorite.  I don't give a fuck what you have to pay for your fucking franchise--please stop pretending like you don't have any choice in the matter.  But on the other hand, in a lot of places, they actually rig it up so that they are _required by law_ to charge for things like that, for money that they actually keep.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The taxes will probably be comparable to sales tax--a few bucks on a $40 plan, e.g. With a more expensive (e.g. data) plan it will of course be more, but if you're willing to shell out $60 or whatever for a data plan you should also be prepared to shell out $8 or whatever in taxes.

    To get an approximation just google "XYZ plan taxes fees forum" and see what people say. For example:

    http://forums.macrumors.com/showpost.php?s=bace4f039998a970fb0736cb9659d8b2&p=4412192&postcount=11 [macrumors.com]

    Peace out.

  • US weirdness (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19, 2008 @07:13PM (#24257597)

    In most of Europe, sellers of consumer products are required to state the actual final price that the consumer is paying. And that includes monthly cell phone tariffs.

  • by omegashenron (942375) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @07:14PM (#24257601)

    When traveling to California last year, that was one thing that I really didn't like - how prices are quoted exclusive of tax.

    In Australia, the price quoted has to be the price that is paid by the consumer - the airline industry recently got into trouble for not doing this i.e advertising cheap fares exclusive of the fuel levy, tax and other surcharges.

    In addition to this, the amount of tax that was charge very often ends up on the receipt so businesses can use it to calculate their GST credits etc

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by larkost (79011)

      This is done all across the US, and the main reason is that the taxes you are going to pay depend on where you buy the product. And not just depending on what state (but that is the biggest difference), but also depending on the particular city. So any advertising would have to take that into account making national campains would be unworkable.

      So rather than that everything is adversised without taxes.

  • by HairyCanary (688865) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @07:14PM (#24257609)

    Really? If you can afford $75/month, you can afford it with taxes. I can see their point for not wanting to give out numbers on this, because of the variables involved. Plus, if they try to quote you a "with taxes cost" then you might try to hold them to that figure. Better to just sidestep it and let you figure out the taxes yourself, like you would have to with any other purpose that is taxed.

    FWIW, I paid $62.96 last month on my iPhone $60/month plan, and $63.42 the month before that. So extrapolate from there, and for a $75/month plan budget $80 and you'll be close enough.

    • Re:Who cares? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by King_TJ (85913) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @07:33PM (#24257781) Journal

      I strongly disagree! When you're talking about a month after month fee that you'll likely be paying for as long as 24 months straight, even an extra $10 quickly becomes an extra $240 you're paying in that time period. Unless you're independently wealthy or something, that's not just some "small change" worthy of just ignoring! That's about what I paid, total, for my original iPhone I bought off Apple's refurbished store.

      And the issue I have with AT&T is, I suspect their "taxes" also include a lot of dubious charges. Being a govt. regulated company, it seems it's easier for them to get approval for more funding through a new or increased tax than by actually getting FTC approval for a rate increase.

      I know I initially did the $79.99 per month plan, thinking like my old US Cellular plan that was priced about the same, I'd wind up paying around $85 after taxes. But somehow, AT&T wound up billing me more like $97 each month.

    • Re:Who cares? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NMerriam (15122) <NMerriam@artboy.org> on Saturday July 19, 2008 @07:46PM (#24257907) Homepage

      Better to just sidestep it and let you figure out the taxes yourself, like you would have to with any other purpose that is taxed.

      I don't know about you, but I don't buy anything else on which the tax is unknown by the seller, even though the seller is the one collecting it. When i buy something, they ring it up, the machine calculates the tax, and they tell me how much it is before I pay. The problem is that they're essentially telling you to sign a two year contract committing yourself to paying whatever bill they send you, but won't tell you what the bill will be.

      It would be very easy for ATT to push out a list to their stores every month in which they say what each price plan worked out to with taxes for each state or zip code in the past billing cycle, with a disclaimer that of course if taxes and fees change the amount will be different in the future.

      They just don't want to because they don't give a shit about customers or customer service, not because it's a difficult task or some mysteriously unknowable figure.

    • Re:Who cares? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by straponego (521991) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @09:22PM (#24258585)
      So you're saying that if you can afford $n, you can afford (1.1 * $n), no matter what n is; this means that you can afford infinity dollars.

      The other possibility is that, you know, some people have budgets; a dollar added to one item is a dollar they have to take from somewhere else, and therefore it is possible for something to be more expensive than it's worth.

      Sorry to come off all persnickety. It's just that if I could get my gf to pay a little more attention to numbers like this, I swear I'd have infinity dollars by now...
  • by sokoban (142301) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @07:15PM (#24257615) Homepage

    I went in the other day to get an iPhone and change my plan that I've had for several years and they were surly as hell.

    The guy who was waiting on me kept just walking away for a couple minutes at a time and wouldn't answer anything straight.

    He wouldn't say when they were getting another shipment other than to say they could put me on a waiting list if I paid in full today and then it would be one to two weeks.

    He never really looked me in the eyes and kept mumbling when I would talk to him.

    Most questions were answered with "I don't know" and then when it came down to it, I had to dial 611 to change over my service because I was an old customer.

    I still want to get an iPhone because it really is the perfect device for me and my mac based household, but I wish I had an Apple Store near me where I could have at least gotten decent customer service.

    • The ATT stores don't give a crap. If you have an Apple store close by, you should hit them up. I've had nothing but great experiences with them.
  • I hate AT&T (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 31415926535897 (702314) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @07:17PM (#24257629) Journal
    This doesn't have to do with cell phones, but it does have to do with AT&T. About 2 or 3 years ago I got a landline phone plan with them that was unlimited local and long distance for $40 per month. It was more expensive than a place like Vonage, but I really wanted the physical land line. I got my first bill and it was $52, and there were no setup fees in there. They had managed to pack in $12, or 30%, of taxes, fees, surcharges, cost recovery (what the hell, isn't that the point of charging the first price to begin with), 911 fees, etc. So I immediately switched to VOIP. I have to say that these phone companies suck, and I cannot believe that they can't give you an all-in number.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by v1 (525388)

      assuming they don't mark up any of the charges on the bill (kinda shows if you mark up the tax) they have to put "profit" in there somewhere. The recovery cost looks like their margin in disguise.

      As for why they don't roll it all into one number, the govt requires them to spell out most of the things that go into the bill, so they have nowhere to hide the profit at. So there it is.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Marc_Hawke (130338)

      Qwest did this to me:

      I was paying between 75-80 dollars a month on my phone bill. (DSL is included in that.) I talked with the Qwest guy and they looked at my long-distance spending. It was a 'per minute' thing and ranged from 17-22 dollars. He said that I could get an unlimited plan for $15, and have a fixed rate.

      So we talked about it, he had to sign me up for a 'packager' to get that plan, but he said the total would come to $75.

      I talked to the salesman, while holding the bill said, I'm paying $75 a

  • by alias420 (873143) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @07:20PM (#24257667)
    While this is a little off topic it does still deal with an AT&T 3G phone. iPhone Dev Team's PwnageTool 2.0 [iphone-hacks.com] has been released to the public.
  • Different provider, different phone, different priced plan. But, I figured this will turn into a general discussion of taxes on mobile service.
    I have a $30/month voice, $20/month data, and $5/month text plan. I'm billed in Garden Grove, CA.

    Monthly Recurring Charges
    Item Amount
    FP BB BIS MC from 7/17/08 to 8/16/08 19.99
    FP Nat'l Roaming from 7/17/08 to 8/16/08 -
    FlexPay 300 MC from 7/17/08
  • My mileage DOES vary (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I recently switched to AT&T. In the store, prior to executing the contract, I was provided a printed sheet of paper with my plan, estimated local taxes, fees, and my 15% monthly discount. My bill hasn't varied from that estimate by more than a dollar. Certainly, the OP just isn't talking to the right people or found a bad CSR.

  • I recall reading a comment here, not long ago, stating that dealing with mobile providers in the US was like 'choosing between shit sandwiches'. This, unfortunately, seems to reiterate that this is the case.

    Over here in the UK, things are a lot better. If you don't like customer service, you change network. Simple as. I switched from Tesco Mobile (poor customer service on O2's otherwise excellent network) to 3 earlier this year, and the process was quite painless. Am I right in saying that having mobiles on contract is more common in the USA which is what makes dealing with providers such a nightmare?

    • by JerkBoB (7130) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @08:02PM (#24258023)

      Am I right in saying that having mobiles on contract is more common in the USA which is what makes dealing with providers such a nightmare?

      Yes. On this side of the puddle, phones are heavily subsidized... To the point that some phones are "free" with a 2-year contract.

      GSM is relatively new here (as in, it's not what we started with, unlike many other parts of the world), as well, and this makes things more complicated. If I have a Verizon Wireless (which, until the merger of AT&T and Cingular was the largest carrier) phone, I can't take it to any other provider, because VZW uses CDMA. T-Mobile and AT&T are GSM, but GSM coverage isn't nearly as widespread here. Once you're out in the sticks, if you've got a GSM phone, you're lucky to get service.

      We're in the stone-age here.

  • just ask (Score:5, Informative)

    by Nivla (515687) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @07:36PM (#24257815) Homepage

    I work for AT&T. Maybe you are just asking the wrong questions. Every time I activate a new customer I give them a print out of exactly how their first months bill and normal monthly bills will break down. This print out is avalible through any AT&T vendor and is called a CSS (Customer Service Summary) This print out breaks down everything on you bill including rate plan, data, messaging, extra services ( insurance, roadside assistants ...) taxes and fees broken down by which entity is charging which fees and taxes. Any good sales person will present you with this at the time of the sale. If you not getting one maybe you should consider going to a different AT&T store. Just like everyone else that franchises their business you are going to have good agents and bad agents.

    • Re:just ask (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19, 2008 @07:44PM (#24257881)

      It sounds like what he wants is to know *before* he signs up for a plan, not after activation.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Nivla (515687)

        OK If he wants to know before he signs up with us I can usually estimate a bill with all the features within about 2 dollars. If that's not good enough I can break out my own bill and show him what exactly I am taxed on my current personal rate plan. I have done this for my customers on numerous occasions. I don't want my customers to have ANY surprises when they get their bills. Surprises result in returns which result in chargebacks which means I lose my commissions. It is in my best interest to make sure

  • by oboreruhito (925965) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @07:41PM (#24257851)

    Probably because it's too complicated to figure just off the top of their heads, or because they haven't determined your alignment and class.

    According to the 4th ed. FC&C Salesmaster's Manual, the taxes on a $40 calling plan is 2d10+2 percent for all classes and alignments of customer.

    However, the rules get tricky when adding the data and text plans. If you add those and the customer is any Lawful alignment, or your class is Apple Cultist, the monthly fees and taxes are a d20+30 per month.

    If you're Neutral, sales should charge 2d10+2 percent of the total purchase in fees, plus a flat setup fee of 3d20, and whatever the local tax rate is (see Table 13-4.7, "Telecommunication Tax Rates of Municipalities, Provinces, Kingdoms, Shires and Deities").

    If your alignment is Chaotic, or you have the Late Bills or Frequent Support Caller flaws, or your class is Go Phoner, your fees are (3d20)d20+(d20)d6, plus (2d20)d20 percent taxes, plus 2d6 in franchise fees, plus 3d20+d6 setup.

    If you're identified as Chaotic Hard-to-Please alignment, the Salesmaster may simply escalate fees and taxes and make up complex usage rules (2Gb bandwidth cap except on Fridays and the alternating days of the third week of every fourth month, when it's 256k, for example) until the customer gives up.

    However, if sales can't determine your alignment or class - if you're a new customer, for example, or your billing and prior plan history isn't available -Âthey will probably refuse to answer your questions. If a customer immediately submits, they get Apple Cultist treatment. If a customer questions the refusal but eventually submits, they get Chaotic treatment.

    If a customer is an insistent questioner, the Salesmaster considers the player in combat and gives the player d6-2 rounds to flee before calling security (see U.S. Government's "Monster and Enforcement Officer Bestiary," table 2.1-1, "Rented Muscle").

  • by Ihmhi (1206036) <i_have_mental_health_issues@yahoo.com> on Saturday July 19, 2008 @07:43PM (#24257879)

    We need two things here, which would be very nice.

    1) A website that shows the calculations for cell phone taxes, state by state and carrier by carrier. Scans of bills (names redacted, of course) could supply the info efficiently, as can just calling the damn company if they are competant.

    2) Viewing our current bill like we can view banks. I'm sure as soon as I make a text, the charge is added to my next bill. So why can't I see that bill online?

  • You shouldn't be forced to buy a product from any 1 provider.

    Take your money elsewhere to someone who can properly answer your questions.

    It's these kinds of things that need to be avoided. "I'm not a satisfied customer, but I'm going to have to buy the product either way."

  • Even Worse (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lord Byron II (671689) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @07:51PM (#24257941)
    Even worse is that most of these contracts stipulate that you're going to pay them for the next two to three years, but don't lock in the price. You can get a $100/mo cell phone or satellite TV plan today and three months from now they could double the price and you'd be obligated to either pay it or pay an early termination fee.
  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @08:02PM (#24258029) Homepage

    The portion of the "regulatory compliance fee" that's chargeable to CALEA (i.e. wiretapping) should be broken out and listed as such.

  • That was easy (Score:4, Informative)

    by bwalling (195998) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @08:20PM (#24258151) Homepage
    http://www.wireless.att.com/cell-phone-service/additionalcharges/ [att.com] I went on the AT&T website and found it in less than three minutes. Certainly not worth a diatribe on the front page of Slashdot.
    • Um, no, sorry, not quite. The page you reference begins by saying that these may or may not be the fees you pay. Still doesn't answer the man's entirely reasonable question of "How much will my bill be?"
    • Re:That was easy (Score:5, Informative)

      by RodgerDodger (575834) on Sunday July 20, 2008 @05:18AM (#24260757)

      Well, I'm not American, so I don't know many zip codes. So I just plugged in the only one I do know: 90210

      Here's the lovely summary at the top:

      The amounts shown below are based on the highest fee/surcharge rates assessed in your state; your actual fees/surcharges may be less. In addition to the AT&T charges described below, you will be billed for mandatory taxes and fees imposed by federal, state, and local governments on wireless subscribers.

      So, this represents the most AT&T will charge you - would be nicer if it was exact, but an upper cap sounds good. But what's the next sentence? There will be other taxes & fees not listed?

      Given that I entered a zip code, the federal, state, and local governments in question are all known. But the page doesn't list these fees. In other words, just like the OP's complaint - AT&T doesn't tell you what your costs will be upfront.

      Sorry, but both you and AT&T fail.

  • Sprint and T-Mobile (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Falstius (963333) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @08:31PM (#24258225)

    I recently switched from Sprint to Mobile, each with a 2-phone family plan with the least number of minutes (500 and 700). The total cost is about the same for each, but the fees are funny.
    With Sprint: $59.99 monthly, $3.88 Sprint surcharges (these should ALWAYS be in the advertised price but somehow never are), $4.41 Government taxes & fees (start of Jun 2008). The total varies about 20 cents every month. Total fees 8.29.

    With T-Mobile: $55.99 monthly, $4.67 taxes and fees on the account, $4.15 taxes and fees on the first line, $4.12 taxes and fees on the second. Total fees $12.89 (end of Jun 2008).

    The total cost of each? 68.28 for sprint, 68.93 for T-mobile (w/200 more minutes we never use). Why does Sprint only assess fees on one line and T-mobile both lines? (Okay, technically, 30 cents of the Sprint fees are on the second line).

    Anyway, there's some data. The funniest TV ad I ever saw was for DSL advertised at $19.99 a month in big bold writting and in tiny blurry letters at the bottom of the screen it says "There is an additional $2.00 cost recovery fee." Where is a class action lawsuit when you need one?

  • by ZarathustraDK (1291688) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @08:46PM (#24258333)
    Do you wish to pay your monthly AT&T subscription in:

    - American dollars

    - Zimbabwean dollars

    - Loaves of bread
  • I feel your pain (Score:4, Informative)

    by Myrcutio (1006333) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @08:49PM (#24258355)

    I actually went through those same steps with AT&T's dsl/cell/homephone plans. I asked a very simple question: how much would my monthly bill be assuming there are no surcharges? Here's a brief rundown of my conversation.

    Happy Customer:So, i have these 3 plans, home phone for $9.95, cell service for $34.95, and internet service for $49.95 (numbers could be off), assuming i don't go over on minutes or anything extra like that, how much would that be with taxes and surcharges?

    AT&T rep:about $20 a month, on average.

    Happy Customer: Can you be more specific?

    AT&T rep: I'm sorry sir, there simply isn't a way to calculate that in our system.

    Happy Customer: Ok, well can you tell me what taxes are included and what percentage they are?

    AT&T rep: It's all calculated with a formula in our system.

    Happy Customer: Ok, can i have the formula?

    AT&T rep: It's in our program, i can't access it. Honestly sir your only the second person in five years that has asked for that. I would only be able to tell you what taxes were on a previous bill.

    Happy Customer: So let me get this straight, your saying that i would have to sign up for a contract with AT&T and sign a blank check for the first month before you would tell me how much it would be?

    AT&T rep: Yes sir, is there anything else i can help you with today?

    Happy Customer: Sure, get me the number for Verizon wireless and Time warner.

    Oh, and just so you know? it took about 4 days of emailing and phone calls just to get them to admit it. Whenever the question came up i would get transfered to a different sales rep to repeat my question. Clever huh?

  • by DragonTHC (208439) <Dragon&gamerslastwill,com> on Saturday July 19, 2008 @08:52PM (#24258375) Homepage Journal

    there's been a lot of talk on /. lately about broadband and mobile broadband capacity. The taxes that we pay are directly linked to that.

    telecommunications and broadband operators get federal monies from the universal service fund to expand infrastructure to the entire nation. I mean that's the purpose for the universal service fund. Why haven't telecom/mobile and broadband operators expanded their capacities and/or service areas? They are required to pay into the fund. They pass the costs directly on to us. Then they get that money back to build out their infrastructure.

    Why aren't they doing it? Where is that money ending up?

    11/20/2007 http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-07J-4A1.pdf [fcc.gov]

    section I article 2. "We are also mindful that it is consumers who must pay universal service contributions.
    Despite our strong interest in providing adequate funding for broadband deployment, we also want to
    avoid significantly increasing the burden on those consumers."

    section I article 4. "The Joint Board recognizes that while mobility and broadband
    capabilities have both received some funding from universal service dollars, the funding has been entirely
    within the formal context of providing basic voice telecommunications services by eligible
    telecommunications carriers (ETCs)."

    This was from a recommendation document where the universal service fund commissioners issued a recommendation that they setup an additional fund for broadband and one for mobile service. Where is that money ending up? AT&T, Sprint, and T-mobile are all rolling out 3g services. Where is the broadband service capacity increases?

  • by Wrath0fb0b (302444) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @09:24PM (#24258597)

    (1) Switch to e-billing
    (2) Change your billing address to anywhere in Portland, OR 97202
    (2b) You might need to switch your area-code to 503 -- some carriers will let it slide though
    (3) Get charged the lowest cell-phone taxes in the country

    I saved about $4/month switching from Taxachussets to Oregon. My parents saved $7 because our town (yes, the town) levies a $2/month tax on cell phones on top of the country and state taxes. Plus, as an added bonus, you can reward a low-tax jurisdiction with more revenue while depriving a high-tax one.

    http://www.forbes.com/2005/06/06/cz_sw_0606cellphone.html [forbes.com]

  • by linuxwrangler (582055) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @09:51PM (#24258761)

    You got all the way to asking about taxes and fees?!? I haven't been able to get a straight answer to (ever changing) minutes.

    What is the minimum billed increment? 6 seconds like some of our business lines? 18/6 like others we have? 60-seconds?

    When does billed time start? When the call connects? when you press send? When the phone starts ringing? And when does it end? Several companies made a subtle change and switched from connect-start to airtime-start (though still only charging if you connect) thus grabbing lots of extra minutes (but avoiding raising published rates).

    What calls are free and what cost extra? 611? 911? 511? 311? 411?

    When someone leaves a voicemail, does that count as usage? What about fetching voicemail? From a landline?

    Calls on hold with call-waiting? Both legs of 3-way?

    Many years ago a TV show grabbed a rocket-scientist and a brain-surgeon, gave each a phone bill and asked them to explain all the charges. Neither came close.

    It's high time the government set standard definitions (i.e. minutes start when the call connects and end when either party terminates the call. Billing increments shall be 0.1 minutes. Or whatever.) Let the companies set their own rates but conform to standard definitions and bill formats.

    Of course some recent attempts to make phone bills understandable were shot down because then the terrorists win or some such crap.

It's a naive, domestic operating system without any breeding, but I think you'll be amused by its presumption.

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