Monday, July 5, 2010

(empo-tymshft) Not everyone chases shiny new toys - the benefits of leasing your home phone

Empoprises strives to correct errors when found, and therefore I am obligated to correct something that I wrote in December 2009. This is not necessarily a correction of content, but is more of a correction of an underlying assumption.

This is what I said (after reading a Dave Winer post):

I'm about [Dave Winer's] age, and I remember those phones also. When my parents and I moved into a house, the phone was already there, attached to the wall. And Dave's right - those phones were sturdier than the phones that we have today.

Now I'm not questioning the statement about the sturdiness of Ma Bell phones. I am, however, questioning the underlying assumption that Ma Bell phones were only available in the past.

You see, you can still lease a Ma Bell phone today, just like to did in the old days. And yes, I said "lease." Just go to QLT Consumer Lease Services.

Now you may have noticed that the person pictured on the web page is not necessarily someone who goes to Hannah Montana concerts. This is intentional. There is a large group of people who spend decades leasing their phones from Ma Bell, and apparently a portion of them still prefer the lease model. Why?

What's the main reason our customers lease from us? Peace of mind. You can count on us for superior service, exceptional convenience and reliable quality.

Let's face it - the alternatives to QLT are a huge hassle. First off, you have to choose where you're going to get your phone. In the old days you'd go to one place for your phone - now you have to decide whether you're going to go to Wal-Mart or Target or this store or that store or whatever and it gets way too confusing.

Second off, you actually have to buy the phone. Now that doesn't seem to be a problem in and of itself, but what happens if someone goes wrong with the phone, or you can't figure out something about the phone? Perhaps you call a phone number (which is pretty hard if your phone isn't working) and you end up talking to someone on the other side of the world - if you're lucky. Or perhaps you have to go to the Internet, and that can be really really confusing (it was hard enough to figure out those AOL keywords, and now you have to go to slash slash something dot com and you just get told to update your flash).

Third off...the phone sucks.

So when someone like QLT comes along and offers peace of mind, superior service, exceptional convenience, and reliable quality, people are willing to pay a premium for this.

And boy, do they pay a premium:

It's expensive to lease! A standard old-time rotary dial phone can cost $53.00 to $65.00 per year.

And if you lease for ten years...or twenty years...or thirty years...that can add up.

But for a particular set of customers, the price is well worth it to have things taken care of for you, with a high quality phone.

And this market is clearly sensitive to change. In fact, if you visit QLT Consumer Lease Service's Frequently Asked Questions page, the first question doesn't have to do with the leasing process or phone refurbishment or anything like that. The number one question is:

Why did you change the name of the company?

It sounds like a silly question, but it isn't. If you're trying to offer folks a level of service that they got in earlier years, it doesn't bode well for you to call yourself something different. However, QLT had no choice, since today's AT&T is vastly different from the pre-breakup AT&T, and is even vastly different from the post-breakup AT&T. In fact, the phone leasing business isn't even part of AT&T:

The lease business had operated under a brand license since 1996, when it was spun off with the formation of Lucent Technologies. At that time, Lucent Technologies licensed the prior name for the business to continue to use the name our customers were familiar with. However, after nearly 12 years and subsequent changes in ownership, it now makes sense to change the name. All parties have agreed to not renew the brand license.

The answers to some of the other questions are very interesting, and clearly show how this particular market is being addressed. Some samples:

When you call our Lease Customer Helpline, you are calling our representatives in Miami, Florida and you receive products from our repair and distribution facility in Fort Worth, Texas....

You can continue to reach us by calling our toll-free Lease Customer Helpline at 1 (800) 555-8111. Or you may contact us through our web site here. Lastly, if you would like to send us a note, you can mail it to:

* QLT Consumer Lease Services
* P.O. Box 26403
* Miami, FL 33102-6043

I can just picture someone sitting at a desk and taking out a pen (black or blue-black ink, please) and composing a note to the kind folks at QLT. But if I were that person, I'd leave off those extra four numbers at the end of the zip code; it seems odd that the ZIP+4 is "6043" while the P.O. box ends in "6403." That's progress, I guess.

But the good thing about those nice people at QLT is that they understand when people talk about things like "long cords."

One of the benefits of leasing from QLT Consumer Lease Services is that you may replace accessories for the leased product – even long cords – at no additional charge! You may also replace cordless batteries and antennas, and answering machine tapes for the leased products. Call our Lease Customer Helpline and we'll make arrangements to send the accessories to your home or office – at no additional charge.

Now it's in the interest of QLT to keep their customers leasing phones until...well, you know. Therefore, they offer a number of additional programs to benefit their target market.

If you decide to end your lease, we can send you a pre-paid return mailer which can be dropped off at any United Parcel location or post office. Call our Lease Customer Helpline to request a return mailer. Please consider what you will be losing if you decide to return your leased equipment. You will be responsible for paying for any repair or replacement costs for your own phone, should the need arise, and you will be missing out on the great savings associated with the Lease Rewards Program, up to a 60% discount on prescriptions drugs, a 20% to 60% discount on vision care, a 25% to 50% savings on vitamins, and 10% to 20% savings on hearing care!

For some people, ending a lease is just not worth it. Can they be faulted for that?
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