It’s 2010, not 1957.
Yeah, I know. In the old days, calling a phone number outside your area code would likely cost you a few bucks for a few minutes. “Long distance” phone calls were pricey, often 25¢ or more per minute. Cost conscious folks had no interest in following up on a vendor or service by calling in. Thus, toll-free (originally “800” numbers in the U.S.) were born. By the 1990s, they’d run out of area code 800 phone numbers and added 866 and 877.
Sometime before that, however, e-mail began its rise to popularity. Why call someone on the phone when you could e-mail them for free? The result: spammers and people who seem content to cast their queries to the Internet winds, hoping an intended recipient receives them and responds sometime before the end of the week.
As phone companies began competing for our business, phone rates dropped. When I ran my BBS back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I was thrilled to find a calling plan with unlimited long distance for only 10¢ a minute. Then 6¢. Then 5¢. This meant I could pick up my FidoNET message groups nightly for only a few dollars a month. The added benefit: I could call my mother or sister, in the next state, and talk to them for 20 minutes for only a buck.
Time marched on. Cell phones began their rise. Cell phone service providers started competing for our business, offering better and better rate plans. I pay a flat fee every month. I get free calls on weekends and non-peak times. I get free calls to any other cell number with the same carrier as mine. I get free calls to the five phone numbers I specify that aren’t with my cellular provider. I get 900 peak minutes a month. Yes, I realize that other providers have other plans that are equally good, if not better. The point is, if you have a cell phone with any decent calling plan, there’s no such thing as “long distance” anymore — at least not within the U.S.
So why the hell do people whine and complain when they can’t contact a person or organization via e-mail? Why don’t they just pick up the damn phone and dial the number that’s provided?
Here are three examples of where I’m seeing old-fashioned thinking about making a “long distance” phone call:
- I recently designed a brochure for Flying M Air’s Moonlight Dinner Tour, which takes people to the excellent Anzio Landing restaurant at Falcon field. The brochures were designed to be distributed at Anzio to their existing customers. Fortunately, I sent a sample of the brochure to the owner/manager before having them printed. I included my company’s phone number, which is in the 928 (northern Arizona) area code. The manager asked, “Don’t you have a local number for people to call?” I had to grab a number in the 602 (Phoenix) area code from Google Voice, set it up to forward to my phone, and add it the brochure.
- At least once a week, I get an e-mail message from a helicopter pilot looking for a job. They visit Flying M Air’s Web site and home in on the Contact Us page. The page includes the company phone number — seriously, how else would you make a reservation? — but they opt for the contact form, which sends me an e-mail message. So rather than taking 15 to 30 seconds of their time calling to ask if there are any jobs available, they waste 5 to 10 minutes of their time composing an e-mail message that’s supposed to impress me just to ask me to call them and request more information or an interview. Guess what? I’m not impressed. (I’ve since added a note right above that form telling them we’re not hiring. It’ll be interesting to see how many job seekers ignore that.)
- A recent comment on wickenburg-az.com, a Web site I manage, complained that an organization seeking support and new members had not provided an e-mail address. It had, however, provided a phone number. I pointed this out in a reply to the comment, hoping he’d stop whining and contact the organization using the method they preferred.
Come on, folks! It’s 2010! Telephone communication is cheaper than ever. It also remains the fastest way to conduct a two-way conversation with someone else.
Need information? Stop wasting time with e-mail and pick up the damn phone!