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Should Bailouts Come With Exec Pink Slips Or Coupons? December 7, 2008

Posted by geek-ish.com in Tech.
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Here’s one of the reasons I’m really skeptical about federal bailouts for publicly owned companies:

“AT&T to Cut 12,000 Jobs as Landline Losses Grow”

That headline & article raised a few questions in me:

  • Since Caller-ID, can you remember the last time your landline brought you significant new utility?
  • If you’re over 25, is Caller-ID useful for anything other than phone-SPAM (aka telemarketers)?
  • Is phone-SPAM a problem on your cell phone?
  • Since you bought your cell phone, hasn’t your landline usage declined considerably?
  • Has your landline bill declined considerably too?
  • Isn’t AT&T the one and only carrier for the wonderful iPhone?
  • Don’t you want an iPhone?
  • Even though Apple graciously dropped the price of an iPhone to a mere $300, as a person who works for a living don’t you still have a hard time justifying paying $300 for a cell phone – particularly when netbooks and some laptops are priced the same?
  • Don’t you still want an iPhone?

What’s my point?  AT&T invests in what they choose to, and they chose to not invest in fortifying the utility in their landline business.  Over the years, AT&T never chose to package a mobile<->landline bundle that would easily hypnotize consumers into holding on to their rarely used landlines.  If they did offer a bundle, I never saw it.  You know who I remember offering home phone service bundles?  Comcast.  Comcast execs almost single-handedly re-coined the word “bundle” when offering their cable, ISP, VoIP phone services.  As a matter of fact, The Slowskys have their own website now:  http://theslowskys.com.  You know who else was after home phone business these past few years – Vonage.  Vonage attacked the home phone business with aggressive promotions and advertising.  They were a company no one heard of a few years ago.  I doubt there are many reading this who don’t know about them now.  I also doubt Comcast and Vonage are losing money on their phone service businesses.  I could be wrong, but I honestly don’t care if I am.  I don’t want to have to care about the year-to-year financials and inner workings of a business I am not invested in that sells products I can’t afford to own and don’t need.

My point echoes:  businesses have choices in how they serve consumers their value.  It’s a relationship.  Consumers buy stuff.  Businesses supply good stuff to buy.  It’s a rocky relationship, but it’s the best in the capitalist world.  Ironically, I read it was AT&T’s Bell Labs that actually proposed the “cellular” (phone) system to the FCC decades ago.  Had they known that, they might have given their iPhone a new name – Oedipus.  In any case, it seems to me AT&T (and other landline home phone services providers) rested on their laurels and thought home phone service was a commodity that people would continue to pay for just because they always had.  I could be wrong with my assumption, but regardless I would rather not have to deal with the guilt that comes from headlines about major business’ bad decisions leading to a bunch of fellow little guys losing our jobs.  I wish somebody would have decided to instead place an ad for an iPhone<->homePhone deal.  I might have bought it.

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