Das Kapital

Oh. My. God.

I have experienced the very worst of the capitalist machine.  I have stood face-to-face with the free market in all its glory.  And I am so unbelievably and totally pissed off that I can barely type.

I give you the saga of the cell phone.

Fifteen years ago (not that long ago, babies, not that long ago), I used a beeper to alert me when someone needed to reach me immediately.  That was sufficient at the time.

Ten years ago, cell phones became common, and both my husband and I bought one. We rarely used them, of course. They were designed for the rare emergency, when one of us broke down on an unpaved back road.  Once in a while, we used them to call one of our children if we were stuck in traffic.  The cost, at the time, was about 20 dollars a month per phone.

Five years ago, we had three kids who were driving, and who needed to have a cell phone in order to be safe late at night on our poorly kept country roads. They needed to be able to call friends and parents (!) when they were away from home. We understood that fact of life, and we reluctantly began to pay for five (count ’em: FIVE) cell phones.  We counted the texts, and the minutes and we managed to afford it all.

In the past three years, though, everything in the world of phones has changed.  Now we have the curse of the smartphone, so that everyone in the entire world is able to access the Facebook update of everyone else in the entire world every single second.  This is a far, far cry from using a cell phone in emergencies.

My family has so far held firm against the insistence of the iPhone.  Don’t get me wrong; we all use Macs.  We think Apple is just peachy.  But we don’t see why, if we already pay for internet service and cell phone service, we have to pay even more to merge the two.  So far, all five of us have managed to survive using the old fashioned cell phones. You know the ones I mean. They only make and receive calls, send and receive photos and videos, play games, store addresses and play any song you choose.

The problem is this: in the wonderful world of free market capitalism, Verizon can’t let us enjoy our little pathetic phones.  Oh, no.  That might slow the growth of their profits!  They have to push us toward “better”, more complex, and ever more expensive phones.

Six months ago, I wanted to upgrade my old analog phone.  I was shown approximately 12 models of phones, but I was advised by the nice young lady who worked in the Verizon store that I should consider a “smartphone”. I declined.

Today I went back to Verizon with my sons, both of whom need new phones. I checked in with the friendly young lady who stood at the door with her tablet. She entered my info and told me that we were due for two upgrades. Cool!  We went to the display of the old fashioned “dumb” phones, and found 5 models to choose from.  Really?   I noted that all five had increased in price by at least 20 dollars in the last six months.  H’m.   We chose the two that the boys wanted, and I approached the sales desk.

The nice young man informed us, with a smile, that Verizon has just instituted a thirty dollar “upgrade fee” on every phone.

What. The. Hell.

Let me lay this all out for you, in all of its capitalistic glory.

You buy a cell phone, and sign up for a two year contract. Your phone is crap, and it quits right around that two year mark. You buy a new phone, which is “marked down” because you have an upgrade.  You are now bound to the company for two more years. You use your phone for two years, but because it is a piece of crap that was designed to die in two years, you need another phone.  This time the phone are more expensive, you have fewer choices if you want to avoid the very hefty monthly fee for a “smart phone” that you don’t like/want/need. You buy the best of your poor choices, and you’re bound to the company for another two hellish years.  And….your phone dies.

This time they want you to buy the piece of crap, renew for two years, maybe upgrade to a really expensive phone and pay them an additional forty bucks a month AND pay thirty bucks for the privilege of paying them for a new phone.


My sons and I had just finished a wonderful discussion about the greed and waste inherent in the capitalist free market.

We walked out the door, went to a local CVS and bought track phones for about 20 bucks a month.

I don’t care what you say. Karl Marx was right about a whole lot of stuff.

19 thoughts on “Das Kapital

  1. Capitalism works. You went to CVS and got what you needed. I visited the Soviet Union in 1972. There was nothing in the stores, and the people were shabbily dressed and miserable (although very friendly to Americans).


    • Capitalism, unrestrained, absolutely sucks. Sorry, but what I have seen with Verizon, AT&T, etc is just unbridled greed. They have to constantly push us to spend beyond what we want or need. If it was really a “free” market, they would not have to tie us to two more years with them every time we upgrade.


  2. There are a lot of reasons they want you to have smartphones. They are changing the way that you pay for things, so that you can use your phone — this means that you will think even less before you buy. When I am shopping, I usually pick up things, look at other things, put things back, think again if this item is right, and if I really want to buy it…..I delay and delay, until I am ready to get in line. When you buy immediately with a smartphone, you won’t have that think time to change your mind.


    • So true! I hadn’t even thought of it that way, but it is so true. I am not averse to the wonders of the internet (um…I have this blog, right?), and I love the way that it puts so much knowledge and connection at our fingertips.
      I am just so appalled that the big phone companies can get away with charging us a fee for absolutely nothing. How on earth could it cost the company 30 dollars to have me buy a product from them? How?
      I love that my sons have no desire for “smartphones” and in fact hate the idea of constant contact with everyone they have ever met!
      Thanks for your comment, and your reminder to me to be careful about my on line purchasing!


    • Thank you! My kids are leading back into my radical lefty past! I was just so appalled at the naked greed of Verizon….I still can’t believe that they are making pay THEM for the privilege of buying a new product that they have no choice but to buy!! GRRRRRRR.


  3. I just heard about that $30 thing. You see, you are paying for the privilege of not paying $200+ for that phone that really isn’t worth that much anyway I’m sure. I totally agree that this whole phone thing is getting out of hand. We have 4 phones now- only 2 are “smart” and it costs over $200 a month. And they changed their calling plans recently too so that if you get one of those phones now, you don’t just get the straight 1 rate/month so it could cost a lot more. It’s the “shiny new object” thing. Everybody always wants the latest thing whether they really need it or not.

    The shopping thing is nuts. I do love how they assume that we are all going to get these phones. And then you have to buy a warranty because you can’t expect it to actually last and work well.

    I get this Internet Retailer mag and it has all this stuff about how you won’t even need to have a check out counter. A nice friendly clerk will pop out of no where when you are looking at a shirt, you say “do you have this in a small blue one” and she scans it, and says “yes and we have these striped pants and lovely earrings to match” and takes your credit card and sends you coupons to your email and all without moving from that spot. There was some movie recently where a guy walks into a store and there’s an eye scan from somewhere overhead and this sexy voice says “Mr. x, we have that coat you were looking for in stock now”. OMG. The thing is, I know people who think that’s cool- they really don’t get it. SCARY!!


  4. I don’t know what it is about mobile phones – everything to do with them seems inherently complicated. Personally I have an el cheapo mobile on pay-as-you-go which I top it up so infrequently that the transaction triggers a worried call from the credit card company.


    • That’s the way we are going, too! It is just so insidious, the way they hook you in, then keep upping the costs and controlling the products.
      My sons actually hate how the constant texting keeps them tied to their phones. They are pushing back against the whole thing, good anti-consumerists that they are. Thanks for taking the time to comment!


  5. I had to turn down a touch screen phone at LEAST six times the last time I tried to upgrade my phone. I ended up switching companies and not signing a contract with anyone because I don’t want internet on my phone, I don’t want touch screen, and I don’t want to pay buttloads of money every month to make calls and send texts. All of the salespeople seem so confused when you don’t want something. Knobs.


    • Hey, I think we have the makings of a movement here! Perhaps we are the “Dumbphone Brigade”! Or “KISS Corps”?
      Its crazy. What a consumerist society we have become!


      • Tell me about it. I had finally decided to take a leap to a full keyboard (I buy a phone twice a decade, so…I thought I’d spoil myself) and the conversation was something like:
        “QWERTY (full keyboard)”
        “Touch screen?”
        “Smart phone.”
        “QWERTY…touch phone hybrid?”
        “…touch phone?”
        “Give me a #$&*ing phone without a touch screen or I’ll punch you in the throat.”
        “No touch screen? Why?”


      • Hahahaha!!!!! My sons had to stifle their humor when I told the salesman, who was urging us to pay the upgrade fee, that “we are seriously considering going back to smoke signals.”


  6. I’m a guy, so you know I love gadgets, but when I ran into the same situation you did, I checked out everything and finally went with Consumer Cellular. It’s cheap, they provide a real cell phone for free, and I can either pay per minute or buy set blocks of time. They’ve even got rid of the “activation fee” that everyone hits you with.

    I agree with you — if it wasn’t for the emergency aspect, I’d go with smoke signals…


    • Thanks for that tip! I actually heard a commercial for Consumer Cellular on my way home from my Verizon visit. I will definitely look into them!
      And I guess that in a way my friend Embattled Farmers is correct; this is the free market at work. We have more choices than we think we do. I just really despise that 2 year renewable contract thing.


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