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.