View Full Version : Cell Phone Users Top Rudeness List in America

December 12th, 2006, 07:22 AM
Introduction: I wanted to start a topic on the rudeness level of cell phone users in the New York Metro Area. There was not one major New York news publication, however, that had a comprehensive article on the subject. Thus, I am introducing an ABC News U.S.-wide poll, and I am conducting my own poll of New York.

Poll: Rudeness in America, 2006

It's the #@%! Cell Phones

By Gary Langer
ABC News 20/20

Feb. 3, 2006 — In the ranks of rudeness, cell phones reign.

While vast majorities of Americans experience a range of rude behaviors at least occasionally in their daily lives, the one transgression that occurs most often is accompanied by a ring tone: People talking on cell phones, in public places, in a loud or annoying manner.

Eighty-seven percent of Americans in an ABC News "20/20" survey say they encounter that kind of gabbing at least sometimes, and a majority — 57 percent — hear it often. That takes the cake for frequency; by contrast, just under four in 10 often experience generally rude or disrespectful behavior, cursing, near-cursing or people interrupting conversations to use e-mail or cell phones.
Those other behaviors still occur aplenty: Tote up people who experience these "sometimes" as well as "often" and you get at least three-quarters in each case.

How bothersome these behaviors are is another matter. Rude or disrespectful behavior is the most objectionable — among people who see it, nearly six in 10 say it bothers them "a lot." But many people have become inured to cell-phone offenses: Forty-five percent say rude use of cell phones bothers them a lot. About as many are very bothered by swear words, while least objectionable is the use of ersatz curses, such as "freaking" or "b.s." Twenty-five percent of Americans say that bothers them a lot.

Again, broader bother — not just "a lot," but also including people who are somewhat bothered — runs much higher, ranging from 83 percent for general rudeness to 50 percent for substitute swearing.

Note to Men: Watch Your Mouths

Sensitivity to the lack of courtesy varies among groups, with women and older Americans most likely to be bothered by bad behavior. The biggest difference between the sexes is on the appropriateness of public cursing: Fifty-eight percent of women say it bothers them a lot, compared with 38 percent of men — a big 20-point gap.

Women also are 16 points more likely than men to be very bothered by people who are rude or disrespectful in general, and nine to 13 points more apt to be bothered by other behaviors.

There are also differences by age. Seniors — the least likely to use cell phones regularly — are the most annoyed by loud cellular calls: Nearly six in 10 are bothered by it a lot, compared with 35 percent of those under age 35. Similarly, seniors are the most likely to be very bothered by people using cells or e-mail mid-conversation, cursing or the use of substitute curses.

OK, Many of Us Slip Up

Bad manners, to some extent, may be a thing of youth. Overall, in terms of their own behavior, 41 percent of Americans admit to sometimes being so busy and pressed for time that they're not as polite as they'd like to be. Among those under age 35 it's 48 percent; that drops to 38 percent among their elders.

Despite their different sensibilities, men and women are about equally likely to say they're sometimes less polite than they'd like. And contrary to what you might expect, Americans who live in urban areas are no more likely than those in outside metropolitan centers to say they're sometimes too busy to act politely.

Just under two in 10 Americans say they curse regularly, but add in those who do swear, but "not so often," and it rises to 36 percent. Again, it spikes among young adults: Nearly three in 10 of those under 35 swear in public very or somewhat often, nearly triple the number of seniors who do so.

Will Your Cell Phone Make You Rude?

There's no clear, consistent link between the use of communication devices and rudeness. People who never use cell phones are less apt than users to say they're sometimes too busy to be as polite as they'd like; but impoliteness does not increase as frequency of cell phone use rises.

Also, cell phone users are no more likely than non-users to say they curse regularly. And people who use e-mail, iPods or MP3s, and/or text messaging are no more likely than those who don't use such tools to say they're sometimes too busy to be polite, or to say they use swear words.

All told, about half of Americans regularly use cell phones, as many regularly use e-mail and nearly three in 10 regularly use iPods or other personal music devices. Fewer, one in six, use text or instant messaging on a regular basis.

Age is a big factor: Cell phone usage is highest among those under 45, use of iPods and text messaging is significantly higher among those under 35 and e-mail usage drops precipitously among seniors.

Neither observed rudeness nor the bother it causes has changed much in the past four years, despite a continued spike in the number of Americans toting cells phones and other mobile communication gadgetry.

There are some slight shifts. Fifty-seven percent now report often witnessing others making loud or annoying cell phone calls in public areas; that's up eight points from a Public Agenda/Pew poll in 2002. The percentage bothered "a lot" by these calls inched up by a modest five points.

On the other hand, reports of rude language in public are down slightly, by five points, from 2002 — and the number of people who are very bothered by that kind of language is down by eight points.

METHODOLOGY — This ABC News poll was conducted by telephone Jan. 20-24, 2006, among a random national sample of 1,014 adults. The results have a three-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by ICR-International Communications Research of Media, Pa.

Click here for PDF version with full questionnaire and results. (http://abcnews.go.com/images/Politics/1005a1HowRude.pdf)

Note: The tables with the poll results could not be copied onto this topic. To see these 2 tables, click article:


December 12th, 2006, 07:43 AM
Faking It

Lloyd Garver Says Cell Phone Yackers May Be Ruder Than You Think

CBS News
April 20, 2005

You know all those annoying people who talk into their cell phones as if you weren't standing right next to them? It turns out that many of them aren't really talking to anybody. The New York Times recently described research at Rutgers University as well as the Ethics and Public Policy Center that found that a great number of cell phone users are faking it.

A number of people make fake phone calls on their cell phones just for the benefit of those around them. Someone who's late for work may enter the office talking to "an important client" to cover her tardiness. Others pretend they get a call when they don't want to talk to someone who's standing right in front of them. Not surprisingly, some of those big deals you hear people negotiate on the phone are just done to impress those within earshot. Men will pretend to be on a call as they walk over to hit on a woman. Women will pretend to be on a call to avoid getting hit on by men.

Maybe this sounds like a creative use of technology to you, but I think it stinks. It was bad enough when I thought people were being rude, talking loudly about their personal lives to someone while looking right at me. Now I find out that they're being rude and not even talking to anybody!

Many of the cell phone tricksters say they pretend to be on a call just to be noticed. Until now, whenever I've seen crazy drivers on the phone swerve all over the road or come to an inexplicable stop, I've always felt they were just making a call that could probably wait until the drive was over. I'd pull up next to them and give them the traditional shake of the head and dirty look. Now, it turns out that my look may be exactly what the "caller" was hoping for. They're not putting our lives in danger because they're ordering a pizza delivered to their house. They're doing it because they want us to notice their new blouse or tie.

We're all probably pretty understanding when someone we're sharing an elevator with is talking baby talk into his cell phone, ending with, "Daddy will be home soon." But now that we know that "Daddy" might not even have a kid, and might be talking to the weather forecast, we may not be so forgiving next time

And that's a problem, because next time, "Daddy" might be real, and I don't want to tell some guy to get off the phone because he's faking it only to learn that he's really talking to his sick kid. So, these fakers have the potential to make the rest of us the bad guys.

The only way to deal with this is to fight faking with faking. When you're waiting to get off a plane and the guy next to you makes that "We're just pulling into the gate, and I'll call you from the baggage" call, you can top it with "This is the last time I fly commercial. I'll meet you at the helicopter."

When that obnoxious businessman shouts into his phone, declaring he's about to make a fortune because he was clever enough to buy Amalgamated Apple Sauce at 12, you can always talk into yours and say, "What's that? Amalgamated Apple Sauce is down to 3½? Well, at least I sold in time."

And maybe we'll be tempted to resort to the ultimate defensive tactic. When we're surrounded by callers talking away on their electronic pals, we can always take out our cellular and say, "I understand, Mr. President. All personal, civilian cellular calls should be terminated ASAP. I will notify the people around me immediately, sir."

Maybe that will at least give us a few minutes of silence — until one of those phone fakers "needs to be noticed."

By Lloyd Garver
©MMV CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.


December 12th, 2006, 09:25 AM
My top 3 "bugs the heck out of me":

1) Texting during a movie -- the light from your little screen a couple of rows ahead of me as is annoying & distracting as if you were talking during the movie. Enjoy the film & put the dang cell away.

2) Stopping on the stairs leading into a subway station to get in that last call before you lose service, thereby blocking the stairs for everyone else.

3) Slowly ambling down the middle of the sidewalk while checking messages / texting -- move it to the curb or a doorway, please!

December 12th, 2006, 09:38 AM
2) Stopping on the stairs leading into a subway station to get in that last call before you lose service, thereby blocking the stairs for everyone else.


Like that old saying: "Great minds think alike."

December 13th, 2006, 04:44 AM
Why -- considering the high percentage of people who are bothered by rude cell phone users -- have none of the major NY metro newspapers recently published an article or op-ed piece on the subject?

Does a serious, high publicity incident or crime have to occur before the subject is seriously addressed by the mass media?


A survey on the attitudes of cell phone users was conducted by PEW/INTERNET, Associated Press, and AOL, and published here (http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Cell_phone_study.pdf).

The following is an opinion piece, a bit inflammatory, but the only one I could find, on the survey:

Cell phone users confess: We're a bunch of dangerous, rude liars

But wireless customers wouldn't do without their handhelds, survey finds.

By Bob Brown (http://www.networkworld.com/Home/bbrown.html), NetworkWorld.com, 04/03/06

Cell phone users acknowledge that the devices encourage them to drive dangerously and behave rudely, but they also say the devices are increasingly hard for them to do without.

Four of 10 respondents said cell phones have shifted the way they spend their time, such as by making calls to kill time while waiting. Four out of five say their cell phones are always on. And three-quarters of those surveyed say they have used cell phones in emergency situations and received help.

All of which makes it hard for people not to use their phones while driving or in public places where discretion might be warranted. More than a quarter of cell phone owners admit driving unsafely while using their phones and one in 10 confess that they have been the subject of criticism or icy stares for using a cell phone where others thought they shouldn't be doing so. One in five cell phone owners confess that they don't always tell the truth about where they are when on their phone.

Cell phones could be even more useful, users say. Nearly half said they'd like to access maps via their cell phones and more than a third would like to get instant messages from friends.

December 13th, 2006, 03:54 PM
What about people using their Blackberries?
There was this woman sitting by the train's door in the LIRR which bugged the hell out of me because the train was packed and she was in everybody's way yet she never budged!

December 13th, 2006, 03:56 PM
That's when you firmly say "Excuse me" as you brush her on the way in/out of the train.

People have ways of doing things like that even w/o blackberries. This is not surprising...

December 13th, 2006, 04:25 PM
I hate the folks that insist on standing in the doorways, cell phone/black berry or not. Or even Mr. I'mAGonnaSpreadMyNewspaperOutHereBecauseI'mALikeIm portantAndStuff. Not his real name. Anyhow, getting to the door a stop or so from your stop isn't a big deal. But just camping in the door all the way across town, making everyone's life miserable who is trying to get on and get off the train is just plain bogus. I try to be courteous, but small jackasses get the elbow and large ones get the shoulder to pass through. Sheesh.

P.S. I see your cell phone talkers and raise you iPod singers. Good grief.

December 13th, 2006, 05:07 PM
The cell phone users who insist on doing 45 mph on the third lane of the LIE are those who REALLY bug me. If you want to do 45, get in the right lane. If you want to use your cell phone, do that in the right lane, too.

December 13th, 2006, 06:04 PM
I see your cell phone talkers and raise you iPod singers. Good grief.

Ooh yeah, when you have a loud iPod singer, that is baaaaaaad... especially an out-of-tune one.:eek: But there are much FEWER singing cases! (My choice of "case" was no accident.) People are far more reluctant to publicly croon than phone-yak!

Also, the phenomenon of people singing with "headphones" on has been around for decades; most of us have developed our own special ways of dealing with it. We are still in... err... "adjustment mode" with the cell phone chatter.

December 13th, 2006, 06:27 PM
The cell phone users who insist on doing 45 mph on the third lane of the LIE are those who REALLY bug me. If you want to do 45, get in the right lane. If you want to use your cell phone, do that in the right lane, too.
You must be talking about New Yorkers using the hands-free device while driving, no?

Use of the hand-held device while driving is against the law in NY; drivers get moving violation tickets, points on their license, and license suspensions for "repeat offenses."

I had never heard of anybody actually getting a ticket for this until rapper Busta Rhymes was pulled over last November 2:

Busta Rhymes ticketed for driving while on his cell phone

November 3, 2006

(http://www.newsday.com/entertainment/ny-bustarhymes1103,0,2531930.story?coll=ny-entertainment-headlines#topix)Trouble has found Busta Rhymes again.

The rapper, who's had other run-ins with the law, was caught talking on his cell phone while driving past a Manhattan police station, police said Friday.

Rhymes, whose legal name is Trevor Smith, was cruising past the Midtown North police station on West 54th Street around 7 p.m. Thursday when police allegedly spotted him on the cell phone.

He was pulled over and issued a summons for the moving violation. His management office declined comment Friday.



December 30th, 2006, 07:35 AM
I was on an interminable supermarket line, but it turned out to not be such a bad thing because the man in front of me was handsome and outgoing. The fellow in front of him joined our conversation and we were engaged in lively chatter, when the woman behind me screamed out, "Keep it down! Can't you see I'm on a cell phone?!"

December 30th, 2006, 03:50 PM
^Never encountered anyone trying to pull something that rude. And cell phone-saturation here is pretty high (always had many phones in Sthlm, supposedly outnumberd NYC at one point - but can't find any real reference to back that up).

I didn't find anything rude about cellphone useage in NYC the (whole amazing) 10 days I was there, at least not any more than here. And IMO it's not so much about them being cellphone users as much as the rude ones being just generally rude. Such as yelling at the phone, having that (senselessly default) key-note on...

/still no law against driving while talking on the cell here. didn't they see the Mythbusters testing it??? :p

January 11th, 2007, 09:05 PM
Regarding the NY ban on hand-held cell phones, I do know about that law. And I willingly and openly violate it. Same with the 55 MPH "speed limit." Civil disobedience, albeit on a small scale. If I get a ticket, I get a ticket. All the State really cares about is the revenue from fines, anyway. I will fight the bastards in court, each and every time. I have in the past, and I will in the future. I work for my money. The State will have to work for its money, too.

This country has lost so many of its freedoms, one by one, that I long ago decided to live my life as a free man. So long as my freedoms do not interfere with those of others, I feel I'm on solid ground.

January 12th, 2007, 04:32 AM
So long as my freedoms do not interfere with those of others, I feel I'm on solid ground.

In the case of using a cell phone while you're driving, you do interfere with others' well being, or at least, studies say so:

Driving + Cell Phones = Big Road Risk

Study: Chatting on Cell Phones While Driving May Be as Bad as Driving Drunk

By Miranda Hitti (http://www.webmd.com/content/Biography/8/101415.htm)
WebMD Medical News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD (http://www.webmd.com/content/Biography/8/109805.htm)
on Thursday, June 29, 2006

June 29, 2006 -- Driving under the influence of a cell phone may be major road hazard, according to a University of Utah study.

"The impairments associated with using a cell phone while driving can be as profound as those associated with driving while drunk," write psychology professor David Strayer, PhD, and colleagues in the summer issue of the journal Human Factors.

Strayer's team tested the driving skills -- on a simulator, not real roads -- of 25 men and 15 women under four conditions:
No distractions
Talking on a hand-held cell phone about a favorite subject
Talking on a hands-free cell phone headset about a favorite subject
Driving while drunk (blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08%) without talking on a cell phoneDriving with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher is against the law in all U.S. states and Washington, D.C.

Chatting Behind the Wheel

The simulator resembled a Ford Crown Victoria sedan. Participants were to drive along a simulated stretch of highway without crashing into the car ahead of them, which braked at unpredictable times.

The drivers were 22-34 years old (average age: 25). They had good eyesight, valid drivers' licenses, and an average of eight years of driving experience. More than three-quarters owned a cell phone; almost all of those drivers -- 87% -- said they have used a cell phone while driving.
In the cell phone tests, participants chatted on a cell phone about a favorite topic. They spoke with a research assistant, and they didn't have to dial the phones or answer the phones while driving.

Cell Phone Crashes

While on either type of cell phone (hands-free or hand-held), drivers were more likely to rear-end the car ahead of them than when they were undistracted. They were also slower to brake and to accelerate after braking while on either type of cell phone.

No differences were seen between the use of hands-free or hand-held cell phones while driving. The conversation itself -- not the device -- may be the biggest distraction, note Strayer and colleagues.

"Clearly the safest course of action is not to use a cell phone while driving," the researchers write. They add that when they interviewed participants after the study, most hadn't realized that their driving was worse while on the cell phone.

. . .

SOURCES: Strayer, D. Human Factors, Summer 2006; vol 48: pp 381-391. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: "DUI/DWI Laws." News release, University of Utah.

Full text:

January 14th, 2007, 08:12 PM
Appreciate the statistics, but I'm not buying it. I've seen so many of these so-called "safety" studies before. In many cases, these studies are often funded by insurance companies or other organizations with a specific purpose in mind. I'm sure anybody could come up with similar statistics to show that driving while eating, burping, wearing green clothes, having an argument with your girlfriend, not shaving, or any such combination of parameters definitely equates to "less than safe" driving. Freedom is not license. But over-regulation is not freedom. We need to find some common sense and let us live our lives without having to worrry about armed authority lurking at our every turn.

January 15th, 2007, 10:11 AM
Bob, you are not making a good argument there.

Speaking of which, they found that heavy conversation or arguments DO lead to accidents in cars. So using it as a contrary is really defeating your argument. Yuo might as well have said that "They could come up with statistics that would show that drinking while driving would cause an accident!!"

The real fault in the law is that they found that hands-free does not make it any safer.

The thing is, if you are talking to someone who is not there in the car with you, they do not see what is going on. If a car pulls out in front of you, BOTH of you will most likely gasp and react if you are in the same car (provided you are not too caught up in the conversation itself). Someone on a phone will not.

It is just a seperation of yourself from your environment that proves to be deleterious. Just like futzing with your radio, trying to eat or shave or do anything else that requires more motor function/concentration than picking your nose.

The thing is, if you are worried about an armed authority at every turn, cell phones are probably not your main concern.

January 15th, 2007, 11:24 AM
I believe having a drivers license is not taken as seriously as it should be in the first place. My daily commute proves to me daily that people just don't pay enough attention.

Add a distraction such as a conversation, in the car or on a phone, changing radio stations, putting on makeup, eating... And it makes an already bad situation worse.

And yes, I have seen someone pulled over right in front of me for talking on a hand held phone while driving. I had been behind this jerk who was driving terribly for a mile or more. After I let the cop in front of me to pull him over, I slowed down, rolled down my window, and thanked him.

January 15th, 2007, 12:03 PM
I'm sure anybody could come up with similar statistics to show that driving while eating,That's even worse than cell phones.

This has happened to everyone. You're drinking something, become preoccupied, and it goes down the wrong pipe. Remember your reaction?

How would you like to be behind the wheel on the BQE at the time?

January 15th, 2007, 12:33 PM
I would scrap ALL of the following:

1. 21 year old drinking age.
2. Seat belt laws.
3. Helmet laws.
4. Cell phone/driving laws.
5. 55 MPH (wherever it remains)

OK, so I'm a radical. Since when was "freedom" a dirty word?

January 15th, 2007, 12:55 PM
I would scrap ALL of the following:

1. 21 year old drinking age.

I think that should be dropped only in certain circumstances. One of which (not) being the public sale or large scale distribution under the age.

An 18 year old should be able to have a glass of red with his dinner, but I really do not want to see a bunch of 16 year olds at the bar.

2. Seat belt laws.

I kind of agree with that, although child rules should stay in place. I buckle my belt all the time, I do not like someone telling me to do so.

Exception? When NOT buckling could leave your family w/o a supporting member. You have kids? We do not want to be supporting your kids as you and your wife go through the windshield.

3. Helmet laws.

Gotta differ on this. Partially. They save lives. Your head is so fragile that small accidents can kill if they hit right. If you shoose to go face-open on your cap, you can lose your face if you want, but you will probably still be around.

I am 50/50 on this. Hard to say.

4. Cell phone/driving laws.

Nope. Disagree with you on that. Only difference being, they should not be gestapo on you for it. You answer your phone, or are asking directions (lame excuse) you should not have to deal. But you are driving 50 in the fast lane because you are yappin away, then that should be prosecutable.

5. 55 MPH (wherever it remains)

Depends. The 55 should be used as a guide. If you are doing 70 down the GSP, there better be a bunch of people doing the same. Also, you better not be tailgating!

I have seen people whipping down the road at 80/85 and right on the bumper of the car in front of them. If they knew anything about math thy would realize that their 90mph will only get them to LBI 15 minutes faster. That's, what, enough time to get the ice in the cooler?

They should keep the limits, but only bring them up when the persons driving is a risk to others.

OK, so I'm a radical. Since when was "freedom" a dirty word?

When you use it as an absolute to do what you want no matter what it may do to others.

Freedom is not Anarchy. Slight difference. But in society, absolute freedom has never worked.

The key thing is, you have to know where, and how dark, you draw your lines....

January 15th, 2007, 01:02 PM
I would scrap ALL of the following:

1. 21 year old drinking age.
2. Seat belt laws.
3. Helmet laws.
4. Cell phone/driving laws.
5. 55 MPH (wherever it remains)

OK, so I'm a radical. Since when was "freedom" a dirty word?

And when these situations are abused, should the EMS and Fire organizations have the freedom not to help those who abused it and caused property damage and personal injury? Where does the line get drawn?

January 16th, 2007, 07:04 PM
I drew the line years ago, with the 55 MPH speed limit. Stupid law. Heavy-handed enforcement. Outrageous fines. High insurance fees. Courts packed. The only winners were the State Police who got almost unlimited overtime to harass everybody, in every conceivable way.

March 10th, 2007, 10:41 AM
Getting Out of a 2-Year Cellphone Contract Alive

NY TIMES (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/10/technology/10money.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin)
March 10, 2007

Your Money

The two-year contract. It is the bane of a cellphone owner’s existence, especially one who must have the latest hot phone at a discounted price.

Two years is a long time, and few other marketers can get away with demanding it, much less adding to it. Every time you walk back into the cellphone store or call the customer service operators, it seems, the contract is extended. Lose the phone or ask for a replacement, and the contract is extended. Sign up for a family plan, same thing.

But try getting out of a contract early? You can do it, but you will have to pay an early termination fee of as much as $240.

Cellphone companies do not make it easy to break two-year contracts. But it can be done through shrewd negotiating or by turning to the innovators on the Internet who match contract sellers with people who want to assume the contract.

Early termination fees are intended to compensate phone companies for the discount they gave on the phone upfront. Most mobile phone companies charge the full fee no matter when the contract is scheduled to expire.
Verizon Wireless recently decided to prorate the fee, and some of the other companies do that in certain cities.

The companies will waive the early termination fee if you die. Pretending to be dead, however, does not work well as a way to break a contract. Sprint Nextel, Verizon and Cingular, for example, may ask for a death certificate. T-Mobile says it does not. “They want to take people at their word,” said Graham Crow, a spokesman for the company.

Joining the military can sometimes work to break a contract if you are going to be stationed overseas. Sometimes, though, the company will suspend the service for the duration of active duty, which is not a great deal. Upon returning home, you would still be stuck with the remaining period of the contract and a much older phone. Buying a new phone would only extend the contract further.

Next to death, moving to a place where your phone company does not have service may not seem so draconian. Each company provides maps on its Web site or at its stores that show the general service area, so you can easily figure that out. But companies will ask for proof of the new address. The T-Mobile spokesman warns that it has to be a legitimate address, and post office boxes will not work.

There is an intriguing escape clause in contracts with phone companies that offer “roaming” services, though it is intended to give the carrier a way out. When a cellphone is used outside the provider’s network, calls are routed through another company’s network. The consumer pays a monthly fee for this service, which the carrier uses to pay the other phone companies to handle those calls.

Roam too much and your phone company starts losing money. Find a place where your phone goes into roaming mode and make at least half your calls from there. Every carrier said they would cancel the contract, though it might take them a month or two to notice.

A more practical approach has been bandied about on a number of blogs since October, when many carriers raised the price of text messaging. They pointed out a clause in contracts that says if changes adversely affect your rates or service, the consumer has the right to end the contract early without paying a penalty.

It was not that easy. Some companies, like Cingular, now AT&T, refused to budge, according to its spokesman. Sprint was more accommodating, though a spokeswoman said Sprint approached early termination requests on case by case. That means the consumer has to argue with customer service.

Sprint says a customer will be released from a contract if a price change has a “material adverse effect” on the customer. In other words, prices have to go up, not down. The customer has to be actually using the service in which the price changed. How much they are using it is the critical factor. The spokeswoman said Sprint’s “customer care representatives” have guidelines, but she was not going to reveal them.

Though the contract says customers have 30 days after a price change to get out of the contract, Sprint may be more generous. “They can always call customer care and see if there is a way to reconcile,” said Emmy Anderson, the Sprint spokeswoman.

Liza Tremblay, a 26-year-old owner of Bay Burger in Sag Harbor, N.Y., gave it a shot to get out of her contract with Verizon and avoid paying $175. (She wanted to use Cingular because colleagues told her the reception was better.) She followed a script she found on Consumerist.com (http://consumerist.com/). “I used a lot of big words, and I think I got across the idea that I meant business,” she said.

But then the Verizon service representative threw her a curve ball. They wanted her to fax her contract so they could see the clause she was referring to. She dug through her papers and found an old one — she had been with Verizon almost 10 years — and after a few more transfers to call center supervisors, they let her out. “Obviously, they had a copy of the contract,” Ms. Tremblay said.

More often than not, the company will steer the customer into a new calling plan rather than breaking the contract. “Typically, a customer calling up is not dissatisfied with the service, they are dissatisfied with their plan,” said Brenda Rainey, a Verizon spokeswoman. Nonetheless, she said, Verizon demands to see that a price increase has a significant impact on the consumer. “We are going to look at usage patterns to see if it is material,” she said.

In other words, after a lot of machination and arguing, you may not win in the end.

The solution might be, as it so often is these days, in the power of the Internet. All of the companies allow a contract to be signed over to someone else. So a number of entrepreneurs have created a new online business in trading those contracts. The best known are Celltradeusa.com (http://celltradeusa.com/) and Cellswapper.com (http://{cq}cellswapper.com/). For a fee, $20 at Celltradeusa and $15 at Cellswapper, these companies will match a contract holder to a buyer. The contract buyers pay no fee, providing them a way to save on a phone and on activation fees.

The sites have search engines so you can find a plan length, minutes and price that you like. Once the match is made, the cellphone company arranges the transfer.

The risk is that you may not find a buyer; Cellswapper, however, does not charge a fee until a match is made. Adam Korbl, the chief executive of Cellswapper, said his service makes about 100 matches a week and currently has 350 plans listed.

Be careful if you want to keep your phone number when you trade your account, which you are allowed to do. Some of the phone companies use this as a pressure point for keeping you on board, so make sure you arrange with the carrier to keep the number before you transfer the contract.

Derek C. F. Pegritz, an English composition instructor at Waynesburg College in western Pennsylvania, wants to switch cellphone carriers because of dropped calls, but he isn’t sure how he’ll do it.

“I’m shelling out $90 a month for a phone that basically sits there and collects dust,” he said.

But getting out of his contract will cost him $170. Mr. Pegritz has tried to explore other ways to be released from the remaining year of his contract, but the best he hopes for is a compromise by Cellular One. “I’m looking forward to that about as much as I’m looking forward to getting several teeth pulled next week,” he said.

FOLLOW-UP TIP: A reader recently suggested a handy tool for bypassing automated call routing at call centers. Get Human (www.gethuman.com/us (http://www.gethuman.com/us/)/) is a database of call center numbers and the secret codes needed to get to a human.

A list of useful cellphone company numbers can be found at http://consumersadvocate.wordpress.com/2007/02/19/cell-phone-company-phone-numbers (http://consumersadvocate.wordpress.com/2007/02/19/cell-phone-company-phone-numbers)/.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

March 11th, 2007, 01:26 PM
I would scrap ALL of the following:

1. 21 year old drinking age.
2. Seat belt laws.
3. Helmet laws.
4. Cell phone/driving laws.
5. 55 MPH (wherever it remains)

You should start a "dumb laws" topic, starting with these. I'm serious - this is a subject you feel strongly about, and we could get a lively conversation going. How about it?

(Just for the record, I think all the above laws are dumb except for #4 -- probably because three different times I almost got run over by drivers using hand-held cells.)