Land lines (and their owners) don't deserve to die

Cell phone "elitists" bug me. These are the people who insist that land lines or home phones are relics of a bygone era, and anyone who has a home phone are either simply wasting their money, or refusing to change with the times, or are somehow mentally deficient for not ridding themselves of a land line and going exclusively with cellular phones.

We know a handful of families that have ditched the land line and gone entirely with cell phones. (To their credit, they have been far from "elitist" about it.) Unfortunately, we have encountered some common problems trying to call our cellphone-only friends. These are based on actual, real-life experiences.

  • You have to double (or more) the number of phone numbers you have to know to call the family. You can't just call one number for the family, you have to know the number for the husband, and the one for the wife, and possibly the numbers for any children.

    • Published phone directories will likely not be set up for this and list only one number, which at best will be a 50:50 chance of belonging to the specific family member you wanted to contact; so unless you make a point of getting down everyone's number, you'll consistenly call one family member just to ask for the number of another family member. (While the first family member could simply hand their phone to the second, I've found it's more common they will request you call the second number, so the first phone is still free for calls that are actually for the first person.)

  • You don't know if they are home when you call, and you will end up reaching them at an otherwise inconvenient time (i.e., when they are out shopping, at work, running some other errand, away on vacation).

  • If you don't care whom you contact (i.e., you want to call the family to set up a visit, invite them to dinner, pass them some information about a community event, etc.), you end up having to decide whom you're going to contact.

    • The person you decide to contact will end up being the least convenient person, as they will end up being the one who is out of the house (as above), greatly raising the chance any information you wanted to convey to the family will be long forgotten by the time said person returns home.

  • The cell coverage in the neighborhood isn't great, and the call will end up sounding like tin cans and string (when it's not dropped). This seems to be especially true in our "outer suburbian" neighborhoods, and even more so near certain schools.

  • Even when the desired person is at home, and assuming their phone is getting enough reception, it is not uncommon for someone to misplace their pocket-sized device, or not hear the single ringing phone from elsewhere in the house; and they can easily miss the call for being unable to hear or find their phone in time.

While I could possibly see this working more for singles or couples, it just doesn't make sense to me for families. In order to allow your children to make or receive phone calls at all, you either have to yield "your" cell phone, or shell out the money for their own.

I understand why some people do it. The families we know that have gone to cell phones have done so to save money, and to get away from endless telemarketing calls. Those are certainly appealing reasons — we easily get three times as many unwanted calls on our land line as calls we actually want to take. But in practice, it just makes calling a family unnecessarily complicated, and they are just problems we'd rather avoid. It's not a waste of money, and we're not stupid or living in the past.


bookladydavina said...

we're holding on to the ole home phone too.. with no plans to ditch it in the near future. It's easy, it's convenient, esp as the kid's cell phones are for another state (ain't joint custody fun..) so when they are up here, their friends call the home phone and their friends from their other home can still call their cell. Plus it makes it easier, there are times when we drop the cell phones (like while Tom was deployed) and we still have a phone.. basic service isn't much, esp on top of what we're paying the phone company for internet anyway..

Th3Guns1ing3r said...

We still have our landline, and it is just the two of us. Most of my problem is that we don't get great reception at the house, and it is just uncomfortable talking on the cell phone for long periods as compared to a larger landline phone.

If a family is going to go this way, why not add another phone to the family plan to be left at home for "community" calls. I know the idea is to save as much money as possible, but one extra should still be cheaper than keeping the landline.

Rich Solomon said...

Since you forwarded this to us...well here we go:

1. While you have added the complexity of multiple numbers, you have a greater chance of reaching SOMEONE with the information in a timely manner.

2. Not many of us with cell phones want to be listed in public directories. This is a privacy thing. Much like Facebook. If I want you to have my number, you'll have it. If not, I don't want you to call me.

3. That's the point of having a cell phone then. They can answer whenever, and don't need to be home. If they answer at an inopportune time, it's their fault. You can always call at an inopportune time when they're at home too.

4. This isn't a drawback, as much as being socially awkward. But I agree that this is sometimes tough.

5. That's a tough one. It might be a reach to say that because someone is home that the message will get delivered properly either. I own a teenager, I speak from experience.

6. But at least you're on the call. Likely if you were calling them at home, they may not have been home to get the call at all. If their home reception is bad, it's a trade off.

7. Yup. And it's just as easy to miss the landline ringing too. Or to have turn off the ringer...or...

All that said, I'm not an elitist about owning a landline and in fact still do. We just don't use it because our friends call our cell lines. This does consistently bring up the question of why keep a landline at all then? Regardless, we still have it. Your blog post is two years old though...I wonder how many people have ditched that copper line since then.

Yakko Warner said...

Well, yeah, I forwarded it since you asked, "Does anyone have [land lines] anymore?" We do, and what I listed in this blog post are the good reasons we do.

Things have changed some since I wrote this, but not altogether much.

My point about public directories wasn't an issue about trying to stay unpublished, but rather the difficulties of having all numbers published when you do want them available. I have noticed that our church finally started to accommodate individual phone numbers for people in a family in the past year, so if that's any kind of benchmark, then it is easier to make multiple numbers available for a family.

For the cell service, there are a few people we know that, in their homes, depending on your provider, cell service is nonexistent, so you don't even get to be on the call. I guess the easy answer would be to say those families should just not use the carrier that can't service their home, but it does seem easier to just get a land line and know you will always have that service than to have to shop around for the cell carrier you can actually use at home. (Do carriers have any kind of grace period, so you can try out their service and make sure it actually works in the areas you live and travel daily before committing to a contract?)

Can't say I agree that it's "just as easy" to miss a home phone ringing. If you habitually turn the ringer off, maybe; but at least in our house, when the home phone rings, there are four phones emitting a ring tone at various places around the house. When a cell phone rings, it's only that one device, which could have been left in a car or dropped in the bottom of a bag. I know that I have never turned my house phones' ringers off, but I have silenced my cell phone and forgotten to re-enable its ringer on occasion.

All of the things I listed have been from my own experience. Now, most of our phone use, typically, is for calling other church members for any number of things, and "calling the family" (instead of a specific person) is a pretty typical use case. Your mileage may vary. The person we were talking about is in a situation where he probably has no benefit to having a land line. I'm not saying everyone must have one, just objecting to the idea that no one should.