The biggest ripoff: text message beats movie popcorn

The biggest ripoff: text message beats movie popcorn

Summary: SMS text messages are the biggest ripoff, worse that movie popcorn.

TOPICS: Mobility

Everyone knows that movie popcorn is one of the biggest ripoffs, right? I mean, really, how much does it cost to pop enough popcorn to fill that $6 tub? It turns out that movie popcorn carries a 600 percent markup.

Ouch. And yet it's not the biggest ripoff out there, according to a report by The biggest ripoff, by far, with a 6,500 percent markup, is... the text message.

Text messages themselves, according to experts, are just tiny blips of data being transferred to and from mobile devices and don''t even cost the carriers a full penny to process. Computer scientist Srinivasan Keshav, who testified on the matter in Washington last summer, is quoted in the post as saying that it's actually closer to about one-third of a cent to deliver.

But don't expect anything to change anytime soon.

A couple of weeks ago, the Justice Department wrapped up an investigation of text-message pricing. Washington had wanted to know why all of the carriers had doubled their rates from 10 cents per message to 20 cents over the span of a few years. Was it collusion? Why would they need to do that? The carriers and other experts, including Keshav, were called to Washington to testify. And then... it was determined that no action by Washington is necessary.

Those of us who pay for flat-rate, all-you-can-text plans don't worry about the 20-cent "ka-chings" with every message sent. And, some months, I like to think that the wireless carriers actually lose money on a customer like me.

If you could see my kids hammer out text messages, you'd know what I mean.

Topic: Mobility

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • So........

    What do we do now? Just because Washington tells us there is nothing for them to do, doesn't mean something doesn't need to be done. We can all make the reasonable assumption that some greenbacks influenced this decision. What bothers me is that we are expected to just accept this. Is there another way we can get together and collectively tell the carriers 'enough is enough' or will we continue being sheeple?
    • Seems to me...

      ...if the government won't get involved the only thing we can do is "vote with our feet" - stop using text messaging altogether and drop it from our plans. That's what I'm planning to do.

      Carl Rapson
    • Is there some sort of gun to your head...

      ...that forces you to use text messaging if you
      think what you are paying is so unreasonable?
      • its not about the gun

        I think that the issue is not so much that I am forced to use text messaging, rather it is that there appears to be an enourmous/unreasonable profit being made and the suggestion that in the US there are anti-competative forces at work, i.e. collusion between suppliers of your cell services. This is where Government needs to be on the side of the user as the only institution with the power to break up cartels. We probably have the same issues here in the UK and europe... in the end the story has generally been that providers have needed to recoup costs of the setting up of the networks etc and the discounts on the handsets they provide, but I feel sure they do that and then some.
        • If it's "unreasonable", then stop using it.

          I assure you that once people stop paying such a
          silly price, the price will come down.

          What you are arguing is: I am too lazy to do that,
          and I want the government to fix this for me.
          • I don't use it -- Had the service nuked at the Telco end.

            I don't use it -- haven't for years. In fact, I had my phone telco turn the service (along with all the other 3G %$#@).

            The point you miss is that you can't have SMS competition unless you change your telco, tel no. etc.

            It's a captive market-so when 5000% min markup is the norm then it really is extortion.
          • It may be a "captive market", but...

            ...that doesn't mean that people have to consume
            it. At least you shut it down, like I did.
            What I don't get are people who freely use a
            product that they think is overpriced, and then
            complain about how they're getting ripped off.
            If they're getting ripped off, it's completely
            in their power to stop getting ripped off by not

            It's not the government's job to cater to the
            whims of out-of-control whining children.
    • Sure

      It's supply & demand, well, I guess in this case it's just demand. Sure, if enough people would say...wait for it..."I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!" then yeah, text prices would come down. But, the days when people would organize to effect any kind of change are past. (Don't bother bringing up Obama or Tea Parties, those events were and are as orchestrated as a Beetoven symphony.) So, that's it. We'll all whine and complain, then suck it up and pay whatever we're told to for as long as we're told to and at whatever interest rate we're given. Like good little sheeple.
      • The difference is...

        ...that I can boycott paying for text messages.
        (Which I have) I can't boycott paying taxes, lest
        people with guns come to my home, seize my
        property and take me to jail. To date, Verizon,
        AT&T, Sprint, etc have yet to be given that power.
  • TEXT SMS - Mobile-to-Mobile vs NASA across solar system, NASA is cheaper!

    I've tried to expose this sham before on ZDNet. SMS/Texting is the biggest rip-off ever. NASA can get an ASCII character across the solar system cheaper than you can cell phone to cell phone. Part quote:

    "Oh, BTW, did you know that the average user pays more to send an SMS text message character across town than it does for NASA to send the same character to and from the far reaches of the outer solar system?"

    Read full post here (go to 'Re SMS'):
  • How about Caller ID?

    My local phone service was 8$ per month (not including various govt. fees), but caller ID is $10 per month! I always looked at it together since I do need caller ID and said that local phone service is about $25 per month + calls.

    Aside: Now I have Vonage which is $25 for unlimited everything, even international calling to most countries is included!! -- Call quality is great too!

    Let me know at alokgovil at hot mail if you want to sign up and I can get you one month free.
  • Right. A similar scam -- It too is extortion.

    Right. A similar scam.

    In any other industry it'd be extortion.

    Of course it is here too but is communications so anything goes.
    • Exactly how is it "extortion"?

      Are they holding your children hostage or
      • It's extortion

        No, they've figured out a way to hold a service hostage.

        Using text is becoming less and less optional; some of us have to use it for work communications, and it's often the only way I can contact my kids in emergency situations. Any carrier could start pricing text fairly, which is virtually free; that they don't points to collusion and other fun "free" market practices.
        • Give me a break.

          You "need" a service that didn't even exist 10
          years ago to contact your kids. How did your
          parents deal with this?

          The phone companies have figured out that you (and
          millions others) are willing to pay to have
          "emergency" contact with your kids, and you're
          paying it. Seems fair to me.
          • Then an addiction?

            Get everybody doing it, then....raise the price?
            John Zern
  • RE: The biggest ripoff: text message beats movie popcorn

    So in your oppinions it is ok to charge an outrageous price for something"we don't need to use" How do you feel about $20000 for a cat scan of your knee, you don't realy need to usit it if your not an athlete????
    • Sheesh

      How about taking a chill pill before you start typing? It appears that you're too upset to properly spell/grammar/sense check your posts.
      • Azathoth ... Come On

        His statement was to the point and it didn't seem radical at all. You're the one taking it to the extreme with your "spell/grammar/sense" attitude. Get back to the topic at hand and drop the "better than you" facade.
        • *shrugs*

          You're right, I was off topic. But no apologies.