Cingular: The Fewest Dropped Calls*

Cingular Fewest Dropped Calls

Cingular has been widely advertising that it has the “fewest dropped calls.” What is the basis of their claim?

*MOUSE PRINT: The footnote indicates “Dropped calls based on nationwide experience among national carriers.”

Who did the survey/test and what exactly did it find? Cingular is not talking much on the subject and refers inquiries to the research company that did the study, Telephia. Telephia says their results are proprietary and won’t discuss them. See Boston Globe story.

The claim is also contrary to two recent reports on service quality from JD Power and Consumer Reports (subscription required).

Now it is revealed that Telephia sent a letter to the four major carriers at the beginning of May, after Cingular began running their campaign. According to a follow-up Boston Globe story:

Telephia sent a letter this month to officials at all four major wireless companies, saying it didn’t know how Cingular concluded that it drops the fewest calls. The San Francisco research firm also said it couldn’t say whether Cingular’s advertising is fair, legal, or responsible.

”While we can’t evaluate the specific analysis Cingular uses as the basis of its nationwide claim, Telephia can confirm that Cingular does have a statistically significant lower dropped-call rate than the competition across some market/time period groupings,” said Sid Gorham, Telephia’s chief executive, in the letter.

For consumers, we are still left without any substantiation, and with increasing doubt. Hey, Cingular, what is the real story? Can you hear us now?

Apprentice Game: Get Rich with Trump*

Get Rich with Trump smallIf you are addicted to NBC’s Apprentice, you may be eager to try to win $10,000 by predicting which wannabe should be fired by the end of the show each week. To that end,the program created a “Get Rich with Trump” game inviting you to text message the letter of the loser to a particular number while the show is on the air.  They then hold a drawing amongst all entries, and one lucky person wins $10,000.

*MOUSE PRINT: What is not orally disclosed during each presentation of the game promo are two key facts in the mouse print:  (1) each text message you send costs 99 cents plus any text messages charges levied by your cell company, and (2) you can play the game for free by visiting  [Oral disclosure is only made during the first promo of the evening, and not during the subsequent three other ones. NBC Apprentice, May 1, 8, 2006]

Under state and federal law, a company cannot charge a price for the chance of a prize (the definition of a “lottery”) unless they also offer a “no purchase necessary” means of entry.  That is why NBC offers the web option, but certainly does not disclose its availability prominently.

The fee to play the game probably will come as a surprise to many people who call in, since in most presentations of the promotion, there is no oral disclosure of the price.  The newness of text messaging services poses a problem for existing laws, like the FTC’s “Pay Per Call” rule.  Those requirements which mandate oral disclosure of the price of a call were designed primarily for calls to 900 numbers.  It may be time to update the rules to include text messaging services as well.

“Get Rich with Trump” is more likely to make its promoters rich(er) rather than you.

Electrasol: Get 3 Years Free*

Electrasol free tabs for three yearsThe ad is pretty clear: when you buy a select Whirlpool or KitchenAid dishwasher, you get three years-worth of Electrasol dishwasher detergent free.  The slightly smaller print says, “Get up to 3 Years FREE*” [Emphasis added] [Parade magazine, April 9, 2006]

*MOUSE PRINT: “3 year supply equals six 85 count canisters.”

That would give you enough dishwashing tablets for 510 loads. Some medium to large families probably have to run the dishwasher at least once a day, so over a three year period, they would require 1095 tablets.  This offer, despite the “3 year” promise, would provide only enough dishwasher detergent for less than a year and a half.