From Alvin: “Try calling AT&T and ask them to match your lowest rates quoted elsewhere. I did and they came up with 10 cents a minute 24 hours a day.”

OK, I’m too embarrassed — shy — whatever — to do this. But I hope you will, and let me know if you can get the same deal. They’ve made such a point of offering fifteen cents a minute on TV . . . at any time, to anyone, anywhere in the country . . . it would be kind of amazing if you could get them to knock off 33% just by asking.

Separately, the irrepressible Doug Bross, for whom I can’t vouch personally but who certainly seems eager to cut your phone rates, suggests the ATCARD calling card, from a company called ATCALL in Arlington, Virginia. Instead of paying AT&T $1.18 to make an 18-second call from a pay phone — “Leave a message at the beep. BEEEEP.” “Hi, it’s me. Call me.” — ATCARD would charge just a nickel, because its 16-cent rate is chopped up into 6-second increments.

On longer calls, the savings would be larger, though less dramatic in percentage terms. And here I was thinking I was doing pretty well with a card that costs just 25 cents a minute.

According to Doug, there are no surcharges or fees, just a flat 16 cents a minute. “I know people who actually use this INSTEAD of dropping a quarter into the local pay phones,” he says, since for anything under 90 seconds — 24 cents — it’s actually cheaper to use this “long distance” calling card to make local pay-phone calls. “If you’d like further information,” Doug offers hopefully, “feel free to call me at 800-956- 9241.”

Every time I think AT&T stock looks cheap, I think about competition like this and chicken out.



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