The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

There's nothing like an emergency phone call to get you out of an awkward situation. That's the rationale behind Cingular's Escape-A-Date and Virgin Mobile's Rescue Ring, wireless services that buzz your phone with fake calls that enable you to ditch your social commitment of the moment.
When the cell rings, one of Cingular's eight "emergency" messages says: "Hey, this is your Escape-A-Date call. If you're looking for an excuse, I got it. Just repeat after me, and you'll be on your way! 'Not again! Why does that always happen to you? ... All right, I'll be right there.' Now tell 'em that your roommate got locked out, and you have to go let them in. Good luck!"

And bingo, the bad date is history.

The rescue-call service is part of a Cingular package that costs $5 a month. Virgin Mobile offers its Rescue Ring at 25 cents per use, plus the price of the call.
Ingenious. Of course, one has to question the point of paying anything at all to your wireless provider when you could just duck into a bathroom, make a quick call to a friend, and arrange for a fake call that way.

An even easier option would be to surreptitiously set the built-in alarm (a basic feature on every mobile phone sold these days) to ring at a pre-set time, and then pretend to chat on the phone for the few seconds it takes to weasel out of the date. (This is the option that makes me shake my head at that dumb "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" commercial, where some guy asks for his hotel's wakeup call to be routed to his cellphone.)

Regardless, I'm sure there's a healthy market of ill-informed consumers out there who'll eagerly sign up for this useless service. It's things like this that encourage wireless providers to treat their customers like crap; after all, if people will part with their money for this, why not assume they're thoroughly stupid?