There is no denying the benefits of the modern day telephone.  The concept seems pretty simple to all of us as we have been spoiled with the technology for years.  Still, you can’t belittle the fact that having the ability to communicate with someone infinite miles away is one of the greatest technological inventions of all time.

What’s not so great about the telephone is the expensive price that comes along with it.  Roaming charges and overage on your mobile along with all the sneaky fees attached to the monthly home phone bill often make for a rather frustrating situation.  Think you’ve got it bad with a costly phone bill?  Well, you might think otherwise after reading this.

The Associated Press was one of the first to report the shocking story that became renown throughout the world.  An 82 year old woman from Canton, Ohio was charged well over $14,000 in rent by AT&T for using one of the company’s phones.  Astronomical figure - this has to be one of those new multipurpose handsets with all the features, right?  Not exactly.  The charges stemmed from an old rotary phone that the widow had been using for approximately 42 years.

Ester Strogen, the woman who many are rightfully calling the victim, began renting two black rotary phones back in the 1960s - we’re talking about the antiques here.  As you can imagine, things were very different in those days.  At the time, the company Ma Bell had the industry monopolized, with their basic service calling for people to lease telephones.  Ma Bell’s stronghold lasted for quite a while.  It wasn’t until 1983 that the company was divided and things began to change for the better.  From 1985 to 1986, existing customers were given freedoms that allowed them to continuing renting their phones, cancel the service agreements or buy them.

Several older people, Ester Strogen among them, were not all that clear on the new arrangements and continued renting their phones.  According to her granddaughters, who were responsible for putting an end to the madness, this lease was at the costly rate of $29.10 every month.  After canceling the service and adding things up, they came to the conclusion that their grandmother had paid more than $14,000 in rental charges.

As it turns out, Strogen wasn’t the only extreme case.  Numerous reports revealed that an estimated 750,000 people continued to lease their rotary phones from Lucent, the AT&T subdivision that currently manages the old Ma Bell service.  Adding insult to the situation, Lucent disputes the claim, stating it only charged the elderly woman a rate of $29.10 per quarter as opposed to every month.  They followed this up by clarifying that she merely paid $2,000 for leasing the rotary phones rather than $14,000.

Now, $2,000 is a far cry away from a whopping 14K but its still quite ridiculous.  Especially for renting an ancient piece of equipment that most of us have long thrown in the trash.  Not surprisingly, Lucent’s customer base dropped from 40 million to around 700,000 in the U.S.  Serves them right.  That lame defense is like saying you only stole three TVs from the electronics store instead of the five listed on the police report.