I'm not an anthropologist, but there are certain classes of people that are universal in their behavioural traits: Taxi drivers, politicians, despot dictators and cellphone companies foremost in my mind. Their collective drive toward lining their own pockets at the expense of others, even the elderly and infirm, is truly remarkable in its audacity. How many don't know a kindly old nun who was literally taken for a ride by the kind cabbie? I know a few too many.
Each year, the Telecoms companies meet up in places around the world like at Barcelona's GSM, not to discuss important consumer features like a universal charge socket, but to figure out more ways they can sneak a few good ones by their customers who they know they are holding ransom. Having just spent two months in the USA, armed with an American cellphone, but still equipped with my Italian one, I thought I'd provide travelers with a quick guide to keeping more of your money away from the Vodafone and other Telecoms vultures whose practices border on the extortionist ways of Italy's finest crime families:
Vodafone offers a great deal called 'Passport' - you only pay an extra euro ($1.48) for every call, and you are charged at your same Italian rate. That works okay if you don't take a quick call, but surely it saves you in roaming charges. Vodafone's system works great because, unlike telecoms between the US & Canada, you can actually make and receive calls whilst traipsing around in Europe.
Just know that Passport does not apply to the USA.
So as not to rack up roaming charges, I picked up the phone twice for 7 seconds each, and once for 23 seconds. Total charges: 10 euro ($15). They charged me 3 euro per call, for the first 3 minutes. Had I known this, I at least would have gabbed for those 180 seconds.
Not to be outdone, I then decided to let the answering machine pick up my calls. I'd call people back later from an inexpensive Vonage phone line. Again, I was charged 3 euro per message. "It's as if you answered the phone," offered the helpful woman at Vodafone. Next time, I'll be sure to turn off my answering machine.
In the UK, I loaded up my phone at a Vodafone store. Fifty pounds. That would have gone far, except Vodafone took nearly 5 euro on the exchange rate. Before leaving, be sure to load up your phone so you don't take that sort of hit.
Leaving the USA, I still have charges on my phone. As has happened many times before, the policy in place (just like New York's Subway System), 'Use it or Lose it'. If there's inactivity on your line for awhile, they simply take the money and run. Try leaving your phone with a friend to place a call every so often, rather than leaving your phone credits with 3Mobile and company.
[My apologies for the delay in posting, but jet lag has seemingly gotten the better of my brain].