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Caller Un-ID

Are you wasting your money on this telephone extra?

This story appears in the January 2001 issue of

Am I the village idiot? I pay my local phone company, Pacific Bell, $6.17 a month for caller ID, which-theoretically-lets me see who's calling before I pick up. In an ideal world, caller ID would function like an old-fashioned secretary-that is, an easy call-screening tool. Some incoming calls demand instant action, so you'd pick up the receiver when you saw the number. With others, you'd let voice mail do the answering. That's the theory, but let me tell you, it's not working.

I get lots of junk calls. Seemingly every credit card company wants to sell me something-credit reports, insurance, more credit cards. I also get plenty of calls from public relations agencies that want me to put their clients in print-and though they're well-meaning, I can't write about everyone and flacks rarely accept rejection easily. I could waste all day talking to them.

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