Hold The Phone!

Don’t call from the road to the office just yet. Domestically and internationally, travelers are being gouged by excessive phone charges from hotels and pay phones, says Linda Sherry, spokesperson for Consumer Action in San Francisco. The consumer advocate agency found that Mexico was one of the worst destinations to make calls from. Visitors have been charged up to $32 a minute for collect calls from hotels and public phones in Mexican vacation centers.

Travelers can take preventative steps. Many opt to use pay phones instead of hotel phones, but beware of privately owned public pay phones. They may be connected to phone carriers that have high charges and block access to calling cards. In Mexico, look for pay phones with reputable names such as Ladatel. You may not run into these types of problems in areas like the Caribbean and Europe, where pay phones are usually publicly owned, but here’s a tip: If the phone does not accept your calling card access number, then you know it’s not reputable and you should try another phone.
Keep the international and domestic access codes for your preferred long

distance company handy. “Just because you’re using a calling card doesn’t mean you’re using that phone service,” cautions Sherry. Dial the access code, then bill your calling card. If you have to verbally repeat your calling card, make sure no one is around. “In all cases, protect your pin number,” she says.

At hotels, complain to the manager if you have trouble getting your access code to work. If you make a lot of calls, try using a prepaid calling card. You’ll avoid racking up surcharges most calling cards bill. File complaints to the Federal Communications Commission at 202632-7553 or Consumer Action at 415-255-3879.

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