WaPo Columnist: Verizon Counting on Old People to Die Off

March 15th, 2011 4:23 PM

To borrow from former Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), Verizon hopes old people die and die quickly.

That, in a nutshell is the gripe of Washington Post Metro section columnist John Kelly, whose wrath has been kindled  by the phone company recent decision to discontinue its 936-1212 weather line:

No offense, but if you are old, no one cares about you.


[D]ozens of people called and e-mailed me to express how disappointed they are that Verizon is discontinuing its 936- weather line and 844- time line. In the space of just 10 minutes last week, I spoke with two women who both began the conversation exactly the same way: "I'm 89-years-old, and I call that every day."


All I could think was: "Eighty-nine years old? Oh, sweetheart, Verizon really doesn't give a blip about you."


And why should Verizon? Save for a few outliers who are in their 30s or 40s and have kids who dial the weather line, the phone company knows most of the service's users are older people who will be dead before too long.


Verizon would never say that, of course, but behind its pronouncement that the service is obsolete - supplanted by shiny new technologies - is the unspoken belief that the people who use it are a bit obsolete as well - and supplanted by shiny new people.

Of course, Kelly seems to have forgotten this crazy little thing called the radio, hardly a newfangled device to Washington's elderly population.

The all-news D.C.-area radio station WTOP carries "traffic and weather on the 8s" all day long -- that is at 8, 18, 28, 38, 48, and 58 minutes past the hour. Elderly folks without a radio or without power but with telephone in an outage could dial in to 202-380-9977 to hear WTOP's weather updates, news, and sports.

But rather than note those alternatives, Kelly opted to accuse Verizon of being cold, heartless corporate bastards:

Verizon won't tell me how many people use the service. It apparently isn't enough to make it worth the company's while, even as a public service - a public service for blind people, several of whom contacted me. And rheumatoid arthritis sufferers, who base their dosage on the day's barometric pressure and told me the recorded weather report on Verizon is the only regular source of that information. And people whose homes lose power all the time, where the land line phone is the only thing that works, and thus the only source of weather information.




Getting old - being old - will be new for each of us. It would be nice if we could show the same sort of empathy while we're young that we hope we're shown when we're old.


By the way, Verizon's fourth-quarter profits last year were $4.65 billion.