Date: Tue, 23 Jul 96 09:06:52 EDT
From: Nina Eppes 23-Jul-1996 0909 <eppes@bookie.ENET.dec.com>
From: COOKIE::BARRETT "Dan Barrett -- DTN 522-3247 22-Jul-1996 1611" 22-JUL-1996 18:16:18.20
Subj: Why didn't MCI think of this??
by Greg Hassell,
Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News
Jul. 12--When an operator asks you to choose a long-distance company for a
collect call, answering ``I don't care,'' doesn't mean what you probably
think it means.
It does not mean, ``It doesn't matter to me. Please put me through with the
biggest or cheapest company.''
Your answer actually means, ``Please hook me up with a little-known long-
distance company called I Don't Care. I am willing to pay $7.64 for a three-
minute call from Houston to Dallas, even though AT&T charges $4.63 for the
I Don't Care has two sister companies. One is called I Don't Know. The
other is It Doesn't Matter. All three charge 65 percent more than AT&T for
the Houston-to-Dallas call.
Although this may sound like a modern-day Abbott and Costello routine, it's
actually the latest wrinkle in telephone deregulation.
I Don't Care, I Don't Know and It Doesn't Matter are subsidiaries of a Fort
Worth company called KT&T Communications, one of 850 long distance
companies registered with the state of Texas.
KT&T -- which sounds amazingly like its bigger rival, AT&T -- is run by
Dennis Dees, a 38-year-old Texan who has run small long-distance companies
since 1984. Last year, Dees and his business partner sat down and tried to
figure out some innovative names for their business.
A little research showed about 3 percent of the people who make collect
calls don't specify a long-distance carrier. They tell the operator ``I
don't care'' or ``It doesn't matter.'' Only a few people ever say ``I don't
know,'' but Dees also registered that name, just in case a rival tried to
cut in on his name game. He registered all three names with the Texas
Public Utility Commission in September.
``We tried to do it sooner, but Southwestern Bell held us up because the
names are so unusual,'' Dees said from his office in Fort Worth. ``They
tried to come up with a reason not to let us use these names, but they
couldn't think of anything.''
I Don't Care, I Don't Know and It Doesn't Matter only do business in Texas,
but Dees is looking to expand into California and Florida.
Dees steadfastly denies there is anything dishonest or misleading about his
``Anyone who tells an operator, 'I don't care,' we make it very clear who
we are and what we are doing,'' Dees said.
A collect call made to Dallas appeared to verify his claim.
``I do have a carrier called I Don't Care,'' an AT&T operator warned. ``Is
that the company you want?''
After being told that I Don't Care would do just fine, she patched the call
``I Don't Care!'' another operator answered chirpily. ``What number are you
After placing the call, the operator signed off: ``Thanks for using I Don't
Dees defended his company's rates, saying they are not the highest charged
in Texas. There is a company called DNSI that charges $9.70 for the same
Houston-to-Dallas operator assisted call.
KT&T charges more than AT&T, he said, because the little Texas company uses
human operators instead of automatic computers. Also, the little company
has higher expenses per call because of its size.
Customers who complain about the higher charges are given a rebate, Dees
Not everyone is convinced that I Don't Care, I Don't Know and It Doesn't
Matter are shooting straight with consumers. The Fort Worth chapter of the
Better Business Bureau has opened an inquiry into the company and its
I Don't Care, I Don't Know and It Doesn't Matter should tell consumers up
front they charge more than A T&T, said John Riggins, president of the
BBB's chapter in Fort Worth. But Riggins admitted his office has received
no complaints about Dees and his companies.
Likewise, the Texas PUC has received no complaints about the long-distance
carriers. The PUC does not regulate long-distance rates, so the best it can
do is warn Texans to be careful.
``It's real important for people to monitor their charges,'' said PUC
spokeswoman Ann Roussos. ``In the age of competition, it's extremely
important for customers to find out about the products and services they're