​Bill Flanagan doesn’t subscribe to new ideas of ownership

Verizon announced this past week a plan to unbundle some cable TV services, to let customers pick and choose their channels. Be careful what you wish for, says our contributor Bill Flanagan:

The bane of life in the 21st century is the rise of the subscription service. I don’t mean magazines; I mean all the things you used to buy once and own, that you are now supposed to keep buying over and over again.

Used to be if you bought a new car, it came with options — power windows, whitewall tires — that you paid for once, and owned forever. That was a good system.

Now, when you buy a car, you are offered a menu of warranties and options, all designed to keep you paying as long as the car is on the road. I’m talking about recurring fees for satellite radio, roadside assistance, and other perks and services.

Last month my wife and I were sitting in traffic and we were looking for another way home. We hit a button, and a lady in my dashboard said, “Well, Mister Flanagan, you have BASIC traffic service, which only allows us to tell you where the jams are. If you would like to pay to upgrade to PLATINUM, I can suggest an alternate route.”

When they say stuff like that, do they cover their microphones and laugh?

I don’t know what Google Apps are, but I’m paying for them! I tried to get out of it, but they told me if I cancel the Apps, I lose my email address.

Last week I went to the gym; I asked for a towel. The guy at the desk said, “Let me check if you have the right kind of membership.” Now, let that sink in — my gym now supplies towels to only those patrons who pay extra for an “upper-tier” membership.

And we’re talking about really thin towels.

This subscription madness started with pay TV. Once upon a time you bought a TV, you brought it home and you had free TV forever. Then cable came along, and we accepted a small monthly fee for additional channels. That fee kept rising. Internet was added, and finally you needed a cable box or a…

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