Telecom Feedback

To the Editor

Corrections or additions?

This column was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on August 18, 1999.

All rights reserved.

Between the Lines

A reader called us the other day to register a


He had called the 900 number publicized in the U.S. 1 Singles by Phone

section (it appears on page 38 of this issue) in an attempt to deliver

a message to one of the "Women Seeking Men" ads in this


Instead of being allowed to connect directly to the electronic voice

mail box of the single advertiser that most interested this reader,

he was instead led through a complicated and time-consuming labyrinth

of voice mail instructions, message trees, and the like, and finally

ended up in a seemingly endless loop of voice mail messages, with

no rhyme or reason to the order and no reasonable expectation that

his intended advertiser would come along anytime soon.

Noting that the call had cost him $1.98 a minute, our caller suggested

that this system was nothing less than consumer fraud and that U.S.

1, as presenter of this "service," was complicit in a crime.

Oh boy.

The truth is that we reject any advertising that we deem false or

injurious, but we also know we are not always the best judge of what’s

good or bad, or honest or dishonest. And we would rather err on the

side of the First Amendment than protect our most gullible reader

from the most obvious flim flam artist.

To that end we long ago created a category of classifieds called


the Wall Offers." You can find them in this issue on page 49:

how you can buy Hondas or sport utility vehicles for as little as

$100, or how you can make $635 a week processing mail in the comfort

of your own home — off the wall and none of these advertisers

has ever argued with that characterization.

And, in response to another reader’s complaint that 900 singles


were unnecessarily expensive (though not necessarily deceptive), we

also Singles by Mail, which runs every week on top of the Singles

by Phone section. The mail version of the singles section costs just

$1 per response, no matter how long you spend noodling over your


Still, for all that effort, we were dismayed by our caller’s


Could it be that the 900 system — an out-sourced service over

which we have no control other than to cancel it — really was

ripping our readers off?

We gave it a try. Here’s what happens when you call that 900 number.

First you are asked whether or not you are at least 18 years or age.

If not you are given three seconds to hang up without any charges.

Then you are asked to punch in your area code (so that the system,

which is nationwide) can direct you to the cluster of advertisers

who are — more or less — geographically desirable.

Then you are given several choices, and at this point — we suspect

— our complainant got impatient and didn’t spend the 30-some


required to listen to the complete menu. The first choice is to record

or add a new message; the second is to browse through all the messages

(the most expensive option of all); and the third is to leave a


for a specific person. If you press 3 you are then given another


press 1 if you want to hear the person reading their message or 2

if you just want to leave a response.

We timed our very first call and found that we were able to navigate

through the system and hear a message from a specific advertiser in

less than three minutes. We tried it again and were able to get to

a specific advertiser’s voice mail message in less than a minute.

At that point we hung up — we were just too nervous to think of

a word in response. But that was our problem, not the system’s, which,

we concluded, is on the whole fair and reasonable.

Top Of Page
Telecom Feedback

The day after our telecommunications stories were printed, Sprint

announced it would launch a PCS "neighborhood" system similar

to that being developed by World PCS on Emmons Drive. Those August

11 articles had several responses, including one from the CEO of


"Thanks for the article," wrote David Stehlin. "You


characterize Foxcom as a competitor to companies such as Bell Atlantic

when in fact they are a customer of ours. Foxcom is a manufacturer

of product, not a service provider. Other than that we appreciate

the story."

Winn Thompson of the Straube Center in Pennington (609-737-1308) also

noted that story: "I thought you might be interested to know that

the Straube Center currently offers its tenants access to a shared

full 1.5 mbs T-1 line for $100 per month for the first computer and

$25 for each additional computer. We have 14 different tenants


the service."

Top Of Page
To the Editor

In the July 14 article on Sarnoff Corporation, it was incorrectly

stated that Sarnoff’s new chief financial officer, James S. Crofton,

was Sarnoff’s first. Let me correct that.

I was Sarnoff’s CFO from 1987 through 1998, when I became Senior Vice

President of Licensing and Business Operations as part of an overall

reorganization of duties and business structures within the company.

I was its Vice President of Finance when Sarnoff became a subsidiary

of SRI International in 1987, and was named Senior VP, Finance and

Business Operations, in 1997. I was also a member of the Board of

Directors of Sarnoff from 1995 until my departure from the firm in

July, and am still active on the board of Sensar, Sarnoff’s first

spinoff company. Ironically but understandably, my new position was

one of the casualties of the company’s business and revenue shortfall

and the accompanying lack of profitability, and was eliminated as

part of the downsizing.

Sarnoff managed the transition from a captively funded Fortune 50

R&D cost center in 1987 into a high-tech enterprise that was highly

successful technically for the past 12 years and profitable for the

past six years. It transitioned over that same timeframe initially

into a contract R&D business, and eventually into a commercialization

engine that is supported by contract R&D and Licensing and Royalty

income, with future value developing through its equity in


technology start ups.

I had the privilege of being part of that corporate transformation,

and look forward to its return to profitability in the future.


David J. Warnock

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