1500 Minutes!

My wife and I use just over 1000 minutes.  It feels like such a waste paying that extra $17 for for an extra 60 minutes or so.  Having a 1500 minute plan for, say, $28 would make me feel much more at ease.  I cut calls so short and am worried every time my mother-in-law calls my wife because I am trying so hard to stay under that 1000 minute mark.

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  • For Ting to say that "more plans would be potentially confusing for customers" is to me just flat out disingenuous. These aren't plans, they're just usage tiers. Overall I've been pretty satisfied with Ting so far, but I think the size of the steps of these tiers are just way too big. Our latest billing cycle just ended at 1083 minutes, so yep, I get to pay another chunk of change for minutes I will never get to use. Either roll over the rest of my block of 1000 minutes that I'm paying for and LOSING, or make the tiers more granular. 1000, 1250, 1500, 1750, 2000. No, that's not confusing. 1000 to 2000 is, what, 17 dollars? Easy solution. Going from 1000 to 1250 is another $4.25. 1250 to 1500? Another $4.25. As an engineer I refuse to believe that this would be programatically difficult on their end, and as a human being with common sense, I can see it for what it really is, it's the Ting 'catch'. Like I said, I like Ting, and while they are much more streamlined and friendly and less 'catchy' than other providers, this is still very much a catch. It's a fairly easy way to extract more revenue out of a customer for services that will never be provided, in this case, 1000 - 83 = 917 minutes that I just shelled out for but will never get to use. 

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  • They can charge whatever they need to to stay competitive. I'll let them figure that out. My only beef here is that the mantra 'paying only for what you use' kind of goes out the window when you're talking about-1000 minute chunks. This debate would also bring in a lot of factors that we aren't privy to, such as what their service/cost agreements are with Sprint. While I accept your point that they would lose some money on months where I just go a bit above 1000 minutes, the point still stands that there is such a leap from 1000-2000 that again, it's not just about paying for what I use. They claim to be super user friendly, but stressing out the last several days of a billing cycle to avoid a rather large surcharge for a few stray minutes is not user-friendly. As a consumer, I don't feel the need to make excuses for them to 'make the money they need', and I think it's a very reasonable consumer wish to see those pricing tiers be a bit more granular, even if it was just 1000-1500-2000 instead of the breakdown I suggest above. 

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  • Valid points abound, but I'm not asking for a cutover 'just above where I'm at' to avoid extra charges. It's about the leap. It's a given that I would have to pay more, I understand that. I still don't understand why the leap has to be so high. The issue isn't cutover, the issue is having more steps instead of just a few really big ones. 

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  • Hey Bruce,

    Right now EVERYONE no matter how they are, how many phones, family or business, original Ting user or noobie gets exactly the same plan. We have no concept of alternate ways of paying or "grandfathering" of old ways. 

    That's one of the ways we want to keep things simple for us to execute on. Most carriers KILL themselves with all the alternate and grandfathered plans.

    That said, never say never. :)

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  • Hi all,

    I love that you guys think we sit around doing histograms all day! :)

    Yes, we have done the analysis. I've been pondering how I can the details of the data without competitors and media using it to reverse engineer certain data. And I have failed. In general we want to share information about the business as much as we can. The break-point is where it gets into either competitive advantage or things the SEC might deem "material".

    Here is what I can say though:

    1. The curves for Voice, Text and Data are VERY similar.
    2. For Text and Data there is absolutely no "bunching", meaning a piling up of accounts just ahead of the jump to the next bucket. This means that no one (or vanishingly few of you) are changing behavior when you're getting near the limits on Data or Texting.
    3. With Voice there is a SLIGHT amount of bunching, most noticeably just before 100 minutes and again at 500 minutes. There is essentially no bunching at the higher amounts.

    To me this means that we have a few VERY price conscious customers who voluntarily limit their phone calls to keep them under the two lowest levels. Everyone else uses their phone as they see fit.

    As a reminder, the comment that triggered this line of that was:

    In reality you may be losing potential revenue as what your customers may use if they felt that the next bucket was a reasonable option may be greater than what your customers otherwise use even with the addition of accidental “overages.” 

    Based on what we're seeing this is not the case.

    Thanks for the great discussion, but as a few of you have mentioned, the cost of "tweaking" the plans is really high for us in communications and support (and a little development) that we would only make a change if there was a BIG win for customers. Without a big win for the majority of customers we're likely to stay the course.

    Cheers,

    Ken. 

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  • This kind of issue has come up several times before. So far, the general response from Ting is that more plans would be potentially confusing for customers. I personally run into a similar issue on the data front.

    In my personal opinion, they could basically add one plan between each of their existing options and make people like us much happier. At the same time, if they do that, will people still complain that the plans are too far apart? I suspect they might.

    Overall though, even when I go a bit over their defined plans I am saving rather absurd amounts of money from what I was spending before. So while I may not be as happy as I could possibly be I am still very happy with Ting.

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  • Ben, although I'm not an engineer, I have been in business for 35 years. Your example would decrease Tings revenue by a fairly large amount, which would mean they would need to make it back up. How would you suggest they do that? (the only way I see it, they would have to raise their rates on the lower usage blocks.)   The people that just go over the limit do pay more per minute than those that just keep it under the upper limit.  That additional money helps to keep the rates lower.  I keep an eye on my usage throughout the month and try to meter my usage. 

     

    If you feel the amount you are paying is excessive, compare it to other carriers. I feel my rate, even if I do roll over to the next block, is still a pretty good bargain.   In my case I'm paying about $40 a month on Ting, compared to $100 a month on ATT. (and I had dumb phones with ATT)

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  • Ben, you do have a valid point. I just want people to realize their block of minutes that they usually use (mine is 1000 min) might have to go up if they go with more blocks of minutes.

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  • It wouldn't matter where the limits were someone would always have a problem with where they fell. Changing the current bucket sizes would require increasing the price of all the current plans. If budgeting your use is important just set up an Alert from your Ting account dashboard that warns you when you have hit some level of minutes.  https://ting.com/account/all_alerts

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  • We get a lot of feedback about where the cutover from one bucket to the next happens. Basically everyone wants a cutover just a little bit higher than their normal usage per month. :) 

    It's natural to want to get the absolute most out of things you pay for but no matter how many buckets we have we will end up with people just over the limit on a bucket. Adding buckets would require us to change ALL the pricing because we've had to factor in unused minutes as part of the calculus that goes into setting the pricing.

    The only COMPLETELY fair way to approach it is "pure utility" pricing where you pay per minute, message and MB. Of course people will then say they want per second and per KB. :)

    We DID look at pure utility pricing but in our analysis and through tons of discussions with focus groups, behavioral economists, early customers and retail experts we determined that going from "all you can eat" plans common in the industry to completely "a la carte" was too big of a leap for most customers.

    Maybe we'll get there at some point but for now we have no plans for changing our plans.

    Thanks for the discussion though! We always appreciate that.

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  • I agree with Ben that the size of the leap is THE thing.  Saying that there will always be complainers is kind of a red herring because that's always the case no matter how good the deal is.  When discussing these kinds of things, the more relevant factor is what is the opinion of fairness among the majority of people.  For people who complain about going over and being pushed up to the next bucket, the size of the leap is the factor that will shift the opinion of the rest of people from:

    (A) Siding with the complainer--"Yeah, that's not fair."

    to

    (B) Siding with Ting--"It's not that big a deal. Quit being a baby and get over it."

    So I think this will always be a valid complaint as long as the size of the bucket jumps is so big.  However, Ken has a good point that I haven't seen brought up much before--that the planned waste figures into their pricing structure, which would have to be changed.  That would be tough to sell to people.  Some people could see the fairness in it, but a lot of others would just see it as a price increase.  I do try to remind myself of the positives: it does generally work out cheaper than other carriers, and they give a lot of tools for monitoring, alerting, and controlling use in the dashboard, so I have a pretty decent amount of control to try to deal with it.

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  • It isn't about siding with anyone. Everyone who signed up with Ting presumably looked at the plans and made some decision based on those limits. The plans are pretty clear. As I said changing the bucket sizes would mean the pricing would go up for ALL plans. Sprint has some widely spaced plans as well. The Unless you have the unlimited plans minutes over your plan cost 40 to 45 cents. 100 minutes over costs $45 dollars on the lower plans. Ting is a bargain. If your budget needs to stay within some set amount, set up an alert. 

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  • Hi all,

    We determined the location of the breaks based on analysis of TYPES of usage. We started with just 1K, 2K, and 3K - even buckets. Then realizing that a LOT of people are under 500 we added that level. Then we had feedback that said "but what about people with REALLY REALLY small usage, so we added the 100 minute break. Then we realized there are people who have NO usage so we created XXS to cover that.

    So I guess from our perspective we created even buckets, then added a few exceptions to accommodate VERY low usage.

    Looking at it now I can see that it might look a bit odd, but this is how we iterated our way to where we are now.

    For us the biggest concern is that people consistently save money with us versus their previous provider. And we now have data that says that the VAST majority (like almost all of you) save considerably with Ting. So we try to focus on that big picture.

    We appreciate the discussion but it's highly unlikely we'll be changing the plan structure given its current success in saving so many people so much money.

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  • Silver lining:  you're going to keep hearing people harp on this one thing because there are no other bad things about any other aspect of Ting for them to talk about. #firstworldproblems

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  • Ken,

    Perhaps another option would be to have a second per-minute/MB/text plan offering (or per block) and have that second plan as an option for customers.

    I do not know the expense involved in this nor whether such a plan would be popular enough to be profitable.

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  • That's fine.

    It was just a thought I had based on your mention that research found the leap from contract to utility was too daunting. It appeared that some customers with bucket pricing wanted to take the next step to utility pricing.

    The Ting comments I saw appeared to assume utility pricing would replace bucket pricing and I thought I would mention an alternate possibility.

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  • I understand Ting’s need to preserve Ting’s profit margin, and really, I want them to make money and succeed (I love this company!). But given the kind of people that your service most readily appeals to (i.e., the budget conscious), I’d like to challenge Ken’s statement here:

     “It's natural to want to get the absolute most out of things you pay for but no matter how many buckets we have we will end up with people just over the limit on a bucket. Adding buckets would require us to change ALL the pricing because we've had to factor in unused minutes as part of the calculus that goes into setting the pricing.”

    First off, it isn’t really about adding more buckets so our usage just matches the limit. My wife and I regularly have about 115-120 texts a month. Does that bother me? Nope. Sure ‘we paid for 880 texts we didn’t use,’ but the price increase was just a couple bucks. But with minutes and data our feeling is very different. We are typically close to the edge of our limits ~900 on a given month, and as the month comes to a close, I’m constantly checking our usage. I suspect to many a budget-conscious Ting costumer the pricing gap between 1000 and 2000 units in both the minutes and data buckets is not a “well you win some and you lose some but it works out well in the end” issue. It’s a “thou shalt not use more than 1000 units of their respective buckets per month”. I’m fairly certain we would use more data/minutes if we didn’t feel like there was a nearly $20 overage charge for using 1100 units in a month.

    Secondly, I wonder if adding an extra 1500 bucket would really require a price change to the all the remaining buckets. It wouldn’t mean that we necessarily used most of the 1500 minutes, just that we don’t have to sweat a major penalty for just using Ting a bit more than we planned. I used to have Sprint’s fair and flexible plan (they didn’t offer it for long) where you were charged $5 per 100 minutes overage. I loved it. I never worried about my minutes. I told people to call me whenever, and I didn’t mind going over here and there because the additional cost was reasonable and incremental. Paying $9 more (or whatever it would be) for a 1500 bucket exudes reasonability; paying $17-18 for a bucket you barely use feels more like a “gotcha.” I (along with many a budget conscious Ting customer) am going to make every effort not to trip over the 1000 unit hurdle. If the cost of the next budget was more incremental, I would feel far less concerned about going over. I would encourage Ting to consider whether a 1500 unit bucket might not be a viable way forward. It might generate the same as two Ting customer accounts (one who never uses more than 1000 units and another who never uses more than 500).

    You may want to think of it less like you have a Ting customer is going to use 1200 units no matter what, and to give him a 1500 minute bucket will cost you the difference between the 2000 and 1500 unit buckets. Rather, the more likely scenario may be that, you have a Ting customer who is going to try his/her dead level best to avoid going over the 1000 minute mark each month, but who would use your service more if the jump from 1000 to next bucket wasn’t so steep. In reality you may be losing potential revenue as what your customers may use if they felt that the next bucket was a reasonable option may be greater than what your customers otherwise use even with the addition of accidental “overages.” I don’t think a 1500 bucket is a slippery slope either (requiring infinitely more buckets of various middling sizes). Jumps in bucket prices in access of $10 each get noticed quickly. Soften the monetary blow, and Ting may see an increase in use per account (i.e., revenue for Ting). I really appreciate this company’s openness and willingness to listen to its customers. I'm hoping that Ting finds in the long run a 1500 bucket is in the best interest for both Ting and it’s costumer base. 

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  • No matter what bucket plan was hatched someone would have a new spin to suit their own usage patterns. If you went over a plan with Sprint (and most other carriers) you are charged 35 to 45 cents per minute. Almost every Ting customer has come from some other carrier where 17 dollars would only get you 40 to 50 minutes. If you are paying more for Ting service because you go over that 1000 minutes I understand your pain. 

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  • I do really like Joshua's points.  He brought up what hadn't been talked about very much--that there would be some people who would use the service more, feeling more free to go over 1000, if they felt they could get a reasonable amount more at a reasonable additional cost instead of feeling like they're about to get a poke in the eye.  It's some revenue gained that would offset the revenue lost.

    Also, here are some logic and math which give the lie to "we would have to rework ALL the buckets".  The increase from 1000 to 2000 costs $17 extra.  What if the 1500 bucket cost $16 extra?  Definitely still profitable--actually more profitable for Ting.  What if it were $15?  Almost certainly.  $13?  Maybe.  You see?  People are wanting the extra 500 minutes at exactly half the price difference between 1000 to 2000, which Ting is understandably reluctant to do.  However, there is some price point where Ting could add the 1500 bucket but still charge over half the difference, where it would be somewhat beneficial to both parties.

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  • This discussion is moot without having access to the usage data across the subscriber base. Everyone here (except the Ting guys) is just commenting based on their n of 1 (or 5) and their random speculation biased by their own desire to save even more money. Ting has the hard numbers of usage across all accounts, and if you think for even a moment that they don't do at least monthly histograms of customer usage to see where accounts are falling within their usage categories, then you're quite naive. Are they going to share those histograms with us? Highly unlikely (though I would totally love to see that kind of data), but they are in the business of selling service, we're only the consumers. That's one thing they're going to be looking at very carefully and constantly crunching the numbers to see if there's a better approach. All of that has to be balanced against the negative aspect of announcing a change _to the pricing plan and how the subscriber base would respond to that. Given that this pricing model is working very well (more than doubling the subscriber base for the past three quarters), why would they muck with it just to pacify a few squeaky wheels when doing so is only likely to create an even louder uproar by the people they just upset? Keep in mind that the _thousands of customers who are quite content with Ting service aren't going to be on here posting about how wonderful they think the pricing plan is. Which do you think there is more of, the squeaky wheels or the happy campers?

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  • One thing that isn't visible in current usage data is people restricting their own usage due to perception of value, and that's exactly where these kinds of discussions come into play.

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  • Thanks for the explanation Ken, and thank you Ting for adopting such an honest and open business strategy, and some of the best customer service I've experienced in a while. 

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  • Ken,

     

    "The only COMPLETELY fair way to approach it is "pure utility" pricing where you pay per minute, message and MB. Of course people will then say they want per second and per KB. :)

    We DID look at pure utility pricing but in our analysis and through tons of discussions with focus groups, behavioral economists, early customers and retail experts we determined that going from "all you can eat" plans common in the industry to completely "a la carte" was too big of a leap for most customers."

     

    I indeed completely agree with you on this. I also think this is the fairest option. (Both to your customers and to Tucows.) And I would urge you to, again, reconsider offering this as an option. Even an unadvertised option that is offered per request only, as to avoid a communications issue or any customers who feels it too great a leap.

     

    This would, as you suggested, resolve most everyone's concern here.

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  • Joseph,

    If Ting went to the added expense to add a per-minute plan, they would then get customers complaining that the per-minute plan rate was more expensive than their buckets.

    Ting's research has shown that their bucket system would save money for over 90% of cell phone users while minimizing Ting's expenses.

    If you need a per-minute rate, perhaps Ting is not the best choice for you.

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  • "This would, as you suggested, resolve most everyone's concern here."  Except it would complicate Ting's bookkeeping and therefor costs. 

     

    If they were to offer "by the minute" pricing, they would have to raise the cost of the minutes that you are paying now or at least 90% in each tier to make up for the change.  I just don't think some of the people that are complaining about the tier system, understand the economics of running a business.

     

    What I don't understand, if they don't like the Ting system, why not select one of the other carriers that have the system you prefer and leave the Ting system the way it is.  It's obvious that the majority of people like it.  If they don't, I'm sure Ting will change it or go out of business.

     

    As far as "fairest"   -   I have become somewhat adverse to that term lately.   

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  • There are no carriers or MVNOs that I know of that offer per minute pricing. (If you know of any, please share.) I also know of no other carrier that offers Ting style buckets. Both options are good and applicable to different customers.

     

    The suggestion, again, is for Ting to offer PPM (Pay-Per-Minute or "M"essage or "M"egabyte -- see PPM works for all three :-) as an alternative that doesn't even have to be advertised on the website. It would change nothing about Ting's existing plans and buckets. No customer would be affected unless specifically requesting it.

     

    Mathematically and economically speaking, the average customer who falls into the 1000 minute bucket is actually using 750 minutes. (The midpoint between the 500 and 1000 bucket.) Customers falling into the 2000 bucket are, on average, using 1500 minutes. (The midpoint between 1000 and 2000. So the savings would be 250 minutes in the first example and 500 minutes in the second example. Multiplied by the per minute pricing. The same idea applies to the messaging and megabytes portions of the plans.

     

    Of course the rates on the PPM plan will not necessarily have the same per minute/message/megabyte pricing as the "overage" on the XXL carries. (.002/minute, .0025/message, .0225/megabyte.) It will most likely be slightly higher. That is to be expected. And that is something that many customers will accept and even appreciate, as this thread amply demonstrates. 

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  • Taking a cursory glance at those plans they seem to have an expiration date on the minutes or force you to buy new minutes every X amount of days. So I wouldn't consider those plans true per-minute (only) pricing.

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  • Perhaps no carrier thinks they can make money using that business model.

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  • About the closest I've found to per minute pricing is a provider called Talk For Good.  They are an MVNO on Verizon.  Their basic plan is $6 per month, which starts you out with 30 minutes, 30 texts, and 5 megabytes.  They then have the "Smart Card", which is an increment of either $10 or $20, whichever you wish, that can cover anything over the plan at metered rates of 5 cents per minute, 1 cent per message, and 6 cents per megabyte.  The card lasts for 6 months before expiring (but it shouldn't be hard to use up $10 worth of services in 6 months), and you can have it set to just auto-buy another when the balance is used up, so it's not troublesome.

    Metered rates aren't as cheap, though.  Using a 750/750/750 example for one phone, Ting would charge $53, which includes that bit of waste that's built into the bucket system.  Talk For Good would be $93.90 for that same usage.  I suppose it's really geared toward very low usage, but of course that's why their metered rates need to be a little high, because the people who would pay those rates wouldn't be running up much of a bill, so their revenue would be pretty small per customer.

    I know this discussion has come up in several threads, and some people talk about the unfairness and whatnot, but I have come to look at the what I get for the amount I pay.  We have two smart phones on our plan.  We used 299 minutes, 966 text messages, and a little bit of data.  It cost $29 plus tax.  Seriously.  I just don't think I could ever find any other company's plan that would cover our two phones for any better than $29.

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