When Pete Crooks, a magazine editor from the San Francisco Bay Area, recently vacationed in Las Vegas, he couldn't completely break away from the office. He called in to check his voice mail and talk to his boss a few times from the hotel. No good deed goes unpunished. His bill for seven calls to California—15 minutes total—was $167.
Billing error? Sadly, no. Hotel phone charges are on a par with the $8 minibar soda. But there are ways to phone home without going broke.
Get the 411 on phone charges Know what you're getting into before getting on the wire. Thanks to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), hotels must post the toll-free number of their carrier in the room. Find out what the com-pany charges and make an informed decision on how to proceed.
Go wireless If you have a cell phone, use it. These days, cell rates are often lower than hotel phone rates.
Be a card shark A calling card can save you a bundle. By law, hotels must let you use your 800 or calling card number, though many levy a $1 access fee. You may be able to avoid multiple fees by pressing the pound key (rather than disconnecting) between calls.
Get crafty An ingenious service called Kallback (800-516-9992) lets you program its system so you can chat at low rates and dodge access fees. The service can be used anywhere and has a James Bond appeal. Phone Kallback, wait one ring, and hang up. Seconds later, Kallback's computer returns the call and you enter the number you want to reach.
Whatever method you choose, review your bill and talk to the manager about concerns. To file a complaint, contact the FCC: (888) 225-5322, www.fcc.gov .
Illustration by Melinda Beck
This article was first published in July 2002. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.