How do I get cheaper phone service for a small business?
August 30, 2012 9:08 PM   Subscribe

How do I get cheaper phone service for a small business?

My aunt and uncle own a small Chinese take out restaurant(Total empolyee: 2, my uncle and aunt). They had mostly used the phones for taking carry-out orders.
They are currently paying $160 a month for two phone lines. No long distance, no extra features, essentially bare-bone service for $160.
I just think that $160 a month for two lines is outrageous.

Their local phone service provider is CenturyLink and as far I know, CenturyLink is the only local telephone service provider.

The business requirements of the phone service is fairly simple. Take the call from the customer, talk for around 5 minutes, and hang up.
Repeat that process around 20 to 100 times a day. Don't need any of the fancy conference calls, transfer calls and etc.
The features they really need is:
1. Caller ID to keep down the prank calls (Yes, kids do get bored and decide to be little assholes).
2. Ability to connect the credit card terminal to the phone line.
3. Keep the same phone numbers.

Are there any other cheaper options out there I should investigate?

Is TimeWarner Business Class phone service a worthwhile alternative?

Would VOIP phone service such as Vonage or Ooma be reliable and robust enough for a restaurant?

What are your recommendations?
posted by Carius to Technology (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Contact a local firm that specializes in VoIP telephony solutions for businesses. Ask if they can lower the business's costs associated with their traditional phone services. Chances are, they can beat the phone company by a long shot.
posted by BrandonW at 9:16 PM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have had an Moma for several years and it is rock solid. Their premier subscription allows you to specify another number to fall back to in case of an internet/service outage.
posted by wongcorgi at 9:19 PM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Moma = Ooma.
posted by wongcorgi at 9:19 PM on August 30, 2012

If there doesn't seem to be a lot of telephone companies around there, try calling a telephone repairperson and using them as a recommender.
posted by rhizome at 10:12 PM on August 30, 2012

A take-out restaurant? So basically, their phone lines are absolutely essential to their business?

I don't have a suggestion, other than to keep the above firmly in mind before encouraging them to use some unproven alternative.
posted by Good Brain at 1:19 AM on August 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

$160 for Business Class land lines is NOT all that much.

If there's a long distance plan on the bill, you can cancel that, since the business doesn't use long distance. You can change the Long Distance to Undecided and not have any. It's not a block, it just means that there's no automatic dialing for LD.

The business lines may be enriched with every feature known to man, with just Call Waiting and Caller ID activated.

Also, if they have roll-over, that costs something (you know, where if the first line is busy, it rolls over to the second line.)

If they can do it, they can have one phone for incoming calls, the other for the credit card machine.

The rollover service is about $10 per month.

The difference between lines fully loaded with features and just regular Flat Rate Service is about $20 per line.

If you use only one line for incoming calls, you can add Caller ID as a separate service for between $7 and $10 per month.

There are three classes of businss telephone service:

1. Message Rate Service. 1MB. This is the cheapest rate available. Typically has an outgoing call allotment of about 40 free calls, then each outgoing call is .10. Not advocated for lines that use a lot of short, calls. Such as a credit card machine or an alarm system.

2. Flat Rate Service. 1FB. This is the one that most businesses have. It provides unlimited local calling, and the rate is determined by how large the local calling area is. Local phone service in Miami is cheaper than Local Phone service in Atlanta. Miami's local, free calling area is relatively small, Atlanta's incorporates the entire metro.

3. Fully Loaded Service. 1FB with all the features. This is how many small business lines are sold. There's a feature package associated with each line. If one has it, the other must too, this drives up the cost of the monthly bill. The feature package includes Caller ID, Call Waiting (the two most popular features) *69, Call Blocking, Speed Dialing, Call Forwarding, 3-Way calling and a bunch of other esoteric services. It may also include the features necessary for Voice Mail. The features would be Call Forwarding Busy Line and Call Forwarding Don't Answer. The voice mailbox would be extra (tariff reasons for that.)

Another thing to look for is Yellow Pages advertising charges. Many local businesses are billed monthly for their directory advertising.

I used to do this for a living.

My recommendation would be:

Change to 1FBs for both lines.

Use one line for incoming calls, the other permanantly attached to the credit card machine.

Put Caller ID and Call Waiting on line #1.

Now you don't need Rollover.

Frankly, the reduction in the bill might be $20 per month.

Call and see if there are any special bundles or packages your Aunt & Uncle can take advantage of.

Other than that, what you have is pretty darn good.

Shit costs something.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:15 AM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

You could try hosted VOIP. There are two approaches. One uses a phone line (such as and one uses an internet line (such as Worth investigating.
posted by Dansaman at 11:33 AM on August 31, 2012

The problem with VoIP is that you need to be on the Internet to use it, and getting business internet access with the reliability and repair time of those current phone lines is going to cost a lot more than $160/mo. I suppose you could get something that has a smartphone client, or a GSM stick, but there's a lot to be said for the simplicity and reliability of "copper comes out of the wall and there's a dialtone on it".
posted by mendel at 12:02 PM on August 31, 2012

I would strenuously counsel against adding "internet reliability" to your phone service through VOIP.
posted by rhizome at 2:18 PM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

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