Back in the days when rotary phones were considered new technology, Ma Bell would rent telephones to its customers.

Its sounds crazy today, but even 30 years ago, people rented telephones because you couldn’t buy one. Millions of people rented phones, including my parents, who had five or six telephones in the house, which they rented for maybe $10 to $20 per month.

In the mid-80s, customers were given the option of turning in their phones and buying their own. Most of the 40 million phone renters did just that.

But Ester Strogen, a widow in Canton Ohio, never stopped renting her telephone. According to news reports, her family estimates she paid more than $14,000 for her two black rotary phones she got from AT&T in the 1960s. She’s been paying $29.10 for her phones for more than 40 years.

Worse, Lucent Technologies, which handles the residential leasing service for AT&T, says that 750,000 other customers have continued renting their phones.

With practical, informative consumer advice, I’m Ilyce Glink, News-Talk 750 WSB