On a land line, when you make a call, you pay for it. If you receive a call, you don't.
But that logic never carried over to the cellular industry. When it comes to phone calls and text messages, both the sender and the receiver have to pay.
Comparing the U.S. system to the European system, consumer advocates say it's a rip-off.
"When you receive a call in Europe, only one person pays for the call. If I receive a call, I don't pay for the minutes," said Jeff Blyskal, a senior editor with Consumer Reports magazine, adding that here, we're double-charged.
Cellular carriers say they offer plans, such as Verizon's Friends and Family and T-Mobile's myFaves, that give customers unlimited minutes to call their closest friends and family members.
Verizon spokesman Tom Pica told ABC News that the business model in this county is based on the premise that those who use the service pay for the service.
"Each carrier involved in the process recoups the costs associated with sending and receiving that message or the call over the networks they build and maintain," he said.
Another issue consumer advocates say is heating up is the cost of international roaming.
Art Neill, an attorney with the non-profit Utility Consumers' Action Network in San Diego, said his organization has received calls from phone customers who received $1,000 bills for calls they didn't even make while overseas.
"If you have the phone on in another country, just because you don't pick up the phone, and have it for emergency purposes, you'll be charged," he said. It depends on the carrier, but some charge roaming fees if someone just leaves you a voicemail message while your phone is on.
He also said that he's heard local reports from San Diego customers who have been charged roaming rates because the cell phone company mistakenly thinks they have been in neighboring Mexico.
They're about 15 miles from the border, he said, but the cell towers are relaying false information. As a result, the burden is on the customer to contest the charge and prove their location.
The cell phone carriers say that on a case-by-case basis they're willing to work through contested charges with customers. Many offer special travel packages and have roaming agreements with other countries, so they also urge travelers to consult with them before leaving the country to determine the plans that work best for them.
Neill also said charges for data services are among the worst examples of nickel and diming going on right now.
Cell phones -- even the simple flip phones that don't include the bells and whistles of a Blackberry or iPhone -- let users do a whole lot more than send and receive calls and text messages.
Depending on your plan, sending pictures to e-mail addresses, streaming video or audio and accessing Facebook or MySpace can cost a pretty penny. But the average consumer can't easily predict how much it will cost them, he said.
One ringtone download here and a few minutes of streaming video there can add up.
"You're getting a lot more multimedia content traveling through the phone," Neill said. "If you don't have an unlimited plan you could be hit pretty bad."
This also applies to wireless cards that let customers use the cellular networks to connect to the Internet.