Parental Guidance

It doesn’t take much for children not to understand their parents. The generation gap is usually more than obvious, especially concerning technology.

I am in that situation. My parents are ok with technology, my Dad can almost program the VCR, and is pretty good with his computer. Mom on the other hand won’t touch it. They don’t understand how people can sit for hours on the Internet.

The thing that baffles me most is their mobile phones. They’re both on PAYG, Mom with Fido and Dad with PC Mobile (our version of Tesco Mobile) but it just doesn’t really make sense to me.

First off, they don’t really need two cell phones. (I know, I know, I’m usually throwing phones at people and yelling at anyone who doesn’t have one, but bear with me)

They are of the “I have my phone in case of an emergency” species, you know the ones. Those who keep the phone in their car/handbag and only ever turn it on if the car breaks down. (Which by the way, annoys the hell out of me every time I try and call my Mom on hers) It made sense for them to have two before, Dad was working 100 km away and in the winter it made sense. But now he’s retired, and they’re down to one car, two cell phones is almost silly, considering they never get used.

Here’s my problem, what I need help with, what I can’t wrap my head around.

Like I said, they’re both on PAYG, Dad buys a $15 refill card from PC mobile. This gets him $15 worth of credit, .20cents a minute, for 30 days. (He could buy a $25 which gives him 60 days, but apparently it makes more sense in the world of parents to be a $15 every 30.)

The problem is, he barely uses the phone. Like I mean barely, once a month if you’re lucky, maybe twice. But every 30 days his credit expires, so, on the 29th day, he has to buy another $15 card.

He currently has $110 worth of credit.

It’s ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous. If he misses refilling that account by one day, woooosh! There it all goes. What a waste of money.

Mom isn’t much better, although she uses hers a little more often, but still sits with giant account balances. (Fido only makes you buy a $10 card every 30 days.)

I had this conversation with them the other day when I found out how high their balances were.

(K is me, D is Dad, M is Mom)

K: “So, why don’t you just use it more often, use it up.”

D: “I do, I used it twice last week”

K: “But you still have tons of credit! If you miss refilling that by one day, it’s all gone. GONE! What a waste of money!”

M: “he’s done that before.”

K: “So just use it, like all the time, for every call you make!”

D: “I do use it, I call Mom when she has to come pick me up at the golf course” (which is like once every 2 weeks)

Anyway, at this point I started banging my head against the table and gave up the conversation.

Sure he could use it a lot to use up his credit. But then he’s back in the same boat again after awhile unless he uses it constantly, which he doesn’t.

So what do they do? Is there another option out there for the “emergency”/”occasional” user?

Or are they forever doomed with lots of credit?

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  • http://www.phoneboy.com phoneboy

    South of the Canadian border, T-Mobile and AT&T both address this problem with $100 cards that are good for 1 year. What's particularly sweet with T-Mobile is that once you've purchased one, or several totaling $100 in credit, even a $10 top-up card will give you a one-year expiration date.

    My in-laws use T-Mobile prepaid and it works fantastic for them. My mother-in-law makes reasonable use of the phone, my father-in-law hardly at all. When his phone has a huge balance that's about to expire, she uses his phone for a bit. They refresh their respective accounts as needed.

    My wife also uses T-Mobile prepaid and it works great for her as well. I probably have to refill it every 6-9 months or so, but it's cheaper than a postpaid plan.

    But let's face it, some people just don't get it, no matter how you try to explain it to them.

  • http://www.phoneboy.com phoneboy

    South of the Canadian border, T-Mobile and AT&T both address this problem with $100 cards that are good for 1 year. What's particularly sweet with T-Mobile is that once you've purchased one, or several totaling $100 in credit, even a $10 top-up card will give you a one-year expiration date.

    My in-laws use T-Mobile prepaid and it works fantastic for them. My mother-in-law makes reasonable use of the phone, my father-in-law hardly at all. When his phone has a huge balance that's about to expire, she uses his phone for a bit. They refresh their respective accounts as needed.

    My wife also uses T-Mobile prepaid and it works great for her as well. I probably have to refill it every 6-9 months or so, but it's cheaper than a postpaid plan.

    But let's face it, some people just don't get it, no matter how you try to explain it to them.

  • http://thesamantha.co.nr Samantha

    My Grandparents have done the exact same thing. They were on a contract with O2 for three or more years, and every month they paid a stupid amount of money for texts (they can't even see their screens), and minutes every month. The ones they didn't use were rolled over.

    They ended up with thousnds of texts and minutes, which they never used. Then, by bad luck and finances they were unable to keep paying the contract, and guess what happened… All those minutes and texts gone! They had been loyal customers for over three years, paid far too much money for a service they barely used, and O2 just swiped them all off.

    I don't get why there is a proper phone (I know of one in Germany), and operator which soley focuses on the elderly, or weak-mobiled. I mean, selling plans which are simple to understand, with basic, but good phones (big screens with massive buttons, and really loud ringtones), to these people. I'm pretty sure there is a market for it, and I think the Germans once again have something along this line.
    Might I add, the there are more elderly people in the UK than there are under-21's! That is a massive market, and one that holds a lot of money.

    Ahh, ramble! I shall stop now.

    Samantha.

  • http://thesamantha.co.nr Samantha

    My Grandparents have done the exact same thing. They were on a contract with O2 for three or more years, and every month they paid a stupid amount of money for texts (they can't even see their screens), and minutes every month. The ones they didn't use were rolled over.

    They ended up with thousnds of texts and minutes, which they never used. Then, by bad luck and finances they were unable to keep paying the contract, and guess what happened… All those minutes and texts gone! They had been loyal customers for over three years, paid far too much money for a service they barely used, and O2 just swiped them all off.

    I don't get why there is a proper phone (I know of one in Germany), and operator which soley focuses on the elderly, or weak-mobiled. I mean, selling plans which are simple to understand, with basic, but good phones (big screens with massive buttons, and really loud ringtones), to these people. I'm pretty sure there is a market for it, and I think the Germans once again have something along this line.
    Might I add, the there are more elderly people in the UK than there are under-21's! That is a massive market, and one that holds a lot of money.

    Ahh, ramble! I shall stop now.

    Samantha.

  • http://thesamantha.co.nr Samantha

    My Grandparents have done the exact same thing. They were on a contract with O2 for three or more years, and every month they paid a stupid amount of money for texts (they can't even see their screens), and minutes every month. The ones they didn't use were rolled over.

    They ended up with thousnds of texts and minutes, which they never used. Then, by bad luck and finances they were unable to keep paying the contract, and guess what happened… All those minutes and texts gone! They had been loyal customers for over three years, paid far too much money for a service they barely used, and O2 just swiped them all off.

    I don't get why there is a proper phone (I know of one in Germany), and operator which soley focuses on the elderly, or weak-mobiled. I mean, selling plans which are simple to understand, with basic, but good phones (big screens with massive buttons, and really loud ringtones), to these people. I'm pretty sure there is a market for it, and I think the Germans once again have something along this line.
    Might I add, the there are more elderly people in the UK than there are under-21's! That is a massive market, and one that holds a lot of money.

    Ahh, ramble! I shall stop now.

    Samantha.

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