16 March 2010

$29 Gets You $700 In Credit & Other Things That Make No Sense

Middle East By Matt - 023

When I moved to London settling in could not have been more complicated. It took me over a month to open a bank account because of files, stamps, paperwork, and bureaucracy. Attempting to get a cell phone plan was a nightmare because it was impossible without a bank account. But then I needed a bank account to join the gym and a cell phone number at which they could reach me. Basically, I needed everything to get everything else but couldn’t get anything because I had nothing. It was more difficult than moving to China.

Then came Oz, where things couldn’t be more simple. You want a bank account? Sure! Give me your passport and $5 and we’re in business! No fees, no issues, just 10 minutes with the delightful Elaine who has become one of my “favorite things” about Oz.

Gym membership? No problem! Metro card? Here you go! Frequent shopper card for the grocery store? Done! As Jerry Seinfeld says, “it seems like all you need is a face.” Then came the cell phone. To be fair, it wasn’t hard to get, just next to impossible to understand.

I walked in certain I’d just buy the thing, pop in the phone and start chatting. Absolutely not. My first decision was between the “flexi caps” plan, the “txt & talk recharge” plan, and the “365 day recharge plan.” The salesman said to me, “you see, the flexi’s credits expire in 30 days, the txt and talk credits expire in 60 days, and the 365 day credits expire in 365 days.” I replied with a gutteral “ahhh,” as if I totally understood the dilemma. I settled on the flexi caps plan with a “boost up option extra” of free texts not because I understood what I was buying but because it sounded really cool.

“Now, within the flexi cap plan there are different options,” he went on. I attempted to not look a little bit frightened by all this choice. “There’s the $29, $49, $79 and $149 flexi cap. Each of those comes with different values. For example, with the $29 flexi cap you get $150 of flexi credit, $150 of voda to voda credit, Standard video calls, Standard and international text, Standard and international PXT, Standard and international Video PXT, voicemail, international calls, international video calls, international roaming with Vodafone Traveller, 1223-Directory Assistance, 123-Ask Us Anything, ‘13’, ‘15’ and ‘18’ numbers, Internet On Your Mobile...” I was totally lost. The only question I could come up with was “so wait, for $29 I get $300 of credit?”

“Yes, exactly,” he replied. “Then why is it only $29 if I get $300 in credit?” He sighed, took a deep breath and started again. “Because it’s 82 cents a minute to talk and 28 cents per text and 35 cents per data kilobyte transfer unit...(this is where I stopped listening)...so $29 wouldn’t get you that far.” Now, me being crazy old me using logic and other tools like common sense asked, “well why don’t you just make the minutes and text and data and stuff cheaper so that when you buy $29 you actually get $29 to spend?”

This clearly made absolutely no sense to this slightly indoctrinated staff member. “Because,” he started, “because it seems way cooler to have $300 of credit than just $29 of credit and it’s like voda money,” he sort-of finished. So apparently having a cell phone is like playing monopoly or farmville, where you get the “special insider money” that’s valued higher but worth much less. My closing argument seemed like the best possible finisher: “But it’s also way cooler to pay 8 cents a minute to talk rather than 82 cents a minute.” At this point he was exhausted and I was just dumbfounded. Why on earth would you structure something that way? Why can’t you just pay $29 and get $29 of credit then when that runs out go and buy more credit? Why do I need booster packs and “voda money” and flexi credit and voda to voda credit and expiration deadlines? Why can’t I just get a cell phone?

I paid him in cash, popped in the sim card and texted Josh to tell him all about it, only to see “sending failed to this recipient. Please check service provider.” What option did I forget to buy or enable? I may never know...


Kyle Taylor

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