Use it til it Breaks

I went up to 181st Street today to drop off a return at UPS. A book I ordered from Amazon didn’t arrive in time so I had no use for it and figured I might as well get my money back. I love Amazon’s return policies. The refund was processed as soon as the item was scanned in by UPS.

While I was walking down the street, I overheard a conversation between a girl and her mother. We were standing near each other on a corner while waiting for the light to change. The mother was telling her daughter that she was going to get her a new phone in heavily accented English. The daughter, who spoke English without an accent, told her mother that the phone she has works fine and she doesn’t need a new one. This escalated almost into an argument with the daughter telling her mother that her phone works just fine and she’s going to use it until it’s broken before she gets a new one, because she doesn’t see the point of replacing something that still works.

I had a few thoughts about this. Was the mother a first generation immigrant and the daughter born here? Is it a conflict of identity? What I mean is, does the mother see herself as being American through participation in consumer culture while the daughter doesn’t feel the need to? Is it a result of first generation immigrants trying to accumulate material wealth as a response to a previous life of (by US standards) deprivation? Maybe the daughter is more concerned with the planet or the ecosystem and the mother doesn’t understand or care about those things. Or maybe the mother just really wanted to get something nice for the girl and doesn’t know what else to buy her.

Anyway, I’m glad it’s getting warmer again. This winter was like a long period of hibernation. I’m looking forward to going out and exploring the city again.

Philippines Mobile Phones and SMS (Text Message) Scams

The Philippines is sometimes called the texting capital of the world and from what I’ve seen it’s true.  People in the Philippines, and Filipinos in general, seem to text non-stop.  In the US, it’s most common for people to have contract based plans with cell phone carriers and those plans usually have plenty of, if not unlimited, voice minutes.  Before coming to Asia, I can count the number of times I sent a text message on two hands and those were because someone texted me first.  Since then I’ve sent thousands, sometimes upwards of 200 per day.  Texting is the preferred method of communication in the Philippines, and other parts of Asia I’ve been to, mostly because it’s cheaper than voice calling.

Load na Dito!

Like I said, in the US most people have contract based plans.  Now, texting is catching on and people have the option to get unlimited texting packages added to their monthly bill.  In the Philippines, the majority of people don’t have contract plans; they use pre-paid instead.  If you’ve never heard of that, pre-paid is when you pay the carrier, either by purchasing a card with a set value, through an ATM, Internet banking, or even through distributors / resellers that can transfer value to your phone.  In the Philippines, this value is referred to as “load”.  That’s why when you look at photos of the Philippines you’ll often see signs that say “Load na Dito!”  It means “Load Available Here!”.  You can go to those stores and have value added to your prepaid SIM.  That’s another thing.  Phones in the Philippines are all based on GSM / SIM cards.  There’s no CDMA like Verizon and Sprint use in the US.  At least, not that I’m aware of.

Another way to have value added to your pre-paid SIM is by transfer from a friend or family member.  Well, it doesn’t have to be a friend or family member.  Anyone can transfer value to your SIM and it only carries a 1 PHP fee, to be paid by the sender.  This is where the scam comes in.

Now, I want to say that only an idiot would fall for these scams, but the fact that it’s an ongoing problem shows that people do in fact fall for them and fairly regularly.  The exact wording of the scams vary, but it usually goes along the lines of a ‘friend’ loses their phone and gets a new one, but needs you to send them ‘load’ until they can get their own and pay you back.  Sometimes they add a name to the text message, so that in the event the recipient does know someone by that name, they’ll be more likely to follow through and send a transfer.

I’ve probably received 20 or 30 messages like this in the past 4 months.  I deleted most of them, but here are some recent samples:

Example of a phone scam in the Philippines.

Example of a phone scam in the Philippines.

Example of a phone scam in the Philippines.

If you ever happen to visit the Philippines and you have a GSM phone, it’s easy to get a prepaid SIM to use while you’re in the country.  Just be aware that you’ll likely find yourself receiving messages like this and you shouldn’t fall for it.  Of course, it’s more obvious if you’re just a tourist because who else would you know here that would ask you for load?