One of the most unexpected aspects of blogging has been the barrage of emails from marketing departments asking me to try a free something-or-other, and if I want "to post a review of it on my blog, that would be great." I turn most of these requests down, because I have a dread of sounding like a commercial. I fear I already sound like that too much of the time, when I’m waxing enthusiastic about a book or resource I love. It is in my nature to gush when I like something, and we all know it’s a fine line between gushing and ad copy. What differentiates them is sincerity. When I gush, I mean it.
Which is why I turn down most of the product review requests. (Books for review are an entirely different matter. Books, I jump at.) I did agree to try the package of Luvs diapers—they were launching some kind of new stretchy elastic system at the leg openings—because I have two kids in diapers at the moment, and hey, those things add up. And actually they were quite good and I keep meaning to do a price comparison to the Target brand, because if the Luvs are cheaper I’ll switch. (As to why I don’t use cloth diapers—when I did the "how crunchy are you?" meme a long while back I came up just shy of super-granola crunchy because of the disposable diapers thing—it’s a long story related to living in Queens with no washing machine.)
A well-known maker of disposable cleaning tools sent me a sample kit of a dusting "system," and it came in a house-shaped box which my young daughters deemed perfect for converting into a fairy house, but I looked at the dusting "system" and burst out laughing. If I need an instruction brochure to show me how to assemble a duster, it ain’t the duster for me. Heh. Besides, I’m already filling landfills with diapers. I can’t possibly add paper dusting cloths to my trash column: I’d lose yet more crunch!
Then there was the email asking if I’d like to receive a free sample of new reduced-sugar NesQuik. One of the kids read it over my shoulder, and there was a great clamor of YES! YOU WOULD LIKE TO! YES! So we tried it, and my children thought I was the coolest mom ever, because people sent us chocolate milk mix in the mail just because I have children and write about them on the interwebz. Our NesQuik interlude was a most comical chapter of our lives. I couldn’t write about it because the children sounded like commercials. If I’d had a camera rolling on Beanie, I could have made a fortune: golden ringlets bouncing, bright smile, chocolate milk mustache, "Mommy, this NesQuik is DELICIOUS! I can’t even tell it has reduced sugar!" I kid you not. It was a ridiculous moment. I kept waiting for the director to yell "Cut! It’s a wrap!"
They are still tormenting me, my children, with requests for more NesQuik. That’s what they call it, NesQuik, and it drives me crazy. Quik! I cry. Just plain Quik! I grew up with it and I know what I’m talking about! I don’t care what it says on the package. Rassafrassin’ marketing departments, messing with my childhood brand names. Humph.
After that episode (and the subsequent and still-occurring barrage of please for more NesQuik), I decided I’d had enough of free product samples. But then came an opportunity to try out a new kind of cell phone service called Kajeet, and since it was related to something I had posted here a while back, I was curious to find out more. This is less a product review than an FYI kind of post. I don’t yet have a need for one of my kids to have a cell phone, but with the teens just around the corner (pardon me while I go tend to my husband’s heart palpitations), I can anticipate a time when I’m going to want them to have that means of keeping in touch.
Do you remember when I posted a mini-rant in response to an article about kids racking up huge credit card and cell phone bills, and I wondered aloud how such a thing could even happen? A commenter (I wish I could find the post—Google is letting me down) clued me in to just how easy it is for kids to download games and burn up phone minutes without needing any access to the billing info; you can download anything you want and your cellular service is more than happy to add it to your tab.
Kajeet seems like a reasonable alternative. When you set up a Kajeet account, you have a parent’s wallet and a kid’s wallet. (Or kids’ wallets, if you are activating more than one phone.)
You put money into the parent’s wallet via your credit card, and then you decide how much to transfer into your kid’s wallet.
Instead of a monthly service fee, you pay an access fee of 35 cents a day. This is deducted daily from the sum in your child’s wallet. There is no time commitment—you can cancel service whenever you want, with no fee or penalty. So you’re looking at ten or eleven dollars a month for the service, plus the cost of however many minutes you use.
Phone calls are ten cents a minute. Text messages are five cents each to send or receive. Picture messages are .25 a minute.
I worked out a price comparison to my current cell phone plan, and it looks like the cost of, say, 150 minutes of Kajeet service (including the daily access fee) would be only slightly higher than the cost of adding another phone and 150 more minutes to my current plan. The main difference would be that Sprint would bind me to a year-long contract, and with Kajeet there is no time commitment or contract. So that’s a plus.
The wallet system is pretty clever. In addition to controlling how much money goes into the wallet, the parent can also allocate a number of minutes to be used per day. So if you’re wanting a cell phone just so a child can keep in touch with you, it would be easy to keep the cost minimal by allotting only a small number of minutes a day. There’s no way for the child to rack up a nightmarish bill, because the parent controls the purse strings.
You can also control what phone numbers can make calls to and receive calls from your kid’s phone, and whether those calls will be paid for from the kid’s wallet or the parent’s wallet. Similarly, you can manage settings for what the child is allowed to download: games, ringtones, wallpaper, and so forth.
At this point, my kids and I almost always travel in a pack, and (sorry, Jane) we really don’t have a need for any of them to have a phone. And I’m starry-eyed enough to think ‘my kid would NEVER surprise me with a bunch of games she downloaded without telling me’—but I can easily, EASILY, see my beloved daughter chattering away to a pal and racking up hours’ worth of minutes without realizing it. I can see this because I’ve done it myself now and then, ahem, and we all know that what we DO has far more influence than what we SAY.
Since we got to play with a nifty blue phone all week (I think we get to keep it?), my kids would like me to add that the phone is AWESOME and you can download games (also funded by the wallet system) and the games look AWESOME and can we buy some, please, please, Mom, that would be so AWESOME? And *I* would like to add that there are other descriptive words in their vocabulary, but apparently something about hip cell phone technology brings out the latent 80s teen in them. Gnarly!
(And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.)
links for 2008-02-22
May the Force Be With Them
Our Big Cross-Country Trip
That IS a Lot