Monday, March 24, 2008

The Cost of Convenience

Recently we made one of our regular trips to Mexico and added more to our fuzzy knowledge of the cellular world South of the Border. This most recent stay was in one of the newer resort areas that is removed somewhat from the main town. In previous writings we advised you can save huge roaming fees charged by your home carrier by getting a Prepaid SIM (programming chip) from one of the Mexican carriers and place it in your own unlocked GSM phone. After all, Mexico cellular dealers seem to be on “every block.”

Such is not the case in resorts where there are only hotels and condos, and few, if any, other retailers. Sometimes it’s hard just to get enough time to break away from the family and buy local cellular service. The only nearby cellular retailer was at a kiosk in a large discount store about a mile away. But the little girl in the tight jeans would not sell just a SIM, she would only sell a phone, which, of course came with a network SIM.

Since she was asking over $60USD for the cheapest phone with service, we decided to pass and look for our $25USD SIM. The bus went the wrong way at the wrong time, so I was limited to a more expensive taxi ride which was $14 round trip. And the cellular store in the next town would only sell the SIM and $20 worth of time for $43, so the cost was now up to $57 plus my time, just short of what the little girl at the kiosk wanted. Sure, I could wait for when the whole family took the bus into town and find one of those retailers who would sell a SIM with minutes included. But should I?

I already knew Mexican cellular companies offered their prepaid phones and SIM's in US stores. But knowing I could get a good deal in Mexico, why pay the US store premium? Or, why purchase the SIM from one of several online dealers who would add the cost of shipping (why is it so much more than a .41 postage stamp?). The reason: convenience. While we try to be the champions of bargain-basement cellular buying, it’s all too easy to be penny wise and pound foolish. That little girl with the attitude at the kiosk was actually trying to save me money and time. Who knew?

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