Please Ask Your Grandparents This Very Important Question Right Now

When was the last time you changed your cellphone plan?
A: “I haven’t had a reason to”. Wrong answer.

And by grandparents, I mean elderly folks. Generally speaking, people ‘retirement age’ and older. I just realized I’m talking about my actual parents. So if you’re my age, then ask your parents and not your grandparents. Well, them too, if they’re alive and talking up a storm.

Anyway. Why ask them about the last time they changed their cellphone plan?

Because the odds are good to quite good that it’s been a long time and they’re getting taken advantage of by vulture providers minting a fortune on legacy plans.

In many cases, and most if they’re still using a phone from the 20th century, they’re being weaseled out of hundreds of dollars annually via this should-be illegal practice. In the case of elderly folks without much money to spare, this turns into a non-insignificant % of their livelihood.

Here’s a Story of an elderly lady scammed by her cell phone provider & how we fixed it.

But before I add a bit more context, I’d like to get something off my chest. F@$! you, AT&T, you crook. Ok, I feel better now. Wait, no I don’t.


You see, this lady used to take care of my grandmother years ago and she means a lot to me and my family. Her name is Comfort. After my daughter was born earlier this year, Comfort came over to give her a card (with $100 in it, naturally. I told her I couldn’t accept it. But I did. “It’s not for you,” she said. “It’s for your daughter.”).

Long story short, it took a while to coordinate schedules, in part because of phone trouble on her end. After she arrived, I looked at her cellphone (a basic, very non-smartphone) and asked her what service she used and what she was paying each month, thinking she could upgrade her phone to a smartphone and possibly her plan without too much damage. She said she was paying close to $100 on AT&T.

I nearly choked on the piece of dried mango I was eating.

How am I paying less than Comfort when I’m currently financing an iPhone 6 Plus in addition to my monthly phone plan?

So I called AT&T on her behalf and asked what type of plan she was on. The lady said “she has unlimited minutes. No text. No data.” She’s was paying about $80/month plus taxes.

All in she was landing somewhere between $90-$100/month.

Confident there was a better alternative, I asked what an equivalent plan today would cost. She said currently their lowest plan for a basic phone was $40/month and included unlimited minutes AND unlimited text AND 300MB of data.

In other words, a shitload more than what she was getting and about $40 less per month before taxes. That amounts to nearly $500 a year in savings.

Multiply over 5 years on the “rip-off” plan and we’re talking $2,500 that AT&T has likely conned out of this poor lady. Comfort could have splurged on NASCAR tickets with that money. (Update: Comfort said she probably wouldn’t have used the money for NASCAR tickets).


Think the elderly folks in your life either don’t have a cellphone or if they do, are savvy enough to upgrade regularly?

Think again.

There are 40m American’s 65 years or older in this country —only 27% have a smartphone but nearly 75% have a cellphone of some kind.

That means over 70% of folks 65 years and older do not have a smartphone and only 1/3 (10.8m) of those with cellphones (29.6m) do.

Lots with Cellphones - Little with Smartphones = $$$ to The Bad Guys

Here’s my reasoning.

I’d wager non-smartphone users are less likely to upgrade their phone regularly (and thus their plan), leaving the roughly 20m Americans with basic cellphones ripe for legacy plan pillage. If just 10% (2m) of those were on legacy plans like Comfort’s, that extra $500 annually results in $1B dollars of plunder each year. One Billion Dollars. One Billion.

Your grandmother (or mother) getting ripped off by her cellphone provider.

What’s worse (but not surprising), the poor are much more likely to fall into this trap, as half of individuals making 30K or less a year don’t have a smartphone. So as is so often the case, the people most likely to suffer at the deceitful hands of corporate greed, are the people least able to afford it.

So call your grandmother right now and help her save some money. Think of all the times she gave you $5 when you came over. She loves you.

And by grandmother, I mean your mother as well.

Oh, and send a message to her cellphone provider to #EndLegacyPlans and to #FuckOff while they’re at it.

By Tarek

P.S. If you’re an ambitious upstart and like easy money — A.) we can’t be friends, but B.) see if you can’t get your hands on a reliable and up-to-date data set to help you identify Americans likely to be on legacy cellphone plans. Figure out a way to update all their monthly plans and for your troubles, take 10% of the MOM annual savings. If my math plays out well, that’s $90,000,000 for you and $10,000,000 for me. Deal?