Phones and mail

WATCHING A MOVIE on Mexican Netflix recently, I noticed Sissy Spacek had a mountain of mail she had extracted from her mailbox. Lots looked like junk, including an announcement that she may have won $10 million.

letterIt made me think: How glad I am not to get that stuff anymore. No junk mail, no sales calls on the phone either. You know, just when you’re sitting down to supper, those annoying calls.

I remember.

Here is the mail I get in my post office box: A very occasional note from The Vanguard Group. Once a year, the Social Security Administration tells me what I’ll receive in the upcoming year. Once a month, my corporate pension administrator sends me a note telling me what I already know — that I received another monthly payment.

All payments come electronically to my Mexican bank.

We also contribute automatically from the bank account to a high school girl in Guadalajara via Children International. That bunch is fond of sending letters asking for more, more, more. It’s the only thing that appears in my mailbox that could  be called junk mail, but I put up with it because it’s a good — if naggy– outfit.

A couple of times a year, I get a box of vitamins from Puritan‘s Pride.

That’s about the full extent of my snail mail. I don’t check the PO box often. There’s no residential delivery by the postal system to our backstreet Hacienda. I installed a mail slot in the front gate before learning this.

We don’t have a land-line telephone, just two cells. One — mine — is what I believe is called a disposable phone above the Rio Bravo. It’s what criminals buy to communicate temporarily with each other or with their victims. I don’t throw mine away. I’ve had it for many years. I can call and text, but nothing more.

I have no “plan.” I buy time, via my bank online, when I need it. Ditto for my child bride’s cell. The last time we drove across the Rio Bravo — in 2008 — both phones stopped working.

phoneHer  cell is a tad fancier. It has a camera. But she is so low-tech that something more elaborate would be a waste of money. Mostly, she does text messages and the occasional call.

Her phone was a hand-me-down from a sister.

Sales pitches via our cells as as rare as the proverbial hen’s teeth. Land lines are available in Mexico, of course, and I hear that folks with them sometimes get unwanted calls, often scams or extortion attempts.

I don’t see the need for land lines these days. Seems old-fashioned, a waste of money.

We do have Skype. It’s a very convenient service even though the website is a disaster that was designed by a team of nitwits. No matter. The interface works well enough. I like Skype, which I use almost exclusively to call Vanguard. I also used it to call my bank in California, but they canceled my account in July, so …

Skype costs about $50 a year. Sometimes we call Mexico City.

I wonder if Americans still get junk snail mail and annoying sales pitches by phone when they’re trying to eat.

… if they still are told they may have already won $10 million.

21 thoughts on “Phones and mail”

  1. The lack of unsolicited intrusions is one of the best things about living down here. However, we do have the occasional gaggle of Jehovah’s Witnesses who stop by on an occasional Saturday morning in a futile attempt to save us.

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    1. Charles: We handle the do-gooder Witnesses in this way: We don’t respond to the doorbell unless we are expecting someone. It’s a great system, and necessary since the walk to and from the front gate is over a block.

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  2. Some friends here also have a long walk from the front door to the front gate. They got a video/audio transmitter with sets at the front and inside. It it’s someone they want to admit, they press a button and it opens the gate. It costs about $200 USD. Of course it doesn’t help you with who’s there or why, but it saves unnecessary walks. It’s not wireless though and requires an installation cost.

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    1. Carlos: I’ve seen various options at Home Depot in the state capital. Maybe one day we will get something. Just haven’t gotten around to it, and knowing myself, likely never will. But who knows?

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      1. You are right. If the current system works, why bother. The folks at the street will have to solve their own problem. If they have the time to wait, they have the time to leave when there’s no answer.

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  3. For a while we had a mail drop system in California, but when I analyzed exactly how many really important letters we got, we immediately cancelled it. It was obscene the amount of junk mail that wastes labor and resources NOB. We both have the prepay phones that we reload at Soriana every couple of weeks. Mine runs about 100 pesos a month, maybe. The wife talks a lot more to her family so hers is more expensive.

    If someone wants to visit us unannounced, they have to walk up a hill about 250 meters, so it really has to be something important.

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    1. Tancho: I’ve had a mail drop in Miami for over a decade. I used it almost exclusively to have a U.S. address connected to U.S.-issued credit cards. It’s less an issue now, but years ago many online businesses would not accept a non-U.S. credit card. Now they mostly do. I no longer have U.S. credit cards because I cannot pay what I owe because my sole U.S. bank dumped me due to the FATCA stupidity. I do still have the cards (well, one of them. I canceled the other with the yearly fee), but they are dead in the water. Cannot pay them, so I cannot use them.

      I had to switch my official address with Vanguard to the Miami location because Vanguard also got screwy due to FATCA and my Mexican address, the address I had with them for 14 years with no problem. The U.S. government is out of control, to put it mildly.

      I only pay $5 a month for the Miami address. They have since doubled the cost, but they did not make it retroactive for old customers. It comes in handy, and I pay it with a Mexican debit card. Not ideal, but the best I can do at the moment.

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  4. Call me old fashioned, but all I have is a land line. Cell phones cook the brain and cause tumors. The Testigos are very accommodating. They even sent a Gringo to try and convert me.

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    1. Andrés: If cell phones cooked the brain and caused tumors, most of the world would have those tumors. Perhaps if you always had one strapped to the side of your head, but even then …

      For what I use a phone for, which ain’t much, the cell is cheaper and far more versatile.

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  5. My wife just got back to Brazil after her first visit to the U.S. in seven months. She brought back with her 8 or 9 pieces of mail addressed to me from our seven months of being gone. (Our sister-in-law checks our mail weekly and eliminates all the obvious junk. I think a couple of times she sent a scan of some bill or mix- up which I addressed then by phone.)

    None of the pieces of mail Susan brought to me were anything I didn’t already know about from direct email communications.

    Our only phone in Brazil is a cell phone using Republic Wireless. It is a $5 a month plan (Wi-fi only) with unlimited calls, texts and data. No contract. Back in the U.S., I will convert back to the $10 plan which includes 3-G coverage. In Sao Paulo I keep the phone turned off. Everyone knows to send me an email first if they want to talk to me and I call them back. So I receive no unwanted calls.

    Weekly we talk to family members via Skype and FaceTime. No charge. I enjoy seeing them.

    Receipt of and payment of bills is all done on line through a U.S. bank.

    Little mail. Few phone calls. Life is good.

    It frees up time to read and comment on blogs.

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  6. No One Writes to the Coronela these days, but she does receive her dead-tree copies of beloved magazines, personally delivered to her gate by an agent of the Mexican government. If that’s the only mail she receives, she’s happy. And while she loves Telmex and her landline-Internet package, she uses those Telcel prepaid cards, seldom racking up more than $100 MXN in the space of two months.

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    1. Ms. Shoes: The Coronel, which would be me, has moved past the dead-tree era. He gets his sole magazine subscription (National Review where the often hilariously biting “This Week” feature alone is worth any price) via cyberspace directly to his beloved Kindle. The Coronel is a modern man, well, at least where this is concerned. Other areas, not so much.

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  7. I think you are correct. Nobody I want to talk with ever calls our land line. Those that do go straight to voice mail, which the Redhead checks periodically (maybe once a week). Still, she is reluctant to part with it.

    I handle the mail, which is much the same, except I usually empty the box every couple of days. I’d say 90% goes straight to the round file, unopened.

    This next generation (anyone under 30) is all text messages. I’m struggling with that.

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    1. Ray: Sounds like junk mail is still a big part of life in your country. I’m not really surprised. And tell the redhead about the money she’ll save without the land line. Probably a nice BBQ dinner once a month.

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  8. $10 million would be nice but peanuts compared to the $112 million I am waiting for from a former government official in Africa who picked me to safeguard his fortune for him until he gets out of prison. He is generously giving me all the interest I earn plus a 25% commission. The “good faith” check I sent him cleared so I expect the deposit any day.

    We have throwaway, pay-as-you-go phones for Canada, USA and Mexico. It is the only way to go for people who use their phones so little.

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    1. Croft: Is the former government official in Africa named Chauncey? If so, I too have had dealings with him. I am optimistic those dealings will be very profitable for me in a short while. After all, he did promise.

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  9. My experience with a Mexican cell phone is VERY different than yours. Some while back, I got a MoviStar chip for an old Samsung phone I had lying around, and began to use that as my Mexican cell. Unfortunately, MoviStar was very aggressive in calling me every day with some promotion or other. Initially, I figured that if I answered in English and pretended not to understand them, that they’d put me on some kind of “don’t-bother-the-pinche-gringo” list and stop calling. WRONG!!!!

    So after about 2 weeks of these calls, with me thinking that they’d eventually figure out that they should stop, I finally broke down and explained to them in Spanish that I didn’t want any more such calls, and if they kept calling that I’d switch to TelMex. So they finally stopped harassing me, but it took some effort. Even so, MoviStar typically sends a bunch of marketing text messages every day, but those aren’t so bad, and a number of them offer things like double recharges (2x the minutes for a recharge) etc, so were actually value-added.

    But yeah, the junk mail thing must be one of the great things about living in Mexico. Here, I used to get a ton of junk mail from the grocery store, etc., all sent by a company called “Red Plum.” Well I found out that you can unsubscribe online, but here’s the kicker. The unsubscription only lasts about 6-9 months, and then you have to go and re-unsubscribe all over again. Big pain en las nalgas. But at least you can buy yourself some relief, even if only temporary.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where it’s amazing the USA isn’t buried under junk mail.

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    1. Kim: About once a week I get a text message from Telcel with some little offer. It usually comes about 1 p.m. I just zap it. That’s about the entirety of my junk phone “calls” these days. Of course, I get no junk mail whatsoever. Mexican life is quite good in some respects. Well, if you don’t get a Movistar plan, it appears. No chance of my ever doing that so …

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