Thursday, May 12, 2011

Trying To Game The System

First there is nothing wrong with what I am doing so far as I can tell, at least not from a legal standpoint. Yet after a few false starts, Vodafone's offer finally started to pay off for me until I hit a little snag yesterday. Please bear with me.

Vodafone offers mobile phone service in Ghana, and they also offer internet service through USB Modems that attach to your computer. After I got to Hohoe I chose Vodafone since another provider at the time dropped all service for multiple days running and that just would not do at 'tall' (as the Ghanaians say it). In Ghana you do not pay a monthly fee, you purchase credits that you redeem through the provider and when you speak for a certain amount of time you run your credits dry and must buy more. Equivalent to pre-paid phones in America. The great thing about Vodafone was that if you buy credits in higher amounts they add bonus time to your account. If I bought 5 cedis of calling time, then they would give me a 50% bonus, making my purchase in effect, seven cedis and fifty pesawas (7.50).

Only later did I find out that if you put down major money, you could get a 75% bonus. Now that is some serious texting and talking there. If you bought 10 cedis of credit, you had on your phone 17.50 of time. To call the U.S. from Ghana would run about 1 cedi for 7 minutes of chatter. Not too bad, and calling local phones here was a little cheaper still.

There was one small catch. Your 10 cedis had an expiration date, maybe two or three months from the time you entered it on your phone. The bonus had a separate expiration date, usually earlier than the full value you added to the phone. So 10 cedis would expire in three months, the 7.50 would expire in less than half that time. Not a problem, since when you called or texted it came off the bonus credit first.

Now, enter the Internet modem. I can get a full month's service on my computer for 45 cedis. The small catch was I needed a new chip to make the modem work, I couldn't just use my phone SIM. I pay the full amount (45), add it to the SIM chip for the internet modem (am I losing you at this stage?) and get my internet connection, but then I don't get a bonus for spending 45 cedis – the internet modem doesn't have that same offer.

Transferring credits to the rescue. You can transfer credit from one phone to another and that is how a lot of people here buy their time on the phone, they just pay someone else a small fee and that someone else will transfer their credit to the other phone. I have two SIM chips, and I have two phones to place said chips into. My goal was to pay 45 cedis, two twenty cedi cards and one five cedi card, add them to my phone SIM chip, then receive the bonus minutes on my phone card. After that, I would be able to transfer the 45 cedis over to the internet SIM chip which was temporarily put in my extra phone. It sounds convoluted, but this worked.

I would get my internet modem charged up with the 45 cedis, and my phone had a bonus amounting to 32 cedis. Two birds, one giant stone.

Up until yesterday.

The internet modem credit expires after 30 short days. The phone credit expires after what appears to be 37 days (give or take). I have to wait these seven days before I can repeat the process, as when I add credits to the phone chip now, the bonus expiration date does not extend beyond the 17th of May. I found that out the hard way when I plugged in a five cedi credit to the phone. My perfect plan to game the system has a slight kink in it, but I am very thankful I have a computer lab and free internet still on campus.

I have found myself doing strange mental calisthenics to pass the time. Congratulations for reading this far.


fraz said...

Oy! I'm dizzy now.


D.Boyer said...

Hehe, even after I thought I figured all of this out, today I learned that my new bonus credit is expiring in less than seven days anyway. I am gaming the system like Lehman Brothers gamed collateralized debt obligations. Ugh!