Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/9/2009 (4424 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The university freshman, who is 6-7, was asked a simple question by the young woman barista who took his order for a pumpkin-spice latte.
"How are you?"
"Well," he shrugged, "I'm alive."
"Why are you just alive?" the barista asked.
So he told her.
"I just got a $17,000 phone bill."
Actually, the precise amount on the Rogers bill -- $17,913.14 -- was closer to $18,000. And the full amount was due on Sept. 20, which, just to upsize the pain, happens to be his 18th birthday.
Coincidentally, the conversation between the shocked barista and the traumatized customer was overheard by broadcaster/writer Leslie Hughes who -- knowing a good story when she heard one -- asked for the young man's name and phone number.
And then emailed it to me.
Which is how I managed to reach Miguel Yetman on Thursday, the day after he paid the University of Manitoba $1,600 in tuition.
He did that with the $1,800 he had made selling the saxophone he played at Vincent Massey Collegiate.
Naturally, I wanted to know how Miguel -- who's taking science and math courses -- could have miscalculated his iPhone usage so disastrously.
He said it happened in July, while he was out of the country on vacation.
He and a friend spent two weeks in New York City, checking out jazz bars, but judging by the bill he got in August, most of the damage was done while he was visiting his mother's family in Trinidad.
Hollette Valverde-Yetman is a single mother of four who works at St. Amant Centre. The contract with Rogers -- which is a four-phone family package -- is in Hollette's name. Which means if the bill isn't paid, it's her credit rating that takes the big hit.
Anyway, by the time I reached Miguel, Rogers had relented somewhat on the bill. Instead of having to pay nearly $18,000, Rogers had reduced it to $6,000.
That's still money the family doesn't have.
The reason for the phone fiasco is that the Yetmans didn't understand -- didn't educate themselves -- on the realties of travelling and "roaming" internationally.
Miguel said most of what he used his iPhone for in Trinidad was related to the Internet -- selling his sax on eBay, briefly checking Facebook -- and text-messaging.
In fact, the total usage on the $17,913.14 bill came out to 452 megabytes, Miguel said, which wouldn't even be close to going over his plan if he was using his iPhone in Winnipeg.
It was only when his younger teenage sisters arrived in Trinidad "and began texting like fiends," that Miguel said something "clicked" about using his phone internationally. That and recalling a recent story he'd been following about Adam Savage, the co-host of the TV show MythBusters. Savage is no dummy but, on a trip to Canada in late June, had rung up an $11,000 cellphone bill for "maybe two or three hours" of web surfing. An outraged Savage turned to Twittering his story, rallying tens of thousands of supporters in the process. AT&T, Savage's cell coverage provider, quickly cancelled the charges.
A week into his two-week trip to Trinidad, Miguel decided to stop using his iPhone. But most of the damage had already been done during that first week in Trinidad.
The total bill -- all $17,000-plus of it -- even shocked the Rogers rep who looked it up when Miguel returned to Winnipeg in August. Miguel -- and the bill his mother was responsible for -- was directed to what he called "a high-usage investigation unit" at Rogers, where his bill was ultimately adjusted to $6,000.
Again, money the family doesn't have. And the first $2,000 instalment was due Friday.
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Friday afternoon, I called Vancouver and explained Miguel's and his mother's situation to Sara Holland, the communications manager, western region for Rogers Communications.
She sounded sympathetic. But she also had an important message for cellphone users who travel internationally.
"It's really important that people educate themselves about roaming before they travel with their phones," she said. "The information is on our website and they can call us if they have questions. We also have special roaming packages. That information is also on our website."
Since I don't text, I picked up my phone later Friday and called Miguel with a message.
It was from Sara Holland.
"Rogers is working with the Yetmans on a solution."
By that time, Miguel had already received a call.
Don't you love happy endings?