On the Staling of Amkia Data Bundles

How cheap is free? Or rather, how expensive is free? An apt maxim tells us that cheap is expensive, and from that I suppose we can deduce worthy answers to those questions; that is, free might be very well be the most expensive thing out there.

The word free is misused a lot. Now that I think of it, I'm quite guilty myself of abusing it on this blog. By that I mean, I may have taken some liberties with it while coming up with some post titles. Nothing comes quite close to the exhilaration that the word FREE evokes in us. It holds our attention and short-circuits most of the critical thinking that would have been otherwise deemed necessary.

For that reason, it makes for an effective mass marketing tool. Mass because there's always the exception to the rule, namely those that have appropriated sufficient freedoms for themselves not to care about free things and of course, the sceptics that have themselves convinced of the existence of "catches" plotting to turn them into easy catches.

I tend to fall in the latter category. However, seeing this is merely a tendency on my part, I have just as much proclivity as the next guy to take the bait provided the conditions are favourable. The most potent condition here being broke, an entity that has taken special interest on me despite my stern reservations.

Anyway, last week I finally gave in to one of its incessant requests. I had shot down this particular offer for the longest time merely because it was adamant on having its way with my currently established circadian rhythm. However, at this time the stars had aligned and an urgent need had proved itself worthy of losing some few minutes of sleep for.

So in the day of reckoning, to my surprise I had no problem waking 30 minutes early my usual time. I have since established that the excitement for something free is more than sufficient, not to mention more civil in its means, for rousing me up in contrast to the cacophony of an alarm clock. From the comfort of my bed, I reached out to my partner in crime and got to what had involuntary cost me some sleep.

I needed to complete a download of about 92MB for a PDF I thought would make for an interesting read. I wasn't too sure about the source, and that explains why I opted to use free bundles rather than my actual hard-earned bundles on this download. To guarantee my chances of success, I had summoned the services of a previously laid off Telkom SIM. This way, I had not only 100MB worth of the Amkia Bundles for the task at hand but also 8MB to spare.

As I had hoped, the first half of the download completed without any hiccups. I switched the data to the next SIM and resumed the download. Few seconds in, the download stalled. At first I assumed it was the usual network downtimes because it had barely downloaded 15MB. Moments later I sensed something wasn't right and so started suspecting that the download server may have stopped the download. To confirm I decided to use the browser only to be greeted with a connectivity error.

So naturally I did the obvious after this: I toggled the data connection and that's when the shocker finally reared its ugly head. A notification to sign in to the Telekom network popped up and I knew very well what that meant: the bundles were no more. How, I didn't know? But shortly after signing in to the Telkom portal, my fears were confirmed. Amkia Bundle: 0MB.
sign in to network
Sign in to networks is always bad news.

How exactly that happened is no more of a mystery to me a week later as I write this. You see, it had barely clocked 8AM and so clearly the bundles hadn't expired. Also, no rogue process had eaten up those bundles in the form of background data since I always have that disabled. The data usage applet in the Android settings further confirmed my hunch by showing only a measly 13MB had been used on that session.

The last straw however came the next day as I completed the broken download. Again, the same thing replayed all over again: the first SIM exhausted the 50MB, but the second one was exhausted after consuming a measly 10MB. And I have that number confirmed by now, having tested it for a couple of consecutive days. So much so it was enough to warrant to write this whole post about.

Now I don't know how prevalent this is, and I didn't feel like taking up this issue with the customer care seeing after all my itch had been long scratched. Also, is it not rather uncivil to make demands on free things? Either way, one thing is clear from this, and I'd be feigning if I didn't admit to the fact that the sceptic me knew this all along.

The Amkia Bundle was only there to serve a clear cut purpose; a purpose that has clearly had to adapt to the unforgiving enterprise of running a profitable Bed and Breakfast in this segment. For it wilfully roped in new guests with its alluring aroma of a free sumptuous breakfast, but now that the guests have settled in to the point of overstaying their welcome, the bread on the dinner table is quickly running stale. Mouldy indeed it has become, and the only way out is to dispose of it, in favour of a freshly baked one offered at the same price of free but served at less than a quarter of the original size. To that I say "Thanks, but no thanks. I only need the bed for pillow talk. For breakfast I always come prepared with a bag full of cheap KDF takeaways from that Red dinner along Mombasa Road."