Parenting the Parents
My parents have lost their minds.
They’re both in their late 60s, living off dad’s pension and social security. This last Christmas they unceremoniously informed us that they would only be buying gifts for the grandchildren because it was “too expensive” for them to buy for us kids and spouses/sig others. Made sense to me, I mean, gee, fixed income and all, sheah, sure, if they need money, keep it, right?
Then yesterday dad emailed me that they’d bought a smoke detector and a separate heat alarm from a company in my town, about an hour from the parents. He said, “They wanted to set up the whole house for $3000, but I told them no, just the two boxes, for $700.”
Seven? Hundred? Dollars?
For ONE smoke detector and ONE heat alarm? That you screw into the wall? Not hooked up to a central computer or other high-falutin’ device?
I immediately emailed him back and told him, as gently as I could, that he should investigate this deal further, because it sounded fishy. I eBayed similar systems, and my parents were overcharged (no kidding) $650, and I showed dad the internet deal. I stressed the importance of not making rash purchases, and how $700 was months' worth of groceries for the two of them, and that even though their salesman said those “cheap crappy Chinese fire alarms won’t work”, that ours did, and millions of others did, and I could set up his whole house with American-made smoke alarms and heat alarms and fire extinguishers and roll-out second-story ladders for $200, tops.
Dad called me last night, and immediately put Mom on the phone. Mom wrote the check, and I think Dad was blaming her for that, even though it was Dad who said "Yes" to the salesman.
She explained that they’d been invited by a friend to a dinner, as he had tickets, and it was a ‘free dinner’ but they’d have to sit through a sales presentation. “Free dinner!”, was what lured my parents. Dad made the stupid mistake of asking the salesman about the system, which of course he wouldn’t cost-quote there, but the salesman offered to go to their house and check it out.
Hold it…you let a stranger in your house? To case the joint? And try to sell you on a $3000 set of half a dozen smoke/heat alarms? Wha…???? And you settled on 2 units for $700?
And you’re on a fixed income?
And you cancelled Christmas?
And now you want to jeopardize your future ability to buy groceries and gas and keep a roof over your head?
Mom said she’d contact the Better Business Bureau and check them out (I did…one complaint, resolved). I told her, y’know, if you feel you’ve been taken advantage of, you might be too embarrassed to report it to the BBB, and she shouldn’t take that as proof that their purchase was appropriate. Seven Hundred Dollars, Mom. The contract said they had 3 days to cancel it. I tried to persuade them to do just that. Dad seemed ready to eat the cash, as a learning experience. I’m more of a fighter, and told him to Stop the Deal. Mom waffled.
Today I’m going over to the business to check it out. I want to scream at the guy, GIVE MY PARENTS' MONEY BACK! Instead, I’ll call my parents, remind them that they can’t afford to do this, and that I will go to Home Depot, get them six ‘Merican-made units, and hang them up at their house.
Mom said during our conversation, “It’s really not like us! We’re not gullible, like those old people that get taken advantage of all the time.” I didn’t have the heart to say, “Mom, you ARE an “old people”…you’re nearly 70, and you were taken advantage of.” I sat and stewed and plotted and planned. Does this mean now I have to babysit my parents? How long before I have to take away their car keys and find them a nice retirement home? Urgh. I do Not want to go down this path. Have any of you had to deal with this? And keep your sanity intact?