Wednesday, January 23, 2008

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?


At 11:02 AM, Blogger Maggie said...

I haven't had to deal with it and I'm with you. So don't want to go down that path. 'Eating' the equivalent of a month's worth of food for a lesson is just as bad as having been taken advantage of in the first place. That's not logical. They oughta tell those people off. Whole thing sucks. If they are in doubt of the 'cheap' alarms, maybe they should go talk to their local firemen - bet they'd get some good advice.

At 4:29 PM, Blogger Faith said...

No...unfortunately I won't get the chance to go through that sort of thing myself.

But I AM giving up my car keys at age 65 for a reason, dammit. Logic and reason takes a vacation more often than not after we turn 60, and we don't seem (IMO, anyway) to have the ability to flip that switch ourselves. Our brain goes and does it for us.

However, I can say that I fell for a pressure-sale once on a dating service that set me back over $2000. And I was only 26. (Desperation and loneliness is my equivalent of being a senior citizen, I s'pose...)

At 5:21 PM, Blogger meno said...

Some free dinner.

I wonder if it would be considered in bad taste to horsewhip the salesman, in public, in front of old people.

At 9:43 PM, Blogger patches said...

Babysit. Not exactly, but I recommend paying more attention.

I'm in the middle of this with my in-laws. I have a front row seat to the circus but no voting rights. Hopefully this is just an anomaly with your folks.

At 1:43 PM, Blogger jo(e) said...

Oh, that's so sad. The fact is, elderly people ARE prime targets for scams.

With my mother-in-law, my husband just pretty much had to take over her financial affairs after my father-in-law died and make all decisions for her.

My parents are in their late seventies, and they've gone sort of the opposite way. My father is so suspicious of everything that he raised a million questions before he'd let us install a wireless router at this house.

Either way, taking care of parents as they get older can be frustrating and stressful....

At 5:32 PM, Blogger Nancy Dancehall said...

Sounds like my folks. They aren't the types to get roped into something like that, but they did. It was a 'free dinner' that turned into a condo time share. They signed up, but when they got home, my mom woke up out of the food coma and canceled.

I've got ringside seats to the in-laws show, like Ms. Chica. I wish I could write about it.


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