9

In my country, voice calls and SMS messages can either be paid by use or be bundled in some monthly fee that includes a limited amount of free messages and voice call minutes. The first option is vastly more convenient to me.

The cost per SMS is not a big sum (0.16€, the same price as one minute on the phone), but I like to spare a dime when I can. Lately, social pressure is forcing me to timely reply to SMS messages and the (unnecessary, in my opinion) costs are making me uncomfortable.


I'm part of a group that usually meets in person twice a week.

The group also has a WhatsApp chat where scheduling changes (new meetings or rescheduling) are discussed. I'm currently unable to join the chat and I'm only able to use most forms of instant messaging while I'm at my home PC anyway. Calling me or sending me SMS messages is the only way to immediately get in touch with me.

This group decided, without any input on my part, that I'm getting told of scheduling changes via SMS. I assumed that, especially for very faraway meetings or for "next week, we're gonna reschedule from wednesday to thursday" (no questions) it was ok to wait for the next meeting to state my participation.

"I wonder why you never reply to my SMS messages. I'm using up one of my free SMS messages, it'd be nice if you at least spent some time to reply", recently told me the person that usually contacts me, in front of everyone.

I'd rather them not spending their free SMS messages on me and just tell me things next time we meet in person, but it is apparently critical that my reply is collected at the same time as everyone else's, every single time. I strongly doubt that I'm always the one whose presence determines if the meeting can take place at the new date or not.

I understand that maybe not having a tariff plan at all is rare these days and it's assumed that I have free SMS messages too, but I feel that I'm being guilt-tripped into spending my money and the feeling is awful.

What can I do to avoid having to send paid SMS messages just to keep this person quiet, without alienating them and possibly without having to explicitly tell the whole group my reasons?

I want to be as honest as possible, e.g. I don't want to fake not having received the message.

  • 2
    Isn't telling (part of) the truth really an option?! Just what you told us, that sometimes you prefer not to send SMS and wish to do it later or in another way? Sugar-coated? – OldPadawan Nov 4 '17 at 21:06
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    How much money are we talking about on a monthly basis? Feel free to adjust for wildly varying country-dependent living standards, you can state it in hours of average wage. For example here about 15 years ago SMS was around €0.20 which was horrendously overpriced, a conversation would cost several euros which was just ridiculous. Fortunately SMS are now at their proper market price, which is zero. – peufeu Nov 4 '17 at 21:06
  • @Anne D I think by the current title OP means "they should all be aware I don't reply to SMS, why should he pretend that I actually reply to messages (using it to confront me in front of others) and how do I stop him pretending so next time?" – English Student Nov 4 '17 at 23:59
  • What kind of messages are you talking about, meeting schedules or other stuff too? This is not very clear to me. You should clarify what the expected result is. You provide no way to address you except SMS so should they leave you alone and you miss important news about a rescheduled meeting? Do you want to get information only or be active part of the decision? What if your statement decides if a meeting takes place or not? – puck Sep 8 '18 at 10:55
  • @puck it's about scheduling events (mroe like telling me that events have been rescheduled). If my statement decides if it takes place or not, what changes if I tell you the day after, in person, when the scheduling is for next week? – Zachiel Sep 9 '18 at 17:49
12

Be honest about the cost and approach it with a desire for mutual problem-solving. Say something like:

I actually have to pay for every message, so I try to save those for urgent stuff. I can use IM from my computer, which I use every night, and I thought responding that way would be fast enough for scheduling next week's meeting. Is that causing problems for the rest of you? Can we figure out another way to coordinate? Or if it's easier for you, it's fine for me if you just tell me when we're meeting instead of asking me.

Unfortunately, being the person who is "behind the times" when it comes to communication does have costs. That's true whether the limiting factor is money, technology, knowledge, time, or personal preference. I am not on Facebook, and it's sometimes an uphill battle to get people to share important information via the channels we all used before Facebook. A member of a social organization I'm part of has never had email, and over time his participation has become more and more marginal. That's unfortunate and nobody means to leave people behind, but it takes extra effort to make sure Bob gets called and Alice gets email about that Facebook thing and so on. Your group is trying to work around your lack of access to WhatsApp. It's important to view their SMS messages not as "they decided this without me" but "they're trying to help; how can I get them to help differently?". Come to the discussion prepared with a proposal if they say that waiting until you get home in the evening is too slow. (Maybe you collectively figure out which ones are urgent and you should just pay for the message, or maybe you try email, or whatever.)

  • 1
    I'm sorry if I haven't been clear enough. I can't visit their chat (you need a smartphone to access whatsapp, even from a PC, apparently). I'm well aware about the problems you talk about and I'd be ok with letting them decide on their own without asking me. The rest of the solutions are a fine option. – Zachiel Nov 5 '17 at 20:49
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    Oh sorry, I thought you meant you couldn't use the app from your phone but could chat from your PC. I'll make some edits. The gist of my answer doesn't change; the key is to explain the problem (you're not just ignoring them on a whim or something) and work together on a solution. – Monica Cellio Nov 5 '17 at 21:38
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    @Zachiel Just FYI, it is possible to use WhatsApp on PC without a smartphone, you need an Android emulator (Bluestack, for example) and a phone capable of receiving SMS for the verification code, which you have – Maxim Nov 6 '17 at 22:06
  • @Maxim that's good news. – Zachiel Nov 8 '17 at 20:32
5

I'd say be honest about not being on-line all the time.

These days people are implicitly expected to be on-line all the time. But this is, as any off-the-grid person can tell you, very draining indeed. This, you feel, is expected of you. But your life's choices are yours.

You do not have to give reasons for this.
Just explain that it is your habit of doing your social media thing in the evening, when you can give it your full attention.

When challenged ask for understanding.
Explain that you will respond to emergencies immediately but that for everything else 'within a few days' (if not the same day) should be soon enough. There is, after all, no hurry? Explain that this is not a lack of attention, not that you find it unimportant, that it is nothing more than timing. And perhaps add that you prefer to share in person instead of on-line sometimes.

Finally ask that they do not feel neglected, ignored.
They are not. You respect them and find being in their company important. You respectfully ask them to respect your choices, as you do theirs.

  • @Anne Daunted I use being on-line in the broader sense. – Bookeater Nov 5 '17 at 10:16
2

I would be honest about the situation, and try to offer an alternative. You mentioned that you are unable to join the WhatsApp group, is this due to data limitations?

You could ask them to contact you via e-mail. It appears that they are wanting to contact you about upcoming meetings, so doing it over e-mail or some other cheaper service may be easier.

At this point it seems like SMS is the only way for them to contact you while not in person, so providing an alternative would help them reduce the SMS usage.

1

My problem with your question is that you shouldn't need to make excuses for how YOU choose to use your phone, or handle emails, respond to SMS, or whatever. I also simply wouldn't bother mentioning the cost aspect - because that invites people to accuse you of being cheap, etc.

Simply say that you do not monitor your phone continually, so you don't always answer calls or read messages immediately. People don't need to know why, they just need to know what to expect from you.

That may seem a bit blunt, but people don't have any right to demand your immediate attention. Any more than you have a right to demand theirs.

Having set the scene like that, make sure you follow up appropriately.

If you don't think a reply to a message is needed, then don't reply.

If a reply is needed (such as "We need to change the meeting time. Is 2 or 3 pm better for you?") then reply with your preference.

For example, if someone sends you a message "The meeting has changed to 2pm Thursday", and you can make the new time, then all you need to do is appear at the meeting on time. If appropriate, thank the person who sent you the message in person - not by SMS. If you can't make the new time then reply with an apology - but only if other people really need to know you won't make it.

If someone gratuitously asks you to acknowledge a message, such as "The meeting has changed to 5pm Thursday, please acknowledge", then simply ignore the last two words, and respond the same way - show up at the new time, and only reply if you judge it necessary, and thank them in person for the message. If someone complains to you about not replying by SMS, reiterate the explanation that you only read messages occasionally.

  • This is exactly what I usually do. Peolpe, anyway, wants me to acknowledge so they can stop worrying that "Maybe Zachiel never got the message and he won't be there and we will be too few to do anything." – Zachiel Sep 9 '18 at 17:47
  • This solution is fine EXCEPT for technology problem, messages do go missing. For example I often don't get messages for days (the joys of living in the countryside). So if I don't reply to a message nobody knows if I have received it or not, so i could be turning up to the wrong meeting bad for everybody. – WendyG Sep 10 '18 at 16:17

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