It cost $11,000 for them to watch five movies, and that was before popcorn.
It was after a week-long New Year's trip to Phoenix with the family that John Gibson found a bill from SaskTel for $10,668.38.
"That got my attention," he said in an understatement that rivalled the exorbitant bill.
The Weyburn man was down in Arizona with his children and grandchildren. His son Jason had taken his laptop with him that received Internet service through an air card or Internet stick that plugs into a USB drive.
Jason said they thought it was a great way to keep the children entertained, so they watched five movies through Netflix over the course of the week. It's a subscription service that was paid for, but what wound up costing them was the data charge. Because they were in the United States, they were considered roaming, and John said when he spoke to someone from SaskTel about it, she told him the rate was $6 per megabyte.
With the movie files being close to 400 megabytes each, the expense accumulated very quickly.
"The average person around here would have to go get a loan to pay that, or you're paying SaskTel $100 a month for 20 years," said Jason.
John is the one who received the bill and called Jason to tell him the surprising news.
"He gave me a shout, told me about it, and my jaw hit the floor," Jason said.
The SaskTel mobile Internet plans web page does give a breakdown of monthly fees, which includes in the chart U.S. roaming fees that range from $3 to $6 per megabyte of data, depending on which plan an individual has. The information is there, but the Gibsons said the extra costs incurred under these circumstances should be more clear, adding that they never gave a second thought to downloading the movies.
John said when he first saw the bill, he read it as $106 and was going to pay it before he did a double take to more closely review the five-figure number before him.
"I called up SaskTel and said there's something wrong here," but the woman at SaskTel went over the dates of when the expenses were incurred, and he realized it was when they were in Phoenix.
"It's an excellent little trap," he said, but added, "They were pretty good about it. I told her what happened. They knocked off $9,600."
The amount owed was significantly reduced, but a little more than $1,000 is still a steep price to pay for a few movies. The incident is a stark reminder to be aware of when your mobile devices are roaming, and know what the rates are when downloading any data.