I’m Not Paying For Your Mistake, Even If You Are Only 13

I’m a night owl, commonly staying up several hours later than the rest of my family. I use this time to do various tasks that I never seem to find time for during the day. So it wasn’t out of the ordinary when I decided to take up a late night activity to resolve my checking account spreadsheet with my online banking portal. With my wife and daughter comfortably sleeping, and my son hiding out in his room playing Xbox, I sat down at my computer around 11:00pm and got to work.

11:05pm: I notice a debit from Microsoft for $9.99 on that day. I call my son, Tristan, down from his room and interrogated him to find out what he bought, and why he didn’t have the purchase approved, and paid for (in cash) before initiating the online purchase as we had previously agreed.  He denied having any knowledge of the transaction.

11:10pm: I needed answers, so I searched and found the xbox live website. Using my main email address I logged on and found the billing information section was completely blank.

11:15pm: Slightly annoyed, I remembered that we have two xbox live IDs. Tristan’s account has all the billing information associated with it since he’s the xbox user. Mine is just the required parental account. I called Tristan downstairs again to get his email account name. He rattles off some cryptic name in some pseudo language where the letter “E” is replaced with a “3” and the letter “I” is replaced with ‘1.’ Standing up, I point at the chair and say, “Sit down and type it, please.”

Xbox live didn’t recognize his email address.

11:20pm: Unable to believe that the xbox live website doesn’t recognize the email address of a kid that plays xbox every waking second he possibly can, I attempt to reset his password.

Email address not recognized.

11:30pm: Digging my fingernails into my forehead I return to my online banking portal and notice that the charge also mentions the name “Zune,” which an online music and movie marketplace.   I call Tristan down for a third time inquiring if he knows anything about “Zune,” to which he again denies any knowledge.

11:40pm:  Conveniently, a  phone number was included in the bank account debit entry.  Punching the buttons unnecessarily hard, and dropping an f-bomb for each digit, I dial the number.

A voice says, “Your estimated wait time is 23 minutes.” Um, hell no. <OFF>

11:45pm: Staring at the screen in disbelief, I suddenly remember that I linked Tristan’s Xbox live account to one of my secondary email addresses, not his email address. I attempt to sign on, but I cannot remember the password.


11:52pm: Following the steps to reset the password, it asks the security question “What is your favorite movie?”  Easy: Happy Gilmore.

Apparently Happy Gilmore was NOT my favorite movie the day I setup the accounts.

The directions tell me that if I cannot remember the answer to my security question to dial the customer support number and talk to a representative.

11:55pm: Smelling victory, I dial the number. A voice comes on the line telling me my wait time is 3 minutes. It goes on to tell me that in order to reset my password I will need the email address, and the answer to the security question.

WHAT? <OFF> Forehead plant onto the dining room table.

12:00am: I’m so frustrated at this point I feel like someone has physically set me on fire.  I can’t believe I’m a simple password away from resolving this mystery. I channel my inner Happy Gilmore and go to my happy place. Then it comes to me. The first letter of the password is capitalized.

12:04am: I successfully sign onto my son’s Xbox live account and see the billing information. I call Tristan out of his room for a fourth and final time. “What’s that?” I ask pointing at the screen that says “Zune monthly reoccurring membership: $9.99.”

He responds, “Yeeeeaaah, you’re gonna want to disable that.  I signed up for a free month trial a few weeks ago.  I didn’t think I’d be charged for anything.”

I say, “Your free month trial turned into a month to month subscription. You didn’t read all of the instructions when you registered, did you?”

I disabled the membership, looked at him and uttered, “You owe me $10.”

He gives me one of those “Are you serious?” looks.

I stare at him, grind my teeth and say, “I’m not paying for your mistake.”

He moped up the stairs, returning from his room with a ten dollar bill.  I asked him to sit down beside me and we had a discussion about what we learned from this experience:

  • Always read the terms and conditions completely before signing up for anything.
  • Dad has a reason for why he wants all online purchases to come through him first.
  • Sometimes you make mistakes, and you learn from them.  But you still have to pay for them.
  • Mistakes don’t just affect yourself (emphasizing the hour of my time it took to unravel this mess)

Tristan’s a smart kid, and I’m confident he won’t make this mistake again.   He didn’t like having to fork over $10, but in the long run it will be a lesson worth learning.

As he headed back up to his room, he paused, turned around and said, “Dad, do you think you could write down the user ids and passwords somewhere, so we don’t have to go through this again next time we have a billing question?  I’m just sayin’…..”

I guess I learned something from this experience, too.


About Travis

55 Responses to “I’m Not Paying For Your Mistake, Even If You Are Only 13”

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  1. My son and I had a similiar sit down after an Amazon purchase “he claims” he didn’t know he made. One of his favorite things to do when he gets home from school is to “search” for things online; the newest Lego sets, skylanders, and sports equipment. As many of you know when you run Google searches quite often Amazon pops up as a shopping result. So as he goes to peruse the latest items he winds up there and easily purchases 2 skylanders with my account.

    He swears he was just “saving” them to look at later and didn’t know he actually bought them. Do I believe him? Maybe… he is only 8 but he can read! Is this incident partially my fault? Yes. I had my Amazon account set up for easy purchasing and well that menat he didnt really have to enter any information to make the purchase.

    Lesson learned for both of us…He had to pay me the $17 for the skylanders and I turned off the “easy shopping”

    • Travis says:

      Oh, the dreaded Easy Pay option. 🙂 That reminds me of our friends from Kentucky who let their 8 year old play games on their iPhone. Whatever game it was sold “points” for extras in the game. He just kept hitting the button to get the points, not realizing that since his mom’s apple ID was logged in he was actually *buying* the points. They were a bit shocked to find about $85 extra worth of charges from this game coming out of their account..

      It’s fun learning lessons together with our children, it definitely keeps life interesting. I’d prefer not to have to pay for them though.

  2. It is so nice knowing there are parents still willing to hold their kids accountable. Every hard decision you make that forces your child to “feel the pain” will help build their character.

    Way to go!

    • Travis says:

      It’s amazing how being a parent changes your perspective on things. It’s been 20 years (gulp), but it just seems like yesterday that I would be giving my parents that “Are you serious?” kind of look. You’re absolutely right though, Script for Money, we can either teach them now, or they can learn much later when the stakes are higher, and the consequences much greater.

  3. Carrie Smith says:

    I wish my parents had taught me a lesson like this. It would have saved me a lot of money when I found out the “free trial” scam for myself. Now I read everything carefully and am cautious when signing up for anything free. I think you did the right thing!

    • Travis says:

      Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’ve been burned by the “free trial” thing too, Carrie. Not because I didn’t understand that I was going to get charged if I didn’t cancel the service by a certain date….but because I just forgot. Which is exactly what they want to happen, right? I now just assume that any “free trial” has this “gotcha” built in, and avoid them like the plague.

  4. Monica says:

    Travis, I can so relate to this, I couldn’t help laughing through the entire post! We’ve had the same thing happen with our teenage boys, and we made them pay as well. I think you handled it perfectly, and trying to get through to any customer service place is like trying to break into Fort Knox. I have dropped my share of expletives on occasion due to the sheer frustration of not being able to get the answer I need!

    • Travis says:

      I’m glad I could give you a laugh, Monica. To tell you the truth, I knew as soon as this whole story completed that it was going to make a great blog post. I even ran up to Tristan’s room and thanked him for the material. After having to pay me $10, I don’t think he thought it was quite as entertaining as I did. 🙂

  5. Miranda says:

    I’m totally with you, Travis! I’ve made my son pay for mistakes as well. He doesn’t make the same mistakes if he has to pay for them. The most effective lessons are those that really require your kids to learn. And, like Carrie says, these “small” mistakes now can help prevent bigger mistakes later.

    • Travis says:

      Hey Miranda, hearing others say they handled a similar situation the same way really helps reinforce I did the right thing. I did think (for an instance) that it wasn’t a big deal and wasn’t going to make him pay. But quite honestly, the frustration of getting the information (as well as the fact that I specifically asked him if he knew anything about Zune) put me in a less than accommodating mood. Looking back I’m glad I didn’t cave in. Thanks for your comment!

  6. Travis – good for you! A lesson well taught. I just had a similar experience with my 15 yr. old when he misplaced/lost his bow tie for work. Since he didn’t feel he needed to thoroughly search for it he ended up marching himself down to the local men’s wear store and purchasing another one for $8.00. Of course he said to me – “good thing I have a job”.

    • Travis says:

      Great story, Jackie! I would think that if he had to do that a couple of times he may think twice about how hard he looks for his tie…..or how much energy he puts into not misplacing it. 🙂 Great to hear from you!

  7. Travis I think it is awesome that you held him accountable for the purchase. This is an extremely valuable lesson for all ages, read the fine print. Particularly in an online world where T&C’s are three miles, tiny tiny print and the only thing standing between you and the coveted thing is a simple click. This is one of those moments that Tristan will look back on this and see the value (Not now though, your just a pain in butt right now) LOL.

    • Travis says:

      Oh yes, Suzanne, I’m a huge pain in his butt. I’m sure he thought so before he had to shell out the $10. After all, I did have to interrupt his precious online game with his friends 4 times in an hour before we even got to that point. 🙂 I think you’re right, though – I can totally see us having a conversation in 15 years : “Hey Dad, remember that time you were trying to figure out that xbox charge, and you were cursing up a storm trying to remember the passwords?” Good times…..Haha!

  8. Ali says:

    Loved this and rang so true. I have a 10 year old boy who constantly wants to sign up for the free month subscriptions. The conversation usually goes like this: Him: Mom, can I have your credit card number? Me: Why? Him: Oh it’s nothing. I am signing up for a free ____. Me: Why do they need my credit card number if it’s free? Him: Ohhhhh.

    After this happening several times, I think he gets it.

    • Travis says:

      OMG, Ali, that’s funny! Repetition, Repetition, Repetition – eventually it sinks in, right? My daughter has asked for a credit/debit card number a few times….and I have to say it still shocks me when I hear her say it (even though the answer is invariably “No.”). She’s 10 as well, and while I think the time is perfect to be teaching her about finances and how to use money the right way, having her ask for a credit card number just seems as inappropriate as asking for a shot of tequila. Which, coincidentally, I could have really used after this whole ordeal was over. 🙂 Always great to hear from you, Ali, thanks for taking the time to comment!

  9. J$ says:

    I don’t even have a kid yet but I love this 🙂 Bookmarking for the future!

  10. bogofdebt says:

    That was extremely funny–probably more so on my side than yours though. I remember when my youngest brother called me at college to ask me to pay for his “free” trial for something. When I asked him why on earth he was asking me for it, he told me that my mom had told him it wasn’t free as they were asking for a credit card number but he didn’t think she was right!

    Sadly, my dad did this as well so it’s not just a kid thing. He wanted his credit score and had me do the work for him. I told him that he needed to call and cancel the card that it was only a 1 week trial and he would automatically be charged if he didn’t. He didn’t listen and ended up getting charged.

    • Travis says:

      I’m glad you got a kick out of the post, bogofdebt – I’m a firm believer of “If you can’t laugh at yourself…..” It’s too bad how many people get sucked into paying some money via the “Free Trial” route. Hopefully since Tristan went through it when he was young (and it didn’t cost him all that much money), he won’t have to re-learn it again later.

      Thanks for your comment, and for sharing your experiences!

  11. This is great! A powerful way to teach your kid about the consequences of actions.

    • Travis says:

      Hi Jordann, thanks you for your support! I’m generally a huge fan of teaching by positive re-enforcement and encouragement. But when the situation presents itself, sometimes consequences are the only tool available.

  12. This is a great article! Tristan, we’ve all been there. I recall something from my youth about those Free CD clubs you were supposed to cancel after you got the free CD’s and then they charge you per month.

    • Travis says:

      Oh, Brent…..the CD clubs – I remember those! If I remember right I tried a book club too. They sucked you in with being able to get like 12 for a penny, and you had to buy so many more after that. But their selection was horrible, and it was impossible to fill your commitment without buying something you didn’t want.

  13. Definitely with you on this one. I’m dreading the day my son figures out how use the internet…

    • Travis says:

      Yeah, I know how you feel, slug. Both my kids use the internet – it’s not just a matter of being able to buy stuff, there’s also the matter of content!

  14. Kathy says:

    Boy oh boy did this bring up some bad financial memories for me.

    Many, many moons ago I got swept up into accepting a ‘trial’ over the phone. (don’t remember what it was for anymore…blocking that horrific memory out of my brain). However, the gist of it was that I could cancel in the future at anytime without paying any more fees that what I was agreeing to (which was a month, I think). I said maybe but had questions to ask before saying yes. They had to transfer me to the ‘next’ department to process the order and as I was busy trying to remember my questions, the ‘next’ dept came on the line, said I was being recorded & that I was agreeing to ‘blah, blah blah’, etc. I said ‘yes’, or ‘ok’ so I could get on with asking my questions (which I didn’t want to forget) and right then and there I made a HUGE mistake.

    As it turned out, I was ‘eligible’ for these ‘additional’ items just for signing up for the ‘trial’ period. What they failed to mention was that the ‘additional’ items weren’t ‘free’. When I received them & thought that I didn’t need a bunch of coupons and a camera, I called to cancel and return said items (amazing that I can remember what the additional items were but not the original ‘trial’ item).

    Well, by me saying ‘yes’ (being recorded). I agreed to pay over $700 for them! Aargh!

    That was the very last time I EVER have done something so idiotic & stupid.

    I learned my lesson the hard way. Now I will ask a person to repeat something they said (even several times) or ask them to explain it a different way if I’m still not understanding. If I have questions or concerns, I WRITE THEM DOWN and take notes. I will also NOT sign up for anything via a telephone call. I want to see things in writing. And, if it can’t be provided in writing, they apparently don’t want my business and I don’t want to do business with them.

    I am number 4 of 5 kids and by the time it came to me, my parents were having me pay for anything ‘extra’ I wanted. We would get two new school outfits each year & if I wanted anything more, I would need to pay for them myself. Usually from my babysitting money (started around age 11).

    Holding you son responsible was a very good idea. I cannot tell you how my life was shaped for the better as my parents did the same for myself & my siblings. Besides teaching us the value of money, it also taught us to be accountable for our actions.


    • Travis says:

      Wow, Kathy, that’s quite a story! Sounds like you learned a great lesson from it….unfortunately it cost you, which is a huge bummer. It also sounds like you had some great role models in your parents teaching you the value of “If you want something, work for it and get it yourself.” My wife and I are trying to instill that same perspective in our children as well.

  15. Your son may not have liked forking over the $10, but he’ll thank you one day after the numerous lessons he’ll have learned from you by the time he reached adulthood. I’m still thankful that I had parents who disciplined me heavily growing up (although I hated it at the time). Now the lessons they’ve taught me incorporate all the decisions I make. I think it’s awesome that you held him accountable and hilarious that he made the suggestions to write down the usernames at the end of it all. He sounds like a super smart kid!

    • Travis says:

      Shannon, I couldn’t help but laugh when he made that suggestion even after the very frustrating hour that I had just gone through. Tristan isn’t afraid to voice his opinion or tell us when he things we can improve upon something. Most of the time it’s a very productive exchanging of ideas. 🙂

  16. Hahhaha I love this Travis!!!!!!! I totally feel your pain because my brother is a die-hard gamer too (xbox, PS3, and his computer) and he’s always bugging me about buying this and that for him. Half of the time I have no idea why he needs to buy credits to buy a game on PSN, but whatevs. I’d rather have him playing games than causing debauchery with his friends somewhere out of the house!

    This scenario has happened multiple times, and my dad had a great 1 hour beatdown (okay maybe it was a screaming session) with him, in which my brother protested to kill himself. It was obviously, over a video game and money management. He stole cash from his little sister’s secret piggy bank hahaha.

    Anyway, just wanted to voice my opinion and let you know that I feel your pain. I also hate forgetting passwords.

    • Travis says:

      Yeah, that’s a pretty slick setup they have going there – entice you to play online with your friends, have you enter your credit/debit card as to pay for the online service..then introduce a whole marketplace of things that you can conveniently buy. Thanks for sharing!

  17. For me it was my son’s cell phone contract – he sent a number of Canada-to-US texts, that cost us over $45! I managed to get it reduced, but he paid the end amount. No way was I paying for his mistake!

    • Travis says:

      Yikes, Kris, I had no idea international texts were so expensive…..I’d make him pay for that too! Our kids have cell phones, too. Were all on a common “family plan” that has unlimited texting (good thing too, those kids text their friends A LOT). But I imagine international texting wouldn’t be covered by that either. Thanks for sharing!

  18. Glen Craig says:

    This totally reminds me of Columbia House!

    Our oldest is getting to the age where she’ll be online more. Gonna have to remember this incident and give her a good talking to about the dangers of ‘free’ on the internet. Thanks!

    • Travis says:

      Columbia House…that’s the CD club name I was trying to remember! Yeah, I had to modify my “run all purchases through me” policy with my son to “Run all registrations through me.” Need to be crystal clear with teenagers these days. LOL.

  19. “Sometimes you make mistakes, and you learn from them. But you still have to pay for them.”

    True words my friend!

    • Travis says:

      I have to admit, Alice, it didn’t hit me when we had the conversation, but when I typed that up it really hit home. As my wife and I dig ourselves out of debt, we’re definitely paying for our mistakes….and we’ve definitely learned from them. A true statement for adults as well as children. Thanks for your comment!

      • As I read the post, that sentence just really grabbed my attention. I had to stop and just dwell on it for a while. It really does hold true for so many situations across all stages of life. From education to location and from relationships to money, we’re all bound to make mistakes. We have to ‘pay’ for those mistakes in many different ways, but pay for them we do.

  20. Ryan Paredez says:

    I currently don’t have children, but I have learned on my own to carefully read the free trial rules and regulations. Those things definitely can get tricky. I am a quite aways away from having kids or having them being old enough for this to be an issue, and by then who knows what e-commerce will be like.

    But nonetheless this was a good thing to teach your son. Nothing like a lesson well learned he’ll probably even tell his friends how he got jip’ed out of 10 bucks and they might learn the lesson without having to experience themselves.

    • Travis says:

      I like how you think, Ryan – if he does tell his friends that’s a sure way to know that he learned the lesson. As technology changes there will always be new lessons to learn – 10 years ago who would have thought that you’d be able to subscribe to a movie service through a game console?

      • Ryan Paredez says:

        thats true. I started out with a pager in high school. Its been nice living through such a technology growing era. Seeing all this new tech being applied to everyday life.. Who knows what the next few generations will see

  21. Natalie A says:

    Travis – what an AWESOME dad you are. There are so many children getting away with little stuff like this. Little stuff turns in to much bigger issues later. I wish that my parents would have taught me lessons like this when I was younger. Boy, would that save me a lot of heartache.

    Your son probably doesn’t appreciate the lesson now, but he will. 🙂

    • Travis says:

      Thanks, Natalie I sure do appreciate your kind words. I have to be honest, the words just kind of came flying out of my mouth telling him he owed me $10. It just didn’t seem right that I’d be paying for something I didn’t request or register for. As he was going up the stairs, I really processed it and affirmed that it was also the right parenting choice. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

  22. It’s definitely way too easy for kids to spend their parents’ money nowadays. All it takes is a click on an iPhone or PS3. Even I have trouble sometimes not accidently downloading a book I don’t want onto my kindle (I hit the buy now button instead of the send me a sample button). When I was younger I would have to physically take my parent’s credit card from their wallet if I was going to make a purchase, and there was no one to do that without them knowing.

    • Travis says:

      I agree, LifeInTransition, it is way to easy for kids to spend their parents’ money nowadays. Our debit card # is hooked to his Xbox Live ID in order to pay for the Xbox live service. I’m trusting him to come ask me before he purchases anything….but if one day he decides to misbehave, he could go ring up a bunch of purchases without having to enter any kind of password or code. Something seems to be missing there.

  23. Sue says:

    That story sounds like my husband trying to figure out his account on the playstation! Though I am teaching my son who was 6+ at that time all action comes with a consequence. He has to pay for my camera that he broke and he gave me the money happily to pay me back when he got money for birthday/christmas. He is now 7+ and broke a household item that he broke in anger and he knew immediately that he has to fork out money (from doing chores and picking up bottles that people throw away instead of reclaiming the money). I hope that he is a fast learner!

    • Travis says:

      He’s definitely a fast learner in that your son remembered that since he broke it, he has to fix it. The next step is to think before he lashes out in anger. I learned that exact lesson when I was young….I got mad at my parents and kicked a hole in our garage walk door. My father knew how to repair the door….but I had to help, and learn how to do it. He said next time I decided to do such a dumb thing I had to repair it myself, or replace the door.

      Never did kick a door again. 🙂

  24. hillarie says:

    I love this story – You were able to teach an important lesson over a somewhat unimportant amount of money (though to a 13 year old, 10 bucks is probably a big deal).

    By the way, I _highly_ recommend Keepass or Lastpass to keep track of all your account logins.

  25. Travis says:

    Thanks hillarie, I’m going to check out Keepass and/or Laspass – it could be such an aggravation saver!

  26. Dude, that’s so FRUSTRATING and hilarious! I learned to keep a list of usernames and passwords for the same reasons you experienced. BTW: Using a 3 instead of E iS kind of what I do. Your kid is smart.

    • Haha, I do the same thing for passwords too, Steve….but only for ONE character. My son’s username was like 20 characters long with multiple letter to number conversions to make it look “cool.” At that time of the night my brain just didn’t want to process it. 🙂

  27. Jackie says:

    I accidentally charged my dad $10. The subscription said 3 months free but once i signed up i checked to see just in case i got charges and i did and my dads probably going to be mad but i’m willing to pay him back, i feel guilty though

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