If you’re like me, you’ve probably noticed that the cell companies have us country dwellers by the throats. We don’t have good enough signal coverage to ever use up the minutes on even the lowest package. But we work in town, and travel country roads with our families in tow, so we do feel that having a cell phone is important. What to do?
When I first heard of Straight Talk Wireless I was so excited. I could get 1000 minutes of airtime, plus 1000 text and picture messages, and 30MB of mobile web all for only $30. Or unlimited use for $45. All this with no contract, and we could bring our old phone numbers with us. We decided I’d go with the $30 All-You-Need plan, and my husband would go for the $45 Unlimited plan. This represented about a 70 dollar per month savings for us, over our prior plan.
The signal coverage in our home area is comparable to the coverage we had with our previous provider, although the phone choices are not as great.* They do not currently offer a phone with the capability to run Pandora, which is a major minus for us. It’s not however a 70 dollar minus, so we deal with it.
For the first three or four months we were very happy with the service and the refill options. When we were approaching our service end date, we would recieve a text reminding us to refill by that date. We then had the option to refill by calling from our handsets and providing a credit card, purchasing an airtime card from Wal-Mart, or logging in to our account at the Straight Talk website and using a credit card. They also have the option to auto refill each month billing a credit card automatically, but I don’t like the idea of having yet another automatic withdrawal on my account that I can forget about and possibly cause myself an overdraft. (hasn’t happened yet, but sooner or later…)
Our coverage at home is good enough to send and recieve texts, but usually not good enough to make a call. So calling from our handset isn’t a good option for us unless we happend to think of it when we’re in town. Our nearest Wal-Mart just went super, but their parking lot went horrible, and it was overcrowded to begin with, so purchasing an airtime card there (or going there at all) is pretty much our last resort. We usually log into our account and use a debit card that is saved in our payment methods. It worked swimmingly until about three months ago, when we added airtime to my husbands phone. It was showing up in our account balance, but when we tried to use the phone we were prompted to add airtime. I thought maybe I’d made a mistake adding the airtime and we went ahead and added another service plan. The phone still prompted us to add airtime. We called customer service and were connected to someone presumably overseas. I want to be very clear that she was extremely friendly, and helpful. Unfortunaltely we both had to repeat ourselves for pretty much each sentence because we could hardly understand each other. It was a tad bit annoying since I was already frustrated when I called. After about half an hour on the phone we were able to get it sorted out and Nate’s phone was up and running again.
The following month my card on file expired, and I tried to add a new one, but was prompted that I had too many payment methods on file and I would need to delete one. So I deleted one and proceeded to add the new info. I was able to submit the information this time, but when I tried to purchase more air time there were no payment options listed under my account. So I added my new info again, and again, and again, to no avail. Frustrated, I logged out and drove to where I had service, and was able to use my new card to purchase airtime.
Last week, my refill date approached and I logged on to attempt to refill again. What do ya know? My old (expired) credit card info was right there under my payment methods, but still no new card, even though I requested that it be saved to my account when I purchsed airtime from my handset. Holy Frustration! Again I tried, and re-tried, and re-tried to change my card info but still no luck. Time to call customer service. Ugh.
The representative was just as helpful and friendly as the first one, but also just as hard to understand. I’m sure she was just as frustrated as I was, but after about 15 minutes of repeating ourselves she had my new card information, my name, my address, and my phone number, and assured me I would have no further problems. I think she probably has the same internet form to fill in on the website, because when I logged back in not only was my old card still there and my new card not there, but my address had been changed to Wenatchee WA. I don’t live in Wentachee WA!
Completely unwilling to endure another phone call, I fired off a harsh email to customer service and got in the car. Two hours (round trip including some road work, and wandering in Wal-Mart because that’s what happens when I walk into Wal-Mart) and $8 in gas later I had a service card. I will say that adding the service card went well, and I recieved a text confirming that I had refilled just seconds after I added the new air time card. Finally something went well.
I have received a response to my angry email, sorry for your troubles but we can’t help you through email, you’ll have to call customer service. I will call ONE more time. If the problem isn’t resolved we’ll be looking for another option in cell coverage.
* Straight Talk now allows you to bring an unlocked phone, or an AT&T phone with you if you’d prefer a phone they don’t offer.
What experiences have you had with cell companies?