Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Beware those ads offering to cut your cell phone bills in half; you might wind up throwing money away, not talking


"Cut your cell phone bill in half, feel richer," the ad says, but is that really going to happen? Maybe not.

Those plans that offer to save you money on your wireless phone bills are only as reliable as their infrastructure and their customer service. If you live on Cedar Creek Lake, you might wind up throwing some money away if you choose to abandon your current carrier in favor of the "Straight Talk" lure.

The cards and the brochures are prominently displayed in the electronics department of the Gun Barrel City Walmart.

As it turns out, the talk might not be as straight as the advertising campaign claims, but buyer beware.

StraightTalk.com claims in advertising materials it can allow you to bring your own phone and your same number to them, and they can cut your phone bill in half. It might work in some areas, but it sure didn't at my house.

I followed all of the instructions, ordering a SIM card and 30-day unlimited-use call card plan for my Apple iPhone 4 recently only to ultimately realize I had thrown $72.46 right out the window.

I am now struggling to retrieve my phone number that I have had for years back from StraightTalk.com and re-establish it with AT&T.

Last night when I first attempted to connect with StraightTalk.com online through those "easy activation steps" I wound up with an error message. As instructed I called the phone number I was given, and I spent about 45 minutes on the phone with three different people verbally giving them the information they needed.

About a couple of hours later the new phone service kicked in with StraightTalk.com, and I retired for the night feeling thrifty and successful. But that didn't last long.

This morning, my phone wouldn't work. It had a "no service" message on the screen. So back to the phone I went.

To make a long story short, I have spent at least two hours on the phone today with seven people who operate out of a call center office in the Philippines. I was told many different things, ranging from the cell phone tower in this area of Cedar Creek Lake needs attention to there is a problem with my phone.

During the day, the phone occasionally worked and then went back to "no service."

When I told StraightTalk.com representatives I wanted to go back to AT&T and asked for a refund, I was told the company policy is that there are no refunds for SIM cards and call plan cards. They suggested maybe I needed to by a new phone from them. If that turns out not to work, they will refund the price of the phone, they said.

By the end of the day I feel very foolish. It has disrupted my day and caused me problems with my wireless phone I still don't have resolved.

My mother's words that she used so often ring clearly in my head now, "You get what you pay for." I won't complain about my AT&T bill anymore. The phone always worked.

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