In November, I made the regrettable mistake of trying out WalMart’s Straight Talk Wireless A $30 plan for 1000 minutes sounded like a great deal. Unfortunately, this is most certainly a case of “you get what you pay for.”
I started out by heading to WalMart and buying my phone (you can only use a phone purchased specifically through their service) and the phone service card. Then I set about activating it. My first issue was with the fact that the company does not tell you that it is a prepaid phone plan. Yes, they say “no contracts,” (by which they mean no time commitments although you are still required to agree to a contract) but there are certain month to month plans through actual cell phone companies that don’t have time commitments either.
Personally, I hate the idea of a pre-paid 30 day contract because that means if you forget to pay your bill by even one day, you lose service immediately. I had to subscribe to their auto-pay system to ensure I wouldn’t lose service, which also meant that I risked forgetting the bill was coming and over drafting my bank account at the end of every month.
Then came the terrible customer service. When I registered, my T-Mobile phone number was supposed to transfer over to my new phone…but it didn’t. Instead, my phone number stopped working, but I could still somehow make calls from my new Straight Talk phone. When I called the outsourced customer support, they used my phone number as the account number, which meant that they couldn’t find my account. When they finally did look it up using a bunch of wonky work arounds, they finally got my phone to receive incoming calls, but the internet still didn’t work on the device, which was supposed to be included in the plan. I ignored this problem because I didn’t really need the internet, but I still find it odd that no one could help me to get the internet working, nor did they even care.
Later on, I couldn’t access my account on their website because you can only log in with your phone number. I called support again (went through the complex work around to get them to find my account without the phone number) and found out the number was still somehow not in their system. Until the number was in their system, I couldn’t get online with my account –even though I had originally signed up to the service online using that phone number!
Within a month, I found out that I still had a few months left on my T-Mobile contract and I wasn’t particularly impressed with Straight Talk, so I opted to switch back. Enter nightmare ordeal #2. To keep my old number (which was fairly important since I just sent out a bunch of resumes with the number on it), I had to have Straight Talk release my number. Big problem.
Remember how they couldn’t transfer my number at first? Yeah, it turns out they never actually fixed that. Somehow my phone number was sitting in limbo and although I made and received calls, they never actually activated the number. So in order to get my number back, they had to release it, but they couldn’t find it in the system to do so.
The representative at the T-Mobile store spent an hour on the phone with them trying to get them to figure this out and fix the problem and eventually I was instructed to “call back next week and we should have it fixed.” So I did, and the woman who answered the phone had no idea what I was talking about, even when I told her from the beginning, “I need to speak to your elevated level of customer service.” Finally, after the eighth explanation, she says “ok, let me put you through to the elevated level of customer service.” When I got through to someone who actually knew what they were talking about, they told me “call again next week.” A week later, the phone number just transferred on its own.
After the whole experience, I decided to sell my Straight Talk phone because I had no intention of ever working with the company again. So I put it on Craigslist, thinking the people could just activate it and that will be the end of it. Unfortunately, Straight Talk won’t activate it for someone else without all of my personal info, so the strangers I sold it to had to keep calling me back, asking for my old address, my mother’s maiden name and my birthday. If I had known that selling my phone could have opened me up to identity theft, I would have just sent the phone to the recycler.
Every single step of the way my experience with Straight Talk was horrendous. I hope that sharing my story will at least dissuade a few people from trying their service, at least until they improve things dramatically.
On a 5 point scale, they get a.