Saturday, October 25, 2014

From Go Phone to T-Mobile No Phone

Good News – my divorce from AT&T was finalized upon receipt of a refund check from AT&T and it was time to make some decisions regarding my cell service.  I have been actively researching my options and much is reported in my 2 earlier posts relating to under $30 per month services for light data and cell phone users.  When it came my time to decide, I found myself looking at my 4 leading options:

  1. Close my AT&T account and do nothing.  I strongly considered a life without a cell phone.  I seldom use it and many of the times that I could use it, I forget to bring it with me.  On the flip side, I preferred to have a cell phone for those infrequent times and I also hated to lose my established number (and more frighteningly end up with a number previously used by a heavy cell user whereby I would be the recipient of many misdirected calls).
  2. Consumer Cellular:  I really like their easy to understand plans and the many reviews that praised their customer service.  The downside to this option is that while $10 per month doesn't sound like much, it seems like a lot if you seldom use the service.  Nothing rolls over and $120 plus per year for the very little that I use a cell phone seems like a lot to me.
  3. H2O:  I really like the idea of service for 90 days for only $10... BUT, their customer service reviews are atrocious.  I started toward this option, but quickly chickened out.  Their port request was a vicious circle – you have to provide an airtime PIN number, but to buy airtime (can you guess it?) you needed your H2O cell number...calling their customer service was not an option for me so I moved on to option #4.
  4. T-Mobile:  This was my unexpected choice and with my unlocked Samsung S3, I was ready to go.  T-Mobile advertised $3 per month ( which included some voice and text time and data could be purchased for daily or weekly use.
    • $3 per month includes 30 minutes of talk or text messages and lets you keep your phone number from month to month
    • Add additional talk and text at a low flat rate of 10¢ minute/message
    • Daily and weekly high-speed data passes available for purchase
My thinking was, let's try this for now as it will cost only $3, service would be through one of the major providers and I can see how it goes.  Maybe if it goes well, I can just buy my data when I really need it.

The porting went relatively quick and smooth and I also successfully set up my online account.  The first hint of trouble came when I attempted to pay my first $3 to start my service.  To my dismay, the online form would only accept “$10 for 90 days.”  My intuition was that T-Mobile had not yet updated their forms to coincide with their new plans so I then proceeded to call customer service (611) from my cell phone.  I was able to get through reasonably well although I had very poor sound quality for the connection.  I don't know if this reflects T-Mobile service or perhaps a distant location of their customer support, but either way I had a very hard time hearing the representative.  After struggling with the poor sound quality, eventually the representative brought me to the same end – I needed to pay at least $10.  Of course, this is considered “pre-paid” so it is not refundable so I had a few issues with this.  First, what if I wasn't happy after a couple months?  There would be no refund of the $4 from my account so my $3 plan really would be a $5 plan.  At best, if I stayed for 3 months, I would still forfeit an extra $1 ($9 total for 3 months leaving $1 from the $10).  Yes, I understand that $3.33 isn't too bad for monthly service, but I didn't like being locked in for 3 months.  Moreover, I really resent bullies whether it be AT&T or T-Mobile telling you one thing, but providing something else.  This is just plain deceptive and wrong!  Ultimately, the customer service representative advised me that the only way I could pay $3 would be to go to a T-Mobile store.

Telling the customer they have to trek to a store is pitiful customer service.  Nonetheless, there is a T-Mobile near my home so I headed over to the T-Mobile store at 18 Wolf Road, Albany, NY 12205.  I did not have a good earlier experience with this branch.  Unfortunately, they have not improved and I would consider their service even poorer than the telephonic service.  Upon explaining why I was there, the reps first response was “we don't have any $3 monthly plan.”  This rep yelled over to the other rep who related that “we do, but they don't include any voice or text time... it is $3 plus 10 cents per minute or text."  This is clearly not what the T-Mobile website advertises; regardless, rather than argue with these 2, I proceeded to request to pay $3 to my account.  Once again, I was told, “no, you can't pay $3, the minimum is $10.”  This being the 3rd strike – online, on phone and in person, I went home and proceeded to file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

So for the current time, I've managed to go from AT&T Go Phone to T-Mobile No Phone.  On the bright side, in trying to resolve this issue with T-Mobile, I came across 2 other under $20 per month options, Airvoice and P Tel, which I am optimistic may offer satisfactory options to light cell users such as myself.  I will plan to discuss more details, pros and cons of these 2 plans in a subsequent posting.