At first glance Straight Talk looks like an unbeatable deal for wireless phone service. You get unlimited talk, text and data for $45.00 a month with no contracts and no commitments. But take heed: Straight Talk is not all it is cracked up to be. Cheap devices and nightmarish customer support makes Straight Talk wireless the worst possible choice for prepaid wireless phone service.
Device choices are limited to some of the cheapest knockoffs of popular phones that I have ever witnessed, and when I say cheap I don’t mean inexpensive. The Samsung R355C is Straight Talk’s best device choice. This Blackberry clone features support for full web browsing but it fails miserably on Straight Talk’s network. You will get the same mobile sites on the R355C as you do on any other Straight Talk phone.
The LG220C is the least expensive of the bunch. It is a phone and nothing else. It doesn’t even have a camera — this is the one that I went with for the trial run. The phone was a factory defect right out of the box. I have it set for full volume ring and it vibrates when someone calls. No ring, just vibrates. I don’t even have it set to vibrate. Wal-Mart refused to swap it for a working one. Why? Because Straight Talk is primarily owned by Tracfone, a deal that frees Wal-Mart of any carrier or device issues. I have to send my phone to Straight Talk for replacement and I have yet to find an address to do this.
Take note, because this will be the only good thing that I have to say about Straight Talk Wireless. Their signal isn’t bad in most areas. I haven’t had a problem making or receiving calls in northwestern Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia or Alabama. Their service map seems to be pretty broad and reception is awesome.
We moved from northwestern Pennsylvania to Georgia. Naturally we had to get a new address and a new bank account which means that we needed to update our Straight Talk account to reflect those changes. It was simple, we needed to add the new bank account, update to the new address and have the old Pennsylvania number changed to a Georgia number. Not too big a task right? Most cellular carriers can handle a request like this without a hitch. It blew Straight Talk’s customer service agents out of the water! They had no idea how to handle this request. It was like raising Vivaldi from the grave and asking him to play Hell’s Bells in A minor.
It took half an hour for me to make the customer service representative understand what I needed. By the way, you can’t update any of your information from Straight Talk’s website. In fact, you can’t manage your account from their website at all. You can purchase a refill for your phone and that is it. Their Customer Service department has to do everything else.
It took another hour for her to actually get it all done, which by the way, she still didn’t do. We’ll get to that in a moment. She kept asking me the same questions over and over again. She asked me to verify my name, address and the answer to my security question so many times that I just stopped answering her. It was obvious that she was trying to stall me while she figured out what she was doing and the only thing she did successfully was take our money. Instead of adding my new bank account information and knew new address, she added the new bank account information with the new address spelled wrong and changed the old address on the old bank account to the new address on both bank accounts. To add insult to injury she charged the wrong account for the reactivation fee and reactivated the phone with the same number that we had before. Oh my god! How hard is this to figure out, Straight Talk?
Enter the Girlfriend
I called them again the next day to try and fix everything she had screwed up. Once again I got a clueless CSR. She began asking me random questions that had nothing to do with our Straight Talk account, like what home phone number was associated with our account. WE DON’T HAVE A HOME PHONE NUMBER ASSOCIATED WITH OUR ACCOUNT!!! We don’t even have a home phone. Then she tried to convince me that I am the one who made all the recent changes to my account and that the zip code that was registered in the system was the best match for my existing phone number. Pennsylvania’s area code is 814. Georgia’s area code is 706. They are fifteen hundred miles away from each other. My talking soon turned to screaming and my screaming to cursing. At this point I had to turn the conversation over to my girlfriend.
It took Elisa two more hours arguing with them to get the job done. She spoke with a rep who refused to let her speak to a manager, to change anything or to give us our money back. They even told her that they were not allowed to transfer customers over to managers or change phone numbers. Who the hell are these people??!!
If you are going to go prepaid wireless consider any other carrier besides Straight Talk. Cricket carries more popular phones and covers more area than any other prepaid service. If you do decide to use Straight Talk don’t expect any “straight talk” from customer service when you need them. Buy a phone and refill using their cards. Don’t call customer service and don’t move or change banks. If you do move or change banks and still want to use Straight Talk just buy another phone and throw the other one away. Better yet? Spend your money with a company who speaks English, knows “the customer is always right” and actually cares whether or not you want to continue using their services.
In the end you get what you pay for.