Monday, February 11, 2013

Nexus 4 + Straight Talk: Part 3 - A month in review

If you've read part 1, and part 2, you already know the potential... start saving $1,000 a year by getting off of a big carrier contract and switching over to a prepaid StraightTalk plan.  So after a couple months, is StraightTalk living up to the hype?  Or have I been cast into scylla or charybdis - marooned on a prepaid plan and having been throttled (or worse) to my doom?  Well, don't let me keep you waiting... hurry-up and read on!

The very first thing I did after initiating service was to enroll in auto-renew.  Auto-enroll is precisely what you'd think it is... it's what makes the pre-paid service seem as though it's a contract... add your credit card information to set it and forget it.  No more worrying that you'll forget to re-up at the end of the month, and no concerns that you'll loose your phone number, etc.  It's worth the 2 minutes it takes in frustration averted.  

My first mistake..

My StraightTalk "kit" came in a giant envelope... which contained a couple of smaller envelopes, one for each contract I had purchased.  Now, I had purchased a plan called the "AT&T Compatible SIM + Unlimited* Plan", which at $59 came with everything I needed for the first month of service.  Importantly, this first month of service includes a small green card for each plan, and on those cards is a scratch-off code. The activation kit doesn't make this need particularly clear... and I had wrongly assumed that it would all just work, as I activated.  But alas, that was not the case.  So after activating service, and paying (again) for the first month, it became obvious that something had gone wrong.  After all, I was up to a couple hundred dollars in expenses at this point for 2 lines.  So that meant a call to StraightTalk Customer service - which was fortunately quite easy to find (1-877-430-2355), both on the web-site and all over the activation kit.  

Customer Service...

So if you've read through the various forums, you probably are under the impression that StraightTalk has terrible customer service.  My experience suggests that that impression is inaccurate.  It might not be AT&T, where I get a US-based agent... but it's not terrible.  Here's why... I contacted customer service because I thought I had been double billed for the first month.  My call was the evening (8:00pm Eastern) and the automated message gave me a wait time of approximately 30 minutes, but offered to hold my spot in the queue and call me back, which I opted for.  About 15 minutes or so later, I received a call from Customer Service.  I explained what had happened (billed twice for the first month), and they... transferred me to someone else, who put me on hold, and then came back after about 15 more minutes.  After working through my explanation for the second time, they were able to determine that I should have received a pair of activation cards, but mentioned that occasionally these are missed in the shipment.  So she gave me a credit for each phone for the next-month, and said I was good to go.  By the time I hung-up, I had spent about 45 minutes, and received text messages noting the credit had been applied on each line.  Which was good.  I later found my activation cards buried at the bottom of the  large envelope.  So it turns out, I didn't need to call customer service, it was my fault that they were missed.  But  my takeaway was that customer service was at least adequate to understand the problem, and was empowered to fix it.  So the lesson for folks - look carefully in that large envelope, and customer service is descent.


Almost everyone that I talk to about StraightTalk asks me some variation of... "how much does it really cost per month?".  I guess they ask this because they're so used to contract carriers and hidden fees which drive up the monthly cost.  For those of you with this same concern, you'll be happy to know that the advertised $45 cost was pretty close... the actual total monthly cost was $48.93 (there's also a $2.50 per month promotion right now, when you sign-up for autorenew... just FYI).  The break down is like this...
  • $45 for unlimited everything
  • $2.93 for taxes
  • $0.23 for E911 services
  • 0.68 Federal Universal Service cost
  • 0.09 regulatory cost recovery
  • Total: $48.93
So how does that compare with my expectation?  Well, my goal was to save about $1,000 per year.  The input number I used was $167 per month for my prior contract (when I reconciled the numbers it was slightly higher, but we'll ignore that for simplicity sake), which means I'm on track to save $829 this year after taxes and fees.

Stay tuned, in a posts I'll cover data usage and coverage.

Click here if you'd like to be notified when our Straight Talk Ebook is released!

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